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.