With New Report, IJ Takes on Dental Cartel

June 3, 2013

Anyone wanting a brighter smile at lower prices should take note of IJ’s newest strategic research report. White Out: How Dental Industry Insiders Thwart Competition from Teeth-whitening Entrepreneurs (available at: www.ij.org/white-out) shows how dentists and dental industry interests are trying to use the power of government to monopolize the lucrative field of teeth whitening, shutting out entrepreneurs and driving up prices.

The report, by IJ Research Analyst Angela C. Erickson, finds that at least 30 states have attempted to shut down teeth-whitening businesses. These efforts did not result from consumer complaints—17 states together reported only four such complaints over a five-year period, and all alleged common, reversible side-effects. Instead, the bulk of complaints and lobbying for increased regulation came from dental interests seeking to ban anyone but licensed dentists from offering teeth-whitening services.

White Out is the second IJ report to detail how industry insiders agitate for laws that limit competition. Designing Cartels, released in 2007, exposed interior designers’ efforts to create difficult-to-obtain licenses to enter their trade. In both cases, industry influence, not genuine risks to public health or safety, drove lobbying efforts. Indeed, scholarly research examined in White Out shows that teeth whitening is safe wherever it is done.

Outlawing teeth-whitening entrepreneurs serves only to raise prices for consumers and protect dentists from honest competition. White Out calls on legislators and dental boards to resist the protectionist demands from industry interests and instead legalize teeth whitening to allow new businesses—and brighter smiles—to flourish.

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