What is the role of social media in dentistry?
In this week’s blog, I want to talk about social media and its role in developing a good personal brand for dentists. I also want to look at the impact it has had, on me personally, in the past several years. I will also touch on some of the positives and negatives surrounding social media and dentistry.
My Social Media Journey
I’ve had a long history with social media over the years. It’s done a lot for me in terms of growing my podcast and growing an audience that values my content. I first started using Instagram to post dental content when I was in my final year of dental school. At the time, it was a small community and it was fairly easy to know and follow most of the bigger dental accounts. One of the accounts that stood out to me was @bloodytoothguy. He was kind of an early mentor to me, in terms of content posting and consistency on social media. The whole “Bloody Tooth” brand was a big deal to me and inspired me to start posting my extraction photos from dental school on Instagram.
After my graduation, I started the Noobie Dentist Podcast and Instagram was really instrumental in helping me grow it. The guests I had on my podcast in the early days were other dentists who were active on social media and Instagram. I was able to form an amazing community of professionals with my online presence. I developed friendships and mentorships from various dentists across Australia, the United States, Canada and throughout Europe as well. Social media personally gave me many positives and I think a lot of dentists are reaping such benefits today too. But to be honest, social media is not all positive and there are some downsides to it as well.
Positives vs. Negatives
When I moved from Canada back to Australia, I had to wait a few months for my Australian dental license and registration to get processed. There was a period of about three-four months where I wasn’t able to work. And at that point, being on social media and seeing dentists from around the world or peers from school, working and producing content regularly to put up on social media kind of affected me. I had a hard time dealing with the fact that my colleagues were working and getting better and better everyday, while I was stuck at home unable to practice my craft. So I took a short from Instagram, so I wouldn’t have to face negative reinforcements on social media day after day.
In terms of the positives, I think that social media definitely brings communities together. By nature, dentistry is an isolating profession where you go to work, sit in your private practice, see patients, perform procedures and then go home. We get into a zone of our own habits and routines. Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube allow us to see what other dentists are doing around the world; the kind of procedures they are doing and the manner in which they are doing it too. It really opens our eyes to different possibilities available for dentists, in terms of learning about different materials, techniques, and advice on how to improve as clinicians and provide better value to patients.
The Social Multiplier Effect in Dentistry
There is a term in psychology called the “social multiplier effect” and I think this applies to dentistry as well. To put into context, let’s take the example of the introduction of TV and the airing of basketball games on it. We saw that there was marked improvement in the ability of children picking up the sport because they got to see professionals day in and day out perform advanced basketball tactics and maneuvers. Some of the kids started practising these moves and tricks on the playground, which led to other kids seeing what they were doing and following along. In the end, the overall baseline skill of the sport improved and today the level of skill at the professional level is much better than 20-30 years ago.
I think the same is happening with dentistry. We are able to see, not only what our friends in the same town are doing, or what dentists in the same country are doing, but also what other dentists are doing internationally. This “social multiplier effect” in dentistry (1) shows us what’s possible, (2) let’s us develop visions of what we can accomplish ourselves, and (3) let’s us get feedback (whether it’s criticism or encouragement) if we choose to enter the online community by posting content and putting ourselves out there, thereby allowing us to become more accountable and grow as clinicians.
What’s the verdict?
Overall, I think that social media has been a net positive for the industry. It’s allowed us to connect as professionals and raise the bar in terms of what good quality dental services to patients should look like, eventually improving our overall standard of care. Talking about the negatives, there is definitely a prevalent “FOMO” effect on social media platforms, and a tendency to doubt our abilities in terms of what we can do. On the other hand, there’s also another type of crowd that thinks they can do these complex procedures they see on social media without putting in the required hard-work or effort to learn and perfect them. Masters spend years practicing their craft and clinical skills before incorporating it in their dental practices. Many fresh graduates get frustrated when they can’t reproduce the same quality of margins in their crown preps or replicate the same soft tissue suturing in their surgeries, and get demotivated. So I think it’s important to consider these aspects as well.
Use social media as a tool to improve, to reach out to mentors and to hold yourself accountable to improvement by posting content regularly and documenting your progress. It’s like a library of your work for the public to see and also for peers to give feedback on, which I think is incredibly valuable.
I hope you guys enjoyed this mini mentorship blog on the effects of social media on dentistry. If you did, be sure to comment your thoughts below and hit the subscribe button.
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Thank you so much and I’ll see you next time.