ATLANTA — Businesses that offer teeth
whitening services in Georgia are now able to have their day in court after the state board of dentistry ordered several to shut down because they're not licensed dentists.
The ruling affects customer service
-oriented businesses that give customers trays filled with a lightening gel, not over -the-counter strips sold in stores.
A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a Savannah woman can sue Georgia's dental board, which ordered her business to close or face punishment.
If you search online for teeth whitening in Atlanta most results are for dental offices. That's because under Georgia's Dental Practice Act, teeth whitening services are considered dentistry and anyone else who is not a dentist and is offering it is committing a felony.
Atlanta resident Jim Valentine ran a successful teeth whitening business called White Smile USA from 2007 to 2010.
said the active ingredients in his product are the same as the ingredients in products sold at drug stores over the counter. The difference is at his business the customer gets a gel -filled tray and sits under a whitening light.
"We were selling hydrogen peroxide, that's it. So until they can regulate that, they can't stop whitening," Valentine told Channel 2's Amy Napier Viteri. "If you have a custom tray made from a dentist, it's minimum $300. This was basically $99."
Valentine said from the beginning several state dental boards tried to shut him down.
"They're dentists and it's hurting their marketplace," Valentine said.
After costly litigation and a weak economy, Valentine said he went under.
Tuesday a federal judge in Atlanta ruled a Savannah woman can sue Georgia's dental board to reopen her business after the board ordered she shut down in 2014.
The Georgia Dental Association sent Viteri a statement that read:
"When it comes to teeth whitening services, there are safety concerns that must be addressed with the skills and professional diagnosis of a licensed dentist. A discolored tooth may signal dental problems, such as an abscess, that may not be detected by an untrained individual. Often an X-ray is needed to determine the proper treatment, and timely treatment can make a difference in keeping or losing the tooth if it is dissolving away.
"In addition, improper application of chemicals in the mouth can damage fillings and inflame gums and the palate. Dark teeth can also be caused by tooth decay or leaking fillings, which are not affected by bleaching but need another type treatment. A dentist examines the current condition of the mouth and existing fillings, and is able to treat any side effects that may be related to a future treatment or change in oral condition. Consider a patient who has tooth colored fillings. Whitening does not change the color of the fillings, so the patient may look worse if those are not identified by a dentist, or the patient may have to spend much more money to replace the old fillings in order to match the different color of the bleached teeth. Whitening done improperly can damage some restorations which can not only cause cosmetic issues but can lead to more serious dental conditions, such as avoiding the proper treatment for tooth decay or abscesses while performing treatment that may not be needed.
"Lastly, everyone needs a dental home with a professional who knows what is normal for that individual, and what to do if some abnormal problem arises. A dentist will work with a patient to determine if they are an appropriate candidate for cosmetic services based on the state of their current oral health and their desire for a beautiful smile. Cosmetic services are only one part of the oral health care a dentist can provide."
"If it's more convenient than I am totally for businesses selling it," Atlanta resident Mary Agramonte told Viteri.
"They're going to lose in court which is going to cost the taxpayers of Georgia, me included, more money on this issue," Valentine said.
Viteri contacted Georgia's dental board and a representative told her they do not comment on pending litigation.
An attorney for the Institute for Justice, which is handling the businesswoman's case, said they expect to bring their case against the board within the year.