Ben was told that if he did not shut down the low-cost cleanings, he faced revocation of both his dentist and orthodontist licenses. That would ruin Braces By Burris and put Ben’s 100+ employees out of work. Faced with this threat, Ben agreed to suspend the program, but he continues to believe that anyone who is competent to provide care should be able to provide it and that allowing them to do so would expand access and lower costs for patients. Dental specialists are qualified to offer general dentistry services, like cleanings and X-rays.
They are, after all, licensed dentists in addition to being licensed in their area of specialization. And the hygienists that Ben was supervising were likewise qualified to perform the work. A licensed dental hygienist is qualified to work in a dental office or a specialist office without restrictions. (Indeed, they polish the teeth of patients before braces are applied.) The problem, in the Dental Board’s eyes, was simply that Ben had dared to practice anything other than orthodontics. The government cannot prohibit licensed professionals from doing things that they are perfectly qualified to do, simply to protect the economic interests of certain members of that profession—like general dentists.
The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right of everyone to practice the occupation of their choice free from unreasonable governmental interference. Nothing is more unreasonable than telling a licensed dentist (who also happens to be a licensed orthodontist) that he or she cannot provide simple dental services. That is why, on May 27, 2014, Ben joined the Institute for Justice to file a major economic liberty lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas to protect the right of everyone to work in the occupation of their choice, free from protectionist laws. This lawsuit has implications not only for dental specialists, but also for every patient who needs greater access to care in a world of rising and uncertain medical costs.