At a time when the need for dental hygienists is at an all-time high, Delta Dental of Washington is celebrating the opening of a new dental hygiene education clinic at the University of Washington School of Dentistry.
Delta Dental of Washington provided a gift of $1.5 million to help relocate the Shoreline Community College dental hygiene program to the UW School of Dentistry. The new Delta Dental of Washington Clinic at the UW School of Dentistry will be operated by the Shoreline Community College dental hygiene program, in partnership with the UW School of Dentistry.
An open house for students, staff, and the dental community will be held at the clinic on Saturday, February 11.
In 2020, there were nearly 1,000 positions for dental hygienists left unfilled. The situation is tough for patients who are in need of quality care and for dentists who reported exceptionally long vacancies for open hygienist positions.
So, when the Shoreline Community College dental hygiene education program was at threat of closing, Delta Dental of Washington saw an opportunity to help the dental professional community meet their needs.
“When the Seattle-King County Dental Society approached us about the challenges at the Shoreline Community College dental hygiene program, we knew we needed to do something,” said Delta Dental of Washington President and CEO Mark Mitchke. “Given our vision that all people enjoy good oral and overall health with no one left behind, we have made a commitment to address the dental hygienist and assistant workforce shortage in Washington state. Ensuring that our state’s future dental hygienists have access to this in-demand field is one of our primary goals.”
With the new facility, Shoreline’s highly regarded hygienist program can restore the class size to 25 students – with the possibility of further expansion based on growing workforce demand. Shoreline previously had to reduce its class size to 10 students amid budget and facility challenges in recent years.
The clinic expects to provide more than 1,000 clinical visits annually at reduced-cost or sliding fee scale for those who are low-income, Medicaid clients, or uninsured. The clinic’s services include preventive care such as dental exams, cleanings, and fluoride treatments, as well as dental fillings and oral cancer screenings. The advanced hygienist students, working side by side with fourth-year UW dental students, provide quality care with direct supervision from registered dental hygienists and licensed dentists.
Expanding the dental hygienist workforce also provides an opportunity to better represent the state’s diversity and improve oral health equity. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color) are underrepresented in all oral health professions. Research shows that patients fare better with diverse healthcare teams, including improved patient communication, preventive care, and patient satisfaction. Delta Dental of Washington offers a dental careers program to introduce youth, especially those from historically underserved groups to oral health professions – helping to ensure that future generations are afforded better employment opportunities and responding to the serious shortage of oral health professionals statewide.
Saturday, February 11th, from 2 pm to 3:30 pm is the clinic’s open house for students, faculty, and the dental community to come tour the clinic and celebrate a win for patients, hygienists, and dentists in Washington State.