Cyber space for you

A picture is worth a thousand words. Then a Web site must be worth a million! One of the best mediums dental hygienists can use is cyber space — to educate, teach, and create awareness of dental matters.

by Victoria DaCosta

A picture is worth a thousand words. Then a Web site must be worth a million! One of the best mediums dental hygienists can use is cyber space — to educate, teach, and create awareness of dental matters. Let me show you how to use this technology.

Consumers must know that hygienists are recognized, licensed, and trained professionals. The Internet is key in educating the public about this. More people are logging onto the Internet every day to learn about products, services, and information. Why not use it to help dental consumers find a dental hygienist?

This is a very smart business move. With the rising awareness of the gum disease/heart disease connection, dental hygienists now have a viable angle in the marketplace!

As wellness providers, hygienists provide business services in the dental office. Why not create your own dental hygiene Web site? "What for?" you may ask. Patients are not only looking for a reliable dentist, they're searching for a trusted dental hygienist. Why not use cyber space to toot your horn? I suspect most of us do not have our licensure or biography hanging on every office wall where we work, but we can "hang it up" on our dental hygiene Web site.

It's all about hy-tech marketing. To display an office name in the Yellow Pages is not enough in today's market. Help your doctor understand the power of advertising in the Yellow Pages by adding a web site address! Link your web site address to your doctor's web site. Dental consumers are using technology to find us, so why not use technology so we can be found?

Below are tips to start reinforcing your value to the dental consumer. The information you provide about your skills on a Web site is key not only to your profession, but for your talents to be shown as a wellness provider. What kind of dental hygiene skills do you offer a doctor's office and potential patients? What are patients looking for? Why not help those cyber-searching patients find what they are looking for in you!

Features

• Naming and registering your site — This is a challenge. It's like naming a baby. I suggest using your own name if you can. If you have a site name, the rest is easy. To register a site is easy and can be done in minutes. Find the lowest rates by using a search engine called www.google.com. Some Internet providers provide a free Web site with your email address. Check out those options as well.

• Design and lay out — Dental offices have unique interior designs. Each design depends on the office's neighborhood and city. Designing a Web site is no different. What kind of style do you want to portray? What kind of dental customer do you want to attract? Look at other Web site designs and build a portfolio of the ones you like. Show your ideas to a Web site designer. I recommend choosing a Web site designer much like you would choose a builder for a house design. There are some easy Web site templates to choose from if you choose to go that route. Using your own style, you can build as many pages as you want if you purchase cyber site "real estate" on an annual basis.

• Dental office Web site — If you don't want to create your own hygiene Web site, I suggest you create your own dental hygiene Web page. A Web page is an easy one-step approach to get started. All you do is write content for a Web page that is linked inside your doctor's Web site.

• Dental hygiene Web site — This is where you can shine! Make a rough draft of all the information you want consumers to learn. I have come to realize how little consumers know about our profession. These suggestions can be helpful for your Web page:

• Web site links — Find Web site addresses where your patients can learn more about topics you feel are important.

• Education — Don't be afraid to be simple. Write about gum disease and its stages or other health-related topics on your Web site. Listerine commercials have done more to educate consumers about gingivitis than dental hygienists have!

• Technology — Most consumers don't know what kind of dental hygiene technology is available. Whether you use lasers for tissue healing or teeth whitening, digital cameras, intra-oral cameras, computers, voice activated or wireless technology, this platform communicates the skills offered by each dental hygienist. Remember, even though your doctor may advertise these technologies as belonging to the office, you are the one expected to use them! Dental consumers want to know this.

• Pictures — The intraoral camera is a great tool to use here. You can tape videos of the mouth and narrate a short video. Use the digital camera to take pictures of a screen displaying digital x-rays that you provide.

• Contact information — List your email address. Write a bio about yourself that includes all your credentials, training, continuing education, and areas of interest. Be sure to include a nice photo.

Advantages

• Dental consumers learn that hygienists are separate, licensed dental professionals with college degrees, as well as what kind of services a dental hygienist provides.

• The promotion of our profession as a viable contributor to community health, uniting health-care professionals in the team approach.

• Increased patient referrals will send traffic to your site.

• Leveraging your skills brings patients to a dental office. Patients also follow dental hygienists, so it lets them know where you are working.

• Put your Web site link on the dental office Web site.

• Expose patients to your work. Display before and after pictures of gum disease treatments and/or whitening treatments you have completed.

Disadvantages

• Writing the content can be time consuming.

• The doctor may not create a Web site, therefore offering you no opportunity for a Web page or link.

• The need to create a new line item is an added expense in your budget. Researching Web-marketing sites can be time consuming.

• Patients may not know you have a Web site.

Benefits

• Put your Web site address on your business card for increased communication. Gain experience in professional marketing.

• Learn a business tool that promotes your worth.

• Expose the public to the importance of our role in wellness. Provides better access for your patients and a great way to answer potential patient questions.


Hy-Tech user tips ...
for creating a Web site

• Start with an easy message you would like consumers to know about.
• Use easy software like Word in which to write your content.
• Outline your content like you would a book report.
• Take photos of your operatory.
• Collect stories or testimonials from your patients.
• Mock up hard-copy pages to emulate Web site pages.
• Be informative, not bashful, in your bio.
• Include a nice photo of yourself.

Victoria DaCosta, RDH, BS, is founder and president of Hy-Tech Solutions. A practicing dental hygienist for 18 years, DaCosta is a speaker, author, consultant, and an expert in the design of medical/dental software. She is also on the new technologies committee for the California Dental Hygienists' Association. DaCosta can be contacted at www.hy-techsolutions.com.

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