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People Ex Rel. v. A.a.a. Dental Lab.

OPINION FILED MARCH 22, 1956.

THE PEOPLE EX REL. CHICAGO DENTAL SOCIETY, ET AL., APPELLEES,

v.

A.A.A. DENTAL LABORATORIES, INC. — (A-I DENTAL PLATE LABORATORY COMPANY, INC., ET AL., APPELLANTS.)



APPEAL from the Superior Court of Cook County; the Hon. FRANK M. PADDEN, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE SCHAEFER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied May 22, 1956.

In this case those provisions of the Dental Practice Act which relate to persons who manufacture and repair substitutes for natural teeth are challenged upon many constitutional grounds.

The action was instituted in the superior court of Cook County on the relation of the Chicago Dental Society and a number of its officers, directors and members against 36 persons, groups of persons or corporations engaged in the dental laboratory business in Chicago. The amended complaint charged the defendants with practicing dentistry without licenses, soliciting dental patronage from the public by advertising and practicing dentistry under the name of a corporation, company, association or trade name, all in violation of the Dental Practice Act. The relief sought was a permanent injunction restraining defendants from violating the act.

The statute provides a comprehensive scheme of regulation of the practice of dentistry. The controversy centers primarily upon sections 5a and paragraphs (8) and (9) of section 5. Section 5 provides that a person practices dentistry "(8) Who takes impressions of the human tooth, teeth, or jaws or performs any phase of any operation incident to the replacement of a part of a tooth, a tooth, teeth or associated tissues by means of a filling, a crown, a bridge, a denture or other appliance; or

"(9) Who furnishes, supplies, constructs, reproduces or repairs, or offers to furnish, supply, construct, reproduce or repair prosthetic dentures (sometimes known as `plates,') bridges or other substitutes for natural teeth, to the user or prospective user thereof." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1955, chap. 91, par. 60.

The portion of section 5a which is most sharply disputed provides: "Licensed dentists may employ or engage the services of any person, firm or corporation to construct or repair, extra-orally, prosthetic dentures, bridges, or other replacements for a part of a tooth, a tooth, or teeth. A person, firm or corporation so employed or engaged, when constructing or repairing such dentures, bridges or replacements, exclusively, directly and solely for licensed members of the dental profession, and not for the public or any part thereof, shall not be deemed or considered to be practicing dentistry as defined in this Act." The remainder of the section restricts the advertising activities of persons, firms and corporations so engaged. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1955, chap. 91, par. 60a.

The effect of these provisions is to make it unlawful for dental laboratory technicians to take impressions for false teeth, or to make or repair them, except when engaged or employed to do so by a licensed dentist.

By motions to dismiss the amended complaint, certain defendants attacked the Dental Practice Act on constitutional grounds. An order was entered on the motions to dismiss which found section 5a unconstitutional to the extent that it prohibited defendants from selling prosthetic dentures (plates), bridges, or other substitutes for natural teeth directly to the user or prospective user, where the patient employs a licensed dentist who takes the necessary impressions, gives an order or prescription therefor, and makes the fitting thereof in the oral cavity.

After defendants had answered, the cause was referred to a master in chancery who conducted extended hearings. On plaintiffs' motion the complaint was dismissed as to seven defendants or groups of defendants. Decrees granting injunctive relief were entered by consent against two defendants, and a default decree was entered against one. In accordance with the master's recommendation, the decree found that all but four of the remaining defendants were practicing dentistry without licenses and permanently enjoined them from the practices described in the decree. In accordance with the ruling made on the motions to dismiss, the decree provided that defendants might sell substitutes for natural teeth directly to users or prospective users when a licensed dentist takes the necessary impressions, gives an order or prescription therefor, and makes the fitting thereof in the oral cavity. The plaintiffs have cross-appealed from those portions of the decree which reflect this ruling. As to four defendants, the decree found the evidence insufficient to show that they constructed or repaired dentures, bridges or other replacements for human teeth except directly and solely for licensed dentists, and that their advertising did not violate any of the provisions of the Dental Practice Act. The complaint was dismissed as to them. One defendant died during the pendency of the litigation, and the complaint was dismissed as to him. Twelve defendants against whom decrees were entered prosecute this appeal; plaintiffs cross-appeal, and the appellants and the four defendants as to whom relief was denied are cross appellees.

Defendants' principal contention is that the statute deprives them of due process of law under the State and Federal constitutions. Voluminous testimony establishes beyond doubt that the furnishing of artificial dentures is intimately related to the general health of the patient, and that the mechanical work of making the denture is but a small part of the total undertaking, which always requires biological, physiological and pathological knowledge, and sometimes surgical skill. This relationship justifies legislative regulation of dentistry, including prosthetic dentistry, (Lasdon v. Hallihan, 377 Ill. 187,) and indeed the defendants concede in their reply brief that the legislature can regulate the activities of dental technicians.

It is argued, however, that although the general subject is within the legislative competence, the particular regulation is unreasonable, arbitrary and unrelated to concerns of public health. It is pointed out that under the act no qualifications are established for the laboratory technicians who make dental plates. Any person may do so, and the only qualification, it is said, is that the work must be done through the brokerage of a dentist. It is argued that the dentist is thus given what amounts to governmental control over the laboratory technician, which may be exercised arbitrarily since no standards are prescribed. The technician is afforded no protection; his success is dependent upon the favor of the dentist.

We emphasize at the outset that decision does not depend on our appraisal of the wisdom of the enactment, and that "it is for the legislature, not the courts, to balance the advantages and disadvantages of the new requirement." (Williamson v. Lee Optical of Oklahoma, Inc. 348 U.S. 483, 487.) That we might regard certain provisions as unnecessary is immaterial if they can be said to be reasonably related to a legitimate legislative concern.

The aim of the statute is to restrict the practice of dentistry to licensed dentists with the exception that extra-oral work on dental appliances may be done by nondentists who are engaged or employed by dentists to do it. To that end, dental technicians are prohibited to do work on dental appliances directly for the public. The evidence establishes that the knowledge and skill of the dentist is necessary in the diagnosis of the case, the taking of impressions, the issuance of instructions to the laboratory and the testing, fitting and adjustment of a prosthetic denture. It is argued, however, that the limit of legislative power is reached when the statute requires that the impression be made upon the order of a dentist who also fits the appliance into the oral cavity, and that the technician cannot be prohibited from selling the denture ...


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