There's a dental crisis in Santa Fe, according to Kyra Ochoa, a health care assistance program manager for Santa Fe County's Community Services, and La Familia Medical Services, long a mainstay for Santa Fe's poor, is apparently bearing the brunt of it.

Already, the nonprofit has spent all $394,000 of its county-allocated money, with 60 percent of the dough going to filling cavities, pulling teeth, rooting out root canals and deep cleanings.

In January, the Santa Fe County Commission agreed to appropriate an additional $250,000 to help tide the nonprofit over until June 30, when the fiscal year ends and another one begins.

How much next year's allocation will be, Ochoa doesn't rightly know, but she tells SFR on Friday that the county's Health Care Assistance Program's budget will be submitted in March, and that future financial support, which depends largely on gross receipts tax, is uncertain for the legion of uninsured, underinsured and undocumented.

"There's a huge need for dental care in Santa Fe for low-income people, and La Familia serves that segment of population," Ochoa says, adding that the El Centro clinic in Española and Pecos Valley Medical Center in Pecos are also recipients of county money.

While prenatal care and diabetes treatment have long been provided for thousands of patients treated yearly by the clinics, the news flash is that more than half of the total monies these days are being spent on bad teeth, a malady that is not uncommon among the impoverished, where inexpensive sugar and corn-fructose-based products have long taken their toll.

Because Medicare doesn't cover dental needs, and Medicaid is hit-and-miss in the sort of coverage it provides, the county often steps in as the savior, so much so, in fact, that it was instrumental in setting up a free dental clinic on April 7, 8 and 9, and anybody whose income level qualifies is welcome to join what is expected to be a long line outside the Community Convention Center, with registration starting at 4 pm on April 7.

April 8 and 9 will be the all-day events, which will feature dozens of dentists throughout the day, providing their services for free for the betterment of the whole of the community.

New Mexico Dental Association Foundation, in conjunction with the New Mexico Mission of Mercy, are in charge of the clinic.

"Oral health," says Ochoa, "is largely tied to physical health and mental health, not to mention economic well-being."

No income requirements are needed. Just show up at the doors. For more information, call 992-9849.