THE INTERNET – A BETTER SOURCE OF HEALTH INFORMATION OR DISINFORMATION?

Dr Kim Henry internet articleA fellow member of my church choir cornered me before Wednesday practice. “Dr. Henry, I need your professional advice. I have been doing some research…”

My blood ran cold when I heard those last words. Had this woman

  • Been doing controlled experiments in a lab?
  • Conducting longitudinal studies on outcomes of patient treatment?
  • Been reviewing conclusions of carefully controlled clinical studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals?

Alas, no! She had been reading junk on the internet.

To make a long story short, the woman had gum recession. A competent local dentist had recommended the standard treatment these days – a connective tissue graft from a donor site in the roof of the mouth. She was scared of this procedure, and wanted to avoid it, despite the procedure’s reliability and proven efficacy. So she searched the internet until she found someone who claimed they could achieve the same result by drawing blood, centrifuging it, and injecting the contents under her gums. That was all the “proof” this woman needed. Now she only had to find a dentist (she was hoping me) to perform the miracle cure she had “discovered.” No dentist she contacted does it that way. (Gee, I wonder why?)

Human beings can be such funny animals. It gives them great pleasure to think they have discovered a “secret” truth that few seem to know about. It makes them feel very powerful- even if the hidden “knowledge” is in fact rubbish. They want to share their “discovery” with the world!

The internet is a wonderful tool, but there are no “qualifiers” for posting information. If you are a high school dropout but want to author a blog about particle physics, go for it! All you need is internet access and a webpage somewhere. In the old days, you had to find a publisher to distribute false information. That was not always easy. Oh, sure, there were always a few self-published paperbacks. Now anyone can disseminate pure nonsense for no cost. If they are lucky, it will go viral and the author will have thousands of adherents to any old crank idea.

  • Want to find out how fluoridated water is a secret plot by some cabal to stupefy the population? You can learn all about it on the internet.
  • Want to discover how root canals slowly damage all the organs in our bodies? It is out there on the internet.
  • Want to know how childhood vaccines cause autism? Just consult an internet “expert” on the subject.

Why do we encounter so much ridiculous misinformation in cyberspace? I can think of several reasons.

  1. There is a lot of untreated paranoid schizophrenia out there. It has finally found a convenient public forum.
  2. A certain segment of the population feels their intelligence is not appreciated by other humans. The best way to attract adulation is become a guru of unorthodox beliefs which attract a large following.
  3. Finally, and most importantly, there is frequently big money to be made in bamboozling fellow humans. After the misinformation usually comes the “hook” that lands the suckers and their money.

The most common “hooks” are supplements and quack therapy. I once saw hippopotamus meat (at great cost) advocated to help “detoxify” the body after silver amalgam fillings were removed. Big money was made by the inventor of the “Cavitat” machine and the surgeons who use it to remove “cavitations” from the jaws that root canals supposedly caused. Quite often these quacks make substantial money teaching classes about such things and by “credentialing” paying students to treat the so-called “malady.”

One thing most people do not realize about the healing professions: we have no “secrets.” If a new technique is discovered to help patients, it cannot be patented. When a new treatment is discovered, our duty is to:

  1. Verify the safety and efficacy of the treatment by carefully constructed clinical trials involving other health care providers.
  2. Then publish the clinical results so other healers will learn and implement the new technique. Our ultimate goal is always to help patients.

If new equipment is needed for a new procedure, the equipment can be patented and sold for a profit. But not the treatment technique itself.

Getting back to my fellow choir member, a dentist may indeed have tried spinning down blood and implanting the fibrin and cellular components under the gums. It may have seemed to have worked for him a few times. But the technique should be compared in scientific studies to conventional treatment like tissue grafts. Only then will be truth be known. After all, the treatment benefit may diminish over time! But such internet gurus rarely want this. Their bubble might be burst by valid clinical trials.

Charlatans know that they can attract a certain number of patients with paranoid tendencies and normal fear of invasive surgical procedures. Providing unproven, or even quack treatment can be a very lucrative way of earning a living- presenting oneself as a “savior” endowed with “hidden information” that will heal people.

Please be very careful about believing health information you read on the internet, unless it is published by verified and credible authorities. Lately the most outrageous quacks are claiming the title “biologic dentists.” Immediately doubt any information coming from bloggers describing themselves in that manner. Not everyone who has a website can be believed. Not everyone posts internet articles for altruistic reasons like I do!

Dr. Kim Henry
September 2, 2019

 

About the Author:

Dr. Kim Henry practices general and family dentistry in his privately owned practice in Hapeville, Georgia, close to his childhood home.  Dr. Henry provides his patients with dental care to help them keep their natural teeth for a lifetime.  Visit our web site, kimhenrydental.com to learn more about our practice.

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