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I Didn’t Go to Dental School to be on Instagram

 By: Dr. Brian Baliwas
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If you’re reading this article about Instagram on TheNew.Dentist, I don’t need to tell you how powerful social media can be. Most of you have an account on one or more of the major platforms, and some of you may also have dental related accounts you use to market your practice, educate patients, tell your story, and/or build your brand.

Social media is an amazing tool, but are you using it to grow your dental career, or something else? Are you a dentist who’s on Instagram, or are you trying to be an “influencer” with a dental degree?

Don’t get me wrong. If you aspire to be the next Kardashian or Brazilian professional footballer Neymar da Silva (two of the highest-earning Instagrammers), then more power to you! Who wouldn’t want to get paid to post on social media?

It’s Not About the Number of Followers You Have

My follower count sometimes causes people to refer to me as an “influencer,” but I’m quick to interject and say, “my follower count doesn’t mean anything. Everyone on social media can be influential.”

I’m a general dentist fortunate enough to work in private practice in a big city. I have fun doing what I love, and I strive to learn as much as I can from people willing to share their time and knowledge with others. To me, my dentistry comes first, and the Instagram world of followers, likes, comments, DMs1, hashtags, and memes2 just serves to support my mission of trying to be a great clinician.

Creating Connections

So why am I on social media at all? Five years ago, not many dentists placed meaningful value on social media. It was looked at as a novel marketing tool, a fun app for team members and patients to post goofy pictures, selfies, and photos of food. The thought of learning anything substantive on a social media platform was looked upon as baseless and unscientific.

I thought the same during my early years on Instagram, so I treated the platform as such. I posted memes and silly videos that helped grow my account’s vanity metrics3, but I never really grasped the full potential of our social hyperconnectivity4.

Today, however, I realize joining social media provides advantages to both new and seasoned practitioners that go well beyond inflating meaningless numbers. At its core, it’s a communication tool, capable of reaching exponentially more people than traditional methods. It connects us in a unique way with others who share similar interests. It’s important to understand social media is simply a vehicle to connect and share with other people: a digital, app-based way of doing something we already do daily with our patients, dental team, colleagues, specialists, mentors, friends, and family.

Define Your Goal

Connecting with each other on this scale has never been possible before. How our social ecosystem evolves is dictated by the content we post and our interactions with others. Some post attractive selfies in exchange for likes and compliments. Some use their accounts to develop relationships with patients, providing oral health education and entertainment in the hopes of growing their practice. Others find symbiosis with other dental professionals, networking, learning from each other, and exchanging ideas. No matter how you choose to use social media, make sure it coincides with a specific goal.

I ask again… are you using social media to grow your dental career, or something else? Are you a dentist who’s on Instagram, or are you trying to be an “influencer” with a dental degree?

Get the Most Out of Social Media

Social media doesn’t define me. I define social media by how I choose to use the platform. What began as a way to share funny memes and videos as a dental student transitioned to a way to grow a startup dental practice in a highly saturated market. This eventually evolved into connecting and networking with other dental professionals, and today has become an outlet for me to share my passion for dentistry with anyone gracious enough to view my posts.

Audit the time, effort, and for some, money, you put into social media. Are you getting what you want out of it? Is it bettering your life, or career, in any way? We’ve all invested a lot in training to become dentists. Until we’re able to pay our student loans with likes and followers, it’s far more realistic to make a living being a dentist than an “influencer.”

Dr. Brian Baliwas maintains a private practice in San Francisco, with two locations near Downtown Union Square and the famous Marina district of the city. His practice philosophy is centered on conservative, highly esthetic, comprehensive dentistry that uses modern technology and techniques. He received his DDS from the University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry in San Francisco, where he graduated with high honors and was elected to join both Omicron Kappa Upsilon and Tau Kappa Omega dental honor societies. He also received several awards for his outstanding clinical work in the areas of esthetic dentistry, oral implantology, restorative dentistry and endodontics.

He is an active member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, the Academy of General Dentistry, and several study clubs throughout the Bay Area. He also teaches part-time at the University of the Pacific Dental School in the Department of Integrated Reconstructive Dental Sciences.


1. Direct messages. Feel free to slide into them.

2. A humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.

3. Social media numbers or analytics (follows, likes, comments, etc.) that feed the ego more than they measure anything substantial.

4. The use of many systems and devices so you are always connected to social networks and other sources of information.

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