Thank you for highlighting the enormous cost of treating dental problems at Spokane emergency rooms and urgent care clinics (March 7 editorial).
With innovative programs like Access to Baby and Child Dentistry, and great service providers like Community Health Association of Spokane, some kids are avoiding the brunt of this crisis. But not all.
A trip to the emergency room is the first dental visit for one out of four Washington children, according to the Pew study. Either their parents can’t afford dental care, or can’t find a dentist. Add to that the fact that most dentists don’t accept Medicaid, and you’ve got an access crisis that falls disproportionately on poor children and children of color.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Mid-level dental providers are trained to focus on preventive and routine care. They can improve access to routine oral health care and prevent needless suffering. They work in partnership with dentists, extending their reach. Trained in one-half the time as dentists, in Alaska, for example, these providers are delivering affordable care to communities that have gone without it for far too long. Minnesota has also adopted this innovative approach. We should do the same.