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US Supreme Court Rules NC Dental Board Violated Antitrust Laws

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that North Carolina's dental board violated antitrust laws. In a 6-3 decision, the justices said the board cannot order non-dentists to stop offering teeth whitening.

The state law that set up the dental board does not say that teeth whitening falls under its supervision. Still, the dental board used cease-and-desist letters to scare off non-dentists who were offering cheaper prices for whitening. 

The Federal Trade Commission called that anticompetitive and unfair, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted most of the dental board members are dentists, and he said states cannot "abandon markets to the unsupervised control of active market participants."

In other words, North Carolina dentists can't get immunity from antitrust laws to regulate themselves, at least not without state supervision.