by Marc Ackerman

Truthiness is the quality of seeming to be true according to one’s intuition, opinion, or perception without regard to logic, factual evidence, or the like. In orthodontics, there’s a study to support every opinion and there’s an opinion that supports every study. Perhaps that is why truthiness runs rampant in our ranks. When one person’s fact is another person’s fiction, there is sure to be strong opinions and even bruised feelings. Much of the truthiness out there is born out of mythology; a set of stories, traditions, or beliefs, arising naturally or deliberately fostered. Orthodontics is a specialty that is anchored in myth and its longevity as a discipline in the healing arts has required a steadfast commitment to making sure these myths are accepted as truths. Collectively, we have been unable to question some of our most warmly held beliefs because it would be contrary to the specialty’s self-interests.

When we teach our children about telling the truth, the story of George Washington chopping down his father’s cherry tree is the gold standard for illustrating this virtue. The story goes that George Washington used a hatchet to chop down the tree. When confronted by his father he said, “I cannot tell a lie…I did cut it with my hatchet!” Washington’s father embraces him and rejoices that his son’s honesty was worth more than a thousand trees. What a cherished American tale!

It just so happens that this tale is a myth! The first biographer of Washington named Mason Locke Weems made the whole thing up. He did it because that was what the public wanted, a book about the private virtues of an American hero and not a recitation of his role in historical events.

Since everything in orthodontics works some of the time but not all the time, it’s not so easy to deem something truth or myth. A better way to approach differences of opinion and challenges to one’s philosophical outlook is open and transparent debate. Many branches of healthcare utilize the point/counterpoint method in journals and symposia.  I would hope that we orthodontists would take a page out of this playbook rather than continue finger pointing and using inflammatory advertising which only generates heat and not a lot of light.

8 thoughts on “Truth and Consequences

  1. “Collectively, we have been unable to question some of our most warmly held beliefs because it would be contrary to the specialty’s self-interests”.


    Its partly understandable but leads to a lot of irritation and confusion in our speciality (and beyond).

    There some researchers (yourself, Rinchuse, Kandasamy etc…) who are asking questions and are trying to demystify but i have the feeling there isnt alot of response /impact from and on the dental / ortho scene.

  2. Bravo! Point/Counterpoint was always a great read several years ago in the AJODO. It is a shame they did not keep it going.

  3. It would only be worthwhile if meaningful topics that apply today would be discussed. I think extraction-non-extraction and jaw growing are both relics of a bygone age.

  4. I agree with you. There is still hope and the goal is to get people talking and thinking.

  5. Thanks Neal.
    The pen used to be mightier than the sword..Today I am not so sure.

  6. Keep it up!

    Your book and the “philadelphia fable”- editorial really helped me a couple years ago when i was on the brink of burnout because i couldn´t treat every patient to a perfect class I occlusion.

  7. Well-said! These are several precepts I long abandoned in the quest for this “myth” of ideal. Most if not all of what we learned is not evidence-based. Smile arc and social six are what patients want and there’s nothing wrong with making the patient happy! Extraction is a patient choice and nobody in their right mind would go back to that age!

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