Nobody should ever have to hide their smile because dental care is too expensive.
Everyone deserves a healthy smile, no matter our race or what insurance we can afford. But, because of racism in our healthcare system and expensive out-of-pocket costs, not everyone in Washington gets the same access to dental care. Many in Washington state are left to choose between adding debt or losing their smile.
Lily, a community member in Seattle, knows firsthand how difficult it is to find dental care when living on a low income. As she shared in an interview, she was unable to access routine dental care for years.
There are simply not enough dental providers who can – or are willing to – see patients covered by Medicare, Apple Health, or with no dental insurance, forcing us to travel long distances to find care, or more often, simply go without.
Ensuring that everyone in Washington can get the care we need from a provider who understands our background and unique needs requires multiple solutions led by and centered around the needs of communities with the least access to dental care.
Dental Therapy is an innovative model of care developed by tribes in the Pacific Northwest to meet the unique needs of each community and to help repair harm caused by medical institutions. Dental Therapists work under the supervision of dentists to provide high-quality preventative dental care. This model creates a more affordable pathway to quality employment in the healthcare field so that dental therapists can provide care to the community they grew up in.
What We’re Doing About It
Poverty Action supports multiple solutions that center and are led by communities with the least access to dental care.
- Allow dental therapists to provide care statewide;
- Expand affordable and equitable opportunities for dental education for people from communities with limited access to be able to become dental providers who can work in the community they grew up in;
- And create incentive programs to encourage dentists to see more uninsured patients or those covered by public insurance like Medicare and Apple Health.