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J Dent Hyg. 2019 Aug;93(4):33-43.

Examining the Impact of Dental Hygienists' Professional Appearance: Patients' and dental student providers' perspectives.


Purpose: Relationships between patients and their health care provider can impact treatment acceptance and patient compliance. The purpose of this study was to explore whether dental hygienists' hairstyle, clinic attire, and accessories affected patients' and dental student providers' perceptions of professionalism and the role gender plays in these perceptions.Methods: Survey data were collected from adult patients and dental student providers from a dental school in the Midwestern United States. Study participants rated the professional qualities of male and female dental hygienists photographed with professional versus unprofessional/ less-traditional hairstyles, clinic attire, and accessories. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyze the data.Results: A total of 402 patients (n=402) and 318 first- and second-year dental students (n=318) consented to participate. Both male and female dental hygienists pictured with less-traditional hairstyles were rated as less professional than clinicians with professional hairstyles on a scale from 1="not at all professional" to 7="very professional (5.28 vs. 6.04; p<.001). Males with less-traditional hairstyles (mean=4.74; p<.001) received the most negative ratings. Dental student providers rated female clinicians with less-traditional hairstyles least positively, while the patients rated male providers with non-traditional hairstyles least positively.Conclusions: Hairstyle, in both male and female dental hygienists, was viewed as a physical characteristic influencing perceptions of professionalism among patients and dental students. Overall, male clinicians were evaluated more negatively than females. Gender was not shown to affect the study participants' perceptions of professionalism.


dental hygienists; dental students; patient perceptions; professional appearance; professionalism


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