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Table of Contents
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 13-19

Perceptions regarding dentist persona in the Indian population

1 Department of Pediatric Dentistry, Government Dental College, Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Mechanical Engineering, GECA, Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission26-Oct-2019
Date of Acceptance19-Feb-2020
Date of Web Publication07-Jul-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Chaitali Hambire
Government Dental College and Hospital, Dhanwantari Nagar, Aurangabad - 431 001, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/AMJM.AMJM_7_19

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Background: India is a country with multiracial societies having diversity in culture. This can have a significant role in influencing patient's perception related to appearance, ethnicity, quality of dental care, and verbal and nonverbal communication of dentists. This research principally focused on the assessment of patient's perceptions with regard to dentist's demeanor and its role in nonverbal communication which, in turn, will affect their future dentist–patient relationship. Aims and Objective: To assess attitude of children and adults toward's the physical attributes of dentist and its association with reliability, comfortability and anxiety.Materials and Methods: 600 children and 1500 adults participated in a cross sectional observational study to assess the perception of patients regarding the physical characteristics of dentist. A set of questionnaire dealing with the physical attribute was designed in English, local (Marathi) and national language (Hindi). The participants were also asked to assess the reliability, comfortability and their anxiety level based on the persona of the dentist. Results: Results of the study showed that male dentist with short hair, clean shaven and fair complexion was most desirable. Male dentist with dark complexion, stubble and bald was least preferred. Female dentist having fair complexion wearing light makeup, jewellery with hair tied neatly was found to be most desirable. Dark complexion female wearing heavy makeup and jewellery with coloured hair was found to be least desirable. Conclusion: These results will help in developing a proper professional dentist persona for effective and efficient patient management. Limitations of the study are considered.

Keywords: Complexion, dental anxiety, dentist persona, patient perception, preference, professional behavior, professionalism

How to cite this article:
Hambire C, Hambire U. Perceptions regarding dentist persona in the Indian population. Amrita J Med 2020;16:13-9

How to cite this URL:
Hambire C, Hambire U. Perceptions regarding dentist persona in the Indian population. Amrita J Med [serial online] 2020 [cited 2023 Mar 30];16:13-9. Available from: https://ajmonline.org.in/text.asp?2020/16/1/13/289141

  Introduction Top

English Oxford dictionary defines persona as “the aspect of someone's character that is presented to or perceived by others.” It is a social role or a character played by an actor. It refers to a theatrical mask in Latin.[1] The effect of a person's demeanor, expressions, and mannerism plays a vital role in building interpersonal relationships and success in their profession. Professionalism is expressed in various ways including the dimensions of competence, ranging from comprehension of basic biology principles to clinical skill; engagement, which includes behaviors and attributes pertaining to empathy and communication; reliability, which pertains to timely access to competence; dignity, which includes treatment of patient, clinical staff, and self; the health care provider's dedication to placing the needs of the patient above his or her own needs; and concern for the quality of clinical care.[2]

Professionalism in its broadest sense can be defined as an image that promotes a successful relationship with the patient.[3] This relationship plays an important role in gaining a patient's confidence. The information about the patient's perceptions related to the personality and appearance of dental professional can help dentists to enhance their interpersonal relationships with patients.[4]

Dental fear is a normal emotion, a reaction to one or more specific threatening stimuli in a dental care situation, while dental anxiety refers to a state of apprehension that something dreadful is going to happen as a consequence of dental treatment.[5] A patient's perception of a physician's ability has been shown to be influenced by their appearance, which, in turn, can also affect the anxiety and comfort level of a patient receiving treatment.[6]

India is a country with multiracial societies having diversity in culture. This can have a significant role in influencing patient's perception related to appearance, ethnicity, quality of dental care, and verbal and nonverbal communication of dentists. This research principally focused on the assessment of patient's perceptions with regard to dentist's demeanor and its role in nonverbal communication which, in turn, will affect their future dentist–patient relationship.

  Materials and Methods Top

Recruitment of participant and ethical approval

Before the onset of the study, approval was obtained from the government dental college review board. (ECR/954/GOVT/Inst/MH/2013). Participation in the study was voluntary. No incentive was offered for participation. Informed consent was obtained from adults and assent was obtained from children both verbally and in writing.

Study sample

This study was a cross-sectional observational study. The adults and children participants were patients coming at the institute for their dental treatment. The study was conducted from January 2018 to May 2018. The inclusion criteria were as follows:

  1. Children within the age group of 6–17 years and adults more than18 years
  2. Adults and children who were able to comprehend regional (Marathi) or national (Hindi) or English languages.

Exclusion criteria were as follows:

  1. Adults and children with a cognitive disability
  2. Adults and children suffering from life-threatening and debilitating diseases
  3. Children not accompanied with any parent or guardian
  4. Adults and children suffering from a mental disorder
  5. Blind adult and children.

