Mentira: A new study aims to evaluate credibility of orthodontic Instagram posts 

Mentira lo que dice, mentira lo que da 

Mentira lo que hace, mentira lo que va 

Manu Chao

Last year, I published a blog post on Instagram and orthodontics. Right before I started my own Instagram account. I wrote that I am a bit reticent to venture into this uncharted territory because I suspect the information regarding orthodontics on the platform is  often misleading. In hindsight, my suspicion turned to be not without grounds. It is common that the fewer publications in the professional literature a person has, the more “followers” one generates on the platform. While those who get the highest numbers of “followers” generally present the most questionable treatment modalities and have glaring difficulties organazing words into sentences.

This, of course, is my personal opinion. Just before recently, we hadn’t have any evidence-based data to prove or disprove it. Luckily, a team from the UK published a timely study in the Angle Orthodontist this month. It provides us with some really dramatic results.

The nature and accuracy of Instagram posts concerning marketed orthodontic products: A cross-sectional analysis

Aslam Alkadhimi, Dalya Al-Moghrabi, Padhraig S. Fleming, Angle Orthod, Dec 2021

The aim of the study was:

“To scrutinize the content of professional Instagram posts and to evaluate the accuracy of any marketing claims” 

In their introduction the authors point out that social media has recently become the most popular marketing strategy in orthodontics, recently overtaking the use of practice websites. 

For their study the authors didn’t include posts from the patients. All non-English subtext was translated into English using Google translate.

The authors used six hashtags to identify the posts for their study: #carrieremotion, #damonbraces, #invisalign, #acceledent, #propelorthodontics, and #myobrace. They included a total number of 300 posts (50 posts per hashtag).

The accuracy of the claims within each post was rated by one author against best available evidence using a modified five-point scale as follows:

A: Objectively true

B: Selected facts

C: Minimal facts

D: Nonfacts

E: False

Authors’ findings

The authors put all the final data into a table:

The authors found that less than 2% of observed claims were true. The most pervasive marketing claim was a suggestion of enhanced treatment efficiency. 

The authors imply:

“There is an ethical obligation to raise awareness of the risk of accessing misleading claims on a permissive medium such as Instagram.”

Overall

I think it was a well-done and timely study the results of which are quite concerning.

One may question the choice of the hashtags used in the study. But the authors justified it on the basis of the recent prominence and promotion of these products. I think it is a feasible choice. These appliances are really quite aggressively advertised nowadays. To the point of becoming Pariah appliances.

Overall, I feel relieved that my personal impression is now justified by some evidence. We don’t have to fool ourselves. We should see Instagram for what it really is. 98% deception.

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