In recent years, I have seen a lot of inappropriate use of academic titles in orthodontics and dentistry in general. I think this is a serious problem. This may be especially hazardous for young specialists who are not enough experienced to distinguish truth from imitation.
In this post, I will briefly describe my experience in communication with pseudo-professors and indicate some potential measures the orthodontic specialty may develop to address this issue…
Ten years ago, I was 20 and on my last year of dental education in Moscow. My dean asked me if I want to participate in a course by a German professor: due to someone’s cancellation they were giving away a sit for free. I was dead bored with post-Soviet bureaucracy and everything Western seemed to be appealing. I agreed straight away. It was a two-year course set up of a number of one-week seminars. The first week consisted of detailed lectures on facial muscles given in English with heavy German accent. In a month or so, we were asked to come to Germany for a second week seminar. It was there I found out that the institute the ‘professor’ was representing consisted of… him alone. It was a tedious week I spent listening to lectures on craniofacial strains and the connection of occlusion with the brain functions. I took French leave a day before the end of the course.
I believe this was the right decision. Many post-Soviet folks ended up spending huge sums of money for their Master of Science degrees from the one-man institute. Furthermore, they became convinced non-extractionists. Later, I encountered several dental institutes, universities and academies represented by one or two people. Interestingly, all of them were preaching non-extractionism.
My next close acquaintance with another dodgy professor took place in my mid-twenties while at my residency in Moscow. Myofunctional craze was in full swing and Russians invited a Brit who pretended to be a professor to give lectures. I was asked to provide a translation. In his lectures he insisted that jaws can be grown with removable appliances, while fixed appliances are detrimental to the facial esthetics. Later, I learned that the gentleman lost his license to practice in the UK and has been never issued a professor title from any reliable university.
Looking back, these stories sound funny. But when you are in your twenties and don’t have much experience, whereas people around masquerading as orthodontic professors selling you their extravagant treatment modalities, it may become pretty challenging. Especially when your country doesn’t have a developed orthodontic infrastructure to rely on.
The rule of thumb I came up with regarding orthodontic academicians is this:
- Fake academicians are always optimistic about the outcomes, but never quite clear about the treatment mechanics and evidence behind it.
- True academicians are never 100% positive regarding the results, although very clear about the mechanics and data to support their views.
I think it is time for organizations such as the World Federation of Orthodontists and the American Association of Orthodontists to tackle the abuse of academic orthodontic titles worldwide. They can create an online database of professors and also the abusers who are taking our specialty down into the realm of mists and shadows.
Of course, it is a serious issue that requires time and effort. Meanwhile, I recommend everyone to read good orthodontic journals and books: they are the perfect antidote against lunatic orthodontics.