Dental Industry Truth, Hyperbole, and Responsible Publishing
There is an old saying in the academic world, “publish or perish”. There is a much more current saying in the tech world, “garbage in, garbage out”. They both are true and, unfortunately, pertain to much of our “academic” literature.
When I ponder this, two things come to mind. First, there are many things that we were taught simply because the people teaching us were taught the same thing. And many of these so called facts go back several generations of educators. It’s amazing how many things we learn started out as “gee, maybe this is this because of this” to eventually become portrayed as sacred unquestioned facts. We would do well to heed the commonly seen bumper sticker “Question Everything”.
For example, in order to foster periodontal health we need to achieve a calculus free and smooth root surface. This has been stressed for 100 years. I believe it has been proven we need a calculus free root surface. But a smooth root surface? Where does it say how smooth it needs to be? Where is the research that guides us in producing a “smooth enough” root surface? This can have significant implications in our treatment planning.
The second thing that comes to mind, and this is much more sinister, is the unfounded claims of the dental industry manufacturers that produce the dental products they want us to use. This conduct is by no means a mistake. They want us to buy their products and thus put out half-truths, unfounded claims, or sometimes claims that are true but have no clinical significance. These claims are picked up by the academic world and presented to us as gospel.
An example of this is the claim that there are new manufacturing processes that produce a dental instrument that never needs to be sharpened. I have not contacted the manufacturers of these instruments about these claims, but I have seen many articles by dental authors that present these claims as fact. I have seen articles that have been extensively footnoted but when it comes to this claim the footnotes are conspicuously absent. I find fault with the authors and I also find fault with the people publishing these articles. They both assume a responsibility to be accurate in what gets printed.