How do dentists use social media?

My notes on Bhola, S., & Hellyer, P. (2016). The risks and benefits of social media in dental foundation training. British dental journal, 221(10), 609.

One of my main interests in recent years has been social media and professionalisation. Once these platforms become a routine feature of working life, it’s necessary to prepare professionals to take advantage of the opportunities they offer and the challenges they create. But how do we do this? My interest has been in academics and teachers but I’ve recently been looking to how these debates are being taken up within other professions. This paper reflects on the professional use of social media by dentists, with a particular focus on Dental Foundation Training as the training year to prepare newly qualified dentists for independent practice. It takes place in dialogue with an experienced dentist who acts as a training supervisor.

The General Dental Council offers guidance on the use of social media by dentists. It recognises the professional value in conversing about cases but insists any such discussions must be suitably anonymised in order to prevent the identification of patients. Furthermore no patient information may be shared without their explicit consent. The uptake by dentists can be clearly seen across Facebook groups (peer to peer, as well as pages & groups attached to organisations), a mobile app with a vast education library produced by the British Dental Association, peer to peer educational Instagram feeds, educational YouTube videos across a range of topics, relevant resources collated on Pinterest and many dentists on LinkedIn often identifying themselves as specialists in particular fields. There is also GDPUK which is an immensely popular professional networking resource for dentists, including access to substantial quantities of CPD and links to local events. There are also blogs created by dentists, particularly those orientated towards trainees with an educational intent.

They identified a number of purposes which social media can serve for dentists:

  1. Professional networking which provide a belongingness akin to dental school to professionals who often feel isolated in independent practice.
  2. Access to a large array of educational resources which can broaden the horizons of trainees
  3. Raising their professional profile, particularly amongst more senior colleagues, creating connections which might be difficult to form through other means.

And the risks entailed by social media:

  1. There’s no way to ensure the quality of information which is provided freely online, not least of all when commercial motivations intersect with educational ones in ways which might not always be clear.
  2. The ever present possibilities that dentists taking to social media might use these platforms in ways which reflect badly on the profession.
  3. Problems of consent caused by dentists talking about cases and patients online. Interaction with patients through social media might trouble established professional boundaries.

Here is the summary of GDC social media guidelines and the authors own advice about using social media as a dental professional:

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