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Nevada Looks to Shake Up Online Dental Advertising

A bill making its way through the Nevada legislature would hold dentists accountable for all online advertising they use – specifically search engine optimization. Currently, all state dental advertising laws do not cover SEO. Under the bill, dentists could face suspension or revoked licenses if they break the law.
Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN
PUBLISHED: Friday, May 19, 2017

A bill making its way through the Nevada legislature would hold dentists legally accountable for their use of SEO.

For years, online advertising has been a cornerstone in the promotion of dental practices. It’s one of the best ways dentists get new patients through their doors. But now, dentists in Nevada are faced with the possibility of professional discipline for producing false or misleading advertisements. If the proposed bill is passed, dentists in the state could have their licenses suspended or even revoked for violations of the law.
 
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Senate Bill 334 was proposed to regulate how Nevada’s dentists advertise online. According to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Steven Saxe, an oral surgeon in Las Vegas, spoke about the issue before Nevada’s Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee. He said, “The public needs protections against ‘unscrupulous advertising’ in the dental industry. The standards of professional conduct for dentists who advertise need to be updated to include online advertising. Specifically, no specific rules specifically apply to search engine optimization.”
 
At the heart of the issue is misleading advertising that takes advantage of search engine optimization standards. According to the report, dentists can pay companies that maintain search engines in order to be positioned at the top of the list of search results when a patient searches for a term online, like “oral surgeon” or “pediatric dentist.” Saxe said, “Dental specialists should not have to compete with people who are misleading the public by using the internet.”
 
While the bill received unanimous support in the Nevada Senate, lawmakers have been hesitant to take action. One lawmaker was quoted as saying he was a “little bit leery” when it came to making dentists responsible for all their advertising. Another commented that there is a clear distinction between keywords used to increase search result positioning and those used to advertise a dental practice or provider, noting that keywords should simply drive traffic to a website.
 
In further comments, Saxe drew attention to the fact that many people do not read a full website after arriving there based on a keyword search. He said, “the irresponsible internet companies are not interested in the accuracy. No specific rules specifically apply to search engine optimization. The standards of professional conduct for dentists who advertise need to be updated to include online advertising.”
 
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