Although Dr. Kevin Winters can sometimes describe himself as a cosmetic dentist, he must also note that he’s a general dentist and admit that, technically, there’s no such thing as a cosmetic dentist, at least, not one recognized by the Oklahoma Dental Association (ODA), and, therefore, by the laws of Oklahoma. But that may soon be changing, thanks to a court challenge in Texas that is seeking recognition for specialties other than the nine recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA).
What Is a Specialty?
Specialties have been defined by the ODA and the ADA as being certain areas of dentistry that require focused schooling and the ability to pass an exam by the specific board recognized by the ADA and ODA as being competent to oversee the creation and administration of the specialties.
For the purposes of the state exams, the ODA just says that it only recognizes specialties that have been recognized by the ADA. The recognized specialties are:
- Dental public health
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
- Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology
- Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology
- Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics
- Pediatric Dentistry
As we noted above, these specialties were determined by the American Dental Association, a national dental organization, of which the ODA is only a small part. And, according to a recent court decision in Texas, that’s the problem.
First Amendment Rights
The new court decision follows from a lawsuit filed by five dentists in Texas against the Texas Dental Association (TDA), which, like the ODA, limits dentists from advertising as specialists if they don’t conform to the ADA’s definition of specialties. (American Academy of Implant Dentistry, et al vs. Glenn Parker, Executive Director, Texas State Board of Dental Examiners, et al, vs. Texas Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, Intervenor Defendant – Case No. A-14-CA-191-SS) The five dentists want to claim specialties in other areas: two in implant dentistry, one in dental anesthesia, and two in oral medicine and orofacial pain (e.g. neuromuscular dentistry). With the assistance of the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID), these dentists sued, saying that the advertising restrictions violated their First Amendment rights without a compelling public benefit.
Judge Sam Sparks for the US District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, agreed with their arguments, saying that the TDA’s approach, “risks suppressing the truthful speech of dentists who have achieved high levels of training, education, or experience but have not successfully petitioned ADA for specialty recognition,” and that the determination of specialties relies more on “industry bias” than on an actual determination of which specialties are justified and which are not.
In deference to the First Amendment, the judge said, the dental board must do more if it wants to continue to suppress the truthful speech of these highly trained dentists.
This is not the first state where the AAID has successfully taken on local dental organizations that defer to the ADA and its specialist definitions. Previous victories in California and Florida suggest that we may soon be free to advertise specialties other than those recognized by the ADA.
If you are looking for a highly trained cosmetic dentist in Tulsa, please call (918) 528-3330 for an appointment with Dr. Kevin Winters, technically a general dentist (for now).