Our state’s oral health care system is in crisis. Dental care, which was already out of reach for too many Washingtonians, is now even harder to access because of COVID-19.
And like COVID, dental disease disproportionately impacts communities of color because of the long-standing institutional racism built into our health care system.
Even before this pandemic, 37 out of 39 counties in our state had too few dental professionals to meet their needs. This shortage hurts rural communities and Black, Indigenous, and other people of color most. And for low-income Washingtonians, no matter where you live, it is hard to get care. Only 10 percent of Washington’s dentists will treat adult Medicaid patients.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Dental therapy is a proven solution that improves health, creates jobs and helps dismantle racism within our health care system. Dental therapists have been safely and successfully practicing in the U.S. for more than 15 years; they currently serve Tribal communities across Washington state.
Dental therapists are primary oral health providers that deliver the most commonly needed routine and preventive care. Authorizing dental therapists can bring underrepresented communities into oral health professions, creating a dental workforce that reflects the community it serves.
Dental therapy is supported by more than 40 organizations, including health care associations, consumer advocates, dentists, dental hygienists, senior groups, Tribal governments and educational institutions.
But one organization and its campaign contributions—the Washington State Dental Association—has stood in the way of delivering much needed dental care for over a decade.
We deserve better oral health care options. We deserve dental therapists!