Letters to the Editor

Dental therapists can expand care

Oral health is essential to general health and quality of life. Yet many kids and families in Washington state, particularly Native American, minority and low-income children have never been seen by a dentist and-or have seriously neglected dental problems. This is because of the limited or lack of access to dental services, a regressive dental care system, and deep-pocketed dentists protecting their turfs through policy discussions and actions centered on selves and profit rather than on compassion, altruism, and human dignity.

It is atrocious that in our country children and families across our state suffer the pain of a toothache, oral infection and sores, gum disease, tooth decay, tooth loss, and other diseases and disorders that limit the capacity in biting, chewing, smiling, speaking, and psychosocial well-being.

The American Association of Public Health Dentistry, the Washington State Public Health Association, the National Dental Association and others have all affirmed support for dental therapists in Washington. So, why not modify our current oral health care model to include a “dental therapist”? This model would add another oral health care provider to the workforce and thus modernize the dental team to put affordable care within reach of many children and families in our state.

I applaud the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community in Skagit County for choosing to hire their first dental therapist and I humbly ask others to follow suit. It is also incumbent that our legislators do the right thing for their constituency.