This article was updated on August 4, 2020, at 5:23pm.
Peter Vig didn’t go into orthodontics looking to take on the entire field. When he entered the profession in 1963 as an academic, he optimistically saw orthodontics as a way to apply his knowledge to help patients. He would go on to receive his Ph.D. in facial morphology at the University of London, conduct research at a number of universities, and earn 18 grants from the National Institutes of Health. These feats propelled him, in the eyes of other orthodontists, to the status of research legend. But as Vig’s career took off, he became more disillusioned. The more time he spent entrenched in orthodontic research, the more he questioned what he had been taught in dental school: that orthodontic treatment was necessary for health.
Over the years, Vig submitted letters to academic journals, bemoaning a lack of strong evidence for the health benefits of orthodontic treatment and questioning what he calls “the prevailing dogma” of orthodontics. He once testified as an expert witness in a lawsuit against a fellow orthodontist. At one point, the American Journal of Orthodontics, now the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, for whom he was a reviewer, was set to reject Vig’s own paper because editors feared that the results—which questioned the efficacy of diagnosis and variability in treatment—reflected poorly on the orthodontic profession. In response, Vig threatened to write an article about the ethics of orthodontic journals. (When contacted by Undark, the editor in chief of the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics declined to comment.)