NM legislators to consider 2nd dental therapist bill

A New Mexico health advocacy group is working to pass a bill to allow dental therapists to work throughout the state.

Health Action New Mexico supports HB 17, which would allow dental therapists to perform common dental procedures such as exams, x-rays, and restorations, according to a story in the Las Cruces Sun-News. They would operate under the supervision of an offsite dentist, similar to a physician assistant.

Three legislators have sponsored the bill, which was introduced to the state Legislature last month. A similar bill proposed in 2010 lacked enough support, but Health Action said there appears to be enough momentum to get the bill passed this time, despite opposition from the New Mexico Dental Association.

If the bill passes, dental therapy students would complete a two-year program and a 400-hour preceptorship with a dentist after graduation. Advocates argue the shorter school time, compared with a bachelor's degree plus four years in dental school, is more cost-effective.

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