Smile, New Mexico!

Albuquerque Journal–Editorial– Open wide. Let’s see those pearlies! More New Mexico low-income kids receive dental care — despite a shortage of dentists — than the national average. That’s right. Here’s something New Mexico excels at — and the Pew Center awarded us an A. But we could have been at the bottom of the 50 states, where we languish all too often in national rankings, if the state had not made it a priority to see that needy kids have access to an array of health services. In 2007, 48 percent of New Mexico Medicaid-enrolled youths received dental services, compared to 38 percent nationwide. Medicaid covers about 322,000 New Mexico youths 18 and under. State Health Secretary Alfredo Vigil gave a lot of the credit to the state’s system of nonprofit federally funded community health centers, which operate 40 dental clinics. The Pew report also gave props to New Mexico because 77 percent of residents live in communities with fluoridated water (nationally it’s 75 percent), dentists who treat Medicaid patients are reimbursed at a rate slightly better than the national average, and New Mexico is one of 35 states that pay for preventive dental care for Medicaid patients. And that makes for a lot of happy smiles!

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