Social media: golden rules for dental students and recent graduates

Active on social media? Don’t let your virtual life sabotage your career. Here are our top tips on how to avoid potential pitfalls.

Whether it’s sharing learning tips with fellow students, connecting with the wider dental community or simply expressing yourself, social media can be a great tool when you use it responsibly.

But you could find that real life comes at you fast if your online behaviour doesn’t match the standards set by your dental school and the GDC.

We’ve put together five golden rules for keeping things professional online.

1. Comply with your dental school’s code of conduct

Your dental school should have a social media policy that sets out what is and isn’t acceptable on its own online forums and other platforms. Familiarise yourself with the content and ensure you comply when using social media for your studies or in a personal capacity. 


Join our social media webinar

Register for our Social media: the golden rules for dental students webinar. Join Leo Briggs, deputy head of the DDU, and practising dentist Andrew Chandrapal on Tuesday 27 February at 7pm - 8pm.


2. Don’t bring dentistry into disrepute

The GDC’s Student professionalism guidance says, "Your online image can impact on your professional life and you should not post or share any information, including photographs and videos, which damage public trust in dental professionals."

Even if you don’t identify yourself as a dental student, you wouldn’t want your social media history to give the wrong impression to a future employer.

Be careful when joining online communities and chat groups too. Even if you haven’t posted an offensive comment or reacted positively to one, you could still be discredited by association.

3. Check before posting

Disputes on social media can escalate quickly, which makes it a dangerous place to let off steam or express strong opinions on controversial subjects, especially if you are tired, upset, angry or have been drinking alcohol. It’s all too easy to get dragged into a war of words with other posters who have a different view about what is offensive, so don’t post in haste – take time to read, edit and even delete your comment.

In a recent statement about freedom of expression on controversial issues, the GDC urged all dental professionals to “think carefully about how what they say and do may be perceived by their patients, their fellow professionals and the wider community and to act at all times in ways which reflect high standards of professionalism.”

Read our article on avoiding fitness to practise investigations for more advice.

4. Avoid breaching patient confidentiality

Once you start doing hands-on dentistry, it’s natural to want to compare notes with others but you must be careful not to disclose identifiable details about your patients.

While recognising that "online discussions about anonymised patients and best practice can have an educational and professional benefit", the GDC’s social media guidance states: "You must be careful not to share identifiable information about patients without their explicit consent" and that "when sharing anonymised patient information, you must also take all possible precautions to make sure that the patient cannot be identified."

Remember that the content of multiple posts could be pieced together to reveal more than you intended (known as jigsaw identification).

5. Set professional boundaries and don’t overshare

Check your privacy settings on a regular basis to make sure you aren't revealing more information than you intended. Social media sites and apps often make minor changes and updates to the way they operate, which can affect how your profile appears to the public. Anything you upload to a social networking site may be distributed further than you intended.

We advise against accepting friend requests from patients as there’s a risk of blurring professional boundaries. Nor should you respond to requests for dental advice via social media in case you mislead them into thinking you are a qualified dental professional. In this situation, it’s better to advise them to speak to their own dentist. 

With an estimated 57.1 million active users in the UK, social media is an important platform to talk about oral health and promote dental services.


This page was correct at publication on 01/02/2024. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

Leo Briggs deputy head of the DDU

by Leo Briggs Deputy head of the DDU

Leo Briggs qualified from University College Hospital, London, in 1989. He has worked extensively in the community dental service including a brief period overseas. He has also worked in general dental practice.

Leo gained a masters degree in periodontology from the Eastman in 1995 and is on the GDC specialist register for periodontics. From 1995-2017 he provided specialist periodontal treatment in both the salaried dental services and private practice. He started working for the DDU in 2005. Between 2007 and 2009 he worked part time at the DDU and part time as a clinical tutor at the School for Professionals Complementary to Dentistry in Portsmouth. In 2009 Leo went full time with the DDU. In January 2016 he became deputy head of the DDU.

Andrew Chandrapal

by Dr Andrew Chandrapal

Working in private practice, Andrews special interests lie in complex rehabilitation and wear management.

Having gained a distinction in prosthodontics (MClinDent), he is also a Kois Centre Graduate, a past-president for the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, and a post-graduate tutor for Kings College London. He also sits on many editorial boards, including the DDU's Council. 

Andrew is key opinion leader to the industry within clinical photography, toothwear and composites and frequently lectures in many countries as director of IndigoDent Education.