Newswise — EL PASO, Texas — For many dentists, National Dentist’s Day is a time to receive some well-deserved recognition. For others, it’s a time for them to give back to their communities. They’re inspired to provide dental care to those who need it most.

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso announced a $25,000 gift from Encanto Dental Group to the Hunt School of Dental Medicine’s Dental Patient Fund. The gift, presented in celebration of National Dentist’s Day, will help provide much-needed financial assistance to dental patients in underserved communities who may not be able to afford preventive care.

Encanto Dental Group has a long history of supporting community health initiatives and improving access to quality dental care. With this gift to the Hunt School of Dental Medicine, Encanto Dental Group is furthering their commitment to promoting oral health in El Paso and Southern New Mexico.

“We’re grateful to Encanto Dental Group for their generosity,” said Richard Black, D.D.S., M.S., dean of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine. “Their support will allow us to help more patients receive the care they need to maintain good oral health.”

In honor of Encanto’s gift, a state-of-the-art surgical suite in the Texas Tech Dental Oral Health Clinic will be named after the business. As part of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine, the clinic allows dental students to gain practical skills under faculty supervision, while offering reduced-cost dental care to Borderplex residents. Since the school opened in 2021, students and staff have experienced over 5,000 patient visits, providing more than 7,100 hours of clinical care.

West Texas and New Mexico have a history of dental health disparities. Many individuals in our Borderplex region struggle to access dental care due to financial barriers, lack of insurance, and a shortage of providers. This leads to untreated dental issues, which can have serious health consequences, including pain, infection and tooth loss. Poor oral health has also been linked to other health issues, including heart disease, stroke and, of increasing concern to the region, diabetes. Studies have shown that poor oral health may affect blood glucose control and contribute to the development and progression of the chronic disease.

By supporting the Dental Patient Fund, Encanto Dental Group is helping to ensure that all Borderplex residents of our region will receive regular dental care access, which can help prevent serious health issues. The gift will make a significant impact in the lives of many individuals and families in the community, and help address dental health disparities in the region.

“Encanto Dental Group is proud to support the important work of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine,” said Encanto Dental Group’s Joshua Elliss, D.D.S. “Residents of this region, especially those in rural communities, have faced shortages of both physicians and dentists for decades, which inevitably impacts their health and well-being. This university has already made an impact by providing more physicians for the region, and the Hunt School of Dental Medicine is doing the same by educating the future of dentistry for the Borderplex. We believe that everyone deserves access to quality dental care, and we’re honored to help make a difference in the lives of those who need it most.”

Dr. Elliss is a principal with Encanto Dental Group and Southern New Mexico Dental Group, which donated $10,000 in 2021 to provide scholarships and equipment to the Hunt School of Dental Medicine during its inaugural year. Dr. Elliss attended the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where he studied under Wendy Woodall, D.D.S., MAGD, associate dean for academic affairs for the Hunt School of Dental Medicine. For more than a decade, the Encanto Dental Group has served residents of New Mexico in their five regional offices. In 2023, Encanto will open Sonrisa Family Dental, their first office in El Paso and West Texas.

As of 2019, there were 51.5 dentists per 100,000 residents in New Mexico, ranking the state 37th in dentists per capita for the U.S. In addition, 32 of the 33 counties in New Mexico are federally designated Health Professional Shortage Areas in Dental Health. This includes the nearby counties of Doña Ana, Otero, Lincoln and Hidalgo.

Like West Texas, rural New Mexico lacks adequate dental care access. According to the New Mexico Department of Health, these communities struggle to recruit and retain dental providers. Three New Mexico counties do not have a practicing dentist.

Individuals and organizations wishing to contribute to the success of the Hunt School of Dental Medicine and its mission of training the next generation of dental care professionals can visit, or call 915-215-5943.

About the Hunt School of Dental Medicine

The Hunt School of Dental Medicine opened in 2021 and is the only dental school on the U.S.-Mexico border, and the first in Texas to open in more than 50 years. The dental school offers the most innovative curriculum in the country, preparing students for the future of dentistry with high-tech simulation and an advanced fabrication laboratory. A first for any dental school in the nation, students begin clinical training and patient interaction during their first semester. It’s also the first and only dental school in the nation that requires Spanish language courses.

About Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso

TTUHSC El Paso is the only health sciences center on the U.S.-Mexico border and serves 108 counties in West Texas that have been historically underserved. It’s a designated Title V Hispanic-Serving Institution, preparing the next generation of health care heroes, 48% of whom identify as Hispanic and are often first-generation students.

TTUHSC El Paso was established to focus on the unique health care and educational needs of our Borderplex community. In 2023, TTUHSC El Paso celebrates its 10th anniversary as an independent university within the Texas Tech University System. In a decade, the university has graduated over 2,000 doctors, nurses and researchers, and will soon add dentists to its alumni.