Sample size

The sample size was determined by the statistical department using a 95% confidence level. A total of 1500 adults (798 male and 702 female) and 600 children (287 male and 313 female) were participated in the study [Figure 1].
Figure 1: Flow Chart of Recruitment

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Reliability and validity of the study

A survey methodology was used for this study. The reliability and validity of the survey were tested prior to its administration. The validity of the content was analyzed and assessed by for researchers familiar with the research methodology. After necessary corrections, the questionnaire was tested on students of the institute to evaluate the comprehensibility and accessibility. Forty volunteers participated in the preliminary survey. They were able to comprehend the questionnaire of the survey without any difficulty. The questionnaire was tested on the same group after a period of 1 month to test the reliability and consistency of answers. This pilot test obtained 95% reliability.

Collection of data

The study consisted of two parts. In the first part, there were five groups. Each group was having three to seven photographs of dentists with different physical attributes. Each group was accompanied with one question. A questionnaire related to physical appearance was designed. The questionnaire was initially developed in English to facilitate its review by experts for its comprehension. The English version was then translated into regional language (Marathi) and national language (Hindi) to aid comprehension by the study population. Experts in these languages did the translations. The questionnaire was tested for the validity of the content.

The individuals pictured in the photographs did not participate in the study. All the participants had to choose the preferred physical attribute among the photographs shown under each group. They had to give their preference like desirable, undesirable, or no preference.

The second part of the study assessed the perceptions of the participants regarding their dentist. Four questions were designed related to dentist's persona affecting their comfortability, reliability, and anxiety. They had to record their perceptions using 5-point Likert scale[7] (1 – strongly disagree, 2 – slightly disagree, 3 – neutral, 4 – slightly agree, and 5 – strongly agree) [Table 1].
Table 1: Perception regarding persona of dentist#

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All the participants were given instructions to complete the questionnaire in the waiting area before the commencement of their dental treatment.


Group A: Preference for a male dentist with different hairdos:

  1. Dentist with long hair
  2. Dentist with short hair
  3. Dentist with a crew cut
  4. Partially bald
  5. Completely bald
  6. With turban
  7. Stylish haircut.

Group B: Preference for Female dentist with different hairdo:

  1. Dentist with long hair
  2. Dentist with short hair
  3. Dentist with medium length hair
  4. Dentist with colored hair
  5. Plait/braid
  6. Bun
  7. Stylish haircut.

Group C: Preference for a male dentist with facial hair:

  1. Dentist with moustache
  2. Dentist with beard and moustache
  3. Dentist with stubble
  4. Clean shaven.

Group D: Preference for a female dentist with makeup and jewellery:

  1. Dentist with excessive/heavy makeup and jewellery
  2. Dentist with light makeup and jewellery
  3. Dentist with no makeup and jewellery.

Group E: Preference for male/female dentist with different complexions:

  1. Fair complexion
  2. Whitish
  3. Dark.

Statistical analysis

The data were recorded and entered into the Microsoft Office Excel (version 2013) spreadsheet. MedCalc Statistical Software version 13.3.1 (MedCalc Software bvba, Ostend, Belgium; http://www.medcalc.org; 2014) was used for the statistical analysis of the data. Chi-square analysis was performed to determine the existence of correlation between demographic characteristics of participants and their preference for dentist demeanor. Cross-tabulation analysis of response to the questionnaire was done.

  Results Top

A total of 1500 adults (798 male and 702 female) and 600 children (287 male and 313 female) were participated in the study. The distribution of participants according to the gender and age is shown in [Table 2]. The children and adult participants' responses regarding their preferences for the personas of dentist are shown in [Table 3]. There was no significant difference in opinion among male and female (P > 0.6). There was no significant correlation between age and preferences for dentist demeanor (P > 0.05). The F-ratio, partial eta-square, and mean square values were calculated, as shown in [Table 4].
Table 2: Distribution of participants according to the gender and age

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Table 3: Response of the participants for dentist persona

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Table 4: Age-wise distribution of mean, standard error, F-values, and partial eta square for professional traits across physical characteristics in children and adults

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Male dentist with different hairdos

About 85.2% of the children found stylish haircut in male dentists more desirable (P < 0.05) as compared to 43.8% of the adults. Short hair was the most preferred hairdo in 87.2% of the adults (P < 0.01). Bald dentist was found undesirable by 82% of the children (P < 0.001). Similar result (80.6%) was obtained with adults (P < 0.001) [Table 3].

Female dentist with different hairdos

Female dentist wearing plait/braid was preferred by 65.4% of the children (P < 0.05). Nearly 74.2% of the adults preferred female dentist wearing bun (P < 0.05). Female dentist with colored hair was least preferred by children (76.3%) and adult (67.8) (P < 0.01) [Table 3].

