The Link Between Science and Dentistry

Watch Dental Video about Science and Dentistry

Science can be viewed from different perspectives.

We would like to talk to you about one of these perspectives. To be upfront, we are pro-science, and specifically, for a lasting, sustainable kind of science. What do we mean by that? Just like everything else in life, science can be thorough, exact, sustainable or simply superficial. Therefore, “science” does not necessarily equal science.  For example, the majority of people involved in the field of science do not follow the criteria of “evidence-based medicine”. Evidence-based medicine is not just terminology; it signaled the beginning of a new scientific era. Evidence-based medicine means that treatments and medications are judged following strict scientific guidelines. But what is meant by strict scientific guidelines?

We would like to use a little example to explain this “grey area” of science to you - You are a skin lotion producer and would like to test your finished product. You commission two companies:

  • Company A
  • Company B

to test your hand lotion for you:

Company A sets up an advertisement and asks passersby to test your skin lotion at a street stand. The lotion is applied to the skin and the test person’s subjective experiences are noted. The skin lotion is applied by young, pretty girls, so the majority of the test candidates are men. There is no need for further explanation about how company A operates. Interestingly, all men are satisfied with the hand lotion and claim their skin feels much younger. The acquired data is sent back to us. A short letter states:

  • out of 200 test individuals, 180 experienced your product as very positive,
  • 10 testers said good/positive
  • and 10 more testers refused to give an opinion.

This means that 95% of the testers were satisfied with your product; we might as well start the advertising machinery for you product. However, we know that company A’s work is not reliable, so we commission company B to test our product as well.

Company B takes the skin lotion and produces numerous copies that contain common skin fat but not your actual lotion. This is called a placebo. The individual packages are coded so that even the distributor doesn’t know if he is giving out the active substance or just the skin fat. The substance is distributed “double blind;” the tester and the person tested do not know if they are getting the active substance or the placebo.

Nowadays we know that patients are unwittingly influenced by doctors who give prescribe medications; therefore, all reliable studies must be follow the “double blind” design. Since company B works very reliably and has been active in this field for decades, they also initiate their testing in multiple European capitals (multicenter studies). It is conceivable that the product is tolerated differently in Vienna than in Berlin due to differences in tap water.

A standardized questionnaire is used for evaluation. Only after data evaluation (double blind, multicenter, placebo controlled, statistically analyzed, et cetera) offers significant findings are the study results discussed by company scientists. Many factors have to be taken into account, not just during the study implementation, but when discussing study results. For example, study analysis must ensure that there were no errors made during the study design, such as too many women taking part in the study who are on the pill. Such factors can devaluate study results and therefore, need to be analyzed.

Forscher mit Reagenzgläser

researcher

In the end, company B provides us with an accurate study. First, the study structure is described (double blind, multicenter, placebo controlled), then the individual data is listed (product tested on 4000 subjects, 2000 placebo, 1000 female under 18, et cetera), followed by the  study results and the data interpretation. This simple example explains what thorough and accurate scientific work means. We do not mean to make any suggestions, but it seems clear that a company with a good product will hire company B while a company with a bad product will hire company A for product testing. Therefore, as an experienced study reader, you can already make assumptions about a product just by looking at the study design. As a side note, most skin lotions on the market are tested by company A.

In contemporary science, the problem is that product testing is often carried out by people who have motives other than scientific truths. Why an individual chooses to work in a scientific field has changed considerably over the last few decades. Previously, science was practiced for the sake of science itself. Because of fast developments and globalization, a growing field of “shadow science” emerged. This field of science is not concerned with results that advance mankind, but with the well-being and profit of individuals. Nowadays, that shadow science generates large profits and garners academic titles.

Rapid developments in molecular biology caused many doctors to stray from their core competency of taking care of patients. Instead, they use questionable biological methods in hopes of attaining the desired professor title faster. This has fatal consequences such as bad patient care and bad “scientific work.” Such questionable studies (almost two thirds of scientific studies do not meet the standards of evidence-based medicine) are obviously not accepted by reputable medical journals. This has led to many doctors getting together and founding their own scientific publishing companies. No matter if the study is good or bad, it has to be published in order to bring the author closer to the desired title. This is why we have the huge spectrum of scientific journals that we have today; many of them are not worth the paper on which the studies are printed.

Nowadays, physicians are generally more present in the European yellow press and many are no longer “good” scientists. This does not just influence consumers, but also political decision-makers and institutions that administer research funds. This is why lots of money in Europe is pumped into medical institutions that have been producing third class science for years.  A trend is slowly emerging, even here in Europe; this trend requires doctors, biologists, statisticians and mathematicians to cooperate closely and follow strict scientific guidelines. Cooperation has not always worked so well, but it is getting better. Comprehensive cooperation among universities has only begun to develop over the last decade.

These developments surely contribute to conventional medicine’s bad reputation, but we’ll learn more about that in the video entitled "Homeopathic Treatment". Ask your doctor if the practices and methodology used in his office is evidence-based, and don’t forget to research professional journals on the web to find out if the treatment you’ve been prescribed is actually  effective. Alternatively, simply watch the videos on checkdent.com!

Click here to see the video: Science

 

This post is also available in: German

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