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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 44  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 2-6

Dentistry in E-world

1 Department of Public Health Dentistry, Sri Siddhartha Dental College and Hospital, Tumkur, Karnataka, India
2 Consultant Prosthodontist, Padmavathi Dental Clinic, Hyderabad, Telangana, India
3 Department of Public Health Dentistry, SRM Kattankulathur Dental College and Hospital, Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Web Publication20-Mar-2017

Correspondence Address:
Darshana Bennadi
Department of Public Health Dentistry, Sri Siddhartha Dental College and Hospital, Agalkote, Tumkur - 572 107, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jss.JSS_27_16

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Social media is making interactions possible between users and service providers by providing relatively simple, easy to access unbiased platforms for sharing feedback. Social media and the internet offer a wealth of opportunities for dentists to directly connect with their patients and other people in the dental field. These are making inroads in the education of patient as well as professionals, research, peer-reviewed patient care, and oral health-care information. This paper reviews role of internet, social media in dental field with its pros and cons.

Keywords: Dentistry, Facebook, Internet, social media

How to cite this article:
Bennadi D, Thummala NR, Sibyl S. Dentistry in E-world. J Sci Soc 2017;44:2-6

How to cite this URL:
Bennadi D, Thummala NR, Sibyl S. Dentistry in E-world. J Sci Soc [serial online] 2017 [cited 2018 Jul 21];44:2-6. Available from: http://www.jscisociety.com/text.asp?2017/44/1/2/202542

  Introduction Top

There is no denying that we now live in a digital world. This world runs on smartphones, iPads and many such devices and search engines that are available at our fingertips. In addition to having outstanding clinical skills, astute practice management, and excellent patient relationship skills, majority of the dentists these days either at the midpoint or end of their career are now finding themselves lost in the so-called “E” world. Traditionally print media such as newspapers and printed journals was being used but nowadays dentistry is stepping into the world of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn at a very fast pace and it is the need of the hour that we dentists learn and be well versed with the developments to embrace an entirely new set of skills. In recent years, the rapid development of Web 2.0 and mobile technologies led to the emergence of online communities, social networking sites, etc.[1]

Social media allows individuals all over the globe to network with others with similar values, interests, and professions. The Internet and social media outlets have become an integral part of most people's day to day lives. The Internet links computer networks worldwide so that anyone from any point on the network can communicate with others on the network through a service provider. It was started in 1962 as communication tool between several computers related to the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.[2] The availability of Internet has opened up a new horizon of scientific cooperation and collaboration at a global level. The mobile social web is now enabling people to easily share, rate, recommend and find software apps (applications) covering almost any topic including health and dentistry is not left behind either.[3]

Social media offers a wealth of opportunities for dentists to directly connect with their patients and other people in the dental field while providing a forum for people to discuss their experiences, share tips and tricks and generally interact with each other.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, YouTube, etc., are the powerful social media. A practice website is no longer enough, and a Facebook page, a blog, a Twitter handle, and even YouTube channels are a common place for all kinds of interaction. The idea is to disseminate as much information across as many online platforms as possible. Moreover, there are a number of benefits that clinicians gain when they create and maintain a spot for themselves in social media space.

From a traditional standpoint, social media has the ability to improve the search engine placement of a dental practice's web presence in other countries. If a potential patient were to use a search engine for dentists in a particular geographic area, the clinician with the largest web presence would be the first to be found in the search results. Therefore, a clinician with a practice website, a Facebook page, a Twitter handle, a Blog, and a YouTube channel would be high up on the list.[4]

[TAG:2]Common Applications [5],[6],[7],[8],[9][/TAG:2]

Electronic mail

Commonly used for patient appointments. The first E-mail program was created in 1972.[6] Useful not only in exchange of information between professionals and patients, but also can be used for conducting research studies.

News groups

Through a news group you can chat and discuss about a certain topic. The information being posted is entirely based on the individual's opinion and you cannot presume that every piece of information is a fact. These have been used for information exchange, discussions and education. Many such sites are offered by Universities and can thus be considered reliable sources of information.[7],[8] Such services are of obvious educational value to both clinicians and students.

