Dental Journalism

By E. Melville Quinby, M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., D.M.D.



In any serious discussion concerning the merits or demerits of a specified policy or plan of campaign, it is of paramount necessity that all parties concerned in such discussion shall be intimately acquainted with the facts in the case.

It is well to remember, also, that, in attempting to iron out all the difficulties surmounting a proposition which verges on the controversial, it requires a great deal of patience. In fact as one writer has said—to carry any new policy to a successful issue, one has not only to exhibit much patience, but must of necessity be very wise; also a very fortunate person, in order to persuade the majority of those concerned.

Consideration of Issues Essential

In studying the pros and cons of professional journalism, it seems reasonable that we approach the subject with open minds, realizing that this, in common with most questions, has two sides.

It also seems not unreasonable to suggest, that as we live in a democratic country, the principles which have been adopted by the powers that be, in government of the people, for the people and by the people, should form the basis of our professional policies—and specifically, dental and medical literature!

The question now arises—to whom should we as dentist look for guidance in the conduct of our affairs, moral, social, ethical, political? The answer is, that we have in organized dentistry the American Dental Association, comprising a President and usual officers, a Board of Trustees and a House of Delegates. Various committees are formed to takecare of special policies, which need not be enumerated here. There is one committee, however, which might be mentioned in this discussion, viz. that of Nomenclature. The duty of this group is to correlate the varied dialects in common usage amongst dentist, and if possible decide upon a terminology based upon correct scientific and etymological principles; and be it mentioned the dialects are so many and varied, as to make intelligent reading of dental literature a very uncertain process.

Similarly it would seem right and proper for officials duly appointed by the A.D.A., to supervise the circulation of dental literature, when or if the time arrives that such supervision might seem advisable. But at the present time the dental atmosphere is decidedly cloudy and vision is much restricted. To be more explicit—there is no dental problem which has been well and truly solved!Dental caries, pyorrhea, the non-vital tooth, focal infection all have their habitat in “no man’s ground.”

In these circumstances we ought to encourage individual enterprise, research, and expression of opinion. For who knows? One of the least of us may have an idea which if permitted to circulate may give the desired answer!

Censorship or dictatorship with respect to the literature of a community, is bound to encounter fierce opposition; and is almost certain to provoke greater activities on the part of those whom the censorship strives to control. In any case, no private self-elected group, a closed corporation, as it were can hope for success, in an attempt to control the literary output of any profession.

In England, the Royal Society elects as Fellows, such men as have demonstrated unusual talents in various aspects of science. These outstanding Scientists are invited to belong to the Royal Society of London, and if amenable to the suggestion—and they usually are glad to accept—are elected Fellows. The title of F.R.S. is proof positive of the holder’s rank in his profession. But the Royal Society would never dream of dictating scientific practices, or of attempting to control the literature of any branch of science.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is different. The Fellowship or Membership, two distinct grades, are open to all who are able to pass the required tests of knowledge and practice. The Council is composed of Fellows who exercise authority in matters ethical, moral, social and professional. But even they can expect to influence only the said Fellows and Members of the College of Surgeons—not the entire profession.

British Professions do not Attempt Control of Literature

The General Medical Council of England representing the entire profession is the court of last resort or appeal in all matters concerned with medical practice, and they can, and do, dictate to the entire medical profession. But even the General Medical Council might well hesitate in attempting to conduct any campaign designed to restrict the literature. The leading medical journals, the mouthpiece of the Council would criticize or condemn irresponsible literature: and in any case it would be difficult if not impossible to obtain publication of undesirable literature in reputable journals, and the others do not carry any weight!

In this country where topographically the area is so vast and spheres of influences are so divided, it is very unlikely that any private organization would be permitted to corral the entire dental literature of the nation, act as editors, and distribute the material at their discretion. The question would arise at once as to which should be the section favored, East, West, South or North, to form the seat of the controlling body. Accordingly therefore, it would seem right and proper that any control of dental literature, when, and if, such interference seems warranted, should be in the hands of the leaders of the A.D.A., and they, wherever situated, would represent the center of control.

If the views expressed in this article appear to be reasonable the question of independent vs. controlled journalism might remain in abeyance for a while, with the suggestion that  all who are concerned with the publication of independent journals read, mark learn and inwardly digest the following quotation from a well-known Editor’s views.

“There is absolutely no reason why a privately owned dental journal cannot be managed as honestly, successfully and as efficiency as a private dental practice or privately conducted research. The responsibility of honest endeavor lies solely with the individual.”


It is suggested herein with all deference, that the time for control of dental journalism has not arrived.

When the dental atmosphere, at present charged with conflicting hypotheses as to etiology of health or disease shall become clarified, then, and then only, will it be wise to consider seriously the control of the literature. When, or if, the time arrives for such control, the authority necessary should be vested with the committee appointed by the A.D.A. for that purpose.

It would not be judicious for any private corporation within the ranks of the dental profession so assume the responsibility of control or editorship of the literary output of the profession.

The examples of societies quoted in this article might be followed with advantage in the conduct of dental affairs including journalism. There is no difference intrinsically in the principles which should inspire conduct of affairs, whether public or private business.

Finally, a quotation from Edmund Burke might be considered:–“Magnanimity in Politics is not seldom, not infrequently of most often the truest wisdom: and a great empire and little minds go ill together.”


                E. Melville Quinby, 45 Newberry St., Boston, Mass.