by Bill Kirby - Albuquerque resident
Originally published in the ABQ Journal Opinion section.
Senate Bill 76 proposes to extend the availability of dental care to more New Mexicans by establishing a mid-level in the dental care profession between that of dentist and hygienist. Correspondingly, a stated objective of the New Mexico Dental Association is “advocating for the art and science of dentistry on behalf of the people of New Mexico.”
However, I have begun to wonder why the N.M. Dental Association through its executive director – who is also an Albuquerque state senator – is working so fervently to defeat this bill.
One could be sinister and assume that the association is disregarding its calling to be an advocate for dental health for all New Mexicans in order to further secure financial prosperity for its membership. However, I prefer to believe that this is not the attitude of the vast majority of New Mexico’s dentists.
I believe that New Mexico’s dentists earn their well-deserved living by providing excellent dental care to all of their patients. However, and unfortunately, not all New Mexicans are their patients.
The purpose of SB 76 is to address this problem by providing access to excellent dental care to all those New Mexicans who are currently under-served.
Why are some New Mexicans under-served? In some cases, it is because the distant rural and semi-rural communities are not large enough to support a full-time dentist. Consequently, the economics of taking off work during the week and traveling a considerable distance to the dentist for an annual check-up or for a less complicated dental procedure is troublesome.
Whatever the case, dental health is important – and it’s too important not to be made more accessible for all New Mexicans.
Many years ago, the medical profession embraced the use of physician assistants and nurse practitioners to help doctors tend to the less complicated health needs of their patients. Now it is time for the New Mexico Dental Association to support a similar path in order to provide greater dental care to all New Mexicans.
The New Mexico Dental Association actively encouraging the passage of SB 76 would be a significant step in that direction.