World Wide Web

These pages provide our modern society with valuable educational, commercial, and leisure channels. Another utilization of the Internet's potential is the creation of a web site of any specialization which can offer communication, patient education, and making general information available to the general public.[2] Internet offers many commercial sites useful for dentists which not only provide news and product information but also convenient and secure online trading portals. In addition, noncommercial sites such as various sites of dental societies offer valuable information for dental professionals.


Provides a stage for developing diverse, low density networks free of charge and with reduced cost in terms of time and efforts.[9] People build online communities and have online “friends” that play a major part in their everyday lives. If the dental community were to become more active in social media space, it would give them the chance to expand their patient base and forge deeper, more meaningful connections with their colleagues.


Twitter is a short messaging and micro blogging service, where the “followers” are informed of developments. Twitter can be used by dental practices to spread information quickly to their patients, assuming the patients subscribe to be “followers” of the practice. It can be used to follow health organizations, universities, and health-care professionals and provide assistance to students.


LinkedIn is a professional social networking site enabling the masses to share ideas, swap case reports, ask for advice, discuss recent innovations and take in industry news.

Video Chat

Skype, FaceTime, etc., which is meant for video calling can be used by single practitioners for on the spot conversations with other dentists.


Wide arrays of videos are posted which are informative and help in alleviating the fears of patients regarding many dental procedures.


Blogs in particular have become an excellent source for dental industry news, with practicing dentist's doing research and posting their findings online for their peers. Bloggers connect their blog to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, with which they notify their friends and followers when a new blog entry is posted. Social media is also capable of breaking news long before traditional media outlets.[4]

  Dental Education Top

There is growing popularity of social media among students, faculty members in various health science disciplines. One of the online survey among health professional students showed online media was their first source of information and Facebook was the most commonly used media.[5]

Dental education and communications have moved forward with the introduction of Computer Assisted Instruction Programs and bibliographic databases including electronic transmission of continuing dental education which are now easily available.[10]

The internet has allowed dental journals (E-journals) and educational resources to be published online – some subscription based and some free of cost to the users. Examples of popular search engines include PubMed, Scopus, Research Gate, and Google scholar to name few. Undergraduate and postgraduate students can access a wide variety of study and research material through university subscriptions and many journals allow material to be viewed for free through their publishers online.[11] Social media can be used as an adjunct in teaching.

  Data Sharing and “cloud Computing” Top

Personal learning environments are evolving based on the use of social media that allows learners to create, organize, and share content.[5]

Information can be shared through cloud computing. Journals, abstracts, and critical analysis for group discussion is being done online in virtual learning spaces made easily accessible through “cloud computing.” The form of cloud computing most familiar to people is web-based E-mail (e.g., Gmail and Hotmail). In a nutshell, cloud computing allows users to access a common data storage site from any computer with an internet connection.[11],[12],[13]

The journal/study club buys storage space online which is secured with a password. The members can access their personal cloud space through a password to share documents and presentations. Clinical records can be gathered by one clinician for a case that requires multidisciplinary treatment, so that all the clinicians potentially involved can access the material and give their input towards the treatment plan and its completion. In addition to multi-site access, cloud computing offers security against loss of information by equipment theft or damage to clinic facilities. The additional cost of cloud facilities can be weighed against the reduced need for processing, power and memory of the computers being used to view the information along with potentially less back-up cost.[11],[12]

  Computer Assisted Designing and Computer Assisted Machining Top

In the field of Diagnostics and Treatment planning, the internet has made possible the fabrication of diagnostic and surgical utilities like stents and templates at a place hundreds of miles away from the operatory with state-of art software and manufacturing units. The advent of computer assisted designing and computer assisted machining has made possible the use of cutting edge technology to mill a three-dimensional model of the designed restoration from solid blocks of restorative materials with minimal human intervention. Computer applications have also been used in forensic dentistry where identification systems describe tooth conditions and other oral characteristics besides automated screening and matching of ante mortem databases.[10]

