At a dental practice, a quality dental uniform can do everything from speaking volumes about your brand to inspiring staff performance. By Meg Crawford
US research has borne out what we intuitively know to be true: humans are hardwired to judge a book by its cover. The Princeton University study, ‘First Impressions: Making Up Your Mind After a 100-Ms Exposure to a Face’, determined that people make judgements about competence and reliability based on first impressions within a fraction of a second. Research has also determined that physical properties and environment all contribute to first impressions, which is where a snappy uniform comes into play.
Get the look
Pamela Jabbour, Total Image Group’s CEO, sums up the situation pithily. “Would you trust a doctor who’s wearing board shorts and thongs to operate?” she asks. “First impressions are based on the look more than anything else, so that first visual is critical, and uniforms have a huge part to play in that.”
Kimberley Adams, V Dental’s sales representative, amplifies the message. “It says who you are, what you’re about, and where you are heading and, if it’s done correctly, it says that you’re organised and in control,” she explains.
Good for morale
Medeleq’s co-founder/director Denise Cutajar—who’s also a former nurse—has been on both sides of the dental uniform equation and remembers the dark days of workwear. “When I was training, uniforms were these horrible, starchy things, and you had to drop to your knees. If your uniform didn’t touch the floor, you were told off in front of patients,” she recalls. Happily, the situation has changed radically since then. Cutajar was inspired by that experience to establish a company that gave medical and dental staff another option, namely uniforms that staff wouldn’t baulk at wearing. “People want to wear a uniform in which they look and feel good, as well as one in which they look professional.”
Adams takes it one step further. “We’re convinced that there’s a correlation between employee performance and dress code,” she says. “An unkempt, cheap outfit can equal poor work performances, as well as giving a poor impression, whereas staff who take pride in their dress are often more inclined to take pride in their work as well.”
Pamela Jabbour agrees wholeheartedly. “It’s the first tangible point of contact that an employee has with their work in a day,” she observes. “Even before they put a uniform on, it gives them a sense of purpose. It reiterates the company values and what they’re about and what they’re going to do. I find, if done right, good uniforms create staff engagement and great culture.”
In the 20th century, cotton was considered a peak-performance fabric, especially in terms of breathability, but uniform technology has come a long way. For a start, wash-and-wear technology has revolutionised uniform life span and care.
Uniform technology has also evolved to incorporate a raft of helpful features, including stretch, anti-stain, anti-microbial, water-wicking, anti-odour, wrinkle-resistant, high-vis and UV protective properties. Breathability has improved beyond measure too.
“There are plenty of fashion-forward uniform options available these days—appropriately fitting garments that are nicely styled, with nice detailing and company branding that are also comfortable and stylish.”—Pamela Jabbour, CEO, Total Image Group
“Previously, a lot of the more durable dental coats and jackets were made from polyester, which was often considered very hot to wear, but polyester has come such a long way that, in many cases, it’s now more breathable than cotton,” Jabbour explains. Plus, fabrics are no longer raspy and rough. “The latest materials feel really nice to touch and nice on your skin, which means that uniforms feel a lot more comfortable on,” Cutajar explains.
Get the brand
A new logo, brand or office space without a good dental uniform to match is a bit of a travesty, according to our experts. “It’s like a cake without icing,” Adams muses. “A good uniform is the finishing touch that brings everything together, and it ensures that your company image is complete.”
As for when it’s time for a dental uniform refresh, the answer is, it depends. Jabbour, for instance, encourages customers to issue staff with fresh uniforms annually, and to consider an overhaul every three years. Adams adds that a uniform refresh is appropriate anytime that there’s a significant corporate change. “When you decide to change your company message, aims or objectives, it may be beneficial to consider replacing your staff uniforms to reflect the same,” she says.
Plus, it may prove a cost saver in the long run. “A company rebrand can be really expensive, but if you factor in a budget for updating your company workwear, it can greatly aid marketing efforts and reduce outlay on other marketing needs,” Adams says.
The world of uniforms has evolved beyond measure. “It’s no longer about a baggy overblouse to cover your garments,” Jabbour explains. “There are plenty of fashion-forward uniform options available these days—appropriately fitting garments that are nicely styled, with nice detailing and company branding that are also comfortable and stylish.”
All three experts reiterate the importance of fit as well, emphasising that there’s a world of difference between unisex, male and female uniforms. Realistically, there’s no longer any excuse for a poorly fitting uniform. “There are so many different styles now, and we cater for every shape, height and age group,” Jabbour concludes.
How to differentiate
While workplaces are becoming increasingly egalitarian, there’s a good rationale for different uniforms between staff and dentists. For a start, job requirements between reception, management and administration staff and dentists, hygienists and technicians differ, and uniforms need to be fit for purpose. Plus, the traditional dentist’s jacket has an important role.
“I think dentists need their own jacket,” Jabbour says. “They’ve worked really hard to be in that position, and it’s a nice symbolic piece.”