U.S. judge: SmileDirectClub's scans are practice of dentistry

2016 09 01 13 52 16 412 Gavel 400

A U.S. district judge has ruled that invisible-aligner manufacturer SmileDirectClub's digital scans constitute the practice of dentistry. This ruling came as part of a decision in a case involving the company and the Georgia Board of Dentistry.

SmileDirectClub filed a lawsuit against the dental board in May 2018. The company was contesting a Georgia rule that requires "digital scans for fabrication [of] orthodontic appliances" to be performed by an expanded duty dental assistant acting under the direct supervision of a licensed dentist. The company claimed that taking the scans did not constitute the practice of dentistry and sought injunctive relief.

Justice William Ray II of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. wrote in his May 8 decision that the company's "acts of taking digital scans of a patient's mouth for the purpose of having a dentist or orthodontist approve of a treatment plan for correcting a malposition of the patient's teeth falls squarely within the definition of the practice of dentistry."

The judge also dismissed the majority of claims against the board, according to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), which filed court papers supporting the board in February 2019. Justice Ray did allow the company to pursue nonmonetary claims against individual members of the board.

In response to a request from DrBicuspid.com for comment, SmileDirectClub stated that there were aspects of the ruling it saw differently than the AAO.

"SmileDirectClub is very pleased with the Georgia federal court's ruling that allows us to continue to pursue federal antitrust and constitutional claims against the individual members of the Georgia Board of Dentistry."

The company stated that the board's attempt to exclude nondentists from taking 3D images of patients' mouths impedes competition.

This is a "transparent move to block competition and impede patient-first innovations in teledentistry," the company stated. "We look forward to proving our claims in court and preventing the members of the Georgia Board of Dentistry from taking any unlawful and unconstitutional action that will ultimately harm consumers."

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