Patient education

Our patients can research dentistry like never before and there is now a wealth of information available to anyone who takes an interest. Internet websites are interactive in the sense that patients actively direct their own exploration by reading those pages in which they are interested and following links to other related pages. They are also somewhat passive, because patients are generally limited to viewing selected text and photographs. The opportunity for a significant two-way flow of material between the patient and source through the Internet is currently somewhat limited.[14] Another powerful example of how social media can impact the practice of dentistry and dental hygiene is through the use of patient education tools such as for tobacco cessation.[3]


From a traditional marketing standpoint, social media has the ability to improve the search engine for dental supply companies and it helps the dentists to come across new instruments, materials and technology which will be displayed in their web pages. Helps dentists to compare the cost and quality of different dental equipment and materials among different companies and choose the best for him. If a new dentist uses a search engine to search for dental supply companies in a particular geographic area, then the one with the largest web presence would be the first return in the search results. The same applies to the dental laboratories too.


In many countries social media is used to advertise their practice; justdial, find a dentist, etc., to name a few. However, according to dental council of India 1976 advertising, whether directly or indirectly, for the purpose of obtaining patients or promoting his own professional advantage is known to be unethical practice.[15] Studies have shown that dentists should consider the use of internal communications, such as the practice brochure, business cards, in-house information centers, thank you notes, and direct mail to patients, as effective alternatives to advertising.[16] The rise of new technologies and media is another challenge, but the ethical issues remain the same.

Social media: The double edged sword

As two sides of a same coin, social media poses with it high risks too. The risks include spreading false or unnecessarily hyped information and also sometimes social media accounts of reputable organizations get hacked leading to havoc. Dentists should be aware that while social media can be the perfect tool, it can have negative effects if the dentist uses it improperly or a patient uses it against a practice. Social sites are constantly reviewing their privacy policies to try and limit these potential problems, but users need to be vigilant about the information they provide to online sites. In dentistry, web pages are open for all to see and practitioners may post pictures of patients who have undergone treatments, typically pre- and post-operative. In order to do so, it is imperative to seek written and verbal consent from patients who agree to pictures or testimonials being posted to avoid any data protection problems. It is the need of the hour that all the operators and services be registered with data protection legislation. Furthermore, these days it is not uncommon to find negative or malicious comments being posted on various social media sites, namely, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Hence, close monitoring is needed in order to curb any untoward consequences.[3],[11]

In social media, information and image should be managed in professional manner and discretion is needed before posting anything. Privacy and confidentiality of the patient and profession should be given the utmost priority. Clinicians should have few things in mind when using social media like:[3],[4]

  1. Create trustworthy social media channels and build community
  2. Regularly monitor and moderate content for any forms of spam, abuse or violations of copyright or patient privacy
  3. Have a clear goal in mind – what you want from social media
  4. Tailor channels to suit the profiles and preferences of target audiences and their levels of reading and understanding
  5. Follow codes of ethical practice of that particular country
  6. Update, update, update!

Protection and prevention of data loss

It's a good to be associated with new technologies but stick to the state laws regarding confidentiality, privacy, security and related issues.

Measures to safeguard the patient data:[17],[18],[19],[20],[21]

  1. Anti-malware scans with regular updating
  2. Data backup and recovery
  3. Encryption
  4. Patient-controlled encryption.

The next step is to develop and maintain a written security policy for the dental office. It should address the following:[17],[21]

  • The responsibility of all staff for the security and privacy of the personal health information of patients
  • Education and training of all staff in security and privacy policies and procedures
  • The security roles and responsibilities of all users by job definition.

The access control policies for the dental office, including the precautions to be taken when:

  1. Working in the dental office on the local network
  2. Producing copies of electronic patient records (e.g., all electronic copies must be authorized and appropriately secured by employing strong encryption, and all printed copies must be labeled to disclose the confidential nature of their content
  3. Removing copies of electronic patient records, equipment or software from the dental office
  4. Using portable storage and wireless devices.

