The Articulate Dentist - A Blog by the Metro Denver Dental Society

Facts and Disinformation

 By: Dr. Allen Vean

As a pediatric dental resident years ago, one of the many requirements of my program was to
complete a research project within the two years of training. The increased utilization of nitrous oxide in the dental operatory was always of interest. However, there were reported long-term effects to women with prolonged exposure especially in an operating room setting. The project was completed with the financial assistance of The American Society of Dentistry for Children Foundation (ASDC) to which I will always be grateful. The project was published in the November-December 1979 issue of ASDC’s Journal of Dentistry for Children.

In retrospect, the destination of publication was not as important as the journey. My program was based at Children’s Health Center in Minneapolis. All outpatient and general anesthesia cases were completed there. However, all didactic classes were held at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry with the other pediatric dental residents. One of the required classes was a one semester course in statistics. I recall the first day of class when a rather short-statured professor from the dental school entered the classroom and gave a synopsis of what we would learn. Each class became more and more interesting as we explored research and clinical trials. He taught our group that good science and facts matter. It
became apparent that much of the statistical basics were important. However, as a practicing pediatric dentist, it was imperative that we be able to decipher the good from the bad research and publications. Random assignment, blind or double-blind controls, replication, trusted source, and many more fundamentals were constantly with us. The professor was outstanding in his knowledge and relating it to our class. I will always be grateful to him. Perhaps many of you knew him. His name was Larry Meskin.

Why the above dialogue? Because my research project required accurate measurements, reliable references and sound conclusions. What happened over the next forty years was astounding. Technology advanced at warp speed and the creation of the internet truly changed our lives.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines social media as, “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.” The ability of a dentist to share and promote information about their practice to a world audience and share clinical outcomes to peers and patients is quite remarkable. The ability to find long lost friends, associates, family members, and others through social networking is truly extraordinary. However, social media has an ugly side. Search engines are collecting information and adjusting their results to one’s behavior. The number of times that something has been cited, liked, disliked, tweeted, retweeted, or shared will increase its chance of reaching users. Bottom line, advertising revenue and profit increase become a factor in reach. Is this information scrutinized for accuracy, truthfulness, and reliability as was my research? I think many of us know the answer.

Dental disinformation is rampant. Many of you remember when patients talked to you about their problems. Now, everything is online. Haven’t you heard about the home treatment that dentists don’t want you to know about? Dr. Google has a solution for you. The “mommy” groups that discuss issues without always having all the facts. The home rinse that will cure gum disease and is available with free shipping. Lest I forget, they will double the order if you click the box within the next five minutes. How many of you have heard that fluoride is poison? It is quite unfortunate that health-related content published by unreliable sources is shared more widely than evidence-based information. Statistics show that 40% of the health content shared on social media is incorrect and 20% of such stories came from the same source. Not only is there dental disinformation within the public, but it is also within our own ranks. There are many studies that are fully or partially faked being published in peer-reviewed journals.

It is truly heartbreaking to see one of my pediatric dental peer’s posts on a private pediatric dental group site that no children should receive the COVID-19 vaccination when available. The pediatric dentist states that a lawsuit from a CDC whistleblower will be filed shortly claiming that there were 45,000 deaths within three days after receiving the vaccination.
As a vaccinator who has personally vaccinated approximately 700 people, I can only refer to the announcers on Monday Night Football when they say, “C’mon, man.”

It appears that we are not out of harm’s way yet. More aggressive variants to this ugly virus appear to be on the rise especially in the unvaccinated population. It is imperative that we be vigilant and keep everyone around us safe. Please take time for yourself. Its importance cannot be overemphasized. 

As always, your continued support of organized dentistry is deeply appreciated. Your comments and suggestions are always welcome.

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Vosoughi S, Roy D, Aral S. The spread of true and false news online. Science 2018;359: 1146-1151.
Tandoc EC, Lim ZW, Ling R. Defining Fake News. Digit J 2018; 6:137-153.
Dias de Silva, M.A., Walmsley, A.T., Opinion: Fake News and Dental Education. British Dental Journal, March 2019.

Dr. Allen Vean is a retired pediatric dentist and co-editor of the MDDS Articulator magazine. Dr. Vean is a long-time member of organized dentistry and owned a private practice for over 30 years in Denver, CO. In addition to volunteering with MDDS, he donates his time to a number of community organizations including Special Olympics Colorado. 

The Articulate Dentist is a blog by the Metro Denver Dental Society, providing members with insight into the dental industry, practice management tips, tech trends and best practices as well as Society news and updates.