How do you choose your dentist?
Some put stock in word-of-mouth, others prefer online research. In 2018 the answer might be Instagram, according to Dr. Chithra Durgam, referring to the social media community of more than 800 million who capture and share the world’s moments on the service.
“Many people look at my Instagram account before deciding to be a patient of mine. For children, the parents will show my videos to the child so they become acquainted with me and my fun nature before their first appointment.”
It is, she says, a great ice breaker.
Motivator for a generation and New York Times best-selling author Gary Vaynerchuk, who spotlighted Dr. Durgam in his latest book Crushing It, agrees. (Dr. Durgam and Vaynerchuk are shown
“Dr. Chithra Durgam has accomplished the near impossible — she’s made it fun to go to the dentist. How else can you explain the fact that many of her first-time clients call her at the request of their children?”
Dr. Durgam, who began practicing in 2000, says dentistry has always been a part of her life. Drawn to the idea of helping others to be healthy, she was determined to learn all aspects of the field — but was drawn to one category above all:
“I love cosmetic dentistry. When my patients cry from happiness because of their new smile, that is the best feeling. The only better feeling is when they tell their friends about me. My office is completely referral-based so over time I have been able to attract amazing individuals as clients. It is fulfilling knowing my work speaks for itself and I have over time developed a referral based practice.”
The Northwestern University School of Dentistry in Chicago alum understands the stigma many have toward dental care.
“When I was in dental school, I won an award at the Chicago MidWinter Meeting for a paper I wrote detailing the negative images of dentistry in mainstream media and the need for this to change.”
She continues, “Now 18 years later, I feel I have made a minor dent in that mission due to my social media work. Through first-class service and my own strong work ethic, I have been able to deliver the type of dental service I would want.”
Dr. Durgam’s approach to promoting her North Bergen, New Jersey dental practice, Aesthetic Dental, is innovative — to say the least. One tactic of hers? Creating lip-synced music videos about various procedures – an idea she got from the social media app Musical.ly.
When a “friend” comes to Aesthetic Dental at the same time you have your dental appointment…. and you pick the wrong lightsaber! Who is going to see the Last Jedi this weekend? @ultradentproducts #maythe4thbewithyou #musically #snapchat #starwarsmemes #starwarsfan #starwarsparty #yoda #music #thelastjedi #lightsaber #starwars #nyc #newjersey #englewood #edgewater #fortlee #unioncity #cliffsidepark #secaucus #englewoodcliffs #darthvader #stormtrooper #valocuringlight #valo
“I thought if I incorporated dental related themes to the videos, I could possibly make going to the dentist seem fun,” she says. While she tries to have fun with her patients, her priority is providing the best treatment and addressing their concerns. “I customize each visit to the patient based on their personality.”
In this new age of technology, some still prefer a more traditional approach.
“Some people very close to me have scrutinized my approach because they have never seen it done before or don’t feel they could do it. The first to do anything will always get push-back, but it won’t impede my will to do it. As long as I am not hurting anyone, I’m not concerned about the opinion of others,” Dr. Durgam says.
She continues, “Some patients don’t want anything to do with my social media information, and that is fine. Understanding that each person is unique is the true art of being a practitioner.”
Awareness & Opportunities
Social media, for Dr. Durgam, is about interacting with people. Its biggest advantage? Bringing awareness of her office to others, and creating opportunities like speaking to other dental practices and businesses.
“Many health professionals are looking for guidance because they are tired of the cookie cutter approach to social media. I’m able to offer them help that is based on my experience with social media.”
Doing three videos a day was routine for Dr. Durgam, until she became overwhelmed by the response following the release of Crushing It by New York Times best-selling author Gary Vaynerchuk, in which she is featured.
“Since then I have reduced my social media posts. My first priority is treating patients. After I’m able to provide great care, I will spend time working on social media. I don’t put pressure on myself to create content which isn’t authentic to me.”
“It was really the feedback that I received from my initial videos on Instagram, which made me continue. Sometimes if I make a hilarious video, it can completely change another person’s day for the better. Some people have messaged me that they look at my videos on Instagram if they need a little laughter. So I’m healing their smiles in more ways than one. I love that!”
It may come as a surprise to some, but Dr. Durgam describes herself as an introvert growing up – so shy that she rarely took photos. She was, however, entertaining to those close to her.
3 Tips on Making Connections
Dr. Durgam shares three tips to other dentists and their teams as to how to connect with patients via social media:
Just Get Started
- Don’t try to make posts perfect. “You will find your own voice on social media over time. As professionals we tend to be perfectionists. This is great when providing care, but doesn’t work well in the creative space of social media.”
The dentist should do his/her own social media page.
- “Your patients want to interact with the dentist. Ask the dentist questions about cosmetic dentistry and learn from an expert about dental options.”
Don’t worry about numbers. Focus on engagement.
- “The number of subscribers, followers or comments you have isn’t as important as the engagement. Some people are buying followers instead of trying to organically build a following. The problem is your followers know when you have 10,000 likes and only one comment that something isn’t right. Be genuine and good things follow.”
Social Media Motivators
“Those titles don’t do either of them justice because they do so much more, but if you follow them on Instagram, you will learn more about them. They both are extremely positive individuals and inspire others around them. They both have a strong work ethic, while still making it a priority to give back to others. I really love their posts and have tremendous respect for them.”
Challenges & Rewards
The most challenging aspect of dentistry, Dr. Durgam says, is when a person has neglected his or her dental health for many years, and is hoping for a resolution in one day.
“Sometimes it can take time to rehabilitate a smile that has been neglected. As quickly as we would like to proceed with treatment, we also want to provide the best treatment possible for the healthiest outcome.”
The most rewarding?
“Doing cosmetic procedures to someone who previously had anxiety going to the dentist. To change someone’s negative perspective of dentistry to a positive one is very fulfilling,” she says.
Combining passion with profession
“I really love sports. I am certified to be a Team Sports dentist and have been making custom sports mouth guards for athletes in professional football and basketball so it has been great to combine my passion with my profession,” said Dr. Durgam, shown above with Eddie “Truck” Gordon, middleweight winner of The Ultimate Fighter.
She continues, “I enjoy vacationing with my family and feel it makes me a better dentist when I spend quality time with them.”
“I’m doing a lot of speaking on social media and workshops for businesses. I want to continue to educate and entertain on emerging platforms. Over time I hope I can leverage social media to bring more awareness to causes that need more attention.”
Dr. Durgam has high hopes for TheDailyFloss readers.
“I’m sure they have their own passions that could be shared on social media, which possibly have remained a secret all these years. I, as many others, want to know more about you. Social media is a great place to share it.”
Did you know?
The Next Gen event, featuring panel speakers from the dental industry and the top 40 dentists under the age of 40, is offering complimentary tickets. That’s right! 10 free passes for the first 10 to register. Act quickly to take advantage of this special offer!
Simply visit, http://www.under40summit.com/#order-link-section then select “Next Gen honoree/alumni” to get free admission today!