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Is Dentistry a Science? - The Atlantic
"It’s much less scientific—and more prone to gratuitous procedures—than you may think."



"e have a fraught relationship with dentists as authority figures. In casual conversation we often dismiss them as “not real doctors,” regarding them more as mechanics for the mouth. But that disdain is tempered by fear. For more than a century, dentistry has been half-jokingly compared to torture. Surveys suggest that up to 61 percent of people are apprehensive about seeing the dentist, perhaps 15 percent are so anxious that they avoid the dentist almost entirely, and a smaller percentage have a genuine phobia requiring psychiatric intervention.

When you’re in the dentist’s chair, the power imbalance between practitioner and patient becomes palpable. A masked figure looms over your recumbent body, wielding power tools and sharp metal instruments, doing things to your mouth you cannot see, asking you questions you cannot properly answer, and judging you all the while. The experience simultaneously invokes physical danger, emotional vulnerability, and mental limpness. A cavity or receding gum line can suddenly feel like a personal failure. When a dentist declares that there is a problem, that something must be done before it’s too late, who has the courage or expertise to disagree? When he points at spectral smudges on an X-ray, how are we to know what’s true? In other medical contexts, such as a visit to a general practitioner or a cardiologist, we are fairly accustomed to seeking a second opinion before agreeing to surgery or an expensive regimen of pills with harsh side effects. But in the dentist’s office—perhaps because we both dread dental procedures and belittle their medical significance—the impulse is to comply without much consideration, to get the whole thing over with as quickly as possible.

The uneasy relationship between dentist and patient is further complicated by an unfortunate reality: Common dental procedures are not always as safe, effective, or durable as we are meant to believe. As a profession, dentistry has not yet applied the same level of self-scrutiny as medicine, or embraced as sweeping an emphasis on scientific evidence. “We are isolated from the larger health-care system. So when evidence-based policies are being made, dentistry is often left out of the equation,” says Jane Gillette, a dentist in Bozeman, Montana, who works closely with the American Dental Association’s Center for Evidence-Based Dentistry, which was established in 2007. “We’re kind of behind the times, but increasingly we are trying to move the needle forward.”

Consider the maxim that everyone should visit the dentist twice a year for cleanings. We hear it so often, and from such a young age, that we’ve internalized it as truth. But this supposed commandment of oral health has no scientific grounding. Scholars have traced its origins to a few potential sources, including a toothpaste advertisement from the 1930s and an illustrated pamphlet from 1849 that follows the travails of a man with a severe toothache. Today, an increasing number of dentists acknowledge that adults with good oral hygiene need to see a dentist only once every 12 to 16 months.

Many standard dental treatments—to say nothing of all the recent innovations and cosmetic extravagances—are likewise not well substantiated by research. Many have never been tested in meticulous clinical trials. And the data that are available are not always reassuring.

The Cochrane organization, a highly respected arbiter of evidence-based medicine, has conducted systematic reviews of oral-health studies since 1999. In these reviews, researchers analyze the scientific literature on a particular dental intervention, focusing on the most rigorous and well-designed studies. In some cases, the findings clearly justify a given procedure. For example, dental sealants—liquid plastics painted onto the pits and grooves of teeth like nail polish—reduce tooth decay in children and have no known risks. (Despite this, they are not widely used, possibly because they are too simple and inexpensive to earn dentists much money.) But most of the Cochrane reviews reach one of two disheartening conclusions: Either the available evidence fails to confirm the purported benefits of a given dental intervention, or there is simply not enough research to say anything substantive one way or another.

Fluoridation of drinking water seems to help reduce tooth decay in children, but there is insufficient evidence that it does the same for adults. Some data suggest that regular flossing, in addition to brushing, mitigates gum disease, but there is only “weak, very unreliable” evidence that it combats plaque. As for common but invasive dental procedures, an increasing number of dentists question the tradition of prophylactic wisdom-teeth removal; often, the safer choice is to monitor unproblematic teeth for any worrying developments. Little medical evidence justifies the substitution of tooth-colored resins for typical metal amalgams to fill cavities. And what limited data we have don’t clearly indicate whether it’s better to repair a root-canaled tooth with a crown or a filling. When Cochrane researchers tried to determine whether faulty metal fillings should be repaired or replaced, they could not find a single study that met their standards.

“The body of evidence for dentistry is disappointing,” says Derek Richards, the director of the Centre for Evidence-Based Dentistry at the University of Dundee, in Scotland. “Dentists tend to want to treat or intervene. They are more akin to surgeons than they are to physicians. We suffer a little from that. Everybody keeps fiddling with stuff, trying out the newest thing, but they don’t test them properly in a good-quality trial.”

The general dearth of rigorous research on dental interventions gives dentists even more leverage over their patients. Should a patient somehow muster the gumption to question an initial diagnosis and consult the scientific literature, she would probably not find much to help her. When we submit to a dentist’s examination, we are putting a great deal of trust in that dentist’s experience and intuition—and, of course, integrity."



"Throughout history, many physicians have lamented the segregation of dentistry and medicine. Acting as though oral health is somehow divorced from one’s overall well-being is absurd; the two are inextricably linked. Oral bacteria and the toxins they produce can migrate through the bloodstream and airways, potentially damaging the heart and lungs. Poor oral health is associated with narrowing arteries, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and respiratory disease, possibly due to a complex interplay of oral microbes and the immune system. And some research suggests that gum disease can be an early sign of diabetes, indicating a relationship between sugar, oral bacteria, and chronic inflammation.

