Patients use YouTube to find ortho treatment info

The Internet is becoming an important source of medical information, but how accurate is the information?

A new study has found that a large number of patients, especially adolescents, are seeking information about orthodontic treatment online, but not all of that information is good (Angle Orthodontist, May 2011, Vol. 81:3, pp. 532-539).

Researchers from the University of Göttingen in Germany wanted to determine what kind of information was available on the Internet regarding orthodontic treatment by assessing the informational value, intention, source, and bias of videos related to orthodontics screened by the video-sharing Internet platform YouTube.

With regard to orthodontics, and especially since the majority of adolescents regularly use Internet social media for obtaining information, it is reasonable to suppose that those adolescents who are about to undergo orthodontic treatment make use of this popular website to obtain preliminary information, the study authors noted.

They scanned YouTube in July 2010 for orthodontics-related videos using the search terms "orthodontist," "orthodontic," "orthodontics," and "braces." The YouTube scan produced 5,140 results.

Search results were first sorted by relevance and number of views/most views by YouTube users. In both searches, the first 30 videos were evaluated. These were rated independently by three assessors, who completed a questionnaire for each video.

Among the study's findings:

  • A sizeable audience is interested in obtaining information about orthodontics using YouTube. The mean number of views of all videos screened in this study was 136,300 and ranged from 4,244 to 810,100.

  • A variety of information about orthodontics is available on YouTube, and the greatest proportion of videos was posted by orthodontic patients. These videos were also the most viewed.

  • The informational content of most videos was quite low, with a poor to inadequate representation of the orthodontic profession although a moderately pro-orthodontics stance prevailed.

  • There is a considerable amount of advertising by orthodontists on YouTube. However, this is not preferred by the majority of YouTube users, as was evident in the pronounced discrepancy in the proportions when sorting by "relevance" or "most viewed."

"In light of the very large number of people using the Internet as their primary source of information, orthodontists should recognize the importance of YouTube and similar social media websites in the opinion-forming process, especially in the case of adolescents," the authors concluded.

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