The province is teaming with the IWK Health Centre to more than double the number of Nova Scotia children who receive dental surgery each year, acting Health and Wellness Minister Leonard Preyra announced today, July 30. “This is the right thing to do for families and young children,” said Mr. Preyra. “Expanding the IWK’s dental surgery program will make life better for people by ensuring more children with serious oral health problems get the surgery they need, and get it faster.” The province and IWK will increase the number of pediatric dental surgeries for children 16 and younger by adding staff and equipment to the pediatric dentistry department. The expansion will give 600 more children in Nova Scotia the surgery they need to live a healthy life and help shorten wait times and reduce visits to emergency rooms. Mr. Preyra said all Nova Scotians helped provide the expanded surgery program. “A balanced budget is key to providing better care and support for the social programs that families depend on,” said Mr. Preyra. “This expansion of the surgery program is a direct result of the work all Nova Scotians did to balance the provincial budget.” Mr. Preyra said the expansion follows the province’s decision to reinstate dental coverage for children 13 and younger. This is a level of coverage that hasn’t existed since 1997, when the coverage was cut to children 9 or younger. The additional surgeries are expected to begin in the spring. “Last year, my son Samuel came to the IWK for dental treatment and had to wait for the procedure he needed,” said Iolanda Toma, of Truro. “While I’m very pleased with the care Samuel received, I’m happy other children won’t have to wait for the care they need.” Mr. Preyra also announced the Department of Health and Wellness will hire a chief dental officer. The officer, who will begin in January, will report to the chief medical officer of health, and work with dentists, public health staff and other partners to improve Nova Scotians’ oral health, with a focus on children younger than 5. “The IWK, its partners in care, Dalhousie University and the Nova Scotia Dental Association are pleased that this government has recognized the effects of poor oral health on general health in infants and toddlers,” said Dr. Ross Anderson, chief of pediatric dentistry at the IWK Health Centre. “By providing care to these very young children in a timely fashion, we will not only reduce pain and suffering, but help each of these children achieve their full potential. “We are also excited about the appointment of a chief dental officer who will work on a provincial oral health strategy with all partners to reduce disease rates in this very young group of children. By doing this, we may be able to keep more of these children out of surgery.” The IWK’s pediatric dentistry department does specialized surgery for 700 patients each year from across the Maritimes. The problems range from painful and chronic dental infections to facial cellulitis, a serious bacterial infection that can be life-threatening. Many of these children also have other special health care needs.