The Seattle-based Washington State Dental Association was established in 1887. Its membership stands at 4,000 practicing dentists — 80 percent of the state’s dental professionals. Organized dentistry in the state maintains a powerful presence in the state legislature, sets ethical standards for the profession, develops and supports services for those who lack oral health care and demands lifelong learning to perpetuate professional excellence.
Washington Oral Health Foundation
The Washington Oral Health Foundation is the charitable and educational outreach of the WSDA. The general focus of the Foundation is to promote oral health awareness, help prevent dental problems, encourage tobacco use cessation and to provide Washington’s underserved communities with access to free oral care. Washington dentists donate millions of dollars worth of dental care each year to residents of Washington and to indigent people in countries throughout the world. WSDA member doctors provide free oral health education in schools and at community events like the American Dental Association’s (ADA) annual Give Kids a Smile program, and many participate in the WSDA Outreach, a reduced-fee dental care program for low-income elderly, disabled and Alzheimer’s patients. Outreach dental services and laboratory charges are discounted by 25 percent.
The Foundation runs its own Government Affairs department, which oversees the Foundation’s involvement in championing many public oral-health issues, often in collaboration with grassroots dentists. Fluoridation, wastewater regulation, dental insurance issues and dental practice issues are among the many areas in which the Government Affairs department plays an active role. The WSDA maintains constant vigilance to head off bad bills and regulatory action while tackling issues with Medicaid, low-income access, auxiliary education and reforming dental plans.
WSDA acts on behalf of its education and oral-health objectives through its own political action committee, DenPAC, which has doubled it dollar impact in state and legislative elections. DenPAC leads efforts in securing water fluoridation in local communities, works with insurers to resolve billing issues, supports efforts for a smoke-free Washington, provides technical assistance to efforts to establish new oral hygiene programs and lobbies for state and grant allocations for dental hygienist and assistance programs, and actively backs candidates who support these issues.