It aims to ensure that the specialty of orthodontics continues to grow and flourish, enhancing people's quality of life across the UK by helping them to have harmonious faces, confident smiles and healthy teeth which function effectively throughout their lifetime. To achieve this the Foundation plans to promote research into better prevention and care of facial deformity and dental malocclusion and also to encourage excellent teaching which ensures that orthodontists are inspired, well informed, caring, valued and responsible.
No learned specialty such as ours can survive and prosper without a steady infusion of quality research. Research inspires teachers and their students and advances patient care. As a specialty we must respond to the pressure for evidence-based practice by maintaining a healthy flow of quality research and teaching.
However, in the last ten years alone, six UK professorial chairs in orthodontics have not been filled, because of a lack of suitable candidates. This is a real, serious and immediate threat to the future of our specialty.
There are several reasons for this shortage. An academic career in orthodontics is an increasingly demanding prospect in comparison to other orthodontic career choices. It is very hard for trainee academics to satisfy the stringent criteria for clinical training in addition to achieving their PhD and becoming top quality teachers. Over recent years, funding for teaching and research in orthodontics has come under increasing pressure. All research funds are now subject to competition and this is intensifying. Even highly rated research applications are failing to find funding, yet research performance is assessed more and more rigorously.
We must ensure that from the many highly gifted trainees in orthodontics comes a good flow of top quality teachers and researchers.
Without this, British Orthodontics will steadily decline. Poorer training will attract trainees in fewer numbers and of lesser quality and produce orthodontists who are less able to serve the best interests of their patients and whose clinical practice is based more on anecdote and less on the evidence from good quality research.
There is an urgent need for us as a profession to work together to plough some of the many benefits we enjoy through orthodontics back into research and teaching - for the benefit of the next generation of orthodontists as well as the people everywhere who benefit from our care.