Male dentist with facial hair

Almost 90.4% of the children and 94.2% of the adults found well-shaved male dentists more desirable (P < 0.001). Similarly, 89.1% of the children and 86.2% of the adults found male dentists with stubble undesirable (P < 0.05). Nearly 76.3% of the children did not prefer dentists with moustache (P < 0.001). About 54.3% of the adults did not have any firm opinion regarding dentists with moustache (P < 0.01) [Table 3].

Female dentist with makeup and jewellery

Most of the children (88.9%) and 80.5% of the adults found female dentists with light makeup and jewellery desirable (P < 0.05). About 65.8% of the adults found female dentists wearing heavy makeup and jewellery undesirable (P < 0.05). A female dentist devoid of any makeup or jewellery was found undesirable by 67.9% of the children (P < 0.05) [Table 3].

Male and female dentist with different complexion

Almost 94.2% of the children and 89.9% of the adults preferred fair-skinned dentist (P < 0.05). A dentist with dark brown complexion was found undesirable by 84.6% the children (P < 0.05) and 63.7% of the adults (P < 0.05) [Table 3].

Relationship between comfort, anxiety, and dentist persona

About 48.6% of the children and 42.6% of the adults strongly agreed that the physical appearance of dentist was important for them. Nearly 51.2% of the chidren and 49.2% of the adults strongly agreed that persona of dentists affected their comfort level. The persona of the dentist was affecting their anxiety levels in 56.7% of the children and 45.7% of the adults. About 50.2% of the children and 32.6% of the adults strongly agreed that the dentist persona affected their confidence in his/her skills [Table 1].

  Discussion Top

This study primarily focused on perceptions of Indian patients regarding the physical appearance and professional behavior of dental personnel. Till date, most of the studies have focused on patient's perception regarding the attire of a dentist with little or no emphasis on physical appearance. The health professional's demeanor is strongly linked to better patient predisposition. The appearance and behavior of dentists reflect their integrity as professionals.[8] The appearance of the clinician is also considered to have an effect on a patient's impression of the dental environment and to affect the doctor–patient relationship.[8],[9],[10] Nonverbal communication in the form of a clinician's appearance can play a major role in any attitudes formed in relationships between patient and practitioner. Professionalism can be portrayed through proper appearance, based on dress codes, can increase a patient's feelings of comfort and confidence, thus leading to an improved dental experience.[11]

Patients believe that an excellent or “ideal” dentist should have the following traits: professional skills, friendliness, good communication skills, trust, support, and concern for prevention and state-of-the-art equipment.[12] Knowledge of patients' perceptions can help dentists to gain a better understanding of public perceptions of dentistry as a profession and therefore to enhance their interpersonal relationships with patients.[4] The persona of a dentist can influence the comfort and anxiety related to dental procedures. Past studies have shown that a well-dressed professional is considered to be more efficient and competent by the patients.[3]

This study was conducted on 2100 participants (600 children and 1500 adults) to find their perceptions regarding the dentist persona. The comfort, reliability, and dental anxiety associated with the physical appearance of both male and female dentists were also studied. Most of the participants found a fair, clean-shaved male dentist with short hair more desirable. Female dentist with little makeup, fair complexion, and tied hair (bun) was found to be most desirable. Both male and female dentists with dark complexion were least preferred by the participants. Female dentists with heavy makeup and jewellery were considered to be undesirable. This result was similar to earlier studies conducted to study the preference for the physical appearance of the dentist.[3],[11] In a recent study conducted in the Bangalore city of India, the most liked qualities in a dentist were professionalism, good communication skill, caring personality, and painless treatment, while irregularities of the dentist were most disliked quality.[13]

This study has considered only some of the physical attributes that would affect the patient's perceptions. Additional studies can be considered using audio–video aids to assess the extent of impact of the persona of the dentist on their patients. India is a country with a large population having diversity in culture, languages, and religion. More studies can be done taking in consideration these factors. Never the less this study can guide the dentist in developing a positive and favorable impression on their patients, which will help them to gain confidence and decrease dental anxiety.

  Conclusion Top

The patient's first impression of a physician can have a strong influence on perceptions of the care provider's competence level and expectations of the care delivered in future.[12] The nonverbal communication attributed to a dental care provider's attire/appearance can also play a major role in the patient/doctor relationship.[3] This study also showed that physical appearance of male and female dentists has a strong impact on comfort, anxiety, and reliability. This knowledge can help in improving the persona of the dentist to have a positive impression on the patient. This will help in better communication bringing about more effective and efficient dental treatment.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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Majstorovic M, Veerkamp JS, Skrinjaric I. Reliability and validity of measures used in assessing dental anxiety in 5- to 15-year-old Croatian children. Eur J Paediatr Dent 2003;4:197-202.  Back to cited text no. 6
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Rekha R. Dentist – Patient relationship, patients perceptions towards dentist and dental practice in Bangalore city – A survey report. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent 2012;10:93-8.  Back to cited text no. 13
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  [Figure 1]

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]


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