NJ dental board to decide teeth-whitening case

The New Jersey dental board should decide if teeth-whitening services offered by nondentists at mall kiosks and beauty salons constitutes the practice of dentistry, a state appellate court has ruled.

The New Jersey Dental Association (NJDA) filed a 2010 lawsuit against Beach Bum Tanning, an East Coast chain with 17 locations in New Jersey, that has been offering its clients teeth whitening alongside its tanning services.

Last summer, a New Jersey judge ruled in favor of the tanning salon, finding that the dental association did not have legal standing to enforce the provisions of the state Dentistry Act through unfair competition claims.

The NJDA then appealed the case. Now the appellate court has overturned the lower court's ruling, citing a precedent case that found that professional associations can sue on behalf of their members to prevent unfair competition.

"The State Board unquestionably has both expertise in the practice of dentistry and the primary authority to police its practice," according to the February 24 ruling by the state court's appellate division.

If the dental board finds that teeth whitening constitutes the practice of dentistry, the NJDA can seek a court injunction to make the company stop offering the service, the court ruled.

While many states are moving to ban the contentious practice, others are pushing nondental businesses to shut down voluntarily.

But the U.S. Federal Trade Commission recently agreed to stay enforcement of its finding that the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners' efforts to block nondentists from providing teeth-whitening services violate antitrust laws.

And the Connecticut State Dental Commission ruled in June 2011 that teeth whitening is dentistry and can no longer be performed at spas, salons, and shopping malls unless it is done under the supervision of a licensed dentist.

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