Annals of African Medicine
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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 21  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 451-455  

Perception of interns regarding influence of dressing on professional performance at workplace in dentistry

Department of Prosthodontics and Crown and Bridge, Sharad Pawar Dental College and Hospital, Wardha, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission15-Sep-2021
Date of Decision26-Nov-2021
Date of Acceptance24-Dec-2021
Date of Web Publication16-Nov-2022

Correspondence Address:
Anjali Giridhar Bhoyar
Department of Prosthodontics and Crown and Bridge, Sharad Pawar Dental College and Hospital, Sawangi (M), Wardha - 442 004, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/aam.aam_196_21

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Background: In a health-care setup, interpersonal communication plays a pivotal role in the attainment of professional outcomes. Dressing is an indirect mode of communication. Since ancient times, it is assumed that doctor's clothing have a positive effect on the minds of patients. This survey evaluates the perception of interns from dental sciences regarding the impact of dressing on professional performance at workplace. Materials and Methods: A self-designed questionnaire was distributed among a batch of interns who were willing to participate in the survey. Seventy-six interns returned the responses which were complete without any duplication. All the survey forms were scrutinized and the data were collated. Qualitative analysis of the assembled data was performed to evaluate intern's perception about the association between dressing and professional performance at workplace. Results: Results of the survey demonstrated that 81.6% of the participants dress up to work as per their temperament. About 65.8% of the participants believed that dental professionals should choose formal wear for workplace settings. Majority of the participants, i.e., 67.1%, believed that dressing affects perception on personality traits such as dignity and character of a professional. A wide number of interns perceived that dressing alters the behavior of self, patients, and colleagues (55.3%, 71.1%, and 68.4%, respectively). The result of this survey also showed a positive correlation between dressing and professional traits such as confidence, responsibility, and efficiency (75.0%, 63.2%, and 63.2%, respectively). Notably, 55.3% opined against enforcing a dress code for dental institutions/dental offices. Conclusion: The result of the study represents the positive influence of dressing on professional performance at workplace in dentistry as perceived by interns from the faculty of dental sciences.

   Abstract in French 

Contexte: Dans une configuration de soins de santé, la communication interpersonnelle joue un rôle central dans l'atteinte des résultats professionnels. Pansement est un mode de communication indirect. Depuis l'Antiquité, on suppose que les vêtements de médecin ont un effet positif sur l'esprit des patients. Cette enquête évalue la perception des stagiaires en sciences dentaires concernant l'impact de l'habillage sur la performance professionnelle au travail. Matériels et méthodes: Un questionnaire auto-conçu a été distribué à un groupe de stagiaires disposés à participer auenquête. Soixante-seize stagiaires ont renvoyé les réponses qui étaient complètes sans aucune duplication. Tous les formulaires d'enquête ont été examinés etles données ont été rassemblées. Une analyse qualitative des données assemblées a été effectuée pour évaluer la perception des stagiaires sur l'association entre habillage et performance professionnelle sur le lieu de travail. Résultats: Les résultats de l'enquête ont démontré que 81,6 % des participants s'habillaient travailler selon son tempérament. Environ 65,8% des participants pensaient que les professionnels dentaires devraient choisir des vêtements de cérémonie pour le lieu de travail réglages. La majorité des participants, c'est-à-dire 67,1%, croyaient que l'habillement affecte la perception des traits de personnalité tels que la dignité et le caractère d'un professionnel. Un grand nombre d'internes ont perçu que s'habiller modifie leur comportement, celui des patients et des collègues (55,3 %, 71,1 % et 68,4 %, respectivement). Le résultat de cette enquête a également montré une corrélation positive entre l'habillement et les traits professionnels tels que la confiance, responsabilité et efficacité (75,0 %, 63,2 % et 63,2 %, respectivement). Notamment, 55,3 % se sont prononcés contre l'application d'un code vestimentaire pour les soins dentaires institutions/cabinets dentaires. Conclusion: Le résultat de l'étude représente l'influence positive de l'habillement sur la performance professionnelle à milieu de travail en dentisterie tel que perçu par les stagiaires de la faculté des sciences dentaires.

