I remember Charlie Tweed

When I returned from service in the U.S. Army Dental Corps in World War II, I started a dental practice in Rockville Centre, New York, but soon developed an interest in treating the malocclusions of the children in that practice. I knew I would need to go back to school and learn to be an orthodontist. I was fortunate to be accepted at the orthodontic department of the Columbia University dental school for a 2-year course, and with help from the GI bill I spent the next 2 years as an orthodontic student by day and a general practice dentist by night. I received my certificate in orthodontics in January 1949 and started a career as an orthodontist. Soon enough, I realized I would also need to supplement what I had learned at Columbia, and I began taking postgraduate courses.

During my early years in orthodontic practice, the specialty was embroiled in a disagreement over extraction vs nonextraction, which had been heightened by the work of Dr Charles Tweed of Tucson, Arizona. He famously extracted 4 premolars in 100 patients whose nonextraction treatments had failed, and then he retreated these patients at no additional fee. Even though the effort was not uniformly successful, it contributed to a wave of extractions that was as high as 80% in some orthodontic practices. Still, I was flying by the seat of my pants, and when I learned that Dr Tweed was offering a course, I decided to take it. I think the year was 1956.

But you did not just sign up for the Tweed course. Applicants had to submit a setup on a typodont and a treated case for approval by a local Tweed follower. If your records were approved, you could then be accepted for the course. I spent many hours polishing the wax and the typodont itself, and I was accepted.

I flew to Tucson in the middle of the night, and I recall landing on a wide open field. The terminal was just a shack. No sooner did we land than a cloud of dust appeared in the distance, and a Jeep roared up to take me to the Westward Look, a ranch resort that survives to this day. The course was held at Dr Tweed’s office, and when I arrived I was greeted by “the man” himself with a cheery “Hi, Gene.” Our photographs were on our applications, and Dr Tweed prided himself in memorizing our faces and greeting us by name. “Where’s your bolo tie?” he asked. I quickly acquired 2 of them, and I have them to this day. “And call me Charlie,” he said.

Dr Tweed was assisted in the course by 4 or 5 orthodontists who were proficient in the Tweed technique, and they roamed the benches offering help and advice. Dr Tweed lectured our group on his basic concept of facial esthetics and the importance of the uprightness of the mandibular incisors over basal bone. He must have had a cephalometer at that time, but I don’t recall that he lectured on cephalometrics. But that was almost 60 years ago, and time has dimmed my precise memory of where he was on the development of the Tweed triangle.

One free morning, Charlie invited us all to a breakfast in the desert, and provided us with horses for the excursion. It was my first time ever on a horse, but the nag I rode was a gentle, plodding creature, and all went well. I still recall the overwhelming smell of the desert bougainvillea in bloom.

The course taught me the Tweed technique and added a new word to my vocabulary—anchorage. We bent piles of archwires, and there was plenty of work on the typodonts. Although I never used the pure Tweed technique, I never regretted taking the course. It was a classic lesson in wire bending. Many of my classmates were already well known or were soon to become so.

When the course was over, Charlie invited us all to a party around the pool at his home; the party ended with the traditional throwing of Charlie into the pool. I didn’t have the nerve to participate in the fling, but Charlie seemed to enjoy it. Charlie Tweed won a high place in the history of orthodontics and made a lot of us better orthodontists. It was my good fortune to be able to stay over for a few days after the course and spend some time with Charlie to observe his treatment of patients. It was an unforgettable experience.

In the 10 years after my attendance at the Tweed course, Charlie devoted much time and effort to the study of his treated patients, and he made significant advances in his case analysis and treatment procedures. He published 2 books during this time. Like Charlie, I never dismissed a patient, and periodically recalled as many as I could find. Nevertheless, I regret that I did not find the time to return to Tucson to retake the Tweed course and to renew my acquaintance with Charlie Tweed.

I am pleased to participate in the celebration of the first 100 years of publication of the AJO-DO and to offer a tribute to all those who have been responsible for its publication over the years.

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Apr 6, 2017 | Posted by in Orthodontics | Comments Off on I remember Charlie Tweed
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