I planned I would go to the British Orthodontic Conference last week. I didn’t. I watched it online. It was a fabulously organised event packed with brilliant lectures from such prominent BOS members as Padhraig Fleming, Simon Littlewood, and Jonathan Sandler to name a few. I figured out at the very last moment that an absolute requirement to attend in person was to be vaccinated by an UK-approved vaccine. Which I had no chance to get in Moscow. This got me some thinking…
Covid is a terrible disaster. It took the lives of many. And to many more it brought complications. Moreover, it exacerbated the divisions. People are worried, confused, and immensely tired of the plethora of restrictions. It is quite obvious that we are dealing with a new disease and it will take a while to unify the preventative measures across countries. But how long it will actually take for the medical practitioners and government officials to dismantle a vaccination Iron Curtain?
If, by contrast, we look at our small and humble orthodontic world, we see that it is still full of walls and divisions. For instance, a country where I live, Russia, to this day has a zero number of certified orthodontists. No real professional society has been formed and everyone on social media is tirelessly claiming that they are the best.
Things don’t look much brighter across the Atlantic. Just one single fact that Smile Direct Club has become one of the most financially successful US “orthodontic” companies speaks volumes about the current state of affairs.
About two years ago, Kevin O’Brien published on his famous blog a text where he would predict a soon-coming end of orthodontic specialty. I then opposed his pitch by writing my personal view on this. Today I am getting more and more convinced that not only Kevin was much closer to the truth than me, but he was probably even belittling the real degree of the affliction.
According to a well and detailedly written book by a senior Californian orthodontist, Norman Wahl, The Golden Ages of Orthodontics: Decline and Aftermath, we have already lost a battle for the specialty and are now living in a sort of dark ages. Such outlook is quite a bitter pill to swallow and entails a reasonable question: what is to be done then?
I am currently reading a novel titled The Road by an American writer, Cormac McCarthy. It tells a story about a father and son who pilgrimage across post-apocalyptic America, pushing a supermarket cart of their supplies and scouring for their next meal. Time by time, they encounter groups of cannibal barbarians. Nevertheless, the father is able to find hope for the brighter future and passes it to the son in a concise phrase “carry the fire” – a refrain that goes throughout the novel.
I think the book might be a metaphor for the current orthodontic landscape. We have certainly departed from normality deep into the woods. But if we try to gather together around the fire of knowledge, there is a chance to preserve it from barbarians who are driven by nothing but their insatiable appetite. I am still a big believer in certification and the power of orthodontic literature… I think these two major instruments of communication could build bridges between the specialists, both nationally and internationally. And hopefully, I will make it to the UK next year!