New Mexico meets five of the eight policy benchmarks aimed at addressing children's dental health needs, one fewer than in 2010. The rates paid to dentists by Medicaid did not keep pace with rising dental fees, and fell below the benchmark. Yet Medicaid utilization in New Mexico remains relatively high—nearly half of Medicaid-enrolled children received dental services.
The state faces major workforce challenges. More than 40 percent of New Mexico's population—more than 780,000 people—live in federally-designated Dental Health Professional Shortage Areas, and the state has one of the lowest numbers of dentists per capita. These workforce concerns have prompted public health advocates in New Mexico—with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation—to call for a new type of dental provider that can help address dental access needs.1
1. Kathy Reincke and David Jordan, “W.K. Kellogg Foundation supports community-led efforts in five states to increase oral health care access by adding dental therapists to the new team,” W.K. Kellogg Foundation, November 17, 2010.