The rise of the internet junkie


  Posted by: Dental Design      3rd September 2023

Mid-June sees the promotion of Men’s Health Week. This is an opportunity to raise awareness about men’s health and encourage gentlemen to look after themselves, body and mind. This year’s campaign focuses on ‘men’s health and the internet’ – which is an interesting topic for anyone to ponder. Participants are encouraged to share their thoughts on how regular use of mobile phones and instant access to online sources could be impacting men’s everyday lives.

Of course, this is something that affects us all to some degree. I, for one, probably spend more time on my phone than I would care to admit every day! Some internet use is necessary in our line work. Various patient communication methods are web-based, record-taking may be performed on cloud-based software, phones or tablets may be used to interact with colleagues or complete training courses and attend webinars. Even browsing social media sites and engaging with online forums can be productive and contribute to our professional development.

From a personal perspective, our phones hold the (virtual) key to our lives too. Everything from our banking to our connection with family and friends, exercise regimes, step trackers, entertainment and so much more is at our fingertips at any given moment.

The problems begin when our time is disproportionately spent online. This occurs when internet use becomes excessive and it consistently and negatively impacts our professional and/or personal lives. Constantly using digital technology has been linked with various potentially harmful effects, including reduced ability to focus, impaired emotional and social intelligence, social isolation, and even decreased brain connectivity in children.[i]Though there are also some positives to come from technology use – for example, it may improve memory and ability to multitask – using online platforms to excess should still be avoided.

Why is any of this relevant to us as dentists? Well, there is evidence to suggest that excessive internet use also leads to poorer oral health. Internet addiction is linked to several psychological symptoms and bad general health habits like smoking, alcohol consumption, substance use, binge eating or skipping meals, weight problems and difficulty sleeping.[ii] Many of these are associated with poor oral hygiene behaviours in their own right, but in combination they pose an even greatest risk to individuals.

Another study[iii] has directly linked internet use with oral health-related quality of life (OHRQoL) among students. What is referred to as ‘problematic’ internet use – determined through a self-completed questionnaire – led to poorer OHRQoL among participants.

As a relatively new field of research, they are many more questions that need to be answered with regards to appropriate use of the internet and digital technologies – both for professionals and patients. For now, I think we would all do well to reflect on our habits and ensure we maintain as much balance as possible. There may also be merit in promoting this to patients, particularly those who are stuck to their phone even while we speak to them.

Many benefits can be enjoyed by utilising online platforms and they certainly shouldn’t – and probably couldn’t – be removed from our lives, but we must be weary of compulsive behaviours. Like any addiction, if the need to get online becomes obsessive and you feel powerless against it, then it’s time to do something about it.

[i] Small GW, Lee J, Kaufman A, Jalil J, Siddarth P, Gaddipati H, Moody TD, Bookheimer SY. Brain health consequences of digital technology use
. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2020 Jun;22(2):179-187. doi: 10.31887/DCNS.2020.22.2/gsmall. PMID: 32699518; PMCID: PMC7366948.

[ii] Al-Ansari A, El Tantawi M, AlMadan N, Nazir M, Gaffar B, Al-Khalifa K, AlBaty A. Internet Addiction, Oral Health Practices, Clinical Outcomes, and Self-Perceived Oral Health in Young Saudi Adults. ScientificWorldJournal. 2020 Aug 11;2020:7987356. doi: 10.1155/2020/7987356. PMID: 32848514; PMCID: PMC7439169.

[iii] Ghareghol, H., Pakkhesal, M., Naghavialhosseini, A. et al. Association of problematic Internet use and oral health-related quality of life among medical and dental students. BMC Med Educ 22, 11 (2022).


About Dr Michael Sultan

EndoCare, led by Dr Michael Sultan, is one of the UK’s most trusted Specialist Endodontist practices. Through the use of the latest technologies and techniques, the highly-trained team can offer exceptional standards of care – always putting the patient first. What’s more, EndoCare is a dependable referral centre, to which dentists from across the country send their patients for the best in specialist endodontic treatment.




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