Re: “Swinomish tribe, Skagit Valley College partner on new dental therapy program” [Sept. 1, Local News]:

I applaud The Seattle Times for publishing the article by the Skagit Valley Herald’s Benjamin Leung and bringing to the public’s attention the need to expand dentistry by adding dental practitioners to this profession. It is a great accomplishment by Skagit Valley College and the Swinomish tribe to jointly launch the first program in the state to train dental therapists and get certification by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.

There are thousands of people in Washington state facing difficulties accessing dental care. That challenge is worse for low-incomes families. In my 40 years as director of Sea Mar’s dental services, meeting the demand for oral health care has remained a challenge. It has always been difficult to recruit dentists to work in remote, rural areas such as Port Angeles, Aberdeen and Oak Harbor, where it takes more than a year to hire a dentist. Fortunately, the state Legislature has the opportunity to move a solution forward, such as expanding dental therapy statewide. The dental therapist model adds a provider to the dental care team to offer routine services and preventive care, freeing up dentists to attend complex dental procedures that patients need.

Alex Narváez, DDS, vice president of Dental Affairs and chief dental officer, Sea Mar Community Health Centers, Seattle