Dr. Tejas Patel, a cosmetic dentist in Austin, Texas, harnesses the power of TikTok to promote his work—and has seen benefits accrue for his patients and his practice alike.

IN THE MONTHS prior to the pandemic, Dr. Tejas Patel was already successfully publishing social media videos in support of his eponymous Austin, Texas, cosmetic dental practice. Intrigued by the marketing possibilities the form presented, he spent his quarantine downtime in 2020 studying how to maximize it.

He was especially taken with TikTok, the video-sharing app that has conquered the planet since its launch in September 2016. He began to post to it (@drtejaspatel), upping his frequency as the dental profession began to emerge from lockdown—and he has been such a success at it that his follower count, as of late summer, stands at 2.8 million.

“I knew TikTok was a growing platform, and I wanted in,” says Dr. Patel, 45. “Quarantine gave me the time to learn and understand it.”

His content is professional and leans educational, consisting mostly of before-and-after sequences of his procedures—a key marketing attribute for a cosmetic clinician, naturally—particularly with veneers. He cites patients’ confidence and quality-of-life boost as the most fulfilling part of being able to share their stories with millions.

Even something as seemingly uncontroversial as dentistry, though, is capable of falling prey to social media’s well-established toxicity. “There are a lot of haters in the comments section,” he says, a bit ruefully. “I try not to take it personally when people or other dentists criticize our work. Also, we’re transparent with the process and procedure, which can turn some people off.”

He first posted to TikTok in December 2019; the steady evolution and greater sophistication of his posts have contributed to his enormous following. In hindsight, he says, he wishes he’d have started his social media journey—and tightened the consistency of his material—earlier than he did. “The content wasn’t developed at first. Then I found our rhythm, message and style. It’s always evolving over time to keep up with current styles and trends.”

His Instagram reach (@tejaspateldds) is far smaller, just north of 84,000 followers, yet still substantial. “Instagram is like a storefront,” he says, discussing its merits relative to other platforms. “TikTok is raw, less filtered and offers a behind-the-scenes view.”

One unexpected benefit of his online presence: Before the pandemic, Dr. Patel’s clientele were mostly from the Austin area itself. (His practice is downtown, six blocks south of the Texas State Capitol.) As the months wore on, he began to notice new patients coming from around the state—no mean feat in a place as large as Texas. His social posting has been a boon, he says, adding that any doctor can do it without a huge time commitment. “Start slow,” he advises. “Get comfortable posting. Then get consistent.”