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A Centennial for the Profession

I have heard it argued that for any endeavor to be considered a "profession" requires three things: a national organization, an annual meeting, and a professional journal. Obviously, orthodontics meets all three of those criteria through the AAO, its annual sessions, and the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. On the other hand, I remember being chastised during my early years as an orthodontic faculty member by the late, revered Prof. Faustin Neff Weber for referring to orthodontics as a profession. To Dr. Weber, orthodontics was a specialty of the profession of dentistry.

One way or another, orthodontics is the second-oldest specialty among all the medical sciences, following only ophthalmology. While it is difficult to nail down a specific day or event that defines the birth of our specialty (or profession), we know for certain that Jan. 1, 2015, marks the 100th anniversary of the first issue of the International Journal of Orthodontia, the journal that through several name changes became today's American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics. That event, more than any other, signified the maturity of orthodontics as a true academic discipline and thus established orthodontists' place within the society of honorable and distinguished clinicians. The January 2015 issue of the AJODO contains two detailed accounts of the journal's history, written by Dr. Sheldon Peck and the current Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Rolf Behrents, with whom I once had the privilege of working as a junior faculty member at the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry. Together, these two articles provide a fascinating overview of our specialty's first century.

Similar articles from the archive:

At the time of the first publication of what was to become the AJODO, the practice of clinical "orthodontia" involved modifications of Pierre Fauchard's bandeau, wire "dental cribs", a variety of devices designed to expand the arches and thereby alleviate crowding, and a plethora of removable appliances. Gold was the metal of choice for orthodontic bands and wires, due to its malleability and desirable mechanical properties. During the century since then, the specialty has seen remarkable advancements in orthodontic devices, materials, and diagnostics. Fixed appliances have evolved from the bandeau through the ribbon arch, the edgewise appliance, and "preprogrammed" or "straightwire" appliances to a host of self-ligating and lingual appliances. Gold has been replaced by stainless steel for bands and by nickel titanium, titanium molybdenum, and other exotic alloys for archwires. A variety of "braceless" approaches to tooth movement have become commonplace. When the first issue of the International Journal of Orthodontia was printed, an orthodontic diagnosis relied primarily on a routine dental exam, an intraoral evaluation of the occlusion with an emphasis on crowding of the dentition, and an assessment of facial esthetics. Subsequent developments in technology have given us articulated casts, followed by cephalometric radiography and a myriad of analyses from the lateral, frontal, and submental-vertex aspects. In recent years, we've seen the advent of three-dimensional cone-beam radiography and related analyses. Computer imaging now allows us to reconstruct the face, dentition, and occlusion from the skeletal base through the muscles and soft tissues.

Like many clinical sciences, orthodontics has come a long way from where it was 100 years ago. So has orthodontic publishing. Although it is difficult to define what actually constitutes an orthodontic "journal", a Google query turns up no fewer than 26 orthodontic publications in the world today. All of these came into being after the forerunner of the AJODO; in fact, JCO, nearing its 50th anniversary, is among the oldest. The 100th anniversary of the International Journal of Orthodontia is not only a milestone in dental publishing but, as a centennial of the validation of orthodontics as the first dental specialty, a benchmark that we all should celebrate.


Dr. Keim is Editor of JCO; e-mail: editor@jco-online.com.

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