Washington legislature reconsiders expanding dental therapy

Washington legislators are considering a bill that would expand dental therapy in the state to reduce healthcare inequities, according to a Jan. 24 article from State of Reform.

HB 1885, sponsored by State Rep. Eileen Cody, BSN, was introduced Jan. 11. It would expand where dentists are authorized to practice in the state and provide an avenue of care for patients who cannot find a dentist.

Dental therapists are advanced practitioners licensed to provide procedures such as tooth cleaning, tooth reimplantation and extractions.

The state created the Dental Therapy Task Force last year to examine how to expand dental therapy on tribal lands throughout the state to increase access to care. According to the legislation, the majority of task force members supported expanding the profession statewide.

While previous bills to expand dental therapy in the state have been introduced, the current legislation includes recommendations from the task force's report released in December.

The bill has drawn opposition from the Washington State Dental Association, which is concerned about what procedures dental therapists would be authorized to perform with less training and that the expansion of dental therapy would create a two-tiered healthcare system.

The bill has been referred to the House Health Care & Wellness Committee.

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