I was aware that Dr Sheiham’s views produced vitriolic opposition from a lot of people, for a lot of whom I had little respect. I did meet him, briefly, whilst I was doing my first job at The London Hospital in Whitechapel where he seemed to be held in high esteem. His first contentious paper was published during my student days in 1977 but his name really came to my attention when I started working in general practice in 1981. He was viewed by my principals as someone who wanted to take the bread from their mouths and whose views were seeking to undermine their means of making a living. One of these individuals had shared with me his way of making money from dentistry which were progressively large fillings followed by root canal treatment and crowns. I wouldn’t have chosen that route for my family or myself so I was pretty sure I didn’t share his views on Sheiham either. His paper had been published in the Lancet which my brother, who was just about to publish his first research paper, assured me would not publish dodgy research.
Dentistry, like many walks of life, has never liked people who question the status quo, the respect for Dr Sheiham from his peers and research colleagues is clear in this piece from Cochrane UK.
The fact that he started in periodontology alongside one of my heroes the late Bernie Keiser only increases my respect. There was a cohort of “awkward squad” perio people that I was fortunate enough to encounter during the days when I was realising that there was a lot more to dentistry than amlagam and acrylic, turbines and forceps. So many of them died young too, Bernie, John Zamet, Marsh Midda and more recently Graham Smart.
One obituary was published in the Guardian:
No dentistry means unhealthy teeth; therefore more dentistry means healthier teeth. There may be some truth to the first part, but the epidemiologist Aubrey Sheiham, who has died aged 79, questioned the second – and got into a heap of trouble for doing so. In 1977 he published a paper in the Lancet reviewing the evidence for the six-monthly dental check-up. He concluded that it may well do more harm than good. Continues here.
Another in the Lancet