Dental Group Aims to Improve Care

Santa Fe New Mexican – Dr. Jessica Brewster – Regarding “State’s access to dental care lacking,” the March 14 My view from Dolores E. Roybal, the executive director of the Con Alma Health Foundation: The New Mexico Dental Association agrees that Pew Foundation’s recent “A” grade for kids’ access to dental care in New Mexico can be misleading. There is still much we must do to improve dental care for New Mexicans, children and adults alike. The New Mexico Dental Association is promoting five key points of the “Brighter Smiles for New Mexico” campaign: Legislation to ensure every child visits a dentist before his or her first day of school Increased support for dental education and easier access to dental care across the state Removing the state’s gross receipts tax on dental services to increase access and ensure quality care regardless of social or economic status A patient bill of rights that simplifies dental-insurance benefits Investment in Medicaid rates and reduced administrative hurdles to involve more providers and encourage patients to access dental care before serious problems develop. In addition, the New Mexico Dental Association and the New Mexico Dental Hygiene Association have established a “Liaison Committee” that has been working on the access to care problem for two years. The committee strongly feels it is wrong to place definitive dental procedures in the hands of a technically, but not professionally trained individual. The committee believes that expanding scope of practice for existing dental professionals and auxiliaries and creation of a new community dental health care coordinator will accomplish more for getting patients to the dentist than any mid-level provider. This will maintain quality of dental care with all services available to patients, not just a short laundry list of care. The right thing to do is also to make New Mexico a place where it’s not so difficult to start and successfully run a dental practice. The committee supports legislation that would create increased loan forgiveness and tax credits for dentists and hygienists serving underserved populations, limited stipends for dentists or hygienists who establish practices in underserved areas, and partnerships with state or local governments to use existing facilities for dental care. This, along with the NMDA’s Brighter Smiles Campaign is the way to attract dentists to New Mexico and get patients into those offices. Our member dentists also constantly donate dental care to try and make up for the systemic lack of quality services. For example: New Mexico Donated Dental Services provides dental care to people with disabilities and elderly poor. However, our modest administrative budget — with an 8-to-1 return on investment — was recently cut by the legislature; On Oct. 15 and 16, NMDA is bringing Mission of Mercy, two days of free donated dental care to New Mexico. Children and adults will be able to receive free dental care; February was National Children’s Dental Health Month and dentists across the state hosted events for children to receive free dental care. NMDA, does not believe charity is a viable solution to larger problems. We need a solid infrastructure that provides prevention, education and early intervention — a dental ‘home’ — for all New Mexicans. While Con Alma/Kellogg should be praised for its concern about the oral health of the underserved in New Mexico, we invite them to join with the dental community in finding a solution. It’s our responsibility to ensure all New Mexicans have access to quality dental care and a bright smile. Jessica Brewster, DDS, is dental director at La Familia Medical Center in Santa Fe.

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