The high court ruled Wednesday that a North Carolina state dental board cannot exclude nondentists from offering teeth whitening services.
In a 6-3 vote, the justices said the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners violated anti-trust laws by pushing out their competition, which often provides the same service at a lower cost at malls and spas.
Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his majority opinion that board members — who were involved in their own private dental practices — were “confusing their own interests with the state’s policy goals.”
The case was brought forward by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in 2010, after the board sent cease-and-desist letters to malls where nondentists operated teeth-whitening kiosks in 2006, the Associated Press reported.
“These actions had the intended result,” Kennedy wrote. “Nondentists ceased offering teeth-whitening services in North Carolina.”
Consumers were forced to have their teeth whitened by dentists, who often charge between $300 and $700 for over-the-counter kits.
The FTC said board members could not decide who whitens teeth because they had a financial investment in the market. The board acted as more of a trade association than a state board.
Justice Samuel Alito dissented in the Supreme Court ruling, warning that the decision “is likely to have far-reaching effects on the states’ regulation of professions” because many boards are composed of working professionals.
Since this case was heard by the court, I’ve read several horror stories about non-professionals ruining patients’ teeth, but regardless, how many “professional” boards around the country are run by members of the profession they regulate? Certainly lawyers and real estate brokers, probably barbers, accountants and interior decorators too. As Drudge would say, “Developing ….”