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Why Do Dental Professionals Wear Scrubs?

Mirror image of woman wearing medical scrubs and tshirt
Dental Practice Success logo

Having all staff wear scrubs is often a strategic tactic to communicate to patients a sense of professionalism that assists in building trust and aiding in the perception of cleanliness. Additionally, it is an Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirement that proper garments be worn in the dental office to ensure worker safety. 

The history of the modern-day scrub is fairly interesting. According to an article from the University of Jacksonville nursing blog, medical professions didn’t wear specialized attire, protective or sterilized garments until the 1900s. The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic gave rise to an increased awareness of infection and ushered in an era of surgeons wearing masks to protect themselves, but little more than that. By the 1940s, white operating room attire was the standard to demonstrate cleanliness. That white clothing gave rise to the use of scrubs across health professions as a simple and easy-to-clean garment that has become synonymous with health care to the general public. Modern scrubs still boast a generally simplistic design but now sport a variety of colors, are made from a variety of different of materials and offer a variety of fits. 

The majority of respondents to the dress code survey said requiring scrubs or some other version of practice-specific apparel simplifies things for staff. Other respondents indicated that a uniform program: helps to prevent inappropriate dress (50%); promotes team unity (57%); promotes the practice’s brand and image (44%). 

Two thirds (66%) of dental practices require staff members to wear scrubs for work, according to a 2018 survey conducted by the ADA. Only 3% of respondents had no dress code for their dental practices.

Table showing percentage of responses to a survey about wearing scrubs in a dental office

Scrubs not only help identify dental team personnel as health care professionals, but can help keep staff safer by enabling them to change from street clothes to work clothes and to leave their scrubs at the office at the end of their shift in case they are stained during patient treatment. 

Guidance issued by the ADA in light of the recent COVID-19 crisis states that dental health care professionals should change from scrubs to personal clothing before returning home after working to help prevent infection. Following OSHA guidelines, scrubs should be washed on-site at the dental office, or may be laundered by the practice owner by a service of their choosing.

“The dentists we have been working with over the past month say that they have been meaning to refresh their uniform programs for a while now, and they are doing some research while the office is closed or running off a skeleton crew,” said Stephanie Astle, a Lands’ End representative. “A dentist I talked to the other day said she was ordering new logoed scrubs because her staff had been asking for black scrubs for a while now, and she wants them to feel appreciated when things return to normal. Also, she thought it would help make her returning patients feel more comfortable because the coordinated look for the staff would communicate professionalism.” 

To view the scrubs and other apparel available from ADA Member Advantage endorsed Lands’ End, visit ADA.landsend.com.