06 Mar Backgrounder: Health Network’s Position on Children’s Oral Health Care

Forward, not Backward
Demand Action on Children’s Dental Care


Dental health is an important part of our health care system. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most privatized parts of the system, forcing families to pay out-of-pocket for dental care.

Currently, the Government of Nova Scotia only covers 5.1% of the cost of dental health care in the province and that is down from 17.2% in 1990. The rest is paid either out-of-pocket (about 41%) or by employer-provided insurance (about 53%). [1]

The largest program that covers dental health publicly in Nova Scotia is the Children’s Oral Health program (COHP). Created in 1974, the program is designed to provide basic coverage to children. It provides for an annual check-up, two x-rays, fillings, some preventative services and nutritional counselling. Additionally, one time only, it covers a sealant application on all first permanent molars. In some cases it also covers floride treatment. [2]

COHP is an “insurer of last resort”. This means that if a child has access to a private insurance plan, they are required to charge the costs of the services to private plan first. If there is a co-pay in the private plan, MSI will cover the co-pay portion.

Today, COHP covers children up to their 10th birthday. Previously it had covered children up to their 16th birthday, but funding was cut by various governments over the years.

The Nova Scotia Citizens’ Health Care Network calls on the provincial government to:

  • Increase funding to the Children’s Oral Health Program by $3.3 million and increase the age limit from 10 to 16, expanding coverage to an additional 65,000 children in Nova Scotia. [3]
  • Expand the number of services covered by COHP.
  • Demand action from the federal government. The Federal Government should match funding for children’s dental programs dollar for dollar through a legislated program similar to the Canada Health Act.



[1] NS Oral Health Review, http://www.gov.ns.ca/hpp/publications/08-35069-Oral_Health_Review.pdf. Accessed Nov 3, 2009

[2] MSI Factsheet, http://www.gov.ns.ca/hpp/publications/04122_MSISheet_May09_En.pdf. Accessed Nov 3, 2009

[3] Under 40% of children actually access the program because of the “insurer of last resort” status. There are approximately 167,902 children aged 16 and under in Nova Scotia according the the Department of Finance. Cost per beneficiary is $108. Based on these numbers, the total cost of COHP would be $7.3 million, an increase of about $3.3 million per year to extend coverage to an additional 65,000 children.