No dental crisis in New Mexico - Albuquerque Journal

No dental crisis in New Mexico

The op-ed column about dental therapists from Dr. Howard Rhodes on Dec. 8 is typical of the orchestrated propaganda that is repeatedly placed in the media by pro-therapists groups, led by those outside New Mexico.

There is not a “dental crisis” in New Mexico. There are many dentists and dental hygienists in the urban areas that are not busy or can’t find jobs.

What New Mexico has is a distribution problem. New Mexico now ranks 29th in its dentists per capita ratio – not perfect, but not a crisis.

True, patients may drive to see dentists, but nowhere in the state are patients more than 45 to 60 minutes away from a dental facility; New Mexico is not Alaska.

Many studies show that the main factor in proliferation of dental disease is fear, cost and lack of dental health education. Truth is, even with dental insurance, dental utilization hovers just above 50 percent.

Fear will be the same whether a therapist or dentist delivers the care. Costs will not go down with therapists.

In fact, Health Action New Mexico representatives have said they need dental fees to stay the same with therapists to make them economically feasible. The only places that have had successful dental therapists programs – Alaska tribes, New Zealand, England – have been government subsidized.

Do you think New Mexico will subsidize this new practitioner when we can’t even get decent Medicaid rates for existing dentists?

If New Mexico would increase Medicaid reimbursement to reasonable levels, dentists and dental hygienists would be moving to under-served areas on their own. No new practitioner needed.

Dental health education and increased capacity for dentists can be accomplished by utilizing the Community Dental Health Coordinator and the Expanded Function Dental Auxiliary that the New Mexico Dental Association passed through the Legislature three years ago. Community dental health coordinators are from under-served communities, educated in dental prevention and basic care, then sent back to serve their community and facilitate dental care.

Lastly, dental therapists are not “highly trained health care professionals.” Depending on the version of the therapist bill you choose, therapists can have as little as 18 to 24 months of training out of high school!

They are a technician being allowed to do surgical procedures in patients’ mouths. Many, including myself, are afraid these therapists will be utilized in large practice settings to increase volume and income for the owners with little regard for the patients.

In closing, with a little financial commitment from the state, we could attack the dental care distribution problem, and have fully qualified dentists and dental hygienists teams treating under-served populations.

There is no need to turn loose a new lower level of practitioner on the residents of New Mexico.

Home » Opinion » Guest Columns » No dental crisis in New Mexico


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
Why is City Council gutting protections on tax preparers?
From the newspaper
Consumers deserve to know a person's ... Consumers deserve to know a person's qualifications, fees, get refunds directly
2
Get Plan B before rousting campers from Coronado Park
From the newspaper
I am writing to urge the ... I am writing to urge the city to postpone the proposed closure of Coronado Park. Mayor Tim Keller ha ...
3
Lawmaker helped NM take first step to menstrual equity
From the newspaper
Reproductive health not a luxury; free ... Reproductive health not a luxury; free products make sense
4
BLM should prohibit venting and flaring
From the newspaper
Methane rule can help protect health ... Methane rule can help protect health and outdoor recreation economy in New Mexico
5
Lujan bill won't put pot ads on TV, radio ...
From the newspaper
Illegal marijuana poses greater risk than ... Illegal marijuana poses greater risk than regulated, legal weed
6
Jail needs oversight of an authority, not commissioners
From the newspaper
Experts are needed to make decisions ... Experts are needed to make decisions regarding the MDC
7
Solar cooling an option for our increasingly hot summers
From the newspaper
I went to the Solar Fiesta ... I went to the Solar Fiesta held in Albuquerque at the UNM campus June 24. I got to check out a fleet ...
8
Facing victims, not prison, will change you for better
From the newspaper
I am a student at CNM ... I am a student at CNM majoring in substance abuse counseling, and a member of the "Lived Exper ...
9
Keeping broken, outdated electronics out of landfills conserves resources, ...
From the newspaper
When you think of recycling, you ... When you think of recycling, you likely think of paper, plastic and cans, along with taking glass bo ...