Arkansas Dentistry

Burris v. Cobb
Arkansas Dentistry

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.


Essential Background

Audio, Video and Images

Backgrounder: Orthodontist’s Low-Cost Teeth Cleaning Program Shut Down Under Archaic Law That Limits Access to Care

Client Video

Client Photos

Launch Release: Arkansas Dental Board Better Brace for Lawsuit (May 27, 2014)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

Complaint (May 27, 2014)

Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit: 


May 27, 2014

Court Filed:


Federal Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas



None available

 Current Court: Federal Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas


  Next Key Date:


Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

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Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Article: Orthodontist Ben Burris Takes Legal Battle To 8th Circuit Arkansas Business - Online (February 16, 2015)
Article: Arkansas requires cosmetology licenses for hair braiders and bans dental specialists from doing basic dental work Arkansas Times (July 10, 2014)
Op-Ed: Charity Shouldn’t Be Illegal Times Record (June 5, 2014)
Editorial: When restraint of trade is worse than a toothache The Washington Times (May 30, 2014)
Article: 2 dental specialists sue state examiners The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (May 30, 2014)
Article: Orthodontist sues state board of dental examiners to overturn law KATV-TV (May 29, 2014)
Article: Arkansas Orthodontist Targets State Dental Board in Lawsuit (May 27, 2014)
Article: Orthodontist challenges Arkansas law on services The Modesto Bee (May 27, 2014)

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Institute for Justice
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