Need a tooth pulled or a cavity filled? Forget the dentist.
A number of states are allowing or considering letting "dental therapists," professionals with a lower level of training, do the job.
In dozens of countries and a handful of U.S. states, dental therapists also sometimes called advanced dental hygiene practitioners help fill gaps in access to oral care for low-income, elderly and disabled people, and in rural areas where few dentists practice, according to many public health advocates.
In Massachusetts, a group that lobbies on behalf of dentists has for the first time signaled a willingness to embrace the concept, though its proposal is viewed as unnecessarily restrictive by sponsors of a competing bill in the Legislature.
Dentists have long opposed the midlevel position, citing concerns over safety and supervision.