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Can General Dentists Advertise Specialty Services?

June 11, 2021

Question:  One of my partners wants to change our Yellow Pages ad to mention that our group provides orthodontic services. None of us has been certified as a specialist in orthodontics by the Board of Dentistry. Can a group of general dentists advertise specialty services?

Answer:  You can, if the advertisement discloses that you are not certified in orthodontics.  The failure to include this disclaimer could result in a State of Michigan Administrative Complaint and/or an ethical complaint being filed against you alleging a violation of one or more state laws and codes.

The Administrative Code Rule is directly on point. The Rule specifies that a dentist is holding himself/herself out as a specialist when, in any way, the dentist gives public emphasis to some particular specialty service without also disclosing that the dentist is not certified as a specialist.

Therefore, in order for you (a general dentist) to legally advertise that you provide orthodontic services the ad must include a disclaimer making clear that these services will be provided by general dentists. No specific wording is required by the statutes or the Administrative Code Rule. You must make it clear that you are not certified as a specialist. For example, the advertisement may state: “all services provided by general dentists”; “dentists not certified in orthodontics”; or “dentists not specialty certified.”

Unlike the statues and Administrative Code Rule which apply to all Michigan dentists, which, the MDA Ethical Rule applies to only dentists who are MDA members. Similar to the statues and Administrative Code Rule the ethical rule requires MDA member dentists to emphasize that the advertised specialty services are being provided by a general dentist. The ethical rule also prohibits a general dentist from using the phrases “specialist in” and “practice limited to.” These phrases being reserved for use by specialists.

If the State finds you in violation of any of the statues or the Administrative Code Rule it may require you to pay a fine, place you on probation, suspend or revoke your license. A violation of the MDA Ethical Rule could result in your being censured, place on probation or your membership may be suspended or revoked. In either case, probation may include conditions to be fulfilled (e.g. continuing education).

Read the complete Q&A in the Journal of the Michigan Dental Association on page 22.

About the author:

Daniel J. Schulte answer questions about health care lawDaniel J. Schulte has more than 25 years of experience helping clients solve tough problems and capitalize on opportunities that require a blend of business and legal expertise. His practice focuses on addressing the legal, business, licensing, and regulatory challenges of health care professionals, organizations, and facilities. Dan understands how legal issues impact business objectives and, as a result, offers his clients practical, results-oriented advice. He is a Certified Public Accountant, former managing partner and current executive committee member of the firm. Dan also serves as co-chair of the firm’s Health Care Practice Group.



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