Teledentistry has been a prime target of many state dental boards. In the case of the Alabama’s Board of Dental Examiners, they have attempted to shut down SmileDirectClub’s SmileShop operations in the state arguing that digital scans taken by employees constitute the practice of dentistry. The American Teledentistry Association in its white paper on teleorthodontics has explained that digital scans of the oral cavity are nothing more than three-dimensional topographic photographs and not the practice of dentistry. As a result of this anticompetitive conduct by the Alabama Board, SmileDirectClub filed suit against the Alabama Board and its members.
SmileDirectClub v. Alabama Board of Dental Examiners will serve as a bellwether for oversight of dental boards. Currently, the Alabama Board’s interpretation of its rules has potentially restricted trade for the benefit of the private interests of its members and to the detriment of patients and patient choice. The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division filed a joint amicus brief Sept. 11. The board members have been given too much leeway to be “actively supervised” under Dental Examiners, the government says.
The ATDA is watching this case closely as it will set a precedent for dental board oversight.