KUNM

Dental Therapist Bill Could Expand Access To Dental Care

Feb 6, 2019

A bill that could expand access to dental services around the state made it through a legislative committee Wednesday. 

The measure would allow a new type of licensed practitioner called a dental therapist to perform common dental procedures in New Mexico. 

Republican Representative Gail Armstrong of Magdalena represents several rural communities. She sponsored the bill.

“It’s highly needed especially in areas like mine," said Armstrong. "We don’t have a lot of dentists. We are close to the Navajo Reservation. We have three dentists in Socorro, one who is there once a week.” 

Critics of similar measures say dental therapists would only be able to do certain things and that they could discourage dentists from setting up practices.  

There are no accredited dental therapy training programs in the U.S., yet. But the legislation would make it possible for New Mexico universities and colleges to create them.

The bill now goes to the House Judiciary Committee for review. 

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Editor's Note: This story has been edited for clarity on criticisms of dental therapy proposals. The HHHC substitute for HB308 was passed unanimously on Wednesday, with no committee members voting in opposition.