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Posted: 1:00 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017

You may no longer need a dentist to get a tooth pulled

Some states are contemplating allowing dental therapists to work on your mouth

Would you let someone who's not a dentist pull your teeth?
FILE - In this Dec. 4, 2009 file photo, dental hygienist Heather Heathcote takes a dental exam while studying to become a dental therapist at Normandale College in Edina, Minn. Several states are considering bills that would create a new midlevel position in dentistry called dental therapists or advanced dental hygiene practitioners. They can perform common procedures such as filling cavities or pulling teeth, though more complex procedures would still be left with dentists. (AP Photo/Dawn Villella, File)

By Glenn Schroeder

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.

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