Thursday, March 09, 2006


In the Albuquerque Journal of March 9, 2006, is a sad story by Leann Holt, Staff Writer. It has to do with dental care in New Mexico for children. She writes about decay, just the simple problem of tooth decay. However, she points out that the disease is serious, as it causes missed school days and can lead to mal-nutrition, school failure and low self-esteem.

Statistics from the story: 40% of New Mexico’s children suffer from tooth decay; only 6% of Medicaid-eligible children in New Mexico get dental care (third lowest in the nation); and only one-third of New Mexico’s dentists are willing to take patients based on Medicaid payments. One school nurse is quoted as saying that it is not unusual to see “crater-sized cavities” and children in pain, with no dentist to send them to.

The story features Small Smiles Dentistry, a clinic which is part of a chain, (one on the West Side, and now one at Central and San Pedro). One dentist there said it is not unusual to see children who have cavities in 18 out of 20 teeth.

Medicaid pays only about 66% of what other insurance companies pay. Red tape may be a problem, and undoubtedly is, but there is red tape in dealing with HMO’s and insurance claims people too. So is it money?

Where are out priorities? We pass laws to impose taxes to provide up front money for promoters, tax breaks (subsidies) for billion dollar corporations with highly paid officers and other executives, and for landscaping of highways and maintenance of golf courses, and so on. “First things first!”

Two suggestions to help remedy this problem. First, Medicare (federal taxpayer money) should cover all dental care, including prophylaxis, at least for the children. Such dental care should be provided for all children (no means test to be applied) in the schools.

Second (and here we rely on free enterprise as a solution), we should change the law to encourage more qualified people to offer the services. One change we might try is to allow people into dental school if and when they are ready for dental school; and defer the bachelor degree requirement until after the dental school graduate begins practice. As part of their continuing professional education, these dentists could take the undergraduate courses, so that within a few years they will have the same formal education as those who completed a bachelor’s before getting into dental school.

Give these people an incentive, such as this waiver (deferral) of the undergraduate degree requirement for license; and in return, require these dentists to accept Medicaid child patients for a number of years.

These Medicaid dentists would not be as formally educated as the dentists with undergraduate degrees: no English literature; no foreign languages, nor dead languages; no psychology, philosophy, economics, nor electives. But these dentists will catch up later, on their own time, while they are making a living and also performing a public service.

How can we be proud of our State; our space station; our airplane industry; our Intel, with its $32 billion off the tax roll; our multimillion dollar stadiums [sic]; our lottery which takes from the poor and gives to college students; and so on; when we fail to provide our children with dental care? We do not have to go from the present system to socialism; that is, from monopoly to socialism. How about let us go from monopoly to free enterprise? Educational requirements for a license are necessary to prevent the incompetent from practicing quackery; but unnecessary educational requirements are in restraint of trade, and immoral.