Children's Dental & Oral Health

Oral health is an important part of your child’s health, self-esteem and sense of well-being.

Did you know that children should start seeing a dentist around age one? Once they begin visiting the dentist, it’s important to continue to go regularly.

If you can’t afford to pay for dental care for your children (ages 0-17), we have programs that can help. To learn more about our dental programs please call our Dental Line at 1-800-265-7293 ext. 2661. We can:

  • Answer any questions or concerns you have about dental and oral health
  • Help you find out if your children qualify for free dental care
  • Help enroll your child in our dental programs

Programs and services

Public Health offers FREE dental care to children and youth who cannot afford dental care through the Healthy Smiles Ontario (HSO) program. Healthy Smiles Ontario is a government-funded dental program that provides free preventive, routine, and emergency dental services to eligible children and youth 17 and younger from families with limited income.

Emergency Dental Care (pain, infection, suspected cavity, trauma to the mouth)

Your child may be eligible for dental care through Public Health if they have an urgent dental need and you cannot afford treatment. If your child is experiencing pain, infection such as a gum abscess or if you suspect or have had a dentist confirm they have a cavity, don’t delay in calling Public Health for help. Our staff will assess your child’s situation and schedule your child in for a dental screening. Our dental team will perform a quick visual screening and will assist you in completing the necessary applications to get your child the care they need. The dental team will also review with you and your child how to brush the teeth and talk to you and your child about ways to fit oral care into your daily routine. Eligibility requirements for the emergency program:

  • 17 or under AND
  • Live in Ontario AND
  • Cannot afford the cost of dental care for your child AND
  • Your household income is equivalent to a level at which you would be in receipt of the Ontario Child Benefit.

Preventive Dental Care (cleanings, sealants, fluoride varnish)

Our dental hygienists will check your child’s mouth for oral health concerns and clean your child’s teeth, apply fluoride and sealants, and teach them how to brush and floss. They can also provide information about brushing, healthy eating and other ways to keep your mouth healthy. Our staff will also help you find out if your children qualifies for any other free dental programs. Eligibility requirements for the preventive program:

  • 17 or under AND
  • Live in Ontario AND
  • Cannot afford the cost of preventive dental care for your child AND
  • Your household income is equivalent to a level at which you would be in receipt of the Ontario Child Benefit.

Routine Dental Care (cleanings fillings and most routine services)

If your child is eligible for the Healthy Smiles Ontario (HSO) program and you have a family dentist, Public Health can assist you with completing an application if required.

Children and youth may be eligible for regular dental care through HSO if they:

  • Are 17 or under AND
  • Live in Ontario AND
  • Have a household income that meets the program criteria

Children are automatically enrolled in HSO if:

  • They receive assistance under:
    • Temporary Care Assistance
    • Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities
  • They or their family receive:
    • Ontario Works
    • Ontario Disability Support

A child or youth may be eligible for dental care at Public Health if they have an urgent dental need and cannot afford treatment. If your child has a dental emergency, call Public Health for help.

Does your child have this card? Call Public Health or your family dental professional to book an appointment for your child.

Healthy Smiles Ontario card

School services *Temporarily on hold

School services are temporarily on hold, however screenings are available at Public Health offices in Guelph, Fergus and Orangeville. Call 1-800-265-7293 ext. 2611 to book a screening appointment. 

Dental screenings

Our registered dental hygienists visit elementary schools and provide a quick check of students’ teeth. They let parents/guardians know if they see any problems, such as large cavities, in the child’s mouth. These screenings do not replace an exam by a dentist.

Fluoride varnish

Our team provides free fluoride varnish applications at select schools. Fluoride varnish is a protective coating that helps to make teeth strong and prevent cavities.

If your child attends a school that offers fluoride varnish, you can print off a Fluoride Varnish Consent form (PDF, 4 pages, 1.9 MB). Return the completed and signed consent form to the school so your child can take part in this free program.

Healthy Teeth Healthy Kids checklist

Use the attached checklists below to help you keep track of your child’s dental health and development.