J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · January 8, 2016

Little Rock, Ark.—Today, Arkansas orthodontist Dr. Ben Burris informed the Arkansas Dental Board that he was relinquishing his orthodontic license in order to grow his general dentistry practice, while still offering braces at his clinics. In doing so, Dr. Burris’ decision also ends his 18-month-old court case against the state.

Dr. Burris was forced by the circumstances to make this decision because, under Arkansas’s bizarre laws, orthodontists—and other dental specialists—are not able to hold a specialist license if they offer services outside of their specialization—such as cleaning teeth. They can, however, surrender their specialist license, but still perform the full range of dental services, including their specialty. Although Dr. Burris’ decision brings his legal challenge to an end, it does not affect the services offered at his 20 clinics across the state.

“I have long believed that every Arkansan should have access to quality, affordable dental care, which is why we’re offering cleanings and an exam for $99 at all of our clinics, no insurance required,”  said Dr. Burris. “And we offer an initial free cleaning, exam, and X-rays to anyone who hasn’t been receiving regular dental care. In essence, nothing changes. I’m still the same guy, with the same qualifications, that I was yesterday. But Arkansas has forced me to make a ridiculous choice about what to call myself. I have chosen to put the needs of Arkansans above my own right to call myself what I am—a trained orthodontist.”

The decision to no longer remain licensed as an orthodontist will allow Dr. Burris—who will still be a licensed dentist—to now offer general dentistry services at his Arkansas clinics, in addition to the orthodontics that he has always done. Under existing law, general dentists can offer any and all dental services, including orthodontics.

In conjunction with his decision to no longer maintain his orthodontic license, Dr. Burris has voluntarily dismissed the constitutional lawsuit that he brought against the Arkansas State Board of Dental Examiners challenging the law. At the same time, he has vowed to work to change the law in the Arkansas Legislature as quickly as possible.

“Voluntarily dismissing this lawsuit will allow Dr. Burris to focus on two things: serving people in need and working to change a bad law in the legislature,” said Matt Miller, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, which represented Dr. Burris in his court case. “While we believe Dr. Burris had very strong constitutional claims and his case was making headway in the court, he simply could not wait any longer to continue his mission of making sure that everyone can afford basic dental care.”