The AAO Component Legal Support Fund (CLSF) achieved a victory in recent work with the New Hampshire Association of Orthodontists.

The New Hampshire component applied for funding from the CLSF after the AAO Legal Department’s Sean Murphy discovered that the state legislature was considering amendments to its specialty advertising laws that would have removed the “general dentist” disclaimer from general dentists advertising specialty services.

Where the law now requires each dentist to indicate in his or her advertisement whether they are a “general dentist” or “specialist” when advertising services, the proposed revisions would have removed the required “general dentist” disclaimer from general dentists’ advertisements in New Hampshire.  The change would have made it possible for a general dentist to advertise orthodontic or other specialty services, without clarifying that he or she is a general dentist.

To put this in perspective, under the old language, a general dentist practicing orthodontics would have to state, “John Doe, general dentist, practicing orthodontics.” Given that requirement, consumers knew exactly who they were dealing with – a general dentist.  Under the proposed change, the general dentist disclaimer would not have been required, so the same advertisement could read, “John Doe practicing orthodontics.”  As you might imagine, consumers might have concluded (incorrectly) that John Doe is a specialist in orthodontics or maybe even an orthodontist, rather than a general dentist.

The proposed revision eliminating the general dentist disclaimer was included in legislation designed to update regulations applicable to dentists and dental hygienists by the New Hampshire Board of Dental Examiners.

The New Hampshire Dental Society responded positively to the AAO’s outreach on this issue. Society leaders subsequently indicated to the bill’s sponsors that the organization would not object to removing the language eliminating the general dentist disclaimer law from the pending legislation.

Working with Dr. Dennis Hiller, an AAO member from Jackson, New Hampshire, the AAO Legal Department prepared a letter outlining concerns about the bill. After it was approved and signed by Dr. Hiller and by Dr. Phil Mansour of Goffstown, New Hampshire, (Northeastern Society of Orthodontists’ representative to the AAO Political Action Committee), the letter was sent to all New Hampshire state legislators.
View the Letter to the New Hampshire Legislators

In the end, the language that would have removed the general dentist disclaimer was stricken from the bill.  General dentists’ advertising specialty services in NH must continue to inform consumers that they are “general dentists.”