Dentists across the state of Texas won the right to let patients know their practice specialty as a result of a decision by the United States District Court last week. Judge Sam Sparks ruled that a Texas administrative regulation that restricted specialties in Texas to only those recognized by the American Dental Association was unconstitutional. He enjoined the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners from enforcing Section 108.54 of the Texas Administrative Code.
The American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID), along with three other dental organizations and five individual Texas dentists, filed suit challenging the regulation. As a result of the decision, dentists who have earned board certification from the Certifying Boards sponsored by the American Academy of Implant Dentistry and the other plaintiff organizations may now advertise that they are specialists in the state of Texas.
"This is a great victory for patients throughout the state of Texas. They now can have more information available to them to help them decide who to use for their dental needs," said Dr. Richard Mercurio, President of the American Academy of Implant Dentistry. "No longer will patients need to guess whether a dentist who is trained in treating gum disease or extracting teeth is also experienced in the complex and comprehensive field of implant placement and restoration. Patients will now be able to seek out specialists in implant dentistry, such as those certified by AAID's Certifying Board, the American Board of Oral Implantology/Implant Dentistry," he pointed out.
Agreeing with the AAID that advertising a dentist's expertise is protected commercial free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Judge Sparks noted that "...the public would hardly feel misled if a licensed AAID diplomate advertised as a 'specialist' in implant dentistry and then later discovered the AAID was technically not a 'specialty' under Texas law because it had not achieved specialty status according to the ADA."
He noted that it appears that "...the true purpose [of the Texas Regulation] is to protect the entrenched economic interests of organizations and dentists in ADA-recognized specialty areas."