Can Dental Hygienists Have Tattoos?

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The world is changing, and its people are changing even faster. Formerly thought of as “weird,” “unprofessional,” “bad,” and many other tags, tattoos are now seen as “cool.”

Also, tattoos and piercings have become acceptable in many social and professional services, including healthcare. In addition, about 46% of the total population of the United States is inked.

Dental hygienists are not left out of the picture because getting inked cuts across almost every career and workplace in the United States. These professionals are all about oral hygiene and do their bit to ensure you do not come down with oral diseases.

How would you feel if a dental hygienist examined you closely with a tattooed arm in sight? While you think about it, consider whether having tattoos affects your job and professionalism.

Who are Dental Hygienists?

A dental hygienist (or oral hygienist) is a licensed dental professional registered with the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. Dental hygienists aren’t dentists; you’ll most likely spend most of the appointments with a dental hygienist during a checkup.

However, they work with dentists to provide preventative oral care, mainly around a patient’s teeth and mouth, examining them for signs of damage and disease. You’ll also find them educating patients, especially young children, about maintaining good oral health.

Statistics from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics show that dental hygienists hold over 200,000 jobs in the country. If you want to become one, you must graduate from an accredited dental hygiene school with a master’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, a certificate, or an associate degree.

However, a master’s or bachelor’s degree is primarily standard clinical practice. You can choose the area you want to focus on, including patient management, gum disease, neck anatomy, and more.

Generally, the services provided by dental hygienists include the following:

  • Checking/taking blood pressure and pulse
  • Assessment of oral health conditions and review of health history
  • Head and neck inspection
  • Taking and developing dental radiographs/x-rays
  • Patient education on better oral hygiene strategies to maintain oral health
  • Creating impressions of patient’s teeth for study casts

Can Dental Hygienists Have Tattoos?

Generally, nothing is stopping a dental hygienist from getting tattoos. The question that mainly arises from having one comes from a professional aspect.

As a result, most restrictions you’ll find working in a dental practice include no tattoos on the hands, face, or neck and no offensive tattoos. As it is, older generations of patients and members of society are still trying to wrap their heads around the phenomenon of tattoos, piercings, and body art.

Further, having tattoos as a dental hygienist exposes you to criticism and discrimination from employers and other employees. While it all seems harmless to you, they might find it offensive and wonder why a dental professional should have any.

Also, it’s pretty challenging to convince some people about oral health and hygiene when you’re inked, especially around sensitive areas of your body. But tattoos don’t have to be public at work since you can cover them up with workplace attire.

What do the Rules Say?

All around the world and in the United States, you’ll struggle to find a standard tattoo policy for dental professionals, including dental hygienists. You’ll get employers’ rules and regulations, including dental clinics, hospitals, and other medical and healthcare facilities.

Further, employers have the legal freedom to create dress code policies prohibiting tattoos in the workplace under different conditions. One such condition is that your tattoo does not discriminate against a person based on protected statuses like race, age, gender, disability, or religion.

female nurse with tattoos

Many dental hygienists see tattoos as a form of self-expression and don’t seem to think of tattoos as being unprofessional. However, many of them do not have visible tattoos on their bodies. What does that tell you? Dental hygienists put professionalism before personal lifestyles and, in most cases, have to follow the licensing requirements of their regions.

In addition, many dental hygiene programs restrict facial and numerous ear piercings to promote a professional appearance. On the other hand, tattoos are sometimes harder to cover and are discouraged from being on display.

The bottom line is that the dentist will hire based on his/her principles, values, and vision of their business. So if you don’t meet their requirements, you won’t get hired.

Should Having Tattoos Matter?

There are many talented tattooed assistants and hygienists out there, and many of those have found great opportunities to practice their art. Tattoos, among other current trends, are here to stay.

That’s why what’s on a dental hygienist’s body shouldn’t matter as long they are up to the task. Also, the profession has PPE standards, which means these professionals are generally covered from neck to wrists.

Additionally, coverings on your tattoos during work hours will help you avoid breaking any rules or workplace conditions. What you have on your skin shouldn’t matter underneath the uniforms.

Final Thoughts

In the United States, many workplaces are getting more lenient on piercings and tattoos. However, the healthcare sector is slowly dragging along. Also, health-related fields appear to implement a stricter policy on tattooed employees.

Employers have the right to determine whether you can have one without any generally acceptable law or policy on tattoos.

Employers can also provide rules on how to conceal your body art, especially from patients. However, you can have tattoos, just not in opposition to regulations, unless there are none where you practice as a dental hygienist. Now that you know that you can have tattoos and the possible restrictions, it’s up to you to decide if you want one.


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