April 2023 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 20 2023


WECHU Oral Health Services and Oral Health Month


The Ontario Public Health Standards provide direction to Ontario public health units to operate two publicly funded oral health programs under the Oral Health Protocol (2001). The Healthy Smiles Ontario (HSO) Program is offered for children aged 0-17, from low-income households, and the Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program (OSDCP) is available for low-income seniors 65 years and older. Additionally, the Oral Health Protocol mandates Ontario public health units on to implement school based preventative oral health screenings and population-level surveillance of oral health indicators. 

The month of April is Oral Health Month, an ideal time to promote the importance of good personal oral hygiene practices and the role that dental professionals play in maintaining and improving our community’s oral health.


WECHU Healthy Smiles Ontario (HSO) Dental Clinics

From January-December 2022, there were 1,232 children screened at one of the WECHU’s two dental clinics operating in Windsor and Leamington that ultimately enrolled into the publicly funded Healthy Smiles Ontario program. Children identified with an emergency dental condition such as infection or carious lesion that requires immediate clinical treatment, are provided access to emergency coverage for treatment either onsite or for free through a community dental office. Children can also receive preventative treatment such as topical fluoride, pit and fissure sealants, scaling, and some interim stabilization therapies through the WECHU clinics.

Table: 1 - Healthy Smiles Ontario Program - Key Statistics for WECHU Clinics
Healthy Smiles Ontario Program: Key Statistics for WECHU Clinics # of Children & Youth
Children had an urgent dental care issue; eligible for HSO. 671
New children were enrolled in the HSO- preventive services program 561
Children received preventive clinical services (1424 visits/appointments) in our dental clinics 768
Children received clinical procedures done by a dentist or dental hygienists 985

Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program (OSDCP)

The Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program was put in place in 2019 at both the Windsor and Leamington clinic sites. Given the high demand for this free program, partnership agreements with community dental offices were created in 2022 to manage wait times. Through internal clinics and partnership, the WECHU oral health department supported 3,851 clinic visits across all clients enrolled in the OSDCP. This includes 283 “new patient” exams, for an average of 1.1 new patients added to our client roster every working day. New dentures have also been provided to 162 clients at the WECHU over the course of the year.

School Dental Screening, Assessment and Surveillance

With a full staff complement returning from redeployment, the Oral Health Department implemented an ambitious plan to resume school oral health screenings over the last three months of the 2021-2022 academic school year. By prioritizing high and medium risk schools, the most vulnerable students in our region were provided oral health screening and referral in the school setting. Between April and June 2022, 5,573 students from 35 schools were screened. Within this group, 984 students (17.7%) had an urgent dental care need and were referred for treatment and 2,369 children were referred for non-urgent treatment.

In September, dental teams returned to the schools and during the first half of the 2022-2023 academic year, screened 5,081 students from 34 schools. Following the Oral Health Protocol, all JK/SK and Grade 2 students are screened. In addition, schools that are identified as medium risk also receive screenings for all Grade 7 students while schools identified as high risk receive screenings for both Grade 4 and Grade 7 students. In the 2022/2023 school year, the WECHU endeavored to screen all grades at high-risk schools to ensure that children who were not screened due to the pandemic were captured. Out of the 5,081 students screened there were 834 students (16.4%) that had an urgent dental care need and 2,441 children that were referred for preventive treatment.

Table 2 - Key Statistics for School Screening Assessment & Surveillance
Key Statistics for School Screening Assessment & Surveillance Spring 2022
(# of Students)
Fall 2022
(# of Students)
Students Screened 5,573 5,081
Students identified with urgent dental care needs, & thus eligible for Healthy Smiles Ontario (HSO) 984 (17.7%) 834 (16.4%)
Students offered HSO- preventive treatment services 2,369 2,441

Baby Oral Health Program (BOHP)

The Canadian Dental Association and the Canadian Pediatric Society suggest that a child have a dental visit before their first birthday. The BOHP is designed to support parents of children 0 to 4 years of age by inviting them to bring their children for an oral health screening by a public health dental hygienist, which also includes education for caregivers and children on oral hygiene habits. Caregivers are also encouraged to visit a dentist or make a follow-up appointment at the health unit if they do not have a dental home. Children who present with urgent needs are either enrolled into the Healthy Smiles Ontario program or referred externally for dental treatment.

Key References


Ontario. Ministry of Health. (2021). Oral health protocol, 2021. Retrieved from https://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/publichealth/oph_standards/docs/protocols_guidelines/Oral%20Health%20Protocol_2021.pdf