Dentists and Social Media: Best Practices for Patient Engagement

Dentists and Social Media: Best Practices for Patient Engagement


The advent of social media has revolutionised the way information is shared and communicated, impacting various aspects of our lives. This includes the field of dentistry, where social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram have opened up new avenues for dentists to engage with their patients and create value. However, it is essential for dental professionals to be aware of the legal implications associated with social media use. In this article, we will explore the do’s and don’ts of patient engagement on social media, ensuring compliance with legal and ethical obligations.


Managing Patient Confidentiality

Patient confidentiality is a primary concern when dentists utilise social media platforms. Dental professionals have a legal and ethical obligation, as outlined in Regulation 4.2.3 of the Standards For The Dental Team to protect the privacy and confidentiality of their patients’ health information. While certain social media platforms may appear to be private, it is crucial to remember that anything posted online has the potential to be shared and redistributed publicly.

To maintain patient confidentiality:

  • Do remember that even private posts can be disseminated publicly, so exercise caution.
  • Do consider the potential audience of your posts and avoid sharing any details that could violate patient confidentiality laws under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
  • Do train your staff on appropriate online discussions regarding patient-related matters.

To ensure legal compliance:

  • Do not discuss specific patient cases or share identifiable patient information.
  • Do not engage in patient enquiries that could reveal confidential information.


Establishing Appropriate Boundaries

The General Dental Council (GDC) emphasises the importance of maintain appropriate boundaries when interacting with patients on social media. While it is acceptable for dentists to use social media for practice-related updates, caution should be exercised when accepting friend requests from patients on personal accounts. Even if information is shared under an assumed user name without explicitly identifying as a dental professional, confidentiality cannot be guaranteed, and dental professionals can still be held accountable.

To establish appropriate boundaries:

  • Do keep personal and professional social media accounts separate to maintain professional boundaries.
  • Do ensure that any information you provide to patients complies with the GDC guidelines on social media use.

To ensure legal compliance:

  • Do not use personal social media accounts to engage in patient discussions.

Instead, redirect patients to the appropriate channels, such as your practice’s website or contact information.


Reputation Management


Online reviews play a significant role in customer interaction, and dentists often receive feedback through social media platforms. While positive reviews can enhance a dental practice’s reputation, negative reviews can be detrimental. Therefore, managing online reviews becomes crucial.

When responding to patient feedback:

  • Do maintain professionalism and consider addressing concerns privately or offline.
  • Do refrain from sharing any specific patient-centred information on public forums.

To ensure legal compliance:

  • Do not post replies that may violate patient confidentiality laws.
  • Do not engage in online disputes, regardless of the temptation.


Raising Concerns via Social Media

As a trusted professional, you may become aware of patient concerns during visits. However, social media should not be used as a platform to voice these concerns, especially when dealing with vulnerable adults or children. Such actions may breach the guidelines outlined in the GDC’s Standards For Dental Teams document, specifically section 4.3.3 on maintaining and protecting patient information.


To address concerns appropriately:

  • Do voice your concerns through the appropriate channels or safeguarding partners.
  • Do act promptly and seek further legal advice if necessary.

To ensure legal compliance:

  • Do not share information about a vulnerable patient on a public platform, even if coerced to do so.



Dentists can effectively utilise social media platforms to engage with patients, promote services, and build trust. However, it is crucial to prioritise patient confidentiality, manage online reviews appropriately, and set suitable boundaries.

Once these legal considerations are understood, there is no reason why you cannot fully embrace the power of social media while maintaining your professional and ethical obligations.

If you are in any doubt, we’re here to help.

Dental Defence Society provides expert dento-legal advice, including how to appropriately manage social media issues and navigate any pitfalls. We also have a ton of handy resources designed to guide you through many of the legal aspects of being a practising dentist, plus tailored indemnity packages to give you the added security you need.

Want to know more? Get in touch today.