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Tribe bypasses state licensing to set up own dental therapist law

Recent efforts within the Washington State Native American community to change the scope of practice for dental therapists could have implications for tribes around the country.

The Native American tribal community in the state, seeking to remedy a shortage of dental care, is moving to bypass the Washington state licensing system, according to a May 22 article in the New York Times. The Swinomish tribe have set up their own licensing system to allow dental therapists, who are trained in performing fillings, extractions, and other common procedures, to practice. Dental therapists are often the only trained individuals within the Native-American community to perform basic dental procedures.

The ADA has long opposed dental therapists, roughly equivalent to a physician assistant, the Times says. In 2015, the Washington legislature, for the fifth year in a row, declined to pass a bill allowing a dental therapist program.

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