Supreme Court to examine N.C. Dental Board's claim that teeth-whitening should only be done by dentists
The U.S. Supreme Court justices agreed to hear the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners' challenge to a lower court ruling and an order by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC's original complaint against the dental board was issued in 2010, after letters were sent by the board telling non-dentist teeth-whitening providers that they were practicing dentistry illegally and ordering them to stop. The board also threatened or discouraged non-dentists who were considering opening teeth-whitening businesses and sent letters to mall owners and property management companies urging them not to lease space to non-dentist teeth-whitening providers, according to the FTC.
In 2011, the board filed a lawsuit against the FTC, accusing the commission of violating the U.S. Constitution in its attempts to keep the board from regulating teeth-whitening services offered by non-dentists. The FTC denied the board's motion to dismiss the FTC's complaint, rejecting the board's argument that the state action doctrine exempts it from antitrust scrutiny under the Federal Trade Commission Act.
In July 2011, a judge issued an initial decision that found that the board's actions constituted "unreasonable restraint of trade and an unfair method of competition." The board appealed that decision. The FTC then found that the board excluded non-dentist providers from the market for teeth-whitening services in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act. The board again appealed, but it was denied.
The board has lost several appeals of the FTC's decision, including a May 2013 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, N.C., which upheld the right of non-dentists to offer teeth-whitening products and services in the state.
Since 2005, at least 14 states have changed their laws or regulations to exclude all but licensed dentists, hygienists or dental assistants from offering teeth-whitening services. In addition, at least 25 state dental boards have ordered teeth-whitening businesses to shut down, while nine states have brought legal actions against such businesses.
From Dr. Bicuspid (March 3, 2014)