Volunteer Dentists Hope to Fill in Gaps

Few things hurt worse than a toothache. But for some, going to the dentist to is a luxury they can’t afford — or the nearest one is way down the highway. A group of New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and California dentists who want to address those needs is offering some relief via a free dental clinic. The New Mexico Mission of Mercy clinic is scheduled for Oct. 15-16 at Expo New Mexico. Organized by the New Mexico Dental Foundation, the focus is on children and adults who can’t afford dental care or who don’t have a regular dentist. Patients will not be asked about employment, residency or citizenship. Beyond affordability, New Mexicans face a problem with the availability of dentists — problems organizers of the event hope legislators pick up on. Changing Medicaid rules might help with affordability, but as long as New Mexico lacks a dental school, availability likely will remain a problem. The national average is 64 dentists per 100,000 residents, but in New Mexico there are just 34 dentists per 100,000. Besides ending the pain that can distract from work and play, fixing dental problems benefits overall health and improves quality of life. Poor oral health is linked to other health issues like premature or underweight babies, heart disease and diabetes. Patients at the mission will be evaluated, and an attempt will be made to address their most pressing needs. That can range from a simple cleaning to a root canal and beyond. It’s first come, first served, so if your pearly whites need some TLC take advantage of the services these generous dentists are offering.

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