On 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.
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.
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.
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.