How Online Communities Are Game-Changers for Dental Clinicians
The online experience has come a long way since those first bare-bones, barely functioning websites that emerged 30 years ago. Today, it’s an omnipresent force that connects our computers and smartphones to appliances, bank accounts, entertainment – and most importantly, people. Lots and lots of people.
In short, the internet has transformed our enormous, impersonal world into interconnected networks and tightly knit communities of like-minded individuals. That these individuals may live in different cities, different countries, or even completely different continents doesn’t matter.
Whether it’s on Facebook, Reddit, or the comments section of a popular blog, people are getting to know each other online, seamlessly transitioning from strangers to acquaintances and even to friends, without ever meeting each other face to face. Thanks to these new digital friendships, people effortlessly share stories, ask advice, solve challenges, and cheer each other on. As more touchpoints become available, these communities grow stronger, and their members become more empowered to live fuller, better lives.
Indeed, these communities span not only our personal experiences, but our business experiences as well. It’s not surprising, then, that online communities have become a driving force in the dental industry.
Community and the Clinic
Dentistry and technology move hand-in-hand. Recent advancements in everything from air polishing, to in-clinic fabrication of crowns, to digital radiographs prove that dentistry continues to advance at a quick clip.
Meanwhile, dental professionals use technology to their own benefit outside the operatory. Just as in any other profession, they have used the web to seek out resources that bring value to their careers and advance their learning. And they’re not a shy bunch; they’re outgoing, eager to learn, and always happy to lend a hand. Which is why they’re flocking to online communities in droves.
Lively, passionate communities of dental professionals are springing up across the digital landscape.
Before the internet, the only chances clinicians had to learn from and network with each other were at industry events, which sadly were often out of reach for smaller practices.
But now, online communities are providing these dedicated people with a wealth of opportunities to share knowledge, offer advice, and sometimes simply listen to each other.
Making Sense of It All
The benefits of this interconnectedness are huge. In his book, Uncomplicate Business: All It Takes Is People, Time, and Money, dental industry expert Howard Farran explains that when professionals are able to tap into a community of peers, they can dramatically expand their knowledge base:
“When you’re starting out in your profession, the first thing you need to realize is that you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. But you’ll make a lot fewer mistakes if you learn from the mistakes of other, more experienced members of your profession. Listen to their stories. Take their advice. You know what you know, but you don’t know what you don’t know.”
Farran reminds us of an important point: Figuring things out alone can be brutal. The internet itself is a perfect example; although it’s a bottomless pool of resources, every online search yields a dozen conflicting answers. Even for seasoned clinicians, narrowing down the sheer volume and complexity of information and advice found online can be tricky. For novices? It’s overwhelming.
But with the right online community, clinicians gain their own personal board of advisors. By tapping into a wide range of expertise and a “seen it all” breadth of experience, clinicians can rely on their online network to cut through the clutter and deliver the unvarnished truth. This is not to say that communities are (or should be) an echo chamber – opinions will vary, and debates can be lively – but in the right forum, it’s an unwritten rule that everybody speaks honestly and argues in good faith.
Finding Your People
With so much noise out there, though, finding the right online community can seem tricky. Where to even begin? Here are a few places clinicians can turn to when seeking out their kindred spirits:
Blogs (such as the Hu-Friedy Blog) are a fantastic way to learn from peers and dig into the details of techniques, industry news, and best practices. There is a wealth of useful and interesting knowledge out there, and a reputable blog with expert sources can be a huge help in digesting and understanding what’s important to know.
Ah, Facebook. Where else can you see photos of your classmates’ new babies, get in a political argument with your great-uncle Ernest, and watch a video of a porcupine eating some pumpkin, all in a span of five minutes? However, the real gold of Facebook can be found in Facebook Groups.
A search for “dentistry” or “dental hygiene” on Facebook brings up dozens of groups—including ones focused on specific geographic regions and practice specialties. Some are even more niche, such as the Facebook Group dedicated to Saudi hygienists living and working in the United States, or Mr. RDH, a group dedicated to bringing visibility to men in the dental hygiene profession. All these groups, however, serve the same purpose: to bring like-minded dental professionals together to discuss their shared challenges, motivations, tips, and success stories.
Friends of Hu-Friedy
Dedicated online communities can go beyond social media to offer even more interactive experiences, and the Friends of Hu-Friedy community is a standout. First launched in 2007, Friends of Hu-Friedy was designed to provide a one-stop resource for dental hygienists, students, and educators, with news and in-depth articles about dentistry and hygiene, complimentary online CE courses, and helpful resources.
On February 2, after a year of planning and development, we unveiled a completely upgraded Friends of Hu-Friedy community. The new, mobile-friendly platform elevates Friends of Hu-Friedy with expanded functionality that better meets the needs of today’s busy, tech-savvy clinicians. New updates include:
- Special interest groups that enable more focused conversations around targeted issues
- Discussion boards on almost any page on the site, including news articles and clinical tips pages
- The ability to more easily ask questions, crowd-source answers and advice, and even poll colleagues on the site
- A “Friendly Tips” column that publishes helpful clinical tips submitted by members (with full credit)
- A “Dear Gracey” column (think “Dear Abby”, but for dental) where members can submit their most burning questions
As an added bonus, members can also earn Hu-Points for many activities on the site, including commenting on pages, asking questions, and providing answers.
So, what difference has Friends of Hu-Friedy, Facebook, blogs and all these diverse online experiences made in dentistry? For starters, they’ve made our world feel a whole lot smaller. And they’ve enabled clinicians from all over the globe to connect in more ways than have ever been possible. We believe the industry is all the better for it.
Be sure to keep visiting our own and other industry blogs, and take some time to investigate the many dental groups available on Facebook. Most importantly, we encourage you to join Friends of Hu-Friedy today and learn, have fun, and connect with your peers around the world in a great space dedicated to helping you excel.