'Ugly, awful secret:' Ontario dentists are ducking some patients — and they say they have no choice

A Sudbury dentist says Ontario needs to cough-up more for its Healthy Smiles dental program.

Dentists absorbing almost half of service costs for poor kids under provincial program, says Sudbury dentist

Healthy Smiles Ontario aims to provide more dental care access for kids from low income families. (CIHI )

A Sudbury dentist says Ontario needs to cough-up more for its Healthy Smiles dental program.

The provincial government enacted the program for low-income kids almost two years ago.

Dr. Roch St-Aubin told CBC News that while about a half a million kids in Ontario need the subsidized care, dentists have so far been eating much of the cost.

According to St-Aubin, the province pays dentists about 45 per cent of the actual cost of the service. 

Sudbury dentist Dr Roch St Aubin says some dentists are reconsidering whether the Healthy Smiles program is worth the cost. (Samantha Lui/CBC)

He said that if the program was the whole of his patient list, he'd have to close his doors.

"It'd be impossible to pay for sundries, it would be impossible to pay staff, it would be impossible to pay rent," St-Aubin said.

"Infection control of all of the equipment that's required to keep these patients safe — all patients safe, for that matter —  and we would not be able to meet those requirements."

The Ontario Dental Association has rolled-out a campaign this week calling on the province to put more money into its dental subsidy programs.

Dentists are not required to take patients under the Healthy Smiles program, and St-Aubin said some are now actively avoiding patients under the program.

"I mean, this is an ugly, awful secret that I'm letting out, but it really is the reality," he said.

"[It's] fustration by the dentists who say [to prospective patients] either that they don't accept that type of insurance, or they may be saying that their practices are full." 

"We have 75 per cent of the dentists who are caring for these patients at a loss."

With files from Jessica Pope