A Thin Veneer of Protectionism
Across the country, people are starting to realize that occupational licensing has gone too far. Slowly but surely, we are recognizing that far too often, government has been making decisions about who can do what in areas where customers and employers should be the ones making that choice.
Occupational licensing increases costs to consumers and people entering the workforce, favors politically influential groups, and serves, in most cases, as a protectionist measure designed to benefit incumbent practitioners of the licensed occupation at the expense of future practitioners and the public. Show-Me Institute analysts have long written about the harms of occupational licensing in Missouri.
While we may finally be moving in the proper direction of less licensing, there remains a bureaucratic minefield of licensing apparatchiks who have to justify their positions on the public payroll. They do so by filing absurd cases like this one involving dentistry in Bridgeton. (For the record, one study found that dentists’ incomes and dental prices were 12 to 15 percent higher in states with more restrictive dental licensing rules.)
In Bridgeton, we have someone replacing rubber bands on braces—which many people simply do themselves. My son does it with his braces every day. You don’t need a dentist to replace a rubber band any more than you need an orthopedic surgeon to autograph an arm cast.
The second part of the case is, I admit, more complex. This person being sued has also apparently been applying cosmetic veneers to teeth. They are, as the link describes, entirely cosmetic procedures. Why can’t this person apply veneer to a willing customer? Provided that her customers are fully informed that she is not a dentist, I see no problem with any of this. The article gives zero indication that anyone has been harmed. It simply appears that someone—possibly a dentist with nothing better to do—came across the ads and filed a complaint.
There could also be a middle ground here. Perhaps a basic license similar to those required for nail salon technicians could be required for cosmetic veneer sales instead of a full dentist license. That is another thing about occupational licensing: even in cases where it may be beneficial, the government goes way beyond what it needs to do in order to get the other aspects (usually protectionism), into the mix. Taxi cab licensing is a perfect example of this.
This lawsuit seems to me to be another overreach of licensing boards in Missouri. I hope the lawsuit gets tossed, but I also hope this goes the way of hair braiding laws and the legislature fixes the licensing rules here.