NDP leader Howard Hampton put working families first this week by announcing “Ontario Smiles,” the NDP’s Fair Dental Access Plan that would enhance dental care for kids and other Ontarians without dental coverage. The NDP’s four-year plan would see Community Dental Health Teams provide check-ups, fillings, extractions, and emergency care to Ontarians who have been shut out by the high cost of dental care. “‘Ontario Smiles’ is the NDP prescription for poor dental health, a silent epidemic that's a leading cause of illness and infection for hard-working families who can’t afford expensive dental care,” Hampton said. “Our Fair Dental Access Plan will put working families first by improving dental care for children and families who don’t have dental coverage. “And it will provide real relief to thousands of Ontarians from the pain, suffering, and poor overall health that result from a lack of dental care,” he added. “Ontario Smiles” would be a major improvement over the McGuinty government’s existing patchwork of inadequate programs, Hampton said. “‘Ontario Smiles’ fills the void left by Dalton McGuinty, who gave himself a $40,000 raise but failed to do anything to help families who are suffering because they can’t afford proper dental care,” Hampton charged. The NDP plan is a practical response to families’ concerns about the unfairness of the status quo. “It’s time to fix a broken and unfair health system where if you have an infection on your foot, you see a doctor and it’s covered, but if you have an infection in your tooth, you’re barred from getting the care you need unless you pay out of your pocket or through private insurance,” Hampton said. With an initial cost of $100 million a year, “Ontario Smiles” will quickly save Ontario’s health care system money. It will do that by making sure today’s poor dental health doesn’t turn into tomorrow’s chronic illnesses and health care emergencies. If left untreated, dental infections and poor dental health can lead to heart disease, diabetes, chronic inflammatory illnesses, and poor overall health. “Ontario Smiles” also will save money by breaking down barriers that prevent people with poor dental health from finding jobs. Ontario ranks dead last in Canada in terms of per capita public support of dental health. Canada ranks second-last of OECD countries. A little more than half of Canadians have dental coverage.