Our smile expresses joy and connects us with others. Everyone deserves a healthy smile, no matter our race, where we live, or what insurance we can afford. Our kids should get to be kids without suffering dental pain. Seniors should enjoy retirement without worrying about how to pay for routine dental visits. Parents should be able to put money towards their family’s future instead of medical debt from preventable emergency dental procedures.
Unfortunately, we do not all get the same access to dental care. In 2019, only 23% of adults with Medicaid dental coverage could find a dentist to treat them. There are simply not enough dental providers who see patients covered by Medicare, Apple Health, or who are without 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 unique backgrounds requires multiple solutions led by and centered around the needs of communities with the least access to dental care.
What We’re Doing About It
Expanding Dental Therapy for everyone in Washington
Dental therapy is a model of care developed by tribes in the Pacific Northwest to meet the unique needs of each community and help repair harm caused by medical institutions. Washington lawmakers have the opportunity to support tribal sovereignty and follow their lead to make sure we can all get the dental care we need.
Supporting a $2M Investment in Skagit Valley College’s Dental Therapy Program
Skagit Valley College, in partnership with Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, developed the first CODA-accredited Dental Therapy Education Program in the State of Washington to address the on-going oral health workforce disparities among underrepresented minorities, specifically the American Indian/Alaska Native communities.
This program is an innovative solution to grow primary oral health providers for tribal communities that face oral health care access challenges, empowering Tribal members to get the training they need to provide culturally competent care to their communities.
Supporting $6M in dental capital investments for community health centers
Community health clinics are a key source of healthcare for individuals statewide, but they currently lack physical capacity to provide adequate oral healthcare. Clinics sometimes lack dental chairs or office space for dental care, making providing care difficult or impossible. This investment would make oral healthcare locally accessible, making it easier for Washingtonians to receive dental care close to home.
- Invest in strategies to increase access to oral healthcare.
- Center the voices of communities with the least access to dental care at the decision making table.