Have a Heart for Kids Day 2020

Exciting Progress on Access to Dental Care

Adam 07/17/15


This past legislative session, Washingtonians spoke up for better access to dental health care for children and families. While the Dental Access Bill was blocked by narrow special interests, advocacy and progress are marching forward outside the legislature.

This spring the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA) voted overwhelmingly to adopt national training standards for dental therapy training programs. CODA is the organization that sets standards for all dental education programs. The vote is a recognition that dental therapy is a profession that is here to stay. 

The national standards of accreditation do more than indicate progress is on the march. The new standards:

  • make it possible to simplify the Dental Access bill by providing clear educational and training guidelines;
  • Provide a pathway for dental hygienists;
  • help our local educational institutions prepare training programs that can hit the ground running when dental therapy is authorized in Washington;
  • and help ensure that future dental therapy students can get financial aid. 

More than 200 health care leaders, community organizations, Tribes and educational institutions submitted public comments to CODA, including several members of the Washington Dental Access Campaign. Children’s Alliance was honored to be among those who submitted comments, and we appreciated the comment process that allowed for public participation. Many thanks are due to our partners at Community Catalyst for leading the organizing effort to gather public comment. Check out their blog post and learn more about how the CODA accepted standards bring us closer to the day when everyone in Washington State has access to the dental health care we all need to stay healthy.

More progress is on its way! Last month, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community made a groundbreaking announcement: one of its members will go to Alaska to become a Dental Health Aide Therapist, then return to provide dental care in her community.

Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby, who made the announcement, has been a tireless advocate for bringing dental therapy not only to his own community, and Indian Country, but also to all communities in need across Washington. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, which will train the Swinomish member, introduced the United States’ first successful dental therapists more than a decade ago.

Here’s how Chairman Cladoosby described his tribe’s decision:

“Alaska has seen great success in solving a native problem with a native solution. We want to export that success to our community, [with] a Swinomish provider serving the Swinomish community in a dental clinic built by the Tribe on our land.”

As a sovereign tribe, the Swinomish have not only the right but the responsibility to serve its members. We honored the leadership and vision of Chairman Cladoosby and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community three years ago, and we continue to do so today. They are leading the way to bring community-driven solutions to communities in need. While the legislature has failed to act to authorize dental therapy in Washington, the need continues to grow, both in Indian Country and throughout Washington State.  

Together with the Washington Dental Access Campaign, Children’s Alliance will continue to advocate for solutions that will ensure every Washingtonian can get the dental health care we all need to stay healthy.  Join the campaign today: