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Social Media and Dentistry - The New Age

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Social Media and Dentistry - The New Age

Simran Kaur, a young dentist from Liverpool University explains how, when and why social media is important in a working environment today.

He also explains when it should not be used and consequences of misuse.

One of the things I personally love about the Dental profession is how it is constantly changing in line with the latest technological developments. We are a fast moving profession in all sorts of ways. Every so often we welcome new clinical techniques, new dental materials, new evidence that changes how we practise and new marketing strategies. Indeed, dentistry is the embodiment of innovation and social media is no exception. The dental world has been fast to embrace the changing faces of social media and many have come to recognise the importance of an active online presence as part of a powerful marketing campaign and raising awareness.

With information right at our finger tips, many of our patients are well informed about different treatments offered and often search around for a dental practice they like. Have you ever used TripAdvisor to search for good restaurants by reading reviews left by others? This is also now happening for dentists! In a nutshell, dentists are getting head-hunted by patients. If you do not have an active presence on social media, you may be missing out on new patients.

So what kinds of platforms is the dental profession using?

Facebook
Facebook has come a long way since the initial days of 'poking' (this still exists, though!) and has become more commercial to monetize from over a billion active users. Dental practices are joining the explosion by promoting pages for practices and even a page so you can 'like' a dentist; are becoming very popular. The UK has 30 million monthly active Facebook users and with the ability to advertise and target residents of certain areas or age brackets, it can be a powerful way to advertise your practice to the right people. It is also a good way to point potential patients to your website and display key contact information. Even as a dental student, I recall seeing Facebook offering 'Botox courses 50% off for young dentists', highlighting the ability to target very specific groups of Facebook users.

Twitter
Twitter is not as popular as Facebook at the moment - but dental teams are starting to get the hang of it. From hashtags to retweets, microblogging via twitter can actually get very addictive! Some practices and dental professionals have racked up thousands of tweets. The serial tweeters within the dental world feel like a part of an online community. Twitter is also great for networking within our profession and learning about other products and services within dentistry, as they all seem to have twitter pages dedicated to the product. It's almost like an online directory!

Youtube
YouTube is full of fantastic patient education videos and also clinical videos that offer useful practical tips for the dental team. There are so many video blogs and procedural videos shared with an aim to teach and improve the quality of our work as Dentists. One such Youtube channel is called 'AllThingsDentistry'  run by a passionate Canadian Dentist - check it out if you haven't already; he shares some great clinical tips! Many practices are incorporating a video on their website as a way to engage new patients and give them a flavour of their team, with marketing gurus arguing that this is the most powerful medium.

Forums
Discussion forums and educational websites are a fantastic resource for the dental team to discuss hot topics, share news and learn together. Some of the most used names include GDPUK.com, DentinalTubules.com, and TeethGeek.com for students. Thousands of dentists and their teams are using these websites daily, with a growing demand for online CPD at the comfort of our own homes.
This list goes on and on, with dental practices now even creating Google+, and practitioners making professional profiles on LinkedIn.

Young dentists are generally up-to-date with all these social media platforms and are very comfortable with how to use them. Computers and the internet are second-nature to us. On the other side, there are established dental practices that are starting to grasp the online world which can be a very steep learning curve. Perhaps this is an opportunity for young dentists whose social media experience may land them an associate job?

The rapid growth of social media in the dental world also produces some challenges and has made it difficult for the General Dental Council to create guidance for the profession - only recently (September 2013) have they published such guidelines. It serves as a reminder of the responsibilities that come with our professional title, even on the internet.

Simran Kaur
Final year dental student at Liverpool Dental School

Dental Protection is the leading indemnity provider.
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