If services are provided by a third-party contractor, there should be a formal written agreement in place, which addresses the following:[21]

  • The responsibility for the security and privacy of the personal health information of patients
  • All repairs, changes, and upgrades to the electronic records management system (ERMS) must be authorized and documented
  • All planned new information systems, upgrades and new versions must meet acceptance criteria
  • Functional and security tests of the ERMS must be carried out before acceptance
  • All existing electronic patient records and critical data must be continually safeguarded during upgrades.

As the use of electronic records and digital technology in health care is increasing, issues are emerging that raise new medico-legal questions, which are still to be addressed. The term “electronic signature” refers to electronic information that a person creates or adopts in order to sign a document, and that is attached to or associated with the document. In order to be accepted as valid, dentists must be able to demonstrate that the person's electronic signature was unique and that it was properly associated with the document in question via auditable means. Another example is cloud computing, which allows a user internet-based access to a shared pool of computing resources, which are rented from a third-party provider for a fee. Cloud computing raises significant security and privacy questions. A further example relates to internet-based products for patients that allow them to create their own health records. Patients may collect health information about them, maintain it online and grant access to their health care providers. Dentists should be cautious about relying on information contained in a patient-created health record and take appropriate steps to verify that it is accurate and complete.[20]

  Conclusion Top

Social media offers a wealth of opportunities for dentists to directly connect with their patients and other people in the dental field while providing a forum and a platform for people to discuss their experiences, share tips and tricks, and generally interact with each other. There are a multitude of resources at our fingertips so if we have not started – it is time to engage in social media with proper precaution and discretion. The best way is to go green in our profession by use of the new technology.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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Arnett MR, Loewen JM, Romito LM. Use of social media by dental educators. J Dent Educ 2013;77:1402-12.  Back to cited text no. 5
Kristula D. The History of the Internet. Available from: http://www.davesite.com/webstation/net-history.shtml. [Last accessed on 2014 Jul 28].  Back to cited text no. 6
Ariji E, Ohki M, Yamada T, Ariji Y, Yamada M, Ueno H, et al. Oral and maxillofacial radiology teaching file on the World Wide Web. Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol Endod 1996;81:498-502.  Back to cited text no. 7
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Bodell S, Hook A. Using Facebook for professional networking: A modern day essential. Br J Occup Ther 2011;74:588-90.  Back to cited text no. 9
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Jablow M. Is It Time for the Cloud to Come to Your Practice? Available from: http://www.dentaleconomics.com/./is-it-time-for-the-cloud-to-come-to-yourhtml. [Last accessed on 2014 Jul 29].  Back to cited text no. 12
Salierno C. 4 Ways Cloud Computing Will Change Dentistry for the Better. Available from: http://www.dentistryiq.com. [Last accessed on 2014 Jul 29].  Back to cited text no. 13
Murphy KR. Computer-based patient education. Otolaryngol Clin North Am 1998;31:309-17.  Back to cited text no. 14
Dentists (Codes of ethics) Regulations; 1976. Available from: http://www.dciindia.org. [Last accessed on 2014 Jul 29].  Back to cited text no. 15
Dable RA, Prasanth M, Singh SB, Nazirkar GS. Is advertising ethical for dentists? An insight into the Indian scenario. Drug Healthc Patient Saf 2011;3:93-8.  Back to cited text no. 16
Revankar AV. Effective Data Management and Communication for the Contemporary Orthodontist, in Integrated Clinical Orthodontics (eds V. Krishnan and Z. Davidovitch), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, West Sussex, UK.; 2012. p. 15-36.  Back to cited text no. 17
Masic F. Information systems in dentistry. Acta Inform Med 2012;20:47-55.  Back to cited text no. 18
Benaloh J, Chase M, Horvitz E, Lauter K. Patient Controlled Encryption: Ensuring Privacy of Electronic Medical Records. CCSW'09, November 13, 2009, Chicago, Illinois, USA; 2009.  Back to cited text no. 19
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