For decades, State Dental Boards have protected dentists from competition and allowed them to keep prices artificially high and supply artificially low. Though this is crazy and likely violates the Sherman Act, we dentists think it’s right because it’s the way things have always been. Well, times they are a ‘changing and the FTC and the Federal Courts will see to that. Still not sure what I’m talking about? Let’s discuss tooth whitening as an example of how the market rewards the innovative, smart and strong that are able service more people, more conveniently for less money once artificial impediments are removed. When whitening was a dentist only procedure it cost about 500 bucks and took a couple visits to the dental office. The total amount spent on whitening in the U.S. before the market was opened up was only $50,000,000 and access to the procedure was restricted to a tiny fraction of the total population. Once increased competition, the FTC and Crest White Strips got finished with the dental industry, whitening costs shrunk to less than 10 percent of what they were and are whitening is even given away free these days by dentists as a lost leader. Now that the majority of the population can enjoy tooth whitening in the comfort of their own home, it’s an $11,000,000,000 industry! How can you say this is a bad thing? More access for more people more conveniently and more affordably is the result. More access to care is ALWAYS a good thing despite what dentists say.

Would you dare say that Crest is an evil corporation that cares only about the money because it out performed the dental industry and out competed dentists when it came to delivering care? You might but you would be wrong. Can you seriously say that tooth whitening should be restricted and that dentists should be the only ones allowed to perform the procedure? I’m sure most dentists would say so but that’s just plain protectionism. Tooth whitening is an elective and non-invasive procedure and it is exactly these kinds of procedures that will be decentralized.

While we are on the subject of government entities protecting special interests like dentists, I should mention that dentists are the most libertarian group of people I’ve ever encountered. Dentists, as a group, want the government out of their lives and complain about any “restrictions on their liberty” and gripe about having to pay taxes any chance they get. They are totally against “government interference” in their lives… EXCEPT when it comes to their dental practices. In this arena almost all the dentists I know do a 180 and demand that the government “protect people from themselves” and prevent anyone but dentists from doing even the most elective and non-invasive procedures. Dentists even try to prevent fellow dentists from “doing too much” or “charging too little” and they are able to do so through state dental associations and their hand picked State Dental Board Members. And don’t even get me started on dentists opposing MLPs as individuals as individuals and via organized dentistry for “not having the required training” when those same dentists take a weekend course and claim to be dental specialists! It’s laughable but more importantly it’s not sustainable. We dentists have an obligation to the public to increase access to care and service all Americans. If we refuse to do our duty, can we blame others for doing what we refuse to do?