Washington State House Democrats


Dental Therapy Passes Legislature

OLYMPIA – All health starts with oral health, according to Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D-Spokane). In his first year as chair of the House Health Care & Wellness Committee, Riccelli championed expanded access to appropriate dental health care and pushed to expand dental therapists statewide.

“After many years of work, Washington state will finally start to see more dental therapists expand into our rural and underserved communities,” said Riccelli. “I am grateful to the many advocates and dental care professionals who worked with me to get this bill across the finish line and I appreciate my Senate colleagues working to pass this bill. I look forward to the governor signing HB 1678 into law.”

HB 1678 allows dental therapy in Washington state in certain limited settings. A dental therapist is supervised by a dentist and can provide fillings, preventive services, and emergency services such as adult teeth extraction if a dentist authorizes that course of action. Educational requirements for dental therapists is a two-year educational and clinical program with at least 400 hours of supervision with a licensed dentist. Currently, Washington state only allows dental therapists on tribal lands.

Sarah Chagnon, Licensed Dental Therapist for the Swinomish Dental Clinic: “This bill means healing and peace. It is a big step in creating oral health equity in our own and surrounding communities. Having a dental therapist opens the door to more care. Oral health is overall health; everyone deserves a happy and healthy smile. It is a massive day of celebration for us because we’ve worked so hard to bring advocacy to these efforts. It is a culmination of all the hard work of many amazing people and organizations. Like all new paths being forged, there will be bumps along the way, but finally, we made it, and it’s the best feeling ever! I love what I do and hope to inspire future dental therapists.”

Dr. Rachael Hogan, Director of the Swinomish Dental Clinic: “Today, 70% of Swinomish dental providers are Native American. Compare that to the less than 1% of native dental providers nationwide. This is just one example of how dental therapy models increase representation of underserved and underseen communities. We are a dental home to our patients where they have ownership of their treatment and we are accountable to them to provide only the best care.”

HB 1678 will now go to the governor for approval.