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Dentists Retain Monopoly for Teeth Whitening in Connecticut

smilefrom Dr. Bicuspid, July 24, 2015


Court rules for dentists in Conn. teeth-whitening case

A federal appeals court has upheld a Connecticut law restricting nondentists from shining light-emitting diode (LED) teeth-whitening lights on customers’ teeth. The judges ruled that economic protectionism for favored interest groups is a legitimate use of government power.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on July 17 upheld a policy of the Connecticut State Dental Commission that threatens teeth-whitening entrepreneurs with fines and jail time if they position low-powered LED teeth-whitening lights in front of their customers’ mouths.

In June 2011, the Connecticut dental commission issued a ruling that only licensed dentists were permitted to provide certain teeth-whitening procedures. The Connecticut Department of Public Health subsequently sent the teeth-whitening business Sensational Smiles a letter telling it to stop or face legal action.

Sensational Smiles’ owners then sued in federal district court, particularly focusing on the rule that only a licensed dentist could shine a LED light at the mouth of consumers during a teeth-whitening procedure.

Sensational Smiles asserted that the rule violates equal protection rights guaranteed in the U.S Constitution. But the appellate court upheld a lower district court’s ruling, finding that economic protectionism is a legitimate basis for government regulation.

“Much of what states do is to favor certain groups over others on economic grounds,” the judges wrote. “We call this politics. Whether the results are wise or terrible is not for us to say, but favoritism of this sort is certainly rational in the constitutional sense.”

Judge Christopher Droney concurred with the outcome but disagreed that economic protectionism is a legitimate basis for regulation.

“No matter how broadly we are to define the class of legitimate state interests, I cannot conclude that protectionism for its own sake is among them,” Droney wrote.


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