Washington meets five of the eight policy benchmarks aimed at addressing children's dental health. Despite severe dental workforce shortages—35 of the state's 39 counties do not have enough dentists—the state reduced adult dental services in 2010, further reducing residents' ability to get regular dental care.1 This cut could have a negative impact on children, as research indicates that parents who visit dentists are more likely to secure dental care for their kids.2
In 2010, Washington advocates, with the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, began an effort to expand access to care by licensing dental therapists.3
Washington was one of eleven states to bring dental services to most of its Medicaid-enrolled children in 2009. However, dental care was out of reach for many Washington residents.
1. V. Smith, et. al., “Hoping for Economic Recovery, Preparing for Health Reform: A Look at Medicaid Spending, Coverage and Policy Trends Results from a 50-State Medicaid Budget Survey for State Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011,” Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, September 2010; http://www.kff.org/medicaid/upload/8105.pdf (accessed October 20, 2010).
2. “Children More Likely to Visit the Dentist If Their Parents Do, Too,” ScienceDaily, (February 16. 2010). http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100201091634.htm, (accessed April 2011).
3. K. Reincke and D. Jordan, “W.K. Kellogg Foundation supports community-led efforts in five states to increase oral health care access by adding dental therapists to the new team,” W.K. Kellogg Foundation, November 17, 2010.