New Mexico mandates dental exams before public school enrollment

A recently passed New Mexico mandate will require students who relocate to the state or are transferring to a new district or charter school to have had a dental exam within the past year before enrollment.

State-funded preschool programs already require exams, and this new rule will apply to all grade levels.

The rule was originally passed in 2019 as part of a larger dental health bill, but will go into effect July 1. The mandate was passed to expand oral health care throughout the state. According to the New Mexico Dental Therapist Coalition, a quarter of elementary school students may have untreated tooth decay, which is associated with lower grades and higher absences.

School districts were not provided any money by the state to enforce the mandate or to offer aid to students unable to meet the requirement, leading some to look to community organizations for help supporting children without dental insurance in need of dental care. Students who do not receive a dental exam will be able to enroll in schools, but their parents will be required to sign a waiver stating that they understand the risks associated with not receiving a dental exam.

The state's Public Education Department will collect data on students who get exams or sign waivers beginning in July 2022.

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