Have a Heart for Kids Day 2020

Dental Therapy works for Washington

emilio.garza@c… 10/08/19

Dental Therapy is working for Washington’s tribal communities. Lawmakers should take action to bring make this provider available statewide. Take action now.


The future of dental care was on display at the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community’s dental clinic on Wednesday, September 4th, as state lawmakers gathered to learn how dental therapists there are providing quality care as part of their dental team.

Daniel Kennedy, practicing Dental Therapist, at the entrance to the Swinomish Tribal Dental Clinic

Daniel Kennedy (pictured) has been working as a dental therapist here in Washington for more than three years. He and two other dental therapists at the tribe’s dental clinic are meeting community members where they’re at to deliver preventive oral health education and much needed dental care including weekly visits to preschool classrooms, meals with seniors and high-quality, culturally relevant care in the clinic.

The Swinomish introduced this provider to their dental team because kids, elders, and adults in their community had suffered from inadequate care for far too long. In Washington state, American Indian and Alaska Native children have been three times more likely than white children to have seven or more cavities. The tribe knew dental therapists could help, so they took bold action to bring much need care. Washington legislators should do the same for their constituents.

The Washington Dental Access Campaign is asking lawmakers to allow dental therapists to practice statewide, so that kids and families all across our state get the oral health care they need for overall health. Swinomish Dental Clinic staff explaining their work to lawmakers.The state legislature has the opportunity to do so with House Bill 1317 / Senate Bill 5392

Despite being largely preventable, dental disease (tooth decay) is four times more common than asthma among adolescents and is the most common chronic disease of children aged 6 to 19. Existing barriers within our dental care delivery system result in children of color, children living in low-income households, and children living in households in which the primary language spoken is not English, baring the brunt of the dental decay burden. It doesn’t have to be this way. Dental therapy is an evidence based solution that is working right here in our state.  Tell your legislators to pass HB 1317 / SB 5392 in the 2020 Legislative Session. Our families and communities can’t wait any longer for high-quality, equitable dental care.

To tell your lawmaker about the promise of dental therapy, click here.