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Sun, Oct 28, 2007 - Page 12 News List

Planning a root canal? Watch the movie first

By Anne Eisenberg  /  NY Times News Service , New York

In these screen grabs from a video posted on YouTube, Jerry Gordon of Bensalem, Pennsylvania, performs and discusses a root canal. He hopes the 10-minute production will be seen by Bensalem residents who could become patients.

PHOTO: NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE

YouTube, famous for its entertaining clips, now has a growing list of informative videos, too, posted by experts on many subjects -- including dentistry.

A few enterprising dentists with a bit of the auteur in them have created discussions and demonstrations of root canals and other dental procedures for YouTube in unscripted, live takes with patients. The videos may turn out to be useful marketing tools, promoting the dentists' abilities and attracting new customers to their practice.

Jerry Gordon, a dentist in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, is the director and star of the video "Root Canal Demonstration." Looking relaxed and friendly, Gordon explains the ins and outs of the procedure, treating a real patient, and showing each of the steps from painless injection to completion.

The video, which runs nearly 10 minutes, was shot by a local videographer and cost about US$2,000. It has been viewed more than 11,000 times in the two months since it was put up.

"Do not be afraid of root canal," Gordon says at the end, as the patient, who has looked remarkably calm throughout the procedure, heads for home.

"This is not an actor," he adds. "This is real and this is live."

Images like that may do a lot to banish lingering thoughts of sadistic movie dentists like the ones played by Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man or Steve Martin in Little Shop of Horrors. Gordon said that his patients liked the videos, shown first on his Web site and later on YouTube.

"People are genuinely appreciative of the information," he said.

The videos have also turned out to be good for business.

"They've definitely been a strong positive for the practice," he said. "Ultimately, a video on YouTube can drive some local people to your Web site."

Some of them might become patients. Gordon has been keeping track of people who came to him through the Web, both before and after YouTube. Last year, before he started posting videos on YouTube, 26 patients found him through his own Web site. Since then, the number from the Web has grown to 68.

Gordon is a bit ahead of most of his colleagues in adapting to the ways of Internet video. But other dentists may soon join him, especially if they have success with standard, static Web pages.

Kristy Vetter, for instance, who has a dental practice in Laguna Niguel, California, opened a Web site on Valentine's Day this year. It showed results immediately, she said. People who typed "Laguna Niguel Dentist" into search engines seeking local dentists found her Web site, and some of them later went to her office.

"We've had three to five patients in the last month or so that came that way, instead of by referral," she said.

Vetter said the Web site reassured patients.

"Going to the dentist is kind of scary," Vetter said.

"This way, people check us out, and see the staff and the offices before they actually get here. They can fill out forms first. They feel like they know the place. It makes them comfortable," she said.

She says she thinks that adding video clips might do an even better job of showing off the business.

"Every time I see my Web designer, she bugs me to do it," she said.

Not all video clips on YouTube are reassuring. Some of the clinical tutorials on surgical procedures -- dental implants, for instance -- may be too gory for some people. That is one of the reasons that Roger Levin, chief executive of the Levin Group, a dental consulting firm in Owings Mills, Maryland, is skeptical of the overall prospects for dental videos.

This story has been viewed 5113 times.

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