1 click means 1,000s of views for this TikTok dentist

Dentistry is one of several medical specialties making use of social media to share information and connect with patients and the general public.

Huzefa Kapadia, DDS, is the owner of Kapadia Dental Care in Waterford, Mich., and Detroit Sterling Dental. He was introduced to TikTok by his children right before the COVID-19 pandemic and started his page for fun, but it has now grown to become a dentistry-focused page with more than 1 million followers.

His account, @Dentite, consists of videos of his own procedures on patients, commentary on dental-related videos and information about oral healthcare. 

Dr. Kapadia recently spoke with Becker's about how social media can be used to share information, how his TikTok has influenced his audience and the advantages and disadvantages of online popularity.

Note: This interview was lightly edited.

Question: What inspired you to start your TikTok page?

Dr. Huzefa Kapadia: Initially when I was doing my account, I was just experimenting, so I really didn't know what to put. I just put random things that were trending and tried to do them. Of course, very few of them took off, but I was just playing around with the app and trying to experiment. They were silly stuff like me dancing and trying to lip sync songs and stuff like that, which I'm not really good at. Then I tried to add some humor to it. I gravitated a little to car content, but then after I sold my cars, I didn't really have a lot of car content. Then I was like, oh, let me just try to do some dentistry here. 

It gradually picked up and I realized you have to have a niche [and] be consistent. If people want to see you for dental content, they probably don't want to see you for financial content or other stuff. Honestly, I didn't think people would be that interested in dentistry. I thought people would be bored because when you talk about being a dentist, a lot of people are like, "Oh, that sounds boring," but there's a lot of dental content on TikTok, especially visual content, that people get really enamored by.

Q: How would you describe your audience?

HK: The majority are not from the dental community. People are very surprised at times or they find it funny. Some people are just shocked. Some don't realize what we always do in dentistry, so they're really kind of fascinated by it. So you get a lot of different types of reactions and it surprises me too, because I felt like everyone already knew what happens in dentistry, but obviously a lot of people don't. They are fascinated by the procedures [and] by what we do every day. They always ask me, "Does this gross you out?" In dentistry, it doesn't phase us because we see it all the time. It's just part of our daily life.

Q: Is it difficult to get patients who are comfortable being filmed?

HK: Some of them will make a joke because they know me from TikTok. They're like, "Oh, is this going to go on your account?" Some want to be shown on it. Some are fine with it as long as you can't identify them. I'm really just zooming in on the tongue or something inside there so it's not showing them, but of course they have to be comfortable with it. If they're not comfortable with it, then I'm not gonna do it.

Q: How do you decide what to upload?

HK: If it's a really unique case or something you don't see much of, like an extra tooth or a tongue that's in bad shape, then I'm like, yeah, this might be pretty interesting. In a couple of my locations, you see some pretty extreme cases of neglect. People are really interested in that. They can't believe that much tartar would come if they don't brush or that much decay happens on a tooth. If they haven't seen a dentist in a while, bacteria is sitting on that tooth for so long causing pretty gross decay. I show what energy drinks and sugar, things that dry out your mouth, can do to your teeth. So if it's the extreme cases, I think people find that to be interesting. Nobody really finds healthy teeth always to be interesting. 

Q: Do you feel that your content is helping inform people about oral healthcare?

HK:Honestly, I didn't think that was really gonna happen with my videos. They were just for fun and entertainment. I was just trying to make it interesting, but people do comment on that. They send me messages like, "Because I saw your videos, I'm gonna go see the dentist now. I was really scared, but you encouraged me to go," and I told them, "Just get it done. You're going to be in much better shape if you do it now instead of waiting." It's kind of nice. It surprisingly does help a lot of people. I didn't expect that at all.

Q: What are the pros and cons of sharing dentistry on social media?

HK: You do get your name out and it's fun to see what people really enjoy. Sometimes it's a little overwhelming. People kind of track you down. I don't really think I'm famous or anything like that, but it's weird. People start noticing you when you go out to places and they'll ask, "Hey, are you Dentite on TikTok?" It's a little awkward at times. I didn't expect that. Some people just come to the office just to see who you are. Even if they come as a patient, it's a little weird sometimes because I don't know if they want me to do something entertaining for them. I just wanted to do dentistry. I'm still trying to get used to it.

I see on social media people say, "Root canals cause cancer. Don't get a root canal, just treat it in some type of holistic way." We do try to inform the public that root canals are not bad. They're not going to cause cancer. Even some people, instead of treating an infection with an antibiotic, they want to do something else completely like oil pulling. Oil pulling is fine if you just want to use it with brushing, but trying to treat an infection with oil pulling is not going to clear up that infection. Physicians, dentists, et cetera, they can help people kind of make informed decisions regarding healthcare, because sometimes these myths kind of take over. We try to educate the public regarding that.

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