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Georgia Dental Board Owes Duty to the Public

The United States Supreme Court recently decided a case that could impact the way the Georgia Board of Dentistry conducts business. The Court ruled on February 25, 2015 that a state regulatory board that is comprised mainly of dental professionals violates federal fair competition laws when it tries to restrict lower cost (non-dentist) competitors from competing with dentists by offering teeth-whitening.

While this case had little to do with Georgia’s Board of Dentistry, it does apply to it and, as the dissenting opinion noted, the decision could have far-reaching effects on what and how dental boards are allowed to regulate.

The crux of this decision was: is the dental board acting in the best interests of the dental profession or the public? The implication for future cases: if the dental board is acting mainly in the interests of dentists, their action could run afoul of federal regulations. If, on the other hand, the dental board is acting mainly to protect the public, any future action would likely be construed as lawful and upheld, if challenged.

Since the Georgia Board of Dentistry is currently comprised of 10 dental professionals and one consumer advocate, it would be subject to future federal rulings that apply this line of reasoning.

According to the Georgia Board of Dentistry web site:

The Georgia Board of Dentistry has eleven members who are appointed by the Governor, and is comprised of nine dentists, one dental hygienist, and one consumer member. The Board carries out its responsibility for protecting the public health in the practice of dentistry by regulating and enforcing the standards of practice.

“Through the Dental Board’s licensure process, the Board ensures that those applying for licensure in this state as a dentist or dental hygienist have acceptable education, training, and personal character to safely practice in Georgia. In carrying out its regulatory functions, the Board sets and defines standards to draw the line between safe and dangerous dental practices.

The Georgia Board of Dentistry fulfills its enforcement responsibilities by identifying and sanctioning those who practice below the accepted standards of the profession, or without the necessary qualifications. The Board generally meets once each month.”

Exactly what the Board of Dentistry does and the inner mechanisms of the organization are not made private, due primarily to privacy reasons. The Board’s licensure process, regulatory functions and investigations are a lot for the Board to undertake. While I understand the need for privacy in some of the Board’s functions, it would be nice if the Board were able to share with the public some of its findings. More generally, it would be preferable, in my opinion, if the Board’s actions were more transparent, as this would lead to a safer Georgia.

Attorney Robert J. Fleming has been handling wrongful death cases, automobile accident cases, personal injury cases, dental malpractice and medical malpractice lawsuits for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 20 years in and around Atlanta, Georgia and its surrounding areas, including Alpharetta, Austell, Avondale Estates, Chamblee, College Park, Conyers, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Hapeville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, and Smyrna. If you have been seriously injured and would like quality legal representation, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.