Mots clés: Dentisterie, habillage, interne, performance professionnelle, lieu de travail

Keywords: Dentistry, dressing, intern, professional performance, workplace

How to cite this article:
Bhoyar AG, Kambala S, Nimonkar SV, Dhamande MM. Perception of interns regarding influence of dressing on professional performance at workplace in dentistry. Ann Afr Med 2022;21:451-5

How to cite this URL:
Bhoyar AG, Kambala S, Nimonkar SV, Dhamande MM. Perception of interns regarding influence of dressing on professional performance at workplace in dentistry. Ann Afr Med [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Dec 9];21:451-5. Available from:

   Introduction Top

Communication is an important factor in social interaction, and clothing is one of the indirect means of communication. Along with facial appearance, clothing plays a role in impressing an image in the mind of an onlooker. It conveys a wide range of information about the wearer even without verbal interaction. Human qualities such as character, competence, sociability, and intelligence have been correlated with a person's clothing.[1] As stated by Damhorst, “a dress is a systematic means of transmission of information about the wearer.” What a person wears conveys a lot about the personality of a person. Dressing is an influential medium of communication in a social setting.[1] A viewer forms the first impression about a person within a fraction of a second.[2] A study in textile industry demonstrated that when a model's dressing was changed from “daring-conservative” to “dressy-casual,” the personality characteristics of the same person was found to be judged differently.[3]

Another study evaluated the effects of clothing in the working environment. According to the results of this study, men as compared to women strongly believed that dressing in a professional environment affects working. They felt that wearing proper clothing to work more likely communicates their intelligence, competency, knowledge, honesty, and reliability at workplace. Appropriate clothing enhanced the self-perception about these attributes.[4]

Dental science is one of the areas where doctor–patient relationship requires a great amount of communication. Along with other professional attributes and credentials, communication with patients and peers is an important requirement. The information regarding the perceived need of effective clothing in a dental office is lacking in literature. Internship in dentistry is a transitional phase where interns are trained to strengthen their clinical and professional skills before start up an independent practice in the community. Thus, a pilot survey was designed to assess of perception of interns from dental science regarding the effects of clothing at workplace.

   Materials and Methods Top

A pilot survey was conducted using a self-designed questionnaire for piloting purpose to assess the perception of dental interns regarding the effects of dressing at workplace in dentistry using purposive sampling. The study was carried out at Sharad Pawar Dental College and Hospital, Wardha, India, from October 2020 to February 2021. Formal ethical clearance was obtained from the Institutional Ethical Board. The questionnaire was distributed among 85 interns. Questionnaire forms having incomplete or duplicate responses were eliminated and a total of 76 responses were used for the study. Informed consent was obtained from the interns for willingness to participate in the survey. The mean age of the participants was 23.11 ± 0.99 in the range of 22–27 years that included 16 males and 60 females demonstrating female predilection. Gender-wise distribution of the participants is depicted in [Graph 1].

The completely filled responses from 76 participants were organized in a data sheet. The compiled data were analyzed qualitatively. The responses of the participants to the questions are depicted in [Table 1].
Table 1: Questionnaire with participants responses

