Washington dental lobby blocking adoption of dental therapists to improve care for Medicaid patients

January 03, 2016

Washington has one of the nation's lowest reimbursement rates for dental care provided through Medicaid. As a result, the state's poor, particularly Native Americans and other minorities, have poor oral health. A coalition of state public-health officials and others believe the solution is dental therapists who are cheaper to train and employ than dentists. Some dentists and the Washington State Dental Association, have thwarted efforts to bring dental therapists to the state, according to interviews and a review of campaign-finance records by The Seattle Times. Washington's dental lobby is following the lead of the American Dental Association, which has opposed therapists nationwide, denigrating them as unneeded and unsafe - even as numerous studies show that therapists provide quality care and can even boost revenue for many dentists.