Date of Award

Fall 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Dental Hygiene


Dental Hygiene

Committee Director

Lynn Tolle

Committee Member

Gayle McCombs

Committee Member

Aaron Arndt

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.D46 V47 2015


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine if visible tattoos affected the perceptions of dental consumers toward the professionalism and credibility of dental hygienists.

Methods: An 11 item, IRB approved investigator designed survey was administered online to 203 subjects invited to participate via a commercial web source. Surveys were randomized according to respondents' birth month. Participants viewed one of three photographs of a dental hygiene model wearing short-sleeved scrubs without a tattoo, with a large sleeve tattoo on the arm or with a small tattoo on the wrist. Participants scored each photograph on a 5-point Likert scale based on the following attributes: ethical, responsible, hygienic, competent, and professional. Participants self-reported on the number of tattoos they had and their attitude toward visible tattoos in the workplace.

Results: Twenty three percent of respondents had a tattoo with 66% reporting their tattoo was not visible while wearing short-sleeves. Most respondents (88%) that viewed the model without a tattoo rated them as being professional although only 49% rated the same model but with a sleeve tattoo as professional. Overall attribute mean scores were averaged and referred to as credibility. Results reveal ratings of credibility on a model with a sleeve tattoo were significantly more negative (F=l5.16,p=.000) than were ratings of the same model shown without a tattoo or a small wrist tattoo. Respondents also rated the model with the sleeve tattoo lowest in regards to using a dental office on a regular basis (F=l5.041,p=.OOO) and whether they were likely to refer others to an office based on the model viewed (F = 10.595, p=.000). Data analysis revealed personal tattoo status had minimal influence on results when evaluating credibility.

Conclusions: Results indicate the presence of a large sleeve visible tattoo leads to less positive judgments about the credibility and professionalism of the dental hygienist compared to a model without a visible tattoo. Therefore, having a visible tattoo may hinder patient's positive perceptions of the dental hygienist and puts them at risk for being negatively perceived by patients in the dental practice setting.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).