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   Results Top

The responses for 14 questions of the survey form are discussed. A large percentage, i.e., 81.6% of the participants, responded that they dress up to work as per their temperament. This finding may depict that frame of mind of the person plays an important role in the selection of clothes. Despite the response to an earlier question on mood, 65.8% of the participants believed that dental professionals should choose formal wear for workplace settings. When questioned upon the relation of clothing to dignity and character of a dental professional, 67.1% of the participants responded positively. The response to questions related to correlation of clothing to their own behavior and performance at the workplace was similar. About 55.3% of the participants believed that clothing affects their behavior; notably, 11.8% of the participants were not sure about this correlation between clothing and behavior. About 51.3% of the participants believed that clothing affects their performance at workplace. In response to a question pertaining to patient attention, 57.9% believed that what one wears catches more patient attention. About 71.1% and 68.4% of the participants believed that professional clothing affects patient's and colleague's perception, respectively. However, the responses to the question regarding the correlation of type of clothing with patient's satisfaction/dissatisfaction were not prominently different. Interestingly, 46.1% of the participants did not believe that clothes affect their scholastic ability and 19.7% were not sure about this correlation. When questioned about the professional traits such as confidence, responsibility, and efficiency and its association with clothing at workplace, majority of the participants believed that there is a positive correlation (75.0%, 63.2%, and 63.2%, respectively). About 55.3% of the participants opined against enforcing a dress code for dental institution/dental office despite their beliefs in the positive effects of formal clothing at workplace.

   Discussion Top

In addition to elementary needs, clothing plays a significant part in human social life. People have a desire of endorsement from others around them for social acceptability for which clothing choices are one of the substantial factors. Establishment of one's identity in public domain relies on self-reflection and others' perception. In general, opinions are formed about people based upon their overall appearance that may include physical features such as face, hair, and clothing. The selection of clothing plays a role in forming the first impression about a person. It has been proved by research that social people use appearance to relate to emotional, behavioral, and personality traits of subjects.[5],[6] Davis mentioned in his review on clothing and human behavior that there is a rational evidence proposing relationship of dressing and human behavior.[5] Personality distinguishes one person from another. It is the most important aspect to be considered while selecting clothes. Temperament of a person affects the selection of clothing and clothing enhances personality.

In a dental institution, learners are trained for inculcation of knowledge and skills. Along with the dental practice-based skills, professional behavior is one of the essential factors in a successful career as a dental professional. Appropriate dressing at workplace is a desired quality in any professional. Wearing work-specific attire promotes professional identity at workplace. It nurtures a strong image and professional distinctiveness, imparting confidence among the professionals resulting in improved performance in patient care. The clothing worn at workplace also conveys the immaculate training of the dentist which helps in augmenting patient's professional experience by building patient's belief about the dentist. The doctor's whitecoat is being worn for many decades. It represents authority and healing, signifying the professional's unique skill and qualification. However, the trend to wear professional attire such as whitecoat/scrubs seems to be declining, especially among younger professionals. With this purview, a survey was undertaken to evaluate the perception of interns from faculty of dentistry regarding dressing at workplace. While considering the participants' responses on dressing and its association with individual's mood, majority of interns stated that they dress as per their temperament. The selection of the clothes we wear is based upon our emotions which subsequently affects behavior and attitude at social places and workplaces.

The finding of the study is substantiated by research outcomes of Moody and Sinha.[7] Their study results showed robust associations between mood and choice of clothing style when evaluated among fashion consumers. Majority of the participants (65.8%) preferred formal clothing at workplace. Association of personality traits such as dignity, character, self-confidence, responsible behavior, and efficiency with dressing at workplace showed a positive correlation in a large number of respondents. Kummen and Brown reviewed the literature on the effects of clothing on the perception of personal attributes, the effects of clothing cues on behavior, and person clothing interactions. They concluded that clothing affects “both the attributions made of individuals and the resulting behavior that is directed to them.”[8]

Jennings et al. investigated the effect of surgeon's attire on patients' perceptions of trust and confidence in an urban orthopedic outpatient setting. They observed modest inclination of the patients for the whitecoat in terms of confidence, intelligence, trust, and safety. Their study found out that patients were more willing to discuss personal information and believed that the treatment outcome will be better if the performing surgeon wears a whitecoat or scrub. They suggested that the findings of the study may be applicable to other specialties of medical practice.[9]

