Federal Court Decision Casts Doubt on ADA Specialty Recognition Process

A recent federal court decision in Texas, AAID v. Parker, caused undue concern among AAE members that general dentists will be able to advertise as specialists. The opinion in AAID v. Parker does not in any way permit such advertising. However, it will likely have a significant impact on the ADA's process for recognizing specialties.

The Texas law limited advertising of specialty status to members of the nine ADA-recognized dental specialties. The lawsuit was filed by four dental specialties not recognized by the ADA.

Under the ADA's current specialty recognition process, the ADA House of Delegates may reject the recommendation of the ADA's Council on Dental Education and Licensure to recognize a specialty. The HOD did so in 2012, in the case of the American Society of Dental Anesthesiologists, one of the four plaintiffs. The federal court concluded that the ADA recognition process was not a "gold standard" because of the House of Delegates' ability to reject CDEL recommendations. Therefore, this process cannot regulate the use of the term "specialist," and by limiting the advertising of specialty status to ADA-recognized specialties, the Texas law violates the First Amendment. The Texas Dental Board will need to rewrite the provision to comply with the decision. The AAE does not anticipate that those revisions will in any way permit general dentists to advertise as endodontists.

AAE Assistant Executive Director for Professional Affairs Helen Jameson, J.D., prepared an analysis of the federal court ruling and how it may affect specialty recognition in the future.