Date of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Dental Hygiene


Dental Hygiene

Committee Director

Gayle McCombs

Committee Member

Lynn Tolle

Committee Member

Aaron Arndt

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.D46 C69 2015


Purpose: The aim of this study was to determine if the presence of visible tattoos could hinder employment for dental hygienists. Methods: 1,800 electronic surveys were distributed to licensed dentists in the state of Virginia. Surveys were arbitrarily assigned according to subject's birth month. Participants were shown a photograph of a dental hygienist with one of the three conditions: 1) no tattoo, 2) small tattoo, or 3) large "sleeve" tattoo. Respondents were asked to score the image based on five categories: ethical, responsible, competent, hygienic and professional, using a 5-point Likert scale, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Employability was scored based on how well the clinician "fit" the image of their practice, the receptiveness of their patients, and the likelihood of employment. Results: A response rate of 14% (n=226) was attained; 183 (11%) of the respondents qualified and completed the survey. Eighty percent of the respondents were male and 76% were general dentists. The majority of the respondents (80%) indicated that tattoos should be covered in the workplace; 18% were indifferent; and 2% indicated that tattoos should not be covered. Data revealed the dental hygienist with the visible large sleeve tattoo ranked the lowest in all categories. Results from ANOVA and step-down tests suggest there was no statistically significant difference among the three tattoo conditions with regard to the image appearing ethical (F=0.266, p=0.767), responsible (F= 1.808, p=0.167) or competent (F=0.549, p=0.578). However, the image with the small and large visible tattoo was significantly lower than the image with no visible tattoos with regard to appearing hygienic (F=6.209, p


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