Social media are becoming vital to dentistry

2008 10 21 14 53 23 614 Helaine Smith Thumb

Editor's note: Helaine Smith's column, The Mouth Physician, appears regularly on the advice and opinion page, Second Opinion.

During the recent ADA House of Delegates meeting, the delegates were asked how important it is for a dentist to incorporate social media into their practices.

Social media are Internet-based tools for sharing and discussing information. This is distinct from industrial media such as television, newspapers, and film. Sixty-eight percent of delegates thought it was very important for dentists to embrace social media, while 29% thought it was somewhat important. Only 3% thought not too important.

If you are reading my blog on, you are using social media to gain information and communicate in today's world. The blogs and forums on exemplify social media, and the hits they have generated show that dental health professionals are interested in receiving information in this format.

I have incorporated many other forms of social media into my practice over the past two years. Social media has been a useful tool to communicate, educate my patients, and open up dialogue. My blog on my Web site is geared toward educating the dental consumer. My YouTube videos are on topics such as oral cancer screening and infection control. I have two e-books, one on periodontal health and the other on dental health as it relates to overall health, since I am a firm believer that I am a "mouth physician."

Another type of social media is online social networks, such as those found on MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, and Squidoo. The popularity of these Web sites is phenomenal. MySpace had 55 million reported viewers in 2006. I am sure it is even larger now. College admission officers are looking at Facebook sites during the selection of an incoming class. This is here to stay.

Many people over the age of 30 do not understand the attraction of using online social networks. I personally do not use them as a form of communicating with my friends. But from a business standpoint I do use Squidoo, which profiles people's expertise in a niche subject -- mine being dentistry with an emphasis on cosmetics. My Squidoo page is a start for people to learn more and a tool to guide them to my Web site.

This is a paradigm shift in utilizing new ways of communicating. Being open and exploring this world are very important for having a fully rounded modern dental practice.

Business Week earlier this year stated that business people have to get on board with social media or be left behind. I agree and hope that those dentists who think social media are not important can put down their issue of the local paper and begin exploring the new world of communications and information sharing.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Copyright © 2008

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