Junk Science

Yesterday I went to a New York State Dental Foundation luncheon.   There, I heard the honoree, Dr. Charles Bertolami, dean of NYU’s Dental School talk about the challenges posed from “Junk Science”.  I couldn’t agree more.

Junk Science takes the form of information, mainly disseminated via the popular media and the Internet about health care.  Claims about efficacy, results and benefits as well as negative reports of allergies, adverse reactions and negative outcomes can make sensational headlines.

People often look at the HEADLINES and not at the whole story.  Our attention spans have shrunk along with the increase in information being thrown at us.

Even articles in well-respected, peer-reviewed journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA or JADA can be faulty.  We’re human and make errors.   Statistics can be misinterpreted and faulty conclusions drawn.  It happens more that you’d like to know.

I’ve seen this personally, many times.   In the 80’s there were articles published about a new solvent that could dissolve-away decay.  WOW, no more drilling?  GK-101 was eventually marketed as a system called Caridex.  It was a dismal failure because the system couldn’t truly distinguish between decay and healthy tooth.  It was based on faulty, “Junk Science”.

How does one make sense of it all?

It’s hard.   That’s what I see as one of my main responsibilities as a Doctor.  I read incessantly and always take courses on the web and at conferences.  In fact, even I have a hard time keeping pace with all the information.  I love trying.  All good Doctors do.

People ask why I don’t do certain procedures.  I answer that being a Generalist is the hardest thing in healthcare.  It’s nearly impossible to read all the journals and keep up on the latest in all specialties.   It’s why I have relationships with some of the best specialists is the World.   They share the same passion I do about keeping up with the science.

Trust.   It all comes down to it.   You have to trust the right people to sift through the science and data and distill out what is most relevant to YOU.

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