Dentistry’s academic and professional isolation has been especially detrimental to its own scientific inquiry. Most major medical associations around the world have long endorsed evidence-based medicine. The idea is to shift focus away from intuition, anecdote, and received wisdom, and toward the conclusions of rigorous clinical research. Although the phrase evidence-based medicine was coined in 1991, the concept began taking shape in the 1960s, if not earlier (some scholars trace its origins all the way back to the 17th century). In contrast, the dental community did not begin having similar conversations until the mid-1990s. There are dozens of journals and organizations devoted to evidence-based medicine, but only a handful devoted to evidence-based dentistry.

In the past decade, a small cohort of dentists has worked diligently to promote evidence-based dentistry, hosting workshops, publishing clinical-practice guidelines based on systematic reviews of research, and creating websites that curate useful resources. But its adoption “has been a relatively slow process,” as a 2016 commentary in the Contemporary Clinical Dentistry journal put it. Part of the problem is funding: Because dentistry is often sidelined from medicine at large, it simply does not receive as much money from the government and industry to tackle these issues. “At a recent conference, very few practitioners were even aware of the existence of evidence-based clinical guidelines,” says Elliot Abt, a professor of oral medicine at the University of Illinois. “You can publish a guideline in a journal, but passive dissemination of information is clearly not adequate for real change.”

Among other problems, dentistry’s struggle to embrace scientific inquiry has left dentists with considerable latitude to advise unnecessary procedures—whether intentionally or not. The standard euphemism for this proclivity is overtreatment. Favored procedures, many of which are elaborate and steeply priced, include root canals, the application of crowns and veneers, teeth whitening and filing, deep cleaning, gum grafts, fillings for “microcavities”—incipient lesions that do not require immediate treatment—and superfluous restorations and replacements, such as swapping old metal fillings for modern resin ones. Whereas medicine has made progress in reckoning with at least some of its own tendencies toward excessive and misguided treatment, dentistry is lagging behind. It remains “largely focused upon surgical procedures to treat the symptoms of disease,” Mary Otto writes. “America’s dental care system continues to reward those surgical procedures far more than it does prevention.”

“Excessive diagnosis and treatment are endemic,” says Jeffrey H. Camm, a dentist of more than 35 years who wryly described his peers’ penchant for “creative diagnosis” in a 2013 commentary published by the American Dental Association. “I don’t want to be damning. I think the majority of dentists are pretty good.” But many have “this … [more]
dentistry  health  healthcare  2019  fraud  science  ferrisjabr  malpractice  research  authority  surgery  oralhealth  teeth  motivation  capitalism 
april 2019 by robertogreco
These ain't no books […]
"These ain't no books [...]
Realized projects lectures / talks / workshops
[...] But aesthetic investigations
these ain’t no books (…)

(…) But pro­jects in di­gi­tal and hy­brid pu­blis­hing.

*******

MISSION

We work at the in­ter­sec­tion of de­sign and tech­no­logy, crea­ting and de­si­gning in­di­vi­dual di­gi­tal and hy­brid pu­blis­hing work­flows.

Take a set of en­cy­clo­pe­dias and ask, “how do i make this di­gi­tal?” you get a Mi­cro­soft En­carta CD. Take the phi­lo­so­phy of en­cy­clo­pe­dia-ma­king and ask, “how does di­gi­tal ch­ange our en­ga­ge­ment with this?” you get wi­ki­pe­dia.

Post-artifact books and publishing – digital’s effect on how we produce, distribute and consume content.

“Most people are tal­king about a 1:1 Text trans­fer to di­gi­tal. Much more in­te­res­ting is the ques­tion: What lies bey­ond that bor­der? how do new ways of books look like? how can they be dis­played on di­gi­tal de­vices?” —Leander Wattig

*******

DESIGN

The de­ve­lop­ment of an in­di­vi­dual, cha­rac­te­ris­tic vi­sual lan­guage for every pu­blis­hing pro­ject is the main goal in our pro­cess.

By ex­pe­ri­men­ting, using tools dif­fer­ently and con­nec­ting lose ends in a new way, we try to find our own me­thods and work­flows.

*******

TECHNOLOGY

Pro­gramming and de­si­gning at the same time al­lows us to take ad­van­tage of the cur­rent tech­no­lo­gi­cal pos­si­bi­li­ties, thus co­m­ing up with uni­que so­lu­ti­ons.

“I don’t know… pro­gramming and de­si­gning is the same thing…” —Erik van Blokland

“We live in a tech­ni­cal rea­lity.” —Mercedes Bunz

“How ex­actly does the tech­no­logy we use to read ch­ange the way we read?” —Ferris Jabr

*******

ABOUT

“These ain’t no books (…)” is a pro­ject by John­son / Kings­ton, emer­ging from the en­ga­ge­ment with the fu­ture of the book and rea­ding on screens.

Tech­no­lo­gi­cal pro­gress has a big im­pact on so­ciety – it is our duty to take part in sha­ping these ch­an­ges.

*******

These ain't no books [...]
is a project by
Johnson / Kingston
Ivan Weiss / Michael Kryenbühl
Bern / Luzern

Contact us:
info@theseaintnobooks.com
www.johnsonkingston.ch"
books  bookfuturism  digital  screens  print  leanderwattig  publishing  technology  design  programming  erikvanblokland  mercedezbunz  ferrisjabr  ivanweiss  michaelkryenbühl  microsoftencarta  encarta  multimedia  encyclopedias  projectideas  howweread  reading  howwewrite  writing 
august 2018 by robertogreco

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