Trustee Report: Component Legal Support Fund aids New Hampshire and New York

On a local level, I am happy to report that AAO’s Component Legal Support Fund (“CLSF”) has helped two NESO components with their state advocacy issues in just the last year.  In February, the AAO’s Associate General Counsel, Sean Murphy (who oversees the CLSF), discovered that the New Hampshire (“NH”) 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 previously required each dentist to indicate in his or her advertisements whether they were 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 was 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 was 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. Working with Dr. Dennis Hiller, an AAO member from Jackson, New Hampshire, Murphy 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 and chair to the AAO’s Political Action Committee), the letter was sent to all New Hampshire state 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 now continue to inform consumers that they are “general dentists.” 

 In addition, just this summer the AAO’s legal department discovered New York legislation that involved orthodontics and dealt with cosmetic dentistry.  Once again, the AAO reached out to me and New York leadership, making us aware of the proposed Bill and encouraging us to apply for CLSF funding to help with this issue.  The CLSF application was quickly approved by me and the other AAO Trustees, Murphy was able to quickly connect with the New York Dental Association, and the issues presented by the Bill were quickly resolved.  Overall, if not for the AAO and the CLSF, both the NH Bill and NY Bill could have easily passed without orthodontists ever being involved.  And as we all know, if Bills that affect us and our practices pass without orthodontists input, the consequences can be devastating. 

For more information on the AAO Component Legal Support Fund, contact Sean Murphy [].

John Callahan

Trustee, Northeastern Society of Orthodontics