- - Friday, May 30, 2014

Arkansas is cracking down on discounted million-dollar smiles. The state Board of Dental Examiners has told an orthodontist in Fort Smith that he can’t clean the teeth of patients who aren’t orthodontics patients. Dr. Ben Burris says the board is unhappy because it doesn’t approve of his discounted prices.

He is prohibited by the Arkansas Dental Practice Act from practicing outside of his chosen specialty, though orthodontics includes routine teeth cleaning. Faced with losing both his license as a dentist and the prospect of dismissing 100 employees in 11 clinics in cities and towns throughout Arkansas, he suspended his discounted services and agreed to limit his dental care to patients who have braces on their teeth. He sued the board last week, with the assistance of the Institute for Justice, to restore his right to a full practice.

The ban strikes us as concern more for the dentists and their pocketbooks than for patients and their teeth, and illustrates how government meddling in patient care is not restricted to the federales. State government agencies like to meddle, too. Getting government out of the way is the first step in providing good and affordable care.

Dr. Burris is supported in his lawsuit by an orthodontist in nearby Fayetteville. Dr. Elizabeth Gohl ran afoul of the dental board when she volunteered her services for a “Free Extraction Day,” enabling low-income patients to get care they could not otherwise afford. No good deed goes unpunished.


A win for Dr. Burris and Dr. Gohl — and their patients — would be felt beyond Arkansas. Specialists in Idaho, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and West Virginia are also prohibited from performing services deemed outside their specialties.

Kelly Mendes, a mother of four, and her family are typical patients and staunch supporters of Dr. Burris. “I was immediately dismayed to know that they were persecuting him for doing something so beneficial to the community,” she says. “You would think that their concern would be that people get good dental hygiene.”

A person might indeed think that, and excessive government meddling makes health care more expensive, not more affordable. Obamacare, for example, is driving up prices by requiring insurance plans to include every conceivable procedure or device to guarantee the votes of radical feminists, and some procedures that are hardly conceivable, such as the risk of male pregnancy. Arkansas is mandating higher prices to insulate dentists from free-market competition, whether they want the “insulation” or not. The result is something a lot worse than a toothache.