Debate over role of dental therapists flares up in Washington state

February 10, 2016

The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, a Puget Sound-based tribe, recently hired a therapist as an act of tribal sovereignty. The move has drawn a lot of attention.

The debate over the use of dental therapists has flared up once again in the Pacific Northwest.

While many in the dental community have been resistant to the thought of dental therapists and the potential role they may play in improving oral health in populations that potentially need it the most, some actions in Washington state have once thrust the debate into the spotlight.

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The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, a Puget Sound-based tribe, recently hired a therapist as an act of tribal sovereignty. The move drew a lot of attention and even grabbed the attention of the Seattle Times, which wrote an editorial advocating the expansion of coverage.

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“Too many of Washington’s residents insured by Medicaid are not able to get the dental care they need, which endangers their general health as well,” they wrote in their editorial.

Mary Otto of the Association of Health Care Journalists wrote a very detailed piece about the decision by the Swinomish to bring a dental therapist on board, as well as links to the Seattle Times coverage of the debate. You can find that information by clicking here.