Dentists, Orthodontists at Odds Over Ben Burris' Cleanings

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Sep. 23, 2013 12:00 am  

Ben Burris

Dr. Clifton Higgins of Jonesboro also sent an email to the board complaining about Burris’ practice.

“I am disgusted with many aspects of his practice,” Higgins said in the July 29 email. “The latest business decision he had made to employ dental hygienists to perform dental cleanings ONLY in his office … seems to be in direct violation of the practice of his orthodontic specialty. I feel that this action warrants immediate and decisive action” from the board.

Higgins declined to comment on the case because it’s pending before the dental board.

Springdale dentist Dr. Michael Crowder also sent an email to the board on Sept. 12 and was opposed to the practice of an orthodontist providing dental examines. “I feel this practice is trying to subvert the traditional role of the general dentist caregiver in referring patients for specialty care,” Crowder wrote. “This [is] NOT in the best interest of the general public.”

Crowder declined further comment on the case.

Double Standard

While dentists complained, fellow orthodontists have supported Burris in his fight to provide the cleanings, which included X-rays and exams. The price was $98 for an adult and $68 for a child, which Burris has said was about half of what dentists in northeast Arkansas typically charge.

“A bunch of us are very thankful he’s willing to stand up to this and not just back down,” said Dr. Michael DeLuke, an orthodontist from Schenectady, N.Y., and an assistant professor in the orthodontic department at the University of Connecticut. “What’s going on is just not right,” DeLuke said.

DeLuke said he thinks dental boards have a double standard because general dentists perform orthodontic procedures, such as adding braces to patients, but aren’t penalized by the board. “Orthodontists feel it’s hypocrisy,” he said.

Dr. Gayle Glenn, president of the American Association of Orthodontists, also said orthodontists should be allowed to provide cleanings. She said in an email to Arkansas Business that orthodontists are dentists first before they complete a two- or three-year orthodontic specialty program.

“If it is permissible under a state’s dental practice act for orthodontists to offer dental cleanings and X-rays, … the orthodontists should be allowed to offer these services,” Glenn wrote.



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