Have a Heart for Kids Day 2020

Voices for Access to Dental Care

Adam 01/29/16


The Dental Access Bill, Senate Bill 5465, had a public hearing in the Senate Health Care Committee on Monday, January 25, with members of the Washington Dental Access Campaign (WDAC)—representing the interests of children, elders, rural constituents, dental professionals and advocates for low-income people and communities of color—signing in PRO. Here are a few highlights from the testimony:

Dr. Kevin Nakagaki, DDS, has worked with dental therapists since they were first licensed to practice in Minnesota in 2011. 

“Patients are very accepting of the Dental Therapist, as they are very familiar with the medical model of physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

Dr. Kevin Nakagaki, DDS“In my clinic, after hiring dental therapists, access for my population has increased, and the wait time to be seen has decreased by half. As I have shifted the straightforward dental restorations to the dental therapist, it has freed up my time to concentrate on more complex procedures.

“The dental therapists are very well trained to manage the pediatric population, and the patients (and parents) have been very satisfied-extremely satisfied with their care.

“As the dentists have had the opportunity to work with the therapists, they have found the concept safe, workable, desirable, and have begun requesting new hires for their offices.”

—Dr. Kevin Nakagaki, DDS, Minneapolis

Shelly Early also testified before the Senate Health Care Committee, then met with Senator Jeannie Darneille (D-Tacoma) in support of the Dental Access bill. Dental therapists, she told the Committee, would save money in emergency rooms, reduce dependence on painkillers, and prevent chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.

Shelly Early, Tacoma mother and advocate“I support this bill because while I raised a child by myself trying to work and go to school in a rural community with limited resources, I went through many traumatic months of dental pain. I could only find dentists that would do emergency extractions. My son, who is 24 now, remembers times he had seen me suffering for weeks, sometimes months, calling every number in the phone book, begging them to see me. I really believe that I would have finished college had I not gone through so much pain and suffering trying to get help with dental distress. I believe dental therapists would be a great benefit to our communities. In rural and more remote places and in cities where there are large numbers of people in need, they can provide preventive care to keep people healthier.”

—Shelly Early, Tacoma

Advocates for access to oral health care, Monday, Jan. 25.Advocates for access to oral health care for kids and families on Monday Jan. 25 in Olympia, including Dr. Shancie Wagner, DDS, of Spokane (left), Dr. Kevin Nakagaki (center), Forks mother Christina Kohut (to the right of Dr. Nakagaki) and Cecilia Baca, RDH, president of the Washington State Dental Hygienists’ Association (third from right).

Forks mother and Air Force veteran Christina Kohut also testified in favor of the Dental Access bill: 

“Four years ago, my husband was laid off. We not only lost our home, but our insurance too. Even with our children being accepted by Apple Health for Kids, we were not able to get them care. No dentist on the Olympia Peninsula would accept state insurance.

“Our kids didn’t complain. But I could see they were in pain when they would try to eat. I was desperate to get them care and had no reasonable way to go. I felt helpless.

“As a mom, I want my kids to have excellent, safe care. The evidence clearly shows that dental therapists provide just that.”

—Christina Kohut, Forks

Voices beyond the Capitol


Other supporters of dental access have spoken up for Senate Bill 5465. Here are a few:

Dental therapists: Therapists are thoroughly certified and well-qualified | The Seattle Times | Letter to the editor | January 23, 2016

Authorize Dental Therapy: More kids shouldn’t go through what I suffered | MomsRising | January 21, 2016 

Letter: Dental therapists can expand care | January 15, 2016 | The Olympian

What’s Next


Momentum is growing to make access to dental health care better for Washingtonians. To win this campaign, everyone’s voice is needed. Here’s what you can do:

Take action: Send a message to your legislators.

Share your experience. If you have struggled to get access to dental health care, you can speak up and make change. Contact us.

Spread the word. Post this blog to your social media via the buttons at the top of this page.