The recent financial problems within the University of Washington’s school of dentistry is a symptom of a larger statewide dental care crisis, state Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, said this week.

“The financial problems in the UW school of dentistry underscore one of the main health care issues facing the state. Numerous studies and reports have shown we simply do not have enough different avenues for people with dental needs to obtain the care that they need. The UW’s efforts at the Center for Pediatric Dentistry, while laudable, highlight the fact that the reimbursement rates for children and adults served by Apple Health is simply inadequate. The state moved to restore some adult Medicaid dental coverage in recent years, but not at nearly the reimbursement rates required for private practices to open and take these patients broadly. That is one part of the problem, but not the only part.

“Additionally, the state has failed to act on expanding the number of dental health providers that could work in community health centers by training and placing dental therapists as other states have done. Finally, the hold up on the capital budget is a serious problem. We have included in that budget funding for millions of dollars for buildouts of dental capacity for community health centers around the state as well as two major expansions of emergency dental clinics and residencies in both Olympia and Spokane in conjunction with local hospitals. These investments were made precisely so those lacking in dental care do not let their conditions fester and lead them to the most expensive emergency room care.

“This week there are thousands of people from our state seeking out dental care at the annual free health clinic at Key Arena. This is just emblematic of the overall problem we are facing in Washington. We have much work to do to address these needs. This upcoming session many of us, including myself, will be working with all parties to address these needs more comprehensively.”