Using social media as a professional development tool

June 18, 2012
The Dental Assisting National Board offers information for dental assistants to help them focus on accessing content that is important to their career.

Social media are powerful tools that bring as much (or as little) content to your fingertips as you want. Now that most organizations, businesses, and individuals have blogs or pages on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and others, it’s time to take a step back and ask: what is social media doing for my career? Do my news feeds contain the type of information that I need? Am I connecting with the right people? Or am I wasting too much time plowing through information that has little or no relevance to my career goals in oral healthcare?

There are several ways to approach social media as a professional development tool. This article will focus on accessing content that is important to your career. Whether you’re new to social media or a mayor on foursquare, try to like, follow, or subscribe to content in the following categories to create balanced, relevant news feeds you can actually use.

National oral healthcare organizations. National medical and dental organizations play an extremely important role in any dental assistant’s career. Try subscribing to Twitter feeds such as @ADANews, which offers excerpts and links to daily news items from ADA News, the American Dental Association’s (ADA’s) news source; NIDCR@NIH (National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research), a federal agency that conducts research on oral health; and @AGDAdvocacy, the Academy of General Dentistry’s (AGD) feed, which includes recent legislation and other news affecting the general dentistry profession. This type of content will help keep you informed of issues such as newly introduced legislation, the latest research in dentistry, and patient education. Impress your employer by letting him or her know that you’re keeping up-to-date on issues of importance to the practice; it will show you’re interested in expanding your knowledge and should spark some interesting conversations around the office.

Career resources. Although certain industries and sectors can be slow to join the social media table, following your state dental board on Twitter or Facebook — or subscribing to their RSS feed — is a way to stay informed of any new state requirements and other state-specific issues. State dental associations and state dental societies are other great resources to follow, as well.

If you’re a dental office manager, you need content specific to your needs. Try following organizations such as the American Association of Dental Office Managers, whose Twitter feed (@AADOMRocks) provides links to articles on technology; articles in their newsletter, AADOM Insights; and notices of upcoming events.

When it comes to general career advice, try subscribing to the blogs of career sites such as or These blogs contain advice on topics such as interviewing for that next job, navigating office politics, writing a resume, discussing salary, and more. The American Dental Assistants Association’s (ADAA’s) Facebook page is another resource tailored to the dental assisting profession that posts questions about dental assisting, provides job links, and more.

News aggregators. It’s impossible for anyone to read all the latest journals, magazines, and major daily newspapers, or to stay on top of all the legal, healthcare, research, and other news related to the field of dentistry. Thanks to what is known as “news aggregators,” you don’t have to. News aggregators scan press releases and news generated from local, national, and international sources and wire services and deliver what they determine as the most relevant stories to a news feed or e-newsletter. Try following sources such as @kgh23 and @dentistryiq on Twitter, for example, to access links to top dental stories and news briefs on issues relevant to your profession.

Networking. Networking with other dental assistants is invaluable for achieving your professional development goals. If your schedule or budget do not always allow you to attend in-person events, networking online is a way to create and maintain professional connections. If you haven’t done so already, create a profile on networking sites such as LinkedIn. But don’t just post your profile and expect people and opportunities to come to you. Join like-minded groups and contribute to conversation threads. If you attended a formal dental assisting education program, or a CE course that distributed lists of participants, search for your former classmates and join the program’s alumni page; if there isn’t one, create it! You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many connections you can make when you initiate a group or start a conversation.

Specialized dentistry. Perhaps you work for an orthodontic, pediatric, or other specialized dental practice. These types of dental practices have unique issues that may not always be addressed by general professional dentistry resources. Find out what professional membership organizations and networking and educational opportunities exist for the type of dental practice you work for, and add these organizations’ social media sites to your news feeds or subscribe to their blogs.


Subscribe to a handful of resources at a time, and regularly add and delete content in your news feeds to find a mix that works best for you. Some people prefer to keep personal and professional social media pages and identities separate, while others would rather have one page to keep things simpler. Streamlining the content you receive on social media sites is a matter of trial and error. But with a little time and effort, you’ll soon be reading, engaging, and connecting with information and individuals who will contribute to your professional development goals as you advance in your career.

References to specific pages or sites are only suggestions and ideas. Neither DANB nor the DALE Foundation attest to the content provided by any of these sites.

The Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. (DANB) is recognized by the ADA as the national certification board for dental assistants. For more information please go to, or contact Cynthia C. Durley, M.Ed., MBA, Executive Director of DANB, at 1-800-367-3262 with any questions.