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Infographic: Are tattoos appropriate in dentistry?

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I spent many Sunday mornings this summer soaking up sun rays at a local restaurant eating brunch in my tank top and Ray Bans. I’ve gotten to know a few of the locals who frequent the same restaurant. While sipping my morning Joe and catching up on social media, stories about life were shared. The question of what I do for a living came up during one of our socials. I told them I was a dental student. Then their eyes immediately shift to the large shoulder tattoo on my left arm. “They let you have that in dental school?”

Despite the progressive times we live in, tattoos in the professional community are still considered taboo to some people. Regardless, there is a growing popularity of tattoos in the workplace. With the many differing views of tattoos in professional careers, I set out to find out what the dental community thought about the matter. Earlier this summer a survey was posted on ASDA’s Facebook page titled “Tattoos and Dentistry.” It reeled in 524 responses! The series of six questions produced some surprising data.

Of the 524 responses (who I assume/hope are dental students), 147 say they have a tattoo. I deduced this and realized, in our sample demographic, tattoos are not as popular in the dental school setting as I thought. But when asked if they knew a dentist or health care professional with a tattoo, a whopping 65.8% said they did. Ink meets Inc. showcased twenty tattooed professionals, some who are corporate lawyers, medical doctors and even a director for a New York City governmental agency, making it known that having a tattoo will not stop you from climbing the corporate ladder. Though some companies have tattoo policies, many are becoming more accommodating of tattoos in the workplace as long as tattoos are “not offensive”.

Careerbuilder.com conducted a survey and found that 31% of human resource managers said there could be a negative impact on hiring someone with visible tattoos. Coincidentally, what the survey found was that bad breath weighed in even heavier. In our survey, participants were asked if they would hire a dental assistant or hygienist with visible tattoos. There was an even distribution of answers with 33% saying they would, 38.4% saying they wouldn’t, and 28.6% undecided.

One surveyor, when asked what they thought of tattoos in the health care setting said, “If they are not offensive, sexist, racist, I don’t see any problem with them.” Another response yielded, “Tattoos do not determine a person’s professional ability.” While another participant responded with, “Tattoos show a lack of respect for your body and, therefore, one loses credibility in the dental setting when a tattoo is visible.” Needless to say, the survey revealed a wide disparity in opinions about tattoos in dentistry.

Whether having a tattoo is unprofessional or not, the majority of our surveyed participants decided it depends on the tattoo, where it’s located, how big it is, and if it can be covered. One responder said, “As long as the tattoos are in good taste there should not be an issue. Tattoos are a form of art and expression of personality.” Another shares that tattoos are simply “Unprofessional and sloppy.”

The Wall Street Journal weighed in on the issue and reported that “companies that are more accepting about body adornment say they are just going with the times, trying to take advantage of the open-mindedness and innovation that younger employees bring into the workplace.” As many companies are becoming more accepting of body art and individual expression, I agree that tattoos should be tasteful, not offensive, and located in a decent place (read: no face tattoos).

My fellow brunch friends, in the end, thought my tattoo was “cool.” One guy even said, “Man, if your tattoo has meaning to you, who can tell you it’s wrong?” Though my artistic expression is not visible when wearing scrubs, questions still flooded my mind regarding my own professionalism. Progressive are the times and though big companies like Starbucks and Bank of America embrace diversity and inclusion, will tattoos ever become just as acceptable in the health care profession? Time will only tell what comes of tattoos and dentistry.

What are your thoughts on tattoos and dentistry? Would a tattoo of a molar tooth or a toothbrush on someone change your mind about that person? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

~Jay Banez, Marquette ’16, electronic editor

Jay Banez

Jay Banez is one of ASDA's electronic editors. Originally from Las Vegas, Jay is a D4 at Marquette School of Dentistry. Jay is also the Media & Communications Chair for #MarquetteASDA. You can catch him walking around school occasionally with his camera in hand, posting to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. These efforts helped lead Marquette to its Ideal ASDA Chapter title at the 2014 Gold Crown Awards.

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5 Comments

  1. People have high regard in the medical profession specifically in the dental profession, they expect them to be really neat. Somehow Tatoo gave a negative impression to people. nevertheless, a patient choose a dentist on the basis on how well he or she can perform his/her services, though appearance sometimes matters to others.

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  2. It does matter if a person got a tattoo,much more to a dental professional. Overtime, some people have accepted this but for some it gave them a bad impression. It’s just a matter on how you carry your tattoo.

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  3. I think the stigma of having tattoos is starting to go away. Tattoos themselves don’t really say about the professionalism of the person. It’s hard to shake that idea, though.

  4. My upper arms are heavily tattooed but do not show when I am wearing a scrub top.
    If I bend a strange way or move my arms a certain way they peek out a little bit, but I don’t stress out at all about it.
    I honestly wouldn’t advise anyone in dental school to get tattoos anywhere on their forearms or hands. It could be intimidating to the patients. I go to school in the south where it is conservative as well. This may be different depending where you are.

  5. You have really helped me by giving the valuable information through this blog. There are the best benefits of info-graphic are tattoos appropriate in dentistry. Thanks and keep sharing this kind of information.

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