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Open Wide! – An Informative Look into LGBT Oral Health

Published: 29 May 2018 Tags: Oral Health By Andrew Gilliver

Andrew Gilliver from our Pride in Practice Team takes us through some of the areas that we should be aware of when looking after our mouth, teeth and gums.

Smile! Or don’t – being forced to smile should be classed as a form of torture (though apparently the mere act of smiling can trigger the release of endorphins – OMG I just tried it and it WORKED…briefly.) National Smile Month takes place until 14th June, and in recognition of this we here at the LGBT Foundation are taking a close look into your mouth. I hope you used mouthwash!

But I brush my teeth every day – why do I need more info as an LGBT person?

As an LGBT patient there may be some specific health factors that affect you in particular (now doesn’t that make you feel special):

  • LGBT people are more likely to smoke = more likely to get oral infections. Other issues prevalent in the LGBT community, such as substance use and eating disorders, can all negatively affect our oral health.
  • LGBT people are affected by higher rates of HIV and hepatitis; this can be linked to substance abuse, unprotected oral sex and (in the case of hepatitis in particular) rimming. HIV can decrease the body's ability to fight infection and side effects of some HIV meds can cause problems in the mouth. More information is available HERE.
  • Some trans people may self-medicate with hormones bought online, and some HRT medication can produce oral health problems. Find out more HERE.
  • LGBT people can experience unique stress factors that can contribute to poor mental health which may mean that they are significantly less likely to visit a dental practice regularly (lack of motivation/disinterested in self-care/aversion to social situations.)

Basically, it is important for all of us to take extra care of our teeth, and also for the dentist to know if we are LGBT, because this enables them to be vigilant of any warning signs that might otherwise be overlooked.

However, whether or not you disclose your sexual orientation/gender/trans status is YOUR decision, and yours alone. You can find out more about sexual orientation monitoring HERE.

Your dentist will never force you to tell them, and even if you do, all dental care providers are bound by The Equality Act (2010) to keep such information private, and acknowledge your LGBT identity as a relevant consideration. It’s just a good idea to be aware of the disproportionate risks, and the benefits of being fully open with your dentist (say “aaaaah…”)

The vast majority of dental surgeries practice in accordance with law, and it is their professional duty to treat patients with respect, and acknowledge and adhere to an individual’s specific needs. If you find that this has not been your experience then you have the right to speak to the manager of the practice or make a formal complaint.

Unless you are aware that a service is LGBT inclusive, you may understandably assume that it isn’t. If you are still concerned, you can ask your dental practice about their awareness of LGBT patients’ needs, and your own specific needs. You can always call anonymously.

Basic Care Tips:

  • Brush your teeth thoroughly with fluoride toothpaste (not syrup) twice a day – but if your gums show signs of bleeding, brush more gently!
  • Eat less sugary/enamel-corrosive foods (e.g. cola) and smoke less.
  • Practice safer oral sex – know your own and your sexual partner’s STI status
  • Have regular dental check-ups

Your mouth matters. Be mindful (or mouthful) of what you put in it :D

Useful Links:

Oral Health Foundation
LGBT Foundation