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Teeth-gnashing on Beacon Hill

Remember a few months ago we told you about that battle raging between dentists and people on Beacon Hill who want to create a new type of advanced dental hygienist?

Both sides are still drilling. The Massachusetts Dental Society has conducted a poll it says shows widespread concern about this new type of mid-level hygienist, a sort of nurse practitioner of the dental world.

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According to the dental society, which lobbies on behalf of many dentists in the state, the poll found that 73 percent of respondents do not feel comfortable allowing mid-level dental practitioners to perform irreversible procedures like drilling or pulling teeth without the supervision of a dentist.

But Senator Harriette Chandler, a Worcester Democrat who is sponsoring a bill in favor of these so-called dental therapists, said the new class of independently practicing hygienists would expand access to people in poor and rural communities.

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She cast doubt on the quality of the polling.

“I question the kind of questions that were asked and how they were asked,” Chandler said Thursday.

“We too have done polling and it’s quite a different story,” she said. “We respectfully disagree.”

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The poll was conducted by MassINC Polling Group and surveyed 754 registered Massachusetts voters, according to the dental society.

The dental society is backing a separate bill that would also create a new class of dental therapists but place greater restrictions on them.

Laura Krantz can be reached at laura.krantz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurakrantz.
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