Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

By: David Carsten, DDS, and Joy McDaniel, DMD

The Washington State Dental Commission has a new Dental Inclusion Committee. The committee began with a period of self-reflection and an examination of the inclusion, equity, and diversity in the Washington state dental community.

The Washington State Department of Health states:

“Health equity exists when all people can attain their full health potential. That means people aren't disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of the color of their skin, ancestry, level of education, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, religion, socioeconomic status, the job they have, the neighborhood they live in, or whether they have a disability. Equity and equality are not the same. Equality gives everyone the same resources. Equity gives people the resources they need.”

The Dental Inclusion Committee’s purpose is to determine if our division of health care can enhance our actions and laws that lead to the best outcomes for all Washingtonians. Can dentistry in Washington state be equitable? And if it can, how do we, as a Commission, play a role in ensuring that happens?

Scientific literature provides ample evidence that inclusion and diversity is essential public policy. Diverse groups of people provide a broader range of perspectives, knowledge, and experiences, leading to more innovative and effective problem-solving. When individuals perceive their group as inclusive and fair, they are more likely to trust institutions, engage in civic activities, and contribute to social cohesion. For instance, a study by Rothmund, Gollwitzer, and Bender (2012) revealed that promoting inclusive policies increased trust in authorities and decreased prejudice towards outgroups.

By promoting inclusion and diversity, public policy can reduce disparities, bridge social divides, and create a more equitable society.

The Dental Commission has the responsibility to dental profession to inform what diversity and inclusion means. It’s not a commercial on TV or a bumper sticker, but how to use it in their daily practices –whether that’s with staff, the wheelchair bound patient, the deaf mom, the blind diabetic, the person that speaks a different language, or the person that does not look like those in their social circle.

The Dental Commission will uphold a high standard of health equality by implementing policies that prioritize inclusion, equity, and diversity. By this, we can create more resilient, equitable, and prosperous societies that benefit all of us.