HB 502

83(R) - 2013
Licensing & Administrative Procedures

Vote Recommendation

  • Negative
  • Neutral
  • Negative
  • Negative
  • Negative


Ana Hernandez

Bill Caption

Relating to the practice of dentistry.

Fiscal Notes

No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.

Bill Analysis

Summary: Under current Texas law, certain training and licensing is required to perform specific acts associated with dentistry, such as diagnostics, surgical treatment, stain removal, and providing anesthesia. Teeth whitening treatment is not listed among the list of regulated dental services.  While many dental offices offer teeth whitening services, many non-dental small business entrepreneurs have been successful in setting up independent teeth whitening services. These businesses operate legally without a dental license as long as they do not perform any of the regulated dental services listed in the Occupation Code. HB 502 would place teeth whitening services under the same level of regulation as traditional dental services, effectively shutting down teeth whitening service providers that are not operated by licensed dentists.

Analysis: HB 502 is a classic trade protectionist bill supported by lobbyists on behalf of a well-connected industry. This bill is designed to protect dentists who offer teeth whitening services from competition by entrepreneurs who can offer the same service at less cost due to lower overhead. Under the auspices of “consumer protection” HB 502 constructs an unnecessary barrier to entry for teeth whitening businesses in order to protect a specific industry from competition.

Supporters of this bill have mentioned anecdotal stories about the dangers of using unlicensed cleaners instead of a licensed dentist. They have not provided data to support their claims. The Texas Legislature should not create new regulations based on anecdotes; it should craft well considered laws rooted in the U.S. and Texas constitutions and supported by evidence demonstrating the necessity of the legislation. Consumers in Texas are well equipped to make rational choices about the products and services they purchase, including cosmetic teeth whitening. Texans who want to whiten their teeth can do so at a dental office, at a teeth whitening service, or at home using over the counter products commonly available at retailers across the state. There is no evidence or empirical data to suggest that consumers need or want the “protection” required by HB 502.  Adding this regulation will only serve to reduce Texans’ market choices, drive up costs, and threaten jobs by making it more difficult or impossible for existing teeth whitening businesses to continue operating.

We recommend that legislators oppose HB 502.

Here are ten interesting facts for further consideration, courtesy of the Institute for Justice:

  • Anyone can legally buy teeth-whitening products.  Teeth-whitening products are regulated by the FDA as cosmetics, which means that anyone, even a minor, may purchase these products and apply them to their own teeth with no prescription, no supervision, and no instruction.
  • These are the same products people use at home every day.  The only difference between whitening your teeth at home and whitening your teeth at a salon is that teeth-whitening entrepreneurs provide instruction on the products they sell and provide a clean, comfortable place for customers to apply the product to their own teeth, just as they would at home.
  • Teeth whitening is safe.  One recent study found that teeth whitening products are no more damaging than orange juice.  Millions of people worldwide have whitened their teeth using peroxide-based products, all without a single reported incident of serious or permanent harm. 
  • The side effects of teeth whitening are minor and invariably temporary.  The only common side effects or teeth whitening are temporary tooth sensitivity and gum irritation.  These side effects are common to all providers of teeth whitening, whether at home, at a salon, or at a dentist, and they invariably resolve on their own within days of the whitening.
  • The LED lights used in teeth whitening are safe.  They are very low power and emit light over a narrow range of the visible spectrum.  They are no more dangerous than a household flashlight.
  • Teeth whitening is far safer than other oral procedures that are not regulated as dentistry.  Tongue piercing, for example, carries significant risks of serious infection and tooth damage, but is generally performed by laypeople with no dental training.
  • Dental education is irrelevant to teeth whitening.  A recent study of all 65 dental schools in North America found that not one had any clinical requirement for teeth whitening.  The reason is simple:  Nobody needs eight years of higher education to offer teeth whitening services.
  • Teeth-whitening entrepreneurs provide a valuable service.  Although customers could use the exact same products at home, many appreciate the convenience of being able to whiten their teeth at a mall or salon.
  • Banning non-dentist teeth whitening would harm consumers.  Dentists routinely charge four times as much as non-dentists for teeth whitening services.  A recent decision by theFederal Trade Commission found that North Carolina’s prohibition on non-dentist teeth whitening illegally suppressed competition, resulting in consumers paying higher prices for fewer choices.
  • Banning non-dentist teeth whitening is unconstitutional.  Both the United States and Texas Constitutions protect the right to earn an honest living subject only to reasonable government regulation, and there is nothing reasonable about requiring entrepreneurs to acquire eight years of higher education at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars, just to sell an over-the-counter product that customers apply to their own teeth.