April 2022 Board of Health Meeting - WECHU Oral Health Services and Oral Health Month Information Report

Meeting Document Type
Information Report
WECHU Oral Health Services and Oral Health Month


Oral Health Department


April 21, 2022


WECHU Oral Health Services and Oral Health Month


April is Oral Health Month. Oral health is a critical component of overall health and well-being. Oral Health month highlights the importance of good oral health practices and the role of dental professionals in improving community oral health.

In Ontario, one in every three people do not have access to dental insurance, requiring  them to pay out of pocket for ongoing and urgent oral health needs (StatsCan, 2018). We know in Windsor-Essex, to avoid the high cost of dental bills, many individuals forgo treatment impacting their overall quality of life (WECHU, 2018).  The Healthy Smiles Ontario (HSO) program, offered for qualifying children under the age of 18,  the Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program (OSDCP) for qualifying seniors 65 years and older, offer opportunities for routine, emergency and urgent dental services at no cost. The provincial Ministry of Health’s Oral Health Protocol (2021) provides direction to local public health units for the delivery of these oral health services, as well as oral health screening, and oral health promotion and education.


Oral Screening, Assessment and Surveillance

In 2021, COVID-19 impacted many public health programs and services, including the WECHU’s oral health program. While clinical services offered through HSO and OSDCP experienced some setbacks and delays through 2021, the WECHU was unable to complete school dental screening.   As part of the Oral Health Protocol (Ministry of Health, 2021), all public health units implement dental screening for all students in Junior Kindergarten (JK), Senior Kindergarten (SK), and Grade 2. Screenings are completed by registered dental hygienists and certified dental assistants during the school day. Oral health screening requires the collection of the total number of decayed, missing and filled teeth (DMFT). Data on DMFT is used to determine if additional grades are also to be screened. Following the Oral Health Protocol, schools that are identified as medium risk also receive screening for all Grade 7 students and for schools identified as high risk, Grades 4 and 7 are screened in addition to the standard grades for screening.

Despite dental screening not occurring in 2021, the WECHU Oral Health department sent out screening information to parents and families and offered virtual and on-site screening at one of our two oral health clinics. Parents who wanted their children screened were able to book an appointment and choose the option that best suited their needs.

Oral health screening is not only an important part of overall oral health surveillance for Windsor-Essex, it provides an opportunity to identify oral health concerns early and to provide parents with information about the Healthy Smiles Ontario program and options for a dental home. With schools reopening for additional visitors the Oral Health department at the WECHU has developed an ambitious and comprehensive plan to resume oral health screening over last three months of the 2021-2022 school year. The oral health team will focus on schools identified as high risk and medium risk from previous years to ensure that we are able to reach all students most in need of oral health screening, prevention and support. The oral health screening teams have already reached out to these schools and screening will commence in April, running through June of this year.  

WECHU Healthy Smiles Ontario (HSO) Program

Over the course of 2021,there were 1,572 children/youth screened at one of the WECHU’s dental clinics and referred into either the HSO-Emergency and Essential Services Stream (EESS), or the HSO-PSO (preventive services only) program. The EESS program is provided to child/youth identified with an emergency or essential dental condition such as infection, haemorrhage or pathology that requires immediate clinical treatment. The PSO stream is delivered through public health unit clinics only and identified through health unit screening activities. Treatments covered under the PSO stream include topical fluoride, pit and fissure sealants, scaling, and some interim stabilization therapies.

Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program (OSDCP)

In 2021, the WECHU oral health department supported 3,349 clinic visits across all clients enrolled in the OSDCP. This includes 398 new patient exams, for an average of 1.6 new patients added to our client roster every working day. New dentures have been provided to 117 clients at the WECHU, with 1,311 appointments with a dentist or denturist to be fitted for these new dentures. The oral health department supports the OSDCP at both clinic sites (Windsor and Leamington). Clinic hours of operation are Monday to Friday from week day from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m in Winsor and 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Leamington.

Oral Health Resources for Educators

The Ontario Public Health Standards outline the requirement for health units to support health related curriculum and health needs in schools. Oral health education programs can help to build skills of young children, in terms of their oral health knowledge and practices and are a key area of need for children and youth in Windsor-Essex. In 2021, oral health resources for educators were updated and posted to the WECHU website. These included lesson plans and resources intended to help teach students from Kindergarten to Grade 8 about oral health and how students can keep their teeth and mouth healthy. Presentations are also available to schools and community programs at request.

Baby Oral Health Program (BOHP)

The Canadian Dental Association and the Canadian Pediatric Society recommend children see a dentist by their first birthday, even before they have all of their teeth. The BOHP provides free screening for all children, aged 0 to 4, in Windsor-Essex County. A screening by a registered dental hygienist includes a check for signs of cavities, education on supporting a healthy mouth and teeth, and a fluoride treatment, if needed. These screenings are important as they offer an opportunity for early intervention. During a BOHP visit families are also encouraged to visit a dentist or make a follow-up appointment at the WECHU if they do not have a home dental office. Children who present with urgent dental needs are enrolled into the HSO program, if eligible, or receive outside referrals for dental treatment. In 2021, 138 infants and toddlers were screened through the BOHP.