I’ve said it many times before, orthodontists are the greatest threat to the orthodontic profession. Nothing I’ve seen lately has changed this point of view and, if anything given recent events, I’m even more convinced that this is the case. We orthodontists are busy shaping our own false and flattering reality in opposition to and in spite of the changes that are rolling over us like the tide. Though our mutual reaffirmation makes us feel good, it is wholly counterproductive and this will end in tears.

If we continue to pick and choose only those “facts” that support our point of view, then of course we will believe we are correct. If we constantly seek consensus and identify “truth” based on the popularity of a given idea or position, then nothing will change and we will be unable to see the challenges/opportunities that are right in front of us. If we persist in the belief that “everyone’s opinion is equally valuable” then we have zero chance of rising above the noise to identify and emulate those who have produced and succeeded and failed and survived and endured and changed… Those who are finding a viable path in the new reality. Those we can learn from based on what they have DONE not based on what they THINK.

In the world I’m describing, the world of “professionalism” and consensus, strange things are not only possible, but happening every day:

  • A doctor can publicly claim to be an expert in marketing with 225 likes on their practice Facebook page without opposition or question. To question such a thing is a personal attack
  • A doctor can claim to understand the intricate details and inner workings of a nation-wide business valued at over 200 million dollars in its third year of operation even though he has never done a single case and no one challenges him because it’s not professional and everyone’s opinion is equally valuable.
  • A doctor can cite the fact that “everyone agrees with him” as proof positive for his traditional positon and that is that. End of discussion.
  • We can have a significant percentage of young doctors (and some not so young) struggling to survive who still focus on having “perfect photos” and other trivial details. When questioned, these same doctors insist that spending any less money or time on photos is bad for their business and malpractice… all the while failing to connect their actions to their results! They see no issue when they state with authority what is bad or good for business while their business fails!


Look, let me make this as plain as possible. When we humans have a problem, we don’t like to talk about it. We like to ignore it and pretend it’s not happening and focus on things we like to do instead of dealing with the fact that our actions earned us the results we enjoy. For example: I’m overweight and I don’t like it. I don’t like it when other people notice. I don’t like it when I notice. I don’t like it when I can’t have cake or pizza or beer or any of that stuff. I don’t like it when I know I should exercise more… And I really don’t like it when people tell me I’m fat and that I should put down the ice cream and carry my fat a$$ to the gym. Afterall, isn’t my opinion just as valid as theirs? Don’t I know as much as they do?


My results prove that my opinion is not as valuable as the skinny fit people who are trying to encourage me to get my rear in gear and push back from the table. Their results prove that their opinon is far superior to mine and, if I have half a brain in my fat face, I’ll listen to them because they have done what I want to do. So, being human, of course I follow the logical course and listen to those who have the results I want, right?

Nope, instead I get mad and say it is impolite to tell someone like me that I’m fat or suggest I get on the treadmill. How dare you say such a thing. That’s prejudice! And you skinny people generally don’t dare say anything to fatties like me because it might hurt my little feelings… but by doing so you’re all allowing me to clog my arteries and die prematurely while you smile and make nice with the fat boy. All because it’s not worth the risk it takes for you to share the knowledge you have with me (no matter how badly I need it or how much I could benefit from your wisdom).

Can’t you see the parallel here? Can’t you understand that if an incredibly successful orthodontist like Aly Kanani or John McManaman or Neal Kravitz or Anil Idiculla or Phuong Nguyen or Ron Redmond or Jack Devereux or Yan Kalika or Kurt Kacer or Ryan Streight or Jennifer Eisenhuth or Jason Tam or Amer Hussain or Jonathan Nicozisis or Gib Snow or Mark Bronsky or Mike Thurman or Aaron Molen or David Butler or Patrick Assioun or Derek Bock or any number of others who are killing it try to tell you anything or share anything with you, YOU SHOULD LISTEN? I do. Every. Single. Time. But that’s not the norm and that’s why I am where I am. I’ve sought out those who have what I want and emulated them and because of that I have enjoyed massive success. I don’t listen to rookies who talk about what they are going to do, I listen to those who have done what I’m trying to do. Does it always work out when I try to emulate one of these rock stars? Heck no! But I have a much better chance of success by seeking out mentors like these, asking their advice and begging them to tell me when I’m off base no matter how painful it is for me or FOR THEM. You can do the same. I’ve found that the most successful people in orthodontics are also the most generous with their time if you ASK for help and LISTEN when they talk. If you truly want to succeed, forget consensus and fairness and niceties and, instead, figure out who has the experience and knowledge and results you want and beg them for insight. It’s not nearly as soothing to the ego but it’s a heck of a lot more effective!

Gotta go now – heading to the gym! You’ll be seeing less of me soon.

3 thoughts on “Confirmation Bias and “Professionalism” Are Killing Orthodontics

  1. Ben,
    Wise words in this post. I find it hilarious when orthodontists don’t take the advice of other successful orthodontists when it doesn’t jive with the establishment or consultants. There is a reason these doctors are successful, it is not magic just listen to them. Everyone you referenced is very giving of their advice and time but it always baffles me when people don’t take it. Keep posting your thoughts on the profession they are important for all of us to think about.

  2. great points. we should all be familiar with the five minute favor as featured in Forbes. thanks for sharing with all of us. from the snowy south, bill dabney

  3. I learned more from you Ben Burris and some of the Dr’s you mentioned taught me more at your MKS forum than 30 years of sales in the orthodontic market.
    Thank You

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