With a huge growth in low-cost options for whitening on social media, Claire Berry explores how safe this is for patients.
As a dental professional who carries out legal, professional, medical grade tooth whitening, it astounds me how able and willing the Instagram generation is to put their oral health at risk.
They search for low-cost options to achieve the seemingly ‘perfect smile’.
From tooth whitening to tooth straightening, you can find an answer online at a seemingly affordable price. If you have a little more money in the bank, then why not hop on a plane? Have the treatment while you are on holiday.
With the power of digital marketing, it is easy to see why the public feel it is safe to do so.
Marketing is misleading followers. It can make them think brands and companies are reputable. That they have great reviews, multiple customers and a product that is safe for people to use.
It is almost creating scepticism about doing it safely and professionally at a UK dental clinic. All because it is so cheap and easy to get their hands on it online.
I would say a huge proportion of dental care practitioners can tell you a horror story about dental tourism or illegal tooth whitening. It’s rife, but why?
The whitening ‘expert’
In this day and age with the ability to research anything we want to know, we have access to all sorts of information. This effectively makes us all ‘experts’.
We feel like we know everything because access to information is at our fingertips.
If we have an ailment, we Google it. If we want to find somewhere to eat, we Google it. And if we want whiter teeth, we Google it.
Whilst this is helpful to allow us as a profession to digitally market our safe and legal services, it also allows scam artists, with no regard for human health, to do the same. Cashing in on a generational desire to look like our idols on TV and online.
When researching the statistics for how and why people feel that online companies and products are alright to use when it comes to improving their smile, it becomes easier to see how this occurs on a daily basis.
The number of UK people on Instagram is 22.9 million users.
More than 71% of UK adults are on the platform, with 32% of those adults 25-34 years old.
Eighty three per cent of users learn about new products solely by flicking through Instagram. Then 60% of those users learn all about products via Instagram alone. Assumingly not through other platforms.
Further, 65% visit brands’ websites after seeing it on the platform. And 46% make a purchase online via Instagram.
Finally, 36% say they would make a purchase from an Instagram company and 44% say they feel like Instagram brands are trustworthy.
Getting safety messages across
Now, as trustworthy as some brands may be, someone selling illegal dental bleaching products online – enticing someone to fly to another country for treatment or even merely giving the false hope that useless ‘whitening products’ may whiten teeth – certainly isn’t trustworthy.
The perpetrators will continue to use these avenues to sell and falsely advertise. It is such an influential way to do business.
Almost 90% of surveyed marketers say Instagram is their most important platform for influencer marketing.
The physical use of influencers also poses a problem. With people further believing in a product because an influencer says it is good or that they use it. Is this always a genuine claim?
In more sinister circumstances, it can lead to innocent consumers making poor misled choices.
Maybe influencers themselves are misled into thinking the products are viable. Remember we are talking about companies who find loop holes in the system in order to get around legality, are not held accountable in any way like a dental professional, or are just downright criminal.
So the question is, how do we stop this from occurring if it continues to grow at a faster rate than the ASA or equivalent can manage?
We need to collectively get the message out there to educate patients so they can make better and more informed decisions.
These platforms are good enough for people to make bad or misinformed choices. But they are equally as good at getting messages of safety out there too.
As a profession, we are passionate about getting the oral health and safety messages across to the public. So let’s keep plugging and save those teeth!
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