Supreme Court Ruling Could Bring Teeth Whitening to a Mall Near You

Supreme Court Ruling Could Bring Teeth Whitening to a Mall Near You

Teeth bleaching and whitening procedures have helped the U.S. dental hygiene market thrive. The teeth whitening industry alone generates $11 billion annually. While many are making money operating in this lucrative oral health sector, trouble has been brewing since 2005 between dentists and nondentists about who should be allowed to offer teeth whitening treatments. Non-dentist teeth whiteners argue that being prohibited from offering the treatment is an example of entrepreneurial liberty being suppressed by an institution that uses claims of protecting public health to limit competition. They claim the American Dental Association and various state dental agencies have colluded to monopolize the booming teeth whitening market for themselves by passing legislation that classifies teeth whitening as a dental procedure.

Patient Safety

In response, the ADA reiterated that their concerns about patient safety are legitimate and that teeth whitening procedures conducted by nonprofessionals could lead to irreversible gum and tooth damage.

Teeth whitening procedures performed in nondental office setting such as salons, spas, and kiosks use chewing gums and rinses that contain types of bleaches like hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide. These types of procedures can cost around $100 or more, substantially cheaper than what many dentists charge for similar procedures – upwards of $350 or more.

Restrictions In 38 States and Counting

Across the U.S., 38 states have implement or already placed restrictions that only allow licensed hygienists, dental assistants, and dentists to offer whitening services. States that limit treatment include Connecticut, New Mexico, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Nevada, Iowa, West Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, and Washington. A few states, such as Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Florida, and California, allow nondentists to sell teeth whitening equipment in stores and online.

When the fall session for the Supreme Court starts on October 6, the justices will hear the case of North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. FTC, the decision of which promises to carry long-term implications on what the future holds for this debate.

In 2010, the Federal Trade Commission ruled against the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners by claiming the organization’s actions of issuing cease-and-desist letters to 42 providers of whitening services and discouraging mall owners from allowing whitening kiosks, as improper acts committed to harm the competition

Exemption from Antitrust laws

In its appeal, the board claimed exemption from federal antitrust laws due to the “state action” doctrine. However, a 2013 ruling by the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals agreed with the FTC’s judgment, leading the North Carolina Board to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Courts final decision in the matter could usher in sweeping changes in respect to the power that private licensing bodies possess, antitrust immunity for interest groups, and state licensing laws. At the same time, the court will need to consider public health and safety issues when deciding what role competitive and free markets should play for services like teeth whitening. Should teeth whitening be allowed to finally move out of the dental practice, it could set precedence where other types of cosmetic treatments may soon follow.


If you need premiere Sonora dental care, please call our office today for teeth whitening from a trained professional!


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