Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley) 

The business of telehealth in the dentistry field in California could be transformed if a bill passes that prevents patients from dealing directly with companies without first seeing a dentist. 

Some African Americans in the state view the unrestricted purchasing of dental equipment as an advantage, an affordable means to get dental service. They do not want to see that option taken away. 

Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley) introduced AB 1998, the “Dental Practice Act,” on January 27. If passed, the legislation would require dentists to conduct an in-person examination of their patients prior to approving a treatment plan for clear aligners or other orthodontics. 

The bill would prohibit internet companies from offering direct-to-consumer products to Californians until legislation is passed that establishes parameters for how teleorthodontic companies may operate. 

“California is proud to be the incubator of innovation — but we cannot sacrifice patient health and safety in exchange for making billionaires out of tech bros,” Low said. “The industry should view AB 1998 as a sign that the Legislature is serious about requiring meaningful safeguards if these questionable and controversial business practices are allowed to continue.” 

In a letter addressed to Cal Matters published on March 27, the California State NAACP President Alice Huffman asked the legislature to reject any bill that would create a barrier to affordable dental care. 

“Now, more than ever, the African American community needs as many options as possible to close the disparity gap for oral health care. African Americans and other people of color have the right to affordable, quality health care treatment,” Huffman stated. 

Huffman also shared that SmileDirectClub, for example, pioneered a teledentistry platform for clear aligner therapy treatment that has helped more than 100,000 Californians, including African Americans. 

In the current throes of the coronavirus pandemic, Huffman stresses that these services are critical for Californians in need of health care or dental care. 

“From psychiatry to physical therapy to dentistry, the benefits of the telehealth model are profound. Patients receive expert care in some cases without the added trouble of traveling to see a doctor or paying high visitation fees. But in other cases, access to experts in a specific field, such as neurology or orthodontia, are limited,” Huffman stated.