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Published on May 27, 2014
When is it illegal for a licensed dentist in Arkansas to clean teeth? When he also happens to be a licensed orthodontist.
In 2013 Dr. Ben Burris ran afoul of Arkansas' law when he started offering low-cost teeth cleanings at his orthodontic offices. Ben's practice Braces By Burris has 11 offices around the state. In part because of his success Ben feels a strong need to give back to the community so he started offering simple teeth cleanings for $99 for adults and $69 for kids, a fraction of what other dentists charge for the same service. He saw the program as a great way to expand access to care for Arkansans.
Within weeks, Ben was told by the Arkansas State Board of Dental Examiners that he was breaking the law and that his license would be revoked if he continued offering the cleanings. Arkansas prohibits licensed dental specialists like orthodontists from doing work outside of their specialty even though they are qualified to practice general dentistry. These kinds of restrictions arbitrarily limit access to care and drive up prices for consumers.
Faced with the threat of seeing his practice ruined and his 100+ employees out of work, Ben suspended the program.
Now Ben and his colleague Dr. Elizabeth Gohl are fighting back. Together with the Institute for Justice they filed a federal lawsuit on May 27, 2014 to defend their right—as licensed dentists—to perform basic dental services. The 14th Amendment protects the right of professionals to offer services that they are perfectly qualified to perform. This case is about eliminating irrational protectionist laws and expanding access to affordable dental and medical care for Americans everywhere.