Can Dental Assistants Have Acrylic Nails?

It’s no secret that acrylic nails are a popular way to add personality to your outfit, but are they appropriate for work? Some jobs, like working in a dental office, require the use of their hands, so it begs the question: can dental assistants have acrylic nails? 

The answer to whether dental assistants can wear acrylic nails is a resounding no. According to Dentistry IQ, keeping nails natural and trimmed short is the best way to go because it is more likely to prevent the spread of harmful microorganisms. 

Are there exceptions to wearing acrylic nails? What other rules are there when it comes to dental assistants and their nails? Learn why dental assistants should not wear acrylic nails. 

What Are Acrylic Nails? 

Acrylic nails (also known as fake nails or nail extensions) look like nails but will often have added design elements, such as patterns, jewels, or charms. They’re made out of acrylic glass (PMMA).  Acrylic nails can look very close to real fingernails or they can look more artistic (e.g. very long, uniquely shaped). 

The acrylic nails are applied to clean, bare nails using special glue. Afterward, acrylic mixture is applied to the nail and it should set in ten minutes. It will usually last about 21 days, but if you get regular touch-ups they can last longer. 

Why Is It Better To Not Wear Acrylic Nails As A Dental Assistant? 

Not wearing acrylic nails as a dental assistant is important because it keeps harmful bacteria at bay and prevents harm to dental patients. 

While acrylic nails may look pretty, the cons of wearing them as a dental assistant outweigh the pros.

Acrylic Nails Are More Likely To Spread Harmful Germs

Today’s RDH states that most microorganisms on the hands are found under or around the fingernails, so adding more potential places for bacteria to hang out increases the risk of infection. Acrylic nails have been linked to bacterial and fungal infections, and some research has been done that found acrylic nails harbor more bacteria, even after washing hands. 

There Is More Risk Of Protective Equipment Being Torn

Dentists and dental assistants take protective measures to protect themselves and their patients, which includes wearing latex gloves. When acrylic nails are worn, there is a higher chance of the gloves getting ripped due to the nail’s sharp or broken edges. This, in turn, creates more opportunities for bacteria to get through and cause problems. 

Even if a dental assistant inspects the latex gloves and does not see anything, there could be microtears that are not visible to the naked eye but can still allow bacteria to get through. 

Acrylic Nails Have Chemicals On Them 

Acrylic nails use strong chemicals and even though people can argue that the nails are dry, it is still risky to wear acrylic nails and be in a profession where you use your hands to touch other people. 

Some individuals may have sensitive skin and acrylic could irritate them. In a worst-case scenario, parts of the nail or acrylic could chip off and end up in a patient’s mouth or eye, which could cause something even more serious to happen.  

Are Gel Nails Or Nail Polish Safe? 

Acrylic nails are not the only way to add some oomph to your hands though. There are gel nails or simple nail polish. Are these OK for dental assistants to wear? 

Bare, Clean Nails Are The Best

Even though gel nails and nail polish do not seem to be as much of a commitment as acrylic  nails, they are still not great for dental assistants. CDC guidelines say that all health care personnel should keep their nails natural and not longer than a quarter inch. While this is not mandated, it is highly recommended.

They specifically say that fingernails should be kept short and to file down any jagged edges. This allows for easier nail cleaning and will also prevent glove tears. For patients that are at high risk (e.g., the emergency room), acrylic nails can pose a problem. Ultimately, the CDC says, “Use of artificial nails is usually not recommended.”

Dentistry IQ says that even though gel nails use the natural nail bed, the gel can become separated, which opens the door for bacteria to start living between the gel nail and the nail bed. 

Why Dental Assistants That Wear Acrylic Nails Should Be Considered A Serious Situation 

Maybe your dental office is lax on rules when it comes to acrylic nails, but ultimately, some very important issues can arise if something goes wrong when a dental assistant wears acrylic nails. 

Legal Reasons 

If a customer gets sick or infected from a dirty acrylic nail, there is the possibility that they will choose legal action and sue. This is a headache in itself and inconvenient for all parties involved. From court appearances to paying for lawyers, things can get messy and expensive.

Business Closure 

Even though dental offices do not serve food, they are still subject to visits by the local health department. If the agent notices that employees are participating in unsafe practices, they can shut down the business, which is a loss of profit and livelihood. 


Say a dental office does not get sued or shut down. This might seem like good news, but patients can still talk about their experiences. Word-of-mouth is a powerful publicity tool and if a lot of the experiences are negative, people are going to start looking for a new dentist. 

Other Unsafe Practices 

A dental office that has dental assistants that wear acrylic nails might not seem like a big deal, but it can also point to a practice that doesn’t think rules are important. Are there other procedures that could be putting patients at risk? 


Now that you have read a little bit more about dental assistants wearing acrylic nails, you can understand why they should not be wearing acrylic nails. 

Has this article helped you? Comment below or find us on our socials to tell us whether you think it’s okay for dental assistants to wear acrylic nails!