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As a practicing dentist in Fort Sumner, I see patients from just about everywhere in New Mexico: Santa Rosa, Roswell, Vaughn — and even from Albuquerque and some of the Texas border towns.
Many of these folks drive several hours each way to get dental care at our clinic. Some come simply because they know me.
Others make the trip because our clinic uses a sliding payment scale based on income and we don’t turn anyone away.
A high percentage of my patients’ needs are extractions. That’s because a lot of the patients I see don’t have access to preventive and routine dental care. They are poor, often without health insurance, and from remote areas where dental care is hard to get.
Across New Mexico, many people struggle to get dental care. Less than half of children from poor families see a dentist. Yet poor oral health at this stage in their lives can adversely affect their learning, social development and overall health for a lifetime.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We could bring high-quality, affordable dental care to more people by creating a new kind of mid-level practitioner called a dental therapist. Many dentists don’t like this idea and I understand, because I was one of them.
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