ADEA State Update

Federal Court Upholds Georgia Board of Dentistry Policy on Teeth Whitening

(Federal Court, Tooth Whitening) Permanent link   All Posts

smileOn Feb. 1, Judge Leigh Martin May of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia (Court) upheld a policy of the Georgia Board of Dentistry (Board) which prohibits non-dentists from providing teeth-whitening services. The Board’s policy was challenged in a lawsuit filed in December 2014. 

Background

The Plaintiff, Christina Holton, provided teeth whitening services in Georgia. Ms Holton, a non-dentist, “took an online course in tooth whitening in December 2011” and upon completing the online course became the “owner and operator of Mobile Whites, a business through which she provided tooth whitening services.”

In October 2014, the Board initiated an investigation into Mobile Whites. Soon thereafter, Ms. Holton received correspondence from the Board that it determined her business to be an unlawful practice of dentistry based on the Georgia Dentistry Practice Act (Act). Ms. Holton signed a Cease and Desist Order from the Board but she filed suit to enjoin the Board from enforcing the Act against her and other similarly situated individuals. 

Argument

Ms. Holton argued that the Act and its attendant regulations violate the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment as applied to teeth-whitening services. Specifically, Ms. Holton argued that the Board violated her right to equal protection under the law because identical products previously sold by her are also available for purchase in supermarkets, drug stores, and online. Further, Ms. Holton argued that the Board violated her right to due process because, under their current rules, if she wished to continue her business, she must attend undergraduate college and dental school for a total of eight years of higher education. According to Ms. Holton, this requirement is irrational because very little of that training would pertain to teeth-whitening.

Ruling

With regard to the equal protection claim the Court stated, “Even if [Ms. Holton’s] products were similar to a drugstore’s products, the Court finds there is still a rational reason for the legislature to treat her class of services differently.” As for the claim under the Due Process Clause, the court wrote, “While it may be true that teeth whitening makes up a very small portion of dentistry training...it is not irrational for the legislature to believe that any amount of the training is necessary to protect the public health." 

In the end, the Court dismissed Ms. Holton’s claims and found that the Board’s Order was not in violation of the Equal Protection or Due Process Clauses of the Constitution.

Duggan Dental