The case for “the selfie” – but can we stop calling it that please?

You should be grateful for the selfie.

The fact that we are now uploading over 3 billion photos PER DAY to the cloud has changed dentistry forever because, as well as taking pictures of our babies, pets and dinner; we are taking pictures of ourselves (and those we are with).

So when my second son Alex announced his forthcoming betrothal, he and Portia sent a shock-wave through two families, who realised that in August next year literally dozens of smartphone cameras will be attending the ceremony. No doubt dentists will have a role to play for some prospective wedding guests between now and then.

Be it a wedding, anniversary, graduation, retirement – or simply a lunch with the ladies or a laugh with the lads, the selfie has now become an inevitable part of the proceedings.

So you, dear dental folk, are beneficiaries of this global cultural phenomenon, because you can help people to feel confident when the smartphones come out to play.

Add in the fact that most of us (and that’s a fact now – most of us) are checking our preferred social media channels more than once every 24 hours (nobody is rattled by queueing any more – it’s a chance to catch up) and we have a perfect mix for huge growth in private treatment options.

So – are you taking part in this bonanza or not?

There are some who feel that the idea of asking a patient for a selfie at the end of treatment is:

  • going to be seen by the patient as an invasion of their privacy;
  • will make the patient think you are too pushy, desperate, sales driven;
  • unprofessional – here I am with all these qualifications – a healthcare professional – and you are asking me to ask them for selfies?
  • inappropriate for the location or demographic = “our patients won’t like that/aren’t on social media/don’t have smartphones”.

The reality is that the doubters either just can’t be bothered moving out of their comfort zone or are actually self-conscious about their own appearance.

Some of my most senior and clinically acknowledged clients are asking patients for selfies – they are senior dentists who are leading from the front – because (by the way) that’s what you have to do.


But here’s a paradox.

I’m going to ask you to stop asking patients for selfies.

And start asking them for photographs.

Compare and contrast these two statements:

Statement 1

Can we get a selfie of you today to use on our social media?

Statement 2

You will recall that, when you agreed to treatment, we mentioned our End of Treatment Review.

Well, here we are and I’m hoping that you are happy with the clinical outcome and the customer service experience that we have delivered.

In which case, I’d like to ask for a review on Facebook or Google – and a photograph or video that we can use to reassure future patients that they can approach this type of treatment with confidence.

Would that be OK?

The challenge is that the word “selfie” has acquired its own brand, that can induce anxiety or dislike in the minds of others.

So simply steer clear of it.

Ask patients for photographs.


The Extreme Business Blog (and it’s author) is taking a 2-week vacation from tomorrow and will be back on Monday 3rd June 2019.


Published by

Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.