Clothing has been shown to enhance the wearer's own self-perception on a range of occupationally relevant attributes. When the relationship of dressing with self-behavior and professional performance at workplace was evaluated, more than half of the participants responded positively for direct correlation. It is interesting to identify the impact of clothing on self-behavior, especially at workplace. A research by Adomaitis and Johnson on flight attendant's own perception on a casual dress as opposed to formal uniform followed by evaluations by others found out that when the flight attendants wore casual attire, their behavior was casual and others also responded casually with them. These behavioral changes affected the work performance of these employees.[10]

The scholastic ability, i.e., the academic performance or achievement, was not perceived to be related to dressing by 46.1% of the participants of this study, and nearly 20% of the respondents were not sure about this association. This implies that the opinions regarding the association of dressing and educational attributes are not well formed. This finding, however, antagonizes the results of the study performed by Behling and Williams in 1991, which depicted that perception of intelligence and academic achievement are influenced by dress.[11]

Good communication is an important factor in any doctor–patient relationship, and clothing impacts nonverbal communication. The attire of a doctor may influence a patient's perception. About 57.9% of interns believed that formal dressing draws more attention from patients and 71.1% of the respondents of this survey opined that the dressing at workplace does affect patient's perception toward treating dentist. In a systematic review carried out by Petrilli et al., it was stated that 60% of the studies published showed a patient preference for whitecoats and formal dressings of physicians. This trend was prominent, especially among older patients and the European and Asian context.[12]

Another research involving patients, surgeons, and nonhospitalized people, in relation to their preference of surgeon's attire, concluded that a surgeon's look affects their perceptions and impressions regarding the quality of medical care they received. The authors suggested that surgeons should respond to these perceptions and dress accordingly while seeing surgical patients.[13]

One study mentioned that patients trusted those physicians who wore a whitecoat with confidence and did not approve of physicians wearing casual attire such as shorts and slippers.[14] Another research carried out by Cha et al. concluded that patients were more comfortable with physicians wearing scrubs with a whitecoat and believed them to be more competent.[15] Contrary to these research outcomes, the participants of this study did not project a clear opinion about the correlation of clothing with a level of patient satisfaction. Nearly 44.7% of interns responded positively, 32.9% responded negatively, and the rest were not sure about this correlation, although majority were in favor. Research exists demonstrating the effect of dress on behavioral responses of others. Experimenters who are formally dressed have their personal space invaded less[16] than those who are casually dressed. Geffner and Gross found that experimenters were obeyed significantly more often when wearing a uniform than when not wearing a uniform. Nearly 70% of respondents of our study opined that clothing affects colleagues' perception toward them.[17]

The last question of the survey explored the outlook of interns regarding the implementation of a dress code in a dental institution or office. More than 50% of interns opined against the dress code, and 27.6% said yes to a dress code. The finding points out that although majority of the interns believe in the association of dressing with a professional performance at workplace, they do not want to be tied up with a specific dress code. Many studies suggest that patients are more confident and communicate better with doctors wearing whitecoats.[18],[19],[20] For improved doctor–patient relationship, whitecoat facilitates recognition, representation, and decorum. Whitecoat symbolizes professionalism, integrity, and commitment of the health-care profession. Dental professionals wearing formal wear/scrubs and whitecoat may be perceived as more informed, dependable, considerate, and welcoming by patients. This pilot survey portrays the perceptions of a representative sample. Further exploration involving a larger sample size and inclusion of patient perception is desirable.

