Lawmakers to hear bill creating midlevel dental practitioner

Proposals that would allow for a new category of dental practitioners in Massachusetts are going before a legislative committee on Beacon Hill.

Known as dental therapists, they could perform common procedures that are now done only by dentists, such as filling cavities and pulling teeth.

Under legislation proposed by Senate Majority Leader Harriet Chandler, a Worcester Democrat, dental therapists could work in community settings such as schools and nursing homes. She says it would address gaps in access to oral care for low-income and elderly people.

A more restrictive bill filed by an organization representing Massachusetts dentists would limit dental therapists to serving Medicaid patients, or residents of communities with a documented shortage of dentists.

The Legislature's Public Health Committee will hear testimony on the measures during a Tuesday hearing.

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