Dentist Shortage in Maine Has Family Doctors Pulling Teeth

Maine has come up with a way to help deal with a shortage of dentists: Family doctors are getting trained on how to pull teeth, lance abscesses and apply fluoride.

Dr. Sarah Spencer, who's in her third year of residency in Fairfield, is one of those doctors learning basic dentistry. She says it was "pretty intimidating" at first, but she's getting the hang of it. She pulled seven teeth from a single patient last week.

Dr. William Alto began building the training program in 2003, and he recruited Dr. James Schmidt, chief of dental services at the Togus VA Hospital.

Schmidt, now president of the Maine Dental Association, says not all dentists are thrilled with the program, but it's important for patients to have access to dental care because oral health is tied to overall health.