   Conclusion Top

Interpersonal relationships between doctor-patient, colleagues, and peers play a significant role in effective professional outcomes. Verbal and nonverbal communication is one of the key aspects. Hippocrates stated that the physician “must be clean in person, well dressed, and anointed with sweet-smelling unguents.”[21] A dental professional's clothing is essential to patient satisfaction as an association between patient satisfaction and treatment outcomes has been established by various studies in other medical specialties. Within the limitations of this pilot study on dental interns, it can be concluded that majority of the participants believe in positive effects of formal dressing at workplace such as dental institutions or offices on professional performance.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Damhorst ML. In search of a common thread: Classification of information communicated by dress. Cloth Text Res J 1990;8:1-12.  Back to cited text no. 1
Todorov A, Pakrashi M, Oosterhof NN. Evaluating faces on trustworthiness after minimal time exposure. Soc Cogn 2009;27:813-33.  Back to cited text no. 2
Paek SL. Effect of garment style on the perception of personal traits. Cloth Text Res J 1986;5:10-6.  Back to cited text no. 3
Kwon YH. The influence of appropriateness of dress and gender on the self perception of occupational attributes. Cloth Text Res J 1994;12:33-9.  Back to cited text no. 4
Davis LL. Clothing and human behavior: A review. Home Econ Res J 1984;12:325-39.  Back to cited text no. 5
Knapp ML, Hall JA. Nonverbal Communication in Human Interaction. Belmont, CA: Thomson Learning; 2002.  Back to cited text no. 6
Moody W, Sinha P. An exploratory study: Relationships between trying on clothing, mood, emotion, personality and clothing preference. J Fash Mark Manag 2010;14:161-79.  Back to cited text no. 7
Kummen ME, Brown SA. Clothing as a cue in person perception: A review. Can Home Econ J 1985;35:140-4.  Back to cited text no. 8
Jennings JD, Ciaravino SG, Ramsey FV, Haydel C. Physicians' attire influences patients' perceptions in the urban outpatient orthopaedic surgery setting. Clin Orthop Relat Res 2016;474:1908-18.  Back to cited text no. 9
Adomaitis AD, Johnson KK. Casual versus formal uniform: Flight attendants' self perceptions and perceived appraisals by others. Cloth Text Res J 2005;23:88-101.  Back to cited text no. 10
Behling DU, Williams EA. Influence of dress on perception of intelligence and expectations of scholastic achievement. Cloth Text Res J 1991;9:1-7.  Back to cited text no. 11
Petrilli CM, Mack M, Petrilli JJ, Hickner A, Saint S, Chopra V. Understanding the role of physician attire on patient perceptions: A systematic review of the literature – Targeting attire to improve likelihood of rapport (TAILOR) investigators. BMJ Open 2015;5:e006578.  Back to cited text no. 12
Major K, Hayase Y, Balderrama D, Lefor AT. Attitudes regarding surgeons' attire. Am J Surg 2005;190:103-6.  Back to cited text no. 13
Reddy R. Slippers and a white coat? (Hawai'i physician attire study). Hawaii Med J 2009;68:284-5.  Back to cited text no. 14
Cha A, Hecht BR, Nelson K, Hopkins MP. Resident physician attire: Does it make a difference to our patients? Am J Obstet Gynecol 2004;190:1484-8.  Back to cited text no. 15
Fortenberry J, MacLean J, Morris P, O'Connell M. Mode of dress as a perceptual cue to deference. J Soc Psychol 1978;104:139-40.  Back to cited text no. 16
Geffner R, Gross M. Sex-role behavior and obedience to authority: A field study. Sex Roles 1984;10:973-85.  Back to cited text no. 17
Gooden BR, Smith MJ, Tattersall SJ, Stockler MR. Hospitalised patients' views on doctors and white coats. Med J Aust 2001;175:219-22.  Back to cited text no. 18
Yamada Y, Takahashi O, Ohde S, Deshpande GA, Fukui T. Patients' preferences for doctors' attire in Japan. Intern Med 2010;49:1521-6.  Back to cited text no. 19
Zahrina AZ, Haymond P, Rosanna P, Ho R, Rajini AR, Low BT, et al. Does the attire of a primary care physician affect patients' perceptions and their levels of trust in the doctor? Malays Fam Physician 2018;13:3-11.  Back to cited text no. 20
Hippocrates. Volume II. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1923: 311.  Back to cited text no. 21


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