Connecticut’s Teeth-Whitening Rules Upheld

     MANHATTAN (CN) – The Second Circuit upheld a Connecticut law that lets only licensed dentists whiten teeth with an LED light.
     Sensational Smiles dba Smile Bright brought the challenge at issue after the Connecticut State Dental Commission adopted the restriction in 2011.
     In its lawsuit, Sensation Smiles noted that dentists are not trained on the operation of LED lights, and that licensing schemes require no knowledge of using LED lights to whiten teeth.
     A federal judge nevertheless granted the commission summary judgment, and a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit affirmed Friday.
     Citing the possibility that the lights could create oral-health problems, the court found that that Connecticut has a rational basis to prohibit “nondentists pointing LED lights into their customers’ mouths.”
     Expert testimony cited study results that the use of bleaching light, though not necessarily UV lights, can lead to pulpal irritation, tooth sensitivity and lip burns, according to the ruling.
     Regulation is in the interest of people who need dental care, without completely restricting access to types of care, because patients are still able to obtain their own LED lights and shine into their mouths, the court found.
     “While one may not extract another’s teeth for money without a dental license, individuals can remove their own teeth with pliers at home if they so choose,” Judge Guido Calabresi wrote for the court.
     State regulations that favor a particular part of industry are constitutionally acceptable if the regulations were not conceived with an reference to the beneficiary interest, the court added.
     In this case, the teeth-whitening law was created to protect consumers, not to directly benefit licensed dentists.
     Judge Jose Cabranes joined the opinion in full, but Judge Christopher Droney concurred only in part as well in judgment.
     For Droney, the court went too far in addressing whether the state has a legitimate interest in pure economic protectionism for the purposes of rational-basis review.
     Attorneys for Sensational Smiles disputed the court’s decision.
     “Today’s ruling disregards what should be obvious to anyone: It is unconstitutional to require someone to have eight years of higher education before they can point a flashlight at someone’s teeth,” Institute of Justice senior attorney Paul Sherman said in a statement. “Connecticut’s policy had nothing to do with public health and safety and only serves to make life difficult for entrepreneurs who wanted to earn an honest living offering teeth-whitening services.”
     Neither Sensational Smile nor the Connecticut Department of Public Health returned requests for comment.

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