BANGOR – The contentious debate between dentists and denturists made its way into the courtroom Monday as a lawsuit against former denturist Ralph Dhuy of Denture Arts in Brewer got under way in Penobscot County Superior Court.
The Maine Board of Dental Examiners, which regulates Maine denturists, is suing Dhuy, alleging a slew of violations including false advertising and practicing without a license. Justice Andrew Mead is presiding at the jury-waived trial.
Dhuy and the president of the Board of Denturists Association of Maine say it is just another effort by dentists to eliminate the independent practices of denturists.
“It’s all about greed. They [dentists] want exclusive rights to the senior citizens market,” said Ron Fine, a denturist who practices in York. Fine said his own license has been suspended by the Board of Dental Examiners for no reason.
“The only reason for all of this is because we are being regulated by our competition,” Fine said outside a Bangor courtroom on Monday. “We vie for the same market and they are doing everything in their power to get rid of us.”
The suit against Dhuy is to prevent him from being able to operate again as a licensed denturist, Dhuy said.
James Bowie, the Portland attorney for the dental board, said he would discuss the case only after it is completed.
Testimony could last most of the week.
Dhuy’s permit to work as a denturist expired in 1999 and his application for a new license was tabled by the board because of concerns the board had with his advertising, said Dhuy’s attorney, Dick O’Meara of Portland.
O’Meara said the board tabled Dhuy’s license application indefinitely.
“Basically, they said he didn’t comply with a rule [stipulating that] he was supposed to get the board’s approval before running ads. Well, at the time he had no new ads, but he did have existing ads that they [hadn’t approved] and they claimed he was supposed to run those by them for their approval as well. So that was what the original claim was by the board in 1999,” said O’Meara.
With no license, Dhuy continued to run a denturist practice, using area licensed denturists to treat his patients. Dhuy claims he only worked in the lab, as is allowed, making dentures and did not directly treat patients.
The board claims otherwise.
The old fight between dentists and denturists came to a head two years ago when the Legislature passed a bill legalizing denturist practices in Maine.
Denturists fit and make dentures for people at substantially lower cost than dentists. Denturists are not doctors, although there is a licensing process that goes through the Maine Board of Dental Examiners.
Dhuy was the head of the denturist movement in Maine and claims the board’s action is a direct backlash by the dental industry.
Monday’s testimony came from the executive secretary for the dental board as well as former and current customers of Dhuy.
The dry day of testimony was lightened only by the late afternoon testimony of Marilyn Damon of Boothbay Harbor who spoke about the three sets of dentures she had made by Dhuy or his associates.
Insisting on showing the courtroom her teeth, Damon lined up her dentures on the front of the witness stand, saying she wasn’t particularly happy with any of them.
“You know, I’m tempted to take this set out and put the tops of these in so I can show you how ridiculous they are,” she told Dhuy’s attorney.
The attorney politely declined the offer.