A bill that would establish a licensing and practicing framework for dental therapists, a new category of mid-level oral health care providers, has passed the House on a 34 to 25 vote.
Supporters say it would help address the shortage of dentists in the state’s rural communities, which forces people to drive long distances or to go without care.
Rep. James Roger Madalena, D-Jemez Pueblo, said it takes him at least an hour to get to a dentist in Albuquerque. He was one of several people to speak Monday during more than an hour of debate on the bill.
Opponents, including Rep. Terry McMillan, R-Las Cruces, were concerned about the proposed training for dental therapists who would be able, among other things, to perform simple extractions. The bill provides for therapists to be under the general supervision of a dentist, which means they do not have to work in the same location. McMillan said he would prefer that therapists be required to work in the same office as a dentist for one year.
The bill now goes to the Senate. The legislative session ends on Saturday.
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