March 10, 2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Sharon Kayne, New Mexico Voices for Children
Dental Therapy Legislation Passes in the Senate and is Headed to the Governor
Senate Vote is 30 to 12
SANTA FE, NM – The Senate passed legislation that will make it easier for New Mexicans who are low-income, publicly insured or uninsured, or living in rural and tribal areas to access dental care. HB 308, carried by lead sponsor Rep. Doreen Gallegos (D-District 52) and Rep. Gail Armstrong (R-District 49), passed the Senate on Sunday with a vote of 30 to 12. The Governor is expected to sign the legislation, making New Mexico the eighth state to adopt dental therapists. The Senate version of the bill is sponsored by Sen. Benny Shendo, Jr. (D-District 22).
“I am proud to carry HB 308. Authorizing dental therapists not only meets the critical need of expanding dental care services in rural, tribal, and underserved communities, but also creates good-paying jobs for New Mexicans,” said Rep Gallegos.
“Many people in my district struggle to get the dental care they need,” said Rep. Armstrong. “More and more research shows a strong connection between oral health and overall health. Dental therapists will help people in New Mexico access essential dental care.”
“Native Americans face major disparities when it comes to oral health and access to dental care,” said Sen. Shendo. “Alaskan Natives first adopted the practice of dental therapy more than 15 years ago and today we are seeing incredible results. I am proud to support HB 308 so that my constituents can enjoy a better quality of life and access to care.”
HB 308 represents a ground-breaking compromise between all parties as they come together to improve the oral health of all New Mexicans. Nearly 900,000 New Mexicans live in areas without enough dentists, with the burden falling heavily on rural, tribal, and low-income communities. More than 25 percent of elementary-aged children in New Mexico have untreated tooth decay, which impacts their ability to succeed in school.
Dental therapists are licensed dental practitioners who work as part of dentist-led teams to expand access to care. Similar to the way a physician’s assistant contributes to a medical team, dental therapists offer routine and preventive care, and complement the work of dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants, increasing the productivity and reach of the dental care team.
The NM Dental Therapist Coalition is a statewide group that includes tribal leaders, dentists, service organizations, oral health providers, nonprofits, local governments, and educational entities, among many others. More information on the dental therapy effort in New Mexico, as well as a full list of the New Mexico Dental Therapist Coalition’s extensive membership, is available online at www.nmdentaltherapists.org.