For a healthier future, equity is essential.
For Juneteenth, we recognize how far Black Americans have come from the enslavement of our ancestors. We honor our struggles and successes. We celebrate our rich culture and our resilient spirit. Black joy embodies this optimism and passion for a bright future.
Black joy also embraces the ability to achieve good oral and overall health. Both are essential to reach your full health potential. Poor oral health is linked to diabetes, heart disease, and other serious or life-threatening conditions. In Washington state, data show disparities in oral health care by race and ethnicity.
At Arcora Foundation and Delta Dental of Washington, we advance equity in oral health. Our shared vision is that everyone enjoys good oral and overall health with no one left behind. We are leaning into that vision through efforts to empower Black people and others who have previously been left behind across Washington state toward positive change. Here are examples of what we are doing:
Dental Professional Pathways Program—This program introduces youth from historically underrepresented groups to careers in the dental field. Studies show the lack of diversity in the field is linked to oral health disparities.
Policy work—Action at the policy level brings sustainable change to systems. These changes expand prevention resources and access to care to include more people. We collaborate with policymakers, lobbyists, and local and state elected officials to advance our policy priorities. Wins for oral health from the 2023 legislative session include:
- Gov. Inslee signed a bill into law that requires a 90-day public notice before water systems stop or start community water fluoridation. I had the pleasure to watch the governor sign this bill! Rural, low-income, and underserved communities suffer most from lack of access to fluoridation. As a result, adults and children needlessly suffer from oral health problems. Research shows community water fluoridation is the most cost-effective, equitable way to prevent cavities and tooth decay in people of all ages and backgrounds.
- $500,000 over the 2023-2025 biennium to continue the public-private partnership with the Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA) so DentistLink can continue to connect more patients with access challenges to care. DentistLink is a no-cost referral service that connects people with Apple Health (Medicaid) or no insurance to care. Arcora and the HCA fully fund DentistLink.
- $328,000—state and federal funding combined—over the 2023-2025 biennium to improve the Medicaid periodontal maintenance benefit for people with diabetes statewide (takes effect Jan. 1, 2024).
- The governor signed a bill into law that authorizes dental therapy statewide. The new law allows Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and FQHC look-alike clinics to hire dental therapists. The law expands access to care to more people who otherwise might not be able to afford it.
I am excited about Arcora’s and Delta Dental of Washington’s continued work with partners on these and other upstream interventions. Progress toward greater equity in oral health is happening. Our sustained efforts move us closer to a time when everyone—no matter their background—is cavity-free.
President and CEO, Arcora Foundation