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Ben Burris Tells Dental Board He’s Providing Access to Care

2 min read

Fort Smith orthodontist told the Arkansas Board of Dental Examiners Friday that he offers cleanings to any patient who wants one in order to increase access to dental care, and that he doesn’t see it as practicing outside his specialty.

Dr. Ben Burris was brought before the board to explain and defend his practice of using dental hygienists to offer dental cleanings, which might be a violation of the Dental Practice Act. The law prohibits orthodontists from practicing outside their specialty.

The board quizzed Burris for about an hour Friday. A ruling isn’t expected until next week.

During the meeting held in the Main Street Mall Building in Little Rock, Burris told the board that he offers dental cleanings for several reasons, including as a way to attract potential patients.

But Burris, who operates five northeast Arkansas clinics under the name Braces by Burris, said he loses money on the cleanings. The prices are $98 for adults and $68 for children. He has been offering the service since June.

“Access to care has always been one of my passions,” Burris told the board. “I believe I’m within the letter of the law.”

Burris said most of the patients who need cleanings don’t have a dentist, but are checked by one of the three orthodontists in his clinic.  

If a cavity is detected, the patient will be referred to a dentist for a filling, Burris said.

“Do you understand you are practicing general dentistry?” said the board’s attorney, Kevin O’Dwyer, a partner in the Little Rock law firm of Hope Trice & O’Dwyer.

“Sir, I guess we’re going to have to disagree on this,” Burris said.

In an interview with Arkansas Business last week, Burris said some of his competitors “have gone absolutely ballistic” over the price Burris has set for cleanings and complained to the board.

“In Arkansas, there’s an archaic law that says that dental specialists can’t practice outside their specialty,” Burris told Arkansas Business. “So even though I’m a dentist, an orthodontist, it means that I can’t volunteer at the free clinic and pull teeth because it’s against the law.”

Burris said he is licensed as both a dentist and as an orthodontist.

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