(NaturalNews) Georgia resident Trisha Eck, her children all grown up and on their own, thought it would be fun and interesting to go from a stay-at-home mother to a small-business entrepreneur.
And so, she decided to rent a room at a local medical spa and began her own business, Tooth Fairies Teeth Whitening.
As reported by Fox News, Eck bought some equipment and supplies from a vendor she had met at a trade show, including some non-prescription-strength teeth-whitening gels. Her clients could either buy her products as a take-home kit or apply them on their own while visiting the spa. Since she is no dentist, Eck says she never did the treatments herself on her clients but was only there to give them instructions.
"Everybody wants a white, happy smile," Eck told the news channel. "I loved what I did. It made people happy. It was a fun job to have, and it was a nice way to help my family."
Enter omnipresent and intrusive government.
'You're not a dentist'
State regulators weren't happy about what Eck was doing, and as such sent her a cease and desist order this spring. The Georgia Board of Dentistry sent out the notice after one of its investigators deemed her business to be an unlicensed dental practice, though she did no such work and in fact carefully avoided any dentistry at all.
"He comes from the dental board, and he's telling me he can shut me down. He can fine me; I could face prison time," Eck said. "That's a little intimidating."
So, to avoid any legal consequences, Eck decided to shutter her business, but she maintains that she was not doing anything wrong. She pointed out that she was merely providing her customers with instructions and a clean place to apply their own over-the-counter whitening treatments -- on their own and to their own teeth.
"You don't see them going after people who do tongue piercings," Eck said. "To me, that's much more invasive than teeth whitening."
Eck's situation eventually attracted the attention of the Institute for Justice, a libertarian-leaning law firm that has since filed suit against the Georgia Board of Dentistry on her behalf. The legal organization is arguing that the dentists who serve on the board are motivated by protecting their profession from low-cost teeth-whitening competition.
"They're using government power to outlaw their competition [and] keep prices high," said Larry Salzman, the institute's lead attorney on the case. "That's just not only bad policy, it's unconstitutional."
Fox News said that the board of dentistry would not comment on the issue because of the pending court case.
Other state boards are serving as gatekeepers
Georgia is not the only state whose dental board may be seeking to protect its own. The Institute for Justice has filed similar legal challenges against the boards in the states of Alabama and Connecticut. Also, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that has been brought by the Federal Trade Commission against the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners for its issuance of cease and desist orders that the agency has issued to non-dentist teeth whiteners.
As Fox News further reported:
According to the Institute for Justice, dental regulators in at least 25 states have ordered teeth whitening businesses to shut down, and at least 14 states have changed laws or regulations in recent years to exclude non-dental professionals from offering teeth whitening services.
Although teeth whitening services provided by non-dentists are generally less expensive than those in a medical setting, many dental professionals advise caution.
"Patients who are considering having their teeth whitened by non-dentists should first visit their dentists to make sure their teeth and gums are healthy," the American Dental Association said in a written statement to the news network. "White teeth are not necessarily healthy teeth."