Some dentists in Nova Scotia are raising concerns about the province's planned expansion of health coverage for children.
Last week the provincial government promised to help pay for basic care for children 17 and under.
It's welcome news for low income families and those without private insurance, but provincial coverage doesn't include all services — Dr. Michelle Moller said that's leading to some uncomfortable discussions at the dentist's chair.
Over the past six months, the government has increased the age limit for provincial coverage twice, first to 13 and then last week to 17.
The move will be incremental. Starting in April, 10,000 more youth aged 14 or younger will qualify for MSI coverage for basic treatment. Each year the age limit will rise, capping at 17.
Moller said she's now seeing more kids returning to her chair
"We have seen some children come back who haven't been to the dentist in three or four years and you know they do have more build up than they would have had if they'd come in regularly," she said.
By 2017 the program will cost $2 million a year in extra billing.
Provincial coverage only covers one, brief cleaning session a year, two x-rays and basic fillings.
Moller said that often doesn't scratch the surface in some older children.
"You know you feel guilty explaining to the parents that this isn't covered but, we're already getting a reduced fee as it is right now so it would be nice if the fees that we get would be comparable to the fees that we do charge for [other] patients," she said.
The Nova Scotia Dental Association said, in principle, it welcomes any additional coverage it offers to children.
Dr. Heather Carr, past president of the Nova Scotia Dental Association, said simply getting more kids into the hygienist's chair is a good opportunity teach oral health, but it says she wishes the government had done more consulting with dentists before it expanded the program.
"We were officially notified shortly before, a few days before," she said.
The province said it values the input from the association.
In the meantime, many dentists are looking forward to seeing more older children who hopefully won't need too much extra work.