Dental Care Understanding of the Unique Oral Health Needs to Support LGBTQ+

According to a recent survey by CareQuest, an oral health non-profit organization, there is an ongoing dental healthcare crisis within the LGBTQ+ community. Part of this is due to the lack of access to LGBTQ+-friendly dentists and oral surgeons, partly to embarrassment or fear, and partly because members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to develop serious oral health issues for various reasons.

According to CareQuest, LGBTQ+ individuals are:

  • 77% more likely to have been to the hospital for a dental issue, as they do not have access to, or a relationship with, a general dentist.
  • 58% more likely to have difficulty finding an LGBTQ+-friendly dentist when they suffer dental pain.
  • 45% more likely to feel self-conscious because their teeth, gums, or dentures are in poor condition.

These self-perpetuating issues are difficult to change unless more dental practices offer genuine and respectful care to the LGBTQ+ community. It is important to know that community members suffer disproportionately from dental health problems tied to specific habits and related health issues covered in this article.

To improve their quality of life, we, the dental community, need to make every effort to be aware of and address the unique oral health needs of LGBTQ+ patients.

Hormone Replacement Therapy and Oral Health

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) for transgender individuals aids in transitioning from one sex to another, however, numerous side effects can affect dental health. Research confirms that HRT can alter immunologic responses and create fluctuating hormone levels that cause inflammation. This contributes to gum disease and periodontitis. Because the immune system is also affected, fighting off the effects of infection is more difficult.

Individuals transitioning from female to male also experience bone loss in the jaw due to osteoporosis linked to estrogen depletion and the mineral depletion effects of androgen hormones.

HIV Positive Patients

There is a higher incidence of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) in the LGBTQ+ population. It’s an unfortunate reality that has a profound impact on oral health while at the same time preventing these patients from seeking medical attention.

Dental health risks associated with HIV/AIDS include the following:

  • Chronic dry mouth
  • Gum disease
  • Periodontitis
  • Oral warts
  • Canker sore or fever blisters
  • Thrush
  • Cavities

A better understanding of HIV/AIDS and compassionate care is the first step. The next step must be continued outreach to the LGBTQ+ community by dentists and oral health professionals. If an individual is suffering from dental health issues, ignoring them can lead to serious complications, such as systemic infections that can be fatal for those who have AIDS or are HIV positive. Protecting overall health starts with taking care of oral health.

Tobacco & Alcohol Use

The negative effects of smoking, chewing tobacco, and excessive