by Christopher Piehler

Christopher Piehler

The more people you know, the less time you have to keep up with each individual. If you factor in patients, parents, and staff (not to mention actual friends), orthodontists come into social and professional contact with thousands of people. With so many faces coming and going, how many real human relationships can you expect to form?

Well, sir, according to the seminal work, “Co-evolution of Neocortex Size, Group Size and Language in Humans,” by R.I.M. Dunbar of the Human Evolutionary Biology Research Group at University College London, the maximum group size that humans can interact with meaningfully is approximately 150. (It’s a little more complex than that, and I encourage you to read Dunbar’s whole article, especially if you are a fan of asymptotes and/or the !Kung tribe.) But the gist of his findings is that “there is a cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain a stable relationship,” and that number is somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred and a half.

I would argue, however, that this group size can be extended through the power of social networking. Anyone who has spent any time online knows that the Internet broadens the definitions of words like “friend,” and “community,” and “connection.” I believe that online communication is pushing the human brain to assimilate more knowledge from a wider range of sources than we have ever had to deal with. This may occasionally cause a mild headache, but mostly it opens up new vistas of learning and experience.

Here at Orthodontic Products, we are opening up two new vistas: Twitter and Facebook. If you follow us at, you will get up-to-the-second product introductions and news, 140 characters at a time. If you become a Fan of the magazine by going to Facebook and searching for “Orthodontic Products,” you will become part of an online community that exchanges everything from clinical tips to jokes. I, of course, would encourage you to do both.

The goal of this expansion is not just to keep up with the iJoneses: It is to offer orthodontists a quick and easy way to be a part of a community of more than 150. No matter what the platform, our mission will always be to introduce orthodontists to the products and practices that can help their own private communities run more smoothly.

Christopher Piehler