Is scientific hype replacing scientific evidence?



**Watch this VIDEO to see a brief summary on how results from our testing of file performance differs from conventional testing of flexibility and cyclic fatigue.**

Many endodontists have devoted a great amount of valuable time to endodontic instrumentation research using scientific evidence in an attempt to convey useful information for the advancement of endodontics. Scientific evidence relies on comprehensive data and it is crucial for researchers to ensure that the data they collect is sufficiently inclusive to have relevance to actual clinical situations. When “scientific hype” reaches the point that it diminishes the value of scientific evidence, then practitioners need to be aware that insufficient information can have counterproductive consequences.

During scientific research it is not uncommon to encounter hype. Although somewhat frustrating, common hype is usually tolerated because claims are at least somewhat true. Even though the benefits of the claims are usually exaggerated, they are transparently limited in scope. An example of such a claim would be: “These files are faster, safer, and require fewer sizes.”

What is apparent to the dentist is the missing ‘compared to what’ or ‘under what circumstances’. Taken alone, these claims are obviously discounted as scientific evidence. Recently, however, a more insidious hype, one that uses insufficient and selective scientific testing, has lead to erroneous conclusions and created an opportunity for mistakes. This type of hype uses the convincing nature of inductive reasoning that is not so apparent, but may be easier to recognize once it’s broken down into logical propositions. Consider the following examples:

From a specific proposition such as:
A file’s greater resistance to cyclic fatigue is better than less resistance to cyclic fatigue.

To a general proposition:
Greatest resistance to cyclic fatigue results in the best file.

This particular general proposition has gained widespread acceptance and success in the promotion of endo files. One company claims, “700% greater fracture resistance compared to traditional NiTi files” without stating that the increased resistance to cyclic fatigue was accompanied by a reduction in the resistance to torsional stress, an essential component of resistance to failure. Another company uses resistance to cyclic fatigue as evidence for “unmatched strength”, “Off the charts Strength,” “Amazing strength means the confidence…,” and “Twice the strength, half the cost.”

The definition of strength within the context of metallurgy is the resistance to deformation. Now consider that the files described above distort with the least force of almost all, if not all, of the files on the market. All other factors being equal, increasing the resistance to cyclic fatigue is concurrent with a decrease in file strength and resistance to torsional stress. Unwinding is evidence of torsional stress. The question becomes, as long as the resistance to cyclic fatigue is adequate, why compromise by reducing the resistance to torsional failure?EdgeVsOneEndo_Graphs

There are certain features of science that give it a distinctive character as a mode of inquiry. Once that mode of inquiry is compromised, It is no longer valid science. When a company claims that its file will rotate over 600 seconds in a 90 degree curvature 3mm from its tip, and that capability is two times as long as a competitive file, does it make it a better file? If it does, does that mean a copper wire of the same diameter that will rotate 1,800 seconds is the better file? Actually, it only means that it has better resistance to cyclic fatigue in that particular circumstance with no evidence for superior performance. Besides, who lets a file rotate 600 seconds in a 90 degree curvature? Or even 10 seconds? Is there relevance to actual clinical situations?!

The ultimate goal for instrumentation advancement can be stated as, ‘maximizing efficiency and minimizing risks while accomplishing the preferred results.’ How effectively that goal is achieved is a measure of performance. My hope is that you will scrutinize all claims of advancement to the best of your ability. That especially pertains to any claims that I might make. Scrutiny is the hallmark of advancement.