We live in amazing times! To think that in two decades we have experienced the release of the worldwide web (WWW) to the public in 1993 and watched usage reach over 2.3 billion global users today. The evolution of Web 2.0 in 2004 enabled the average user to easily generate content and contribute to the web and brought with it an explosion of social media. Social media is described by Webster as forms of electronic communication like web sites for social networking and blogging, through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, and other content. Examples of social media include text, audio, images, podcast, and other multimedia communications. The effect on our lives has been immeasurable. Access to instant information has made our lives so much richer and there is no end in sight.
An interesting phenomenon has been the increased adoption of mobile technologies, making it easier for us to access information. A recent survey by Pew examining technology adoption over time (2006-2012) found that 88% of American adults today own a cell phone, and 53% of those own a smartphone. Eighty seven percent of smartphone owners are using their phones to access information on the internet or check email. Another interesting trend is that of technology adoption rates where the adoption of tablet computers has outpaced any other technologies to date. In December of 2011 alone the number of Americans owning tablets jumped from 11 to 19 percent. The capacity for learning, life-long learning, has been greatly enhanced by all of these technology advances. Even more exciting is that with the advent of mobile technology learning can take place at any time and in any place. An excellent example of the resources available at our fingertips is the fact that you are reading this while on the www.dentalcare.com website, a resource that offers more than 160 free dental education courses for CE credit, resources for patient education on oral health, dental procedures, including instructions that are translated into multiple languages.
The intersection of dentistry with social media provides some interesting examples for practitioners on new ways to interact with patients. The statistics tell us that our patients like this form of communication and that it isn’t just our youth who are using social media. Fifty three percent of adults in America age 65 and older use the internet and of those, one third use social networking sites such as Facebook. Social media can be used to build your practice and following are just a few of the resources freely available. MySocialPractice allows the download of 20 Facebook wall questions for engaging patients in a medium they have become accustomed to. Crest Oral-B offers a free customizable Facebook template for dental practices called “Dental Practice Builder”.
Another powerful example of how social media can impact the practice of dentistry and dental hygiene is through the use of patient tools such as for tobacco cessation. Patients can sign up for quit tobacco text tips by going to http://www.ucanquit2.org/Default.aspx. Research has been able to demonstrate that text messaging is an effective and low-cost way to assist individuals who have urges during smoking cessation programs. This website provides text messaging along with live chats to provide support and encouragement.
These are exciting times for the practice of dentistry and dental hygiene. There are a multitude of resources at your fingertips so if you haven’t started – it is time to engage in social media.