Mastering Professionalism Online – Essential Tips for Dental Students Regarding Social Media Use

Mastering Professionalism Online – Essential Tips for Dental Students Regarding Social Media Use


Social media has become a valuable platform for dental students to network, exchange ideas, and draw inspiration from others. However, it is crucial to maintain professionalism while using these platforms. Although social media may not seem directly related to patient care, a study analysing fitness-to-practice (FTP) cases investigated by the General Dental Council (GDC) revealed that, 2.4% were said to be social media-related. In response, the GDC has provided guidelines on social media use to prevent violations. This article aims to discuss how dental students can effectively utilise social media without breaching the GDC’s rules on engagement.

  1. Avoid Identifying Patients on Social Media

Dental students often receive direct training on real patients, but it is vital to prioritise patient confidentiality. According to section 4.3.3 of the Standards Of The Dental Team, students must not publish any information on social media that could identify patients without their consent. Written consent should be obtained before using personal information or images related to a patient. Posting inappropriate content or discussing a person’s treatment can severely damage your professional reputation and even lead to disciplinary action. Exercise caution and think twice before posting anything.

  1. Maintain Appropriate Boundaries

Even as a dental student, it is crucial to establish and maintain appropriate boundaries with patients. The GDC emphasises that students should adhere to professional limits in their patient relationships. Regarding social media, this means refraining from befriending patients on personal social media accounts (such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter) and avoiding discussions about their treatment. Remember to keep personal and professional accounts separate. If necessary, direct patients who want to connect online to the clinic’s website or social media page. Seek guidance from your course tutor or clinical advisor if you are unsure about establishing proper boundaries.

  1. Uphold Professionalism

It is essential to maintain a professional online presence by refraining from posting anything that could be deemed unprofessional. Before sharing or posting content, consider how others might perceive it. Could it be misinterpreted or taken out of context? A good rule of thumb is to avoid posting or sharing anything that you would not want a journalist to discover or see in a newspaper. Even if something appeals to your sense of humour, consider whether it could offend someone else. Exercise discretion and avoid sharing potentially controversial content.

  1. Take Regular Breaks

Studies have shown a direct correlation between excessive social media use and increased mental health problems. While social media offers opportunities for connection, creativity, and fun, spending excessive time on these platforms can lead to confidence issues, anxiety, and disrupted sleep patterns. Limit your daily screen time, disable notifications, and take regular breaks from social media. This will allow you to return to the platform feeling refreshed and engaged, with more to share with friends and acquaintances.

  1. Consider Everything Public

Remember that anything you post on social media, even if it is intended to be private, has the potential to be copied and shared with unintended audiences. If you do not want certain individuals or groups to access your content, it is best not to post it at all. Treat every written post as if you are attaching your signature or brand to it because once it is out there, it may remain permanently, even if you delete it later. Be cautious about the content you post, as  70% of all future employers often review social media profiles, and controversial posts could have adverse consequences.


Social media offers valuable networking opportunities and a platform for dental students to connect, learn, and grow professionally. However, it is essential to use social media responsibly to avoid negative consequences. By following the above tips, dental students can enjoy social media while building their profiles and careers. If you have any uncertainties about managing your social media appropriately, we have many handy resources on our website, plus 24/7 dento-legal advice should you need it.

Want to know more? Get in touch with the Dental Defence Society today.