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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 10  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 132-137

Impact of social media on patient's decision-making toward orthodontic treatment


1 Department of Pediatric Dentistry, College of Dentistry, Taibah University, Medina, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Department of Orthodontics, Faculty of Dentistry, Ibb University, Ibb, Yemen
2 Department of Orthodontics, College of Dentistry, Taibah University, Medina, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
3 Department of Pediatric Dentistry, College of Dentistry, Taibah University, Medina, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Date of Submission01-Mar-2021
Date of Decision24-Apr-2021
Date of Acceptance27-Apr-2021
Date of Web Publication16-Aug-2021

Correspondence Address:
Talat Hasan Al-Gunaid
Department of Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics, College of Dentistry, Taibah University, Medina, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/sjhs.sjhs_37_21

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  Abstract 


Objective: This study aimed to evaluate the usage and social media habits of orthodontic patients. Materials and Methods: A descriptive cross-sectional design was employed to carry out this study. The questionnaire that was used contained the following sections: Demographic data, questions relating to social media behaviors and sociodemographic characteristics, and questions relating to orthodontists' utilization of social media. The validity and reliability of the questionnaire were examined. The final Arabic version was adopted and the Google Drive template was used. The link was sent to the orthodontic patients via different social media platforms and applications. Results: A total of 139 orthodontic patients agreed to take part in this study, of which 78 were females and 61 were males. The most popular applications for obtaining orthodontic-related information were Snapchat (28.7%) followed by Instagram (23.7%), and WhatsApp (22.3%). Approximately 58.9% of the patients reported that social media has no direct impact on their decision-making involving orthodontic treatment. Treatment modalities were found to be the most searched topic by the orthodontic patients (44.6%) followed by treatment costs (30.2%). Conclusion: Our study revealed that women not only use social media to check their treatment progress more than men, they are also more curious to compare their progress with other people than their male counterparts. In addition, the findings showed that social media has a greater impact on female patients when it comes to making a decision about orthodontic treatment. Treatment modalities and treatment costs are the topics most searched for by orthodontic patients.

Keywords: Orthodontics, patient' attitudes, social media


How to cite this article:
Al-Gunaid TH, Ibrahim AM, Alhazmi KM, Aljohani AA, Eshky RT, Althagafi N. Impact of social media on patient's decision-making toward orthodontic treatment. Saudi J Health Sci 2021;10:132-7

How to cite this URL:
Al-Gunaid TH, Ibrahim AM, Alhazmi KM, Aljohani AA, Eshky RT, Althagafi N. Impact of social media on patient's decision-making toward orthodontic treatment. Saudi J Health Sci [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Dec 6];10:132-7. Available from: https://www.saudijhealthsci.org/text.asp?2021/10/2/132/323880




  Introduction Top


In the past, people relied on certain prevailing tools to deliver information to each other, such as telephone, television, and newspapers. With the advent of digital technology in recent years, these old tools have been replaced by the internet. The communication between people, advertisers, and their customers largely take place through social media and it is much easier and faster than before. Social media has accelerated the way that people communicate through instant messaging, face-to-face interaction, and the efficient transmission of information.[1] Another characteristic of social media is that people feel less constrained to express themselves freely.[2] These applications and platforms have great potential for use in the promotional and educational aspects of health-related services too.[3] For education and professions in the dental field, such as orthodontics, social media can enhance the process of learning in general.[4] Nowadays, patients turn to social media in search for solutions to their problems or to look for healthcare provisions. Social media is considered to be one of the most important tools for educating, following, and enhancing cooperation between a patient and the orthodontist.[1] In the same way, orthodontists have also used this technology to showcase their expertise and qualifications, as well as communicate with patients and promote themselves in the community.[1] Another point to note is that successful orthodontic treatment is largely dependent on the patient's motivation and cooperation, and technology can be employed to achieve these goals. Previous studies have shown that patients' cooperation improves as communication with their orthodontist increases.[5] Other research has supported this, finding that improving the quality of communication between the two parties results in better patient satisfaction, motivation, and knowledge.[6] Moreover, it has been reported that orthodontic patients tend to retain information that they have acquired on websites more than they do from other resources.[7] Undoubtedly, social media has advantages and disadvantages. While it has the benefit of being easy to use, fast, and accessible to everyone, the quality, and accuracy of the content are sometimes questionable. This is problematic when patients use the information for self-diagnosis or for making a decision regarding orthodontic treatment.[8]

Much remains unclear about the impact of social media on orthodontic practice, and very few studies have focused on the link between social media and orthodontics.[7],[8],[9] With this in mind, the goal of this study was to evaluate the usage and social media habits of orthodontic patients.


  Materials and Methods Top


Ethical approval was obtained from the Ethics Committee, College of Dentistry, Taibah University (N: TUCDREC/20191103/THGUNAID). A descriptive cross-sectional design was employed to carry out this study. The questionnaire that was used contained the following sections: Demographic data, questions relating to social media behaviors and sociodemographic characteristics, and questions relating to orthodontists' utilization of social media. To test the validity of the questionnaire, several steps were taken. First, three reviewers were invited to carefully read the questionnaire and provide their feedback on the number of questions, the presence of any grammatical mistakes, whether or not the allocated time was sufficient enough, the clarity of the questions, the structure, and the contents. In the second phase, 10 assessors from different dental specialties were requested to examine the questionnaire's reliability. They were asked to answer the questionnaire twice, with a 1 week interval in between. Finally, the answers from the two rounds were compared to confirm the questionnaire's reliability. The final version was then translated into Arabic and sent to a language expert, who made any necessary corrections. The corrected Arabic version was adopted and transferred into a Google Drive form. Finally, a link was sent to the general public through different social media platforms and applications.

Statistical methods

Descriptive statistics were obtained, such as frequencies and descriptive measures. Comparisons across groups and correlations between variables were conducted using the Chi-square test. All statistical analyses were performed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences version 20 (IBM Corporation, Chicago, Illinois, USA). Results with a P < 0.05 were considered to be statistically significant.


  Results Top


[Table 1] presents the demographic profile of the participants. A total of 139 orthodontic patients agreed to take part in this study, of which 78 were females and 61 were males. More than 47% of the participants were 21–30 years of age, and 73.3% had received a university-level education. Approximately 71% came from the medium-income population.
Table 1: Demographic data of the participants

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Results on social media behavior and a gender comparison of social media usage are shown in [Table 2]. Around 44.6% of the participants reported that they use the internet for 4–6 h/day. The most popular applications for obtaining orthodontic-related information were Snapchat (28.7%) followed by Instagram (23.7%), and WhatsApp (22.3%). A comparison across genders revealed that females use Instagram (P < 0.05) and WhatsApp applications (P < 0.01) significantly more than males when acquiring information relating to orthodontics.
Table 2: Social media behaviours and gender comparisons (n=139)

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Approximately 58.9% of the patients reported that social media has no direct impact on their decision-making involving orthodontic treatment. Of those who did say that they were influenced by social media, significantly more were female than male. Treatment modalities were found to be the most searched topic by the orthodontic patients (44.6%) followed by treatment costs (30.2%). Just over half of the respondents (50.3%) claimed to have used social media to compare their treatment progress with other cases (P < 0.001) and female patients demonstrated more curiosity towards this than males. The majority of patients (83.4%) reported that they do not join online dental or orthodontic groups to gain information about orthodontics, and females differed significantly to males in that they do not join these groups (P < 0.05). Again, more than 70% of the participants think that it is important to search social media before seeking orthodontic treatment. They also feel that social media greatly enhances their orthodontic knowledge.

[Table 3] displays questions relating to orthodontists' behavior toward social media.
Table 3: Questions related to orthodontists and social media

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Around 58.2% of the participants claimed to be satisfied with the quality and quantity of information provided by their orthodontist. However, the findings indicate that women are significantly less satisfied than men (P < 0.001).

86.3% of the respondents reported that their orthodontists share information related to treatment modalities and procedures with them. Despite this, over 65% of participants stated that their orthodontists do not use social media to communicate with them, nor do they have a website. Moreover, more than 92% of the respondents believe that orthodontists should have websites or blogs to educate their patients and the general public. Significant gender variations were found regarding these points (P < 0.01), (P < 0.001).

[Table 4] shows the correlation between gender, age, and educational level with social media practice. Weak positive correlations were found between gender and the following: the use of social media for comparison with other cases (r = 0.2; P < 0.05); the importance of searching social media before commencing orthodontic treatment (r = 0.32; P < 0.001); the belief that social media improves one's knowledge (r = 0.19; P < 0.05), and finally, the importance of websites for educating orthodontic patients (r = 0.32; P < 0.001).
Table 4: Correlation between gender, age and educational level with social media practice

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In addition, weak positive correlations were found between the age of the patients and the following: Their preferred social media application (r = 0.36; P < 0.001); whether or not the information on the internet is enough to make the decision to undergo orthodontic treatment (r = 0.26; P < 0.05); the use of social media for comparison with other cases (r = v0.24; P < 0.05); the importance of searching social media before commencing any orthodontic treatment (r = 0.29; P < 0.05), and finally, the belief that orthodontists should have websites to educate their patients (r = 0.25; P < 0.05).

No significant correlation was found between the patients' educational level or income group with most of the investigated variables. However, there was one exception: A connection was found between the level of education and the engagement or participation in online groups for obtaining more information about orthodontic treatment (r = 0.22; P < 0.05).


  Discussion Top


Social media is an excellent tool for sharing knowledge. It could also serve as a useful instrument of communication between patients and clinicians when used effectively. From a patient's perspective, it can be used to gather information about an orthodontist's reputation and whether or not previous patients recommend his office. This can be done by checking website reviews for any complaints, which can then allow the patient to make an informed decision about visiting the practice or not. From the orthodontist's perspective, social media is one of the best tools for attracting new patients, carrying out marketing activities in a timely and cost-effective manner, and following up with patients in the long term. The results of this study revealed that more than 56% of the participants were female, around 47% of the patients were 21–30 years of age, over 73% had received a university-level education, and more than 70% fell within the middle-income threshold. These groups perhaps represent the majority of our orthodontic patients and social media users. With this in mind, orthodontists are advised to focus mainly on patients belonging to these categories and target them on social media. Approximately 44.6% of the participants reported using the internet for 4–6 h every day. This is higher than that reported by Alnjadat et al., who found that 29% of university students use social media for about 2–3 h/day.[10] Snapchat was the most favored social media application used by our patients for obtaining information about orthodontics. This adheres to the findings of Al-Gunaid et al.'s[11] study, which investigated the impact of patients' characteristics on their social media usage and preferences. When comparing orthodontic patients to a non-orthodontic sample, they discovered that Snapchat was the most popular platform used by both orthodontic and non-orthodontic groups. They attributed this to the fact that photos and videos shared on the platform are automatically deleted after 24 h, thus users can communicate with each other without their photos being permanently stored in the application. The results of our study also revealed that females use Instagram and WhatsApp to obtain orthodontic information more so than males. In addition, more women said that they are likely to use social media to check their treatment progress than males. In some aspects, our findings support the results of others in that females utilize social media more than males,[11],[12],[13],[14] but they differ from that reported by Alnjadat et al. for university students.[10]

The results of this study indicate that social media has a greater impact on females than males when it comes to decision-making involving orthodontic treatment (P < 0.01). A possible explanation for this could be that women tend to believe what is posted on social media more often than males do and are perhaps quicker to react to something that they read. Another interesting finding is that the topic searched most often by patients is treatment modalities, followed by treatment costs. It is therefore suggested that orthodontists are advised to include a description and photographs detailing the different treatment modalities on their website and/or social media platforms. Furthermore, it is advised that webpages should contain more information about the treatment costs and payment options, as this will help patients to make a decision regarding their orthodontic treatment.

Female patients demonstrated greater curiosity than males when comparing their treatment progress with other people (P < 0.001), which could be linked to the fact that beauty is of greater importance to females. As a result, women are more likely to focus on the finer details of their appearance and be more attentive to their attractiveness than males.

In contrast, the majority of female patients (66 out of 78) do not join online dental or orthodontic groups to gain information about orthodontics, whereas males do this more frequently (P < 0.05). This finding is best explained by referencing Alnjadat et al. the researchers attributed this to the Middle-Eastern social and cultural expectation that women should cover their faces, hide their identities, and avoid revealing themselves on social media platforms.[10]

In comparison to males, female patients place greater importance on searching the web to acquire more information and knowledge before seeking orthodontic treatment (P < 0.001). This is supported by our other finding: Females are not satisfied with the quality and quantity of information provided by their orthodontists. As a result, they try to find as much information as possible before deciding to have an orthodontic treatment. With regard to this, we must stress the importance of allowing more time for women to obtain all of the details they need before proceeding with a treatment. At the very least, a webpage or blog should be considered as a resource for educating patients, as was recommended by both male and female participants.

Finally, we believe that there is great value in utilizing social media as a procedural step for educating patients. For example, smartphone applications could be used to send reminders about oral health maintenance, appliance wearing, and enhance patients' overall cooperation and motivation.

A limitation of this study was the relatively small sample size. Another would be that the survey was only targeted at people who favor technology, which could possibly have led to a biased group.


  Conclusion Top


Our study revealed that women not only use social media to check their treatment progress more than men, they are also more curious to compare their progress with other people than their male counterparts. Additionally, the findings showed that social media has a greater impact on female patients when it comes to making a decision about orthodontic treatment. Treatment modalities and treatment costs are the topics most searched for by orthodontic patients.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

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Al-Gunaid TH, Aljohani AA, Alhazmi KM, Ibrahim AM. Determining the impact of orthodontic patients' characteristics on their usage and preferences of social media. J Taibah Univ Med Sci 2021;16:16-21.  Back to cited text no. 11
    
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Alkadhi OH, Aleissa NK, Almoharib MK, Buquayyid SA. Influence of social media on the patients for choosing the dental clinic – A cross-sectional survey. J Clin Diagn Res 2020;14:32-5.  Back to cited text no. 12
    
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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]



 

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