Date of Award

Fall 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Dental Hygiene


Dental Hygiene

Committee Director

Susan Lynn Tolle

Committee Member

Gayle McCombs

Committee Member

Aaron Arndt


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to survey entry-level dental hygiene program directors in the United States to assess their perceptions of dental hygienists with visible tattoos as well as their satisfaction with current program tattoo polices. Methods: After IRB approval, a 14-item survey was administered online to 340 entry-level dental hygiene programs. Participants used a seven-point Likert type scale ranging from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (7), to indicate their opinions of visible tattoos on the basis of professionalism, concern within the school, dress code policy satisfaction, tolerance toward visible tattoos, whether tattoos needed to be covered, impact on future employment, and impact on community. Participants also responded to questions concerning current program policies on visible tattoos, in addition to the number and visibility of personal tattoos. Results: An overall response rate of 43% was obtained, with 141 program directors completing the survey. The majority of respondents were 50 years of age and older (82%). Only one respondent reported having a visible tattoo. Eighty percent of respondents reported having a program dress code policy on visible tattoos, with the majority (97%) requiring visible tattoos to be covered. Results revealed both students (M=5.57, p<.0005) and faculty (M=5.76, p<.0005) with visible tattoos were perceived as significantly less professional. Significantly more respondents viewed visible tattoos on students (M=4.73, p<.0005) to be a concern when compared to faculty. Most participants agreed that faculty should discuss the impact of visible tattoos on future employment opportunities, as well as believe that the community would view the school as less professional if students had visible tattoos (p<0.0005). Tolerance toward tattoos (β = -0.36, p < 0.001), but not age (β = -0.06, p =0.50), was significantly associated with satisfaction concerning program tattoo policies. A lower tolerance (negative attitude) towards visible tattoos (β = -0.73, p < 0.001) was also associated with an increased likelihood that a program dress code policy on visible tattoos existed. Conclusions: The upsurge of individuals with visible tattoos in society is evident and has extended into the healthcare arena. This study highlights dental hygiene program directors’ perceptions of students and faculty with visible tattoos. Results show that visible tattoos were not perceived favorably and that director’s personal perceptions may have influenced school dress code polices. These findings provide evidence based information for hygienists, students, faculty, administrators and hiring managers as they formulate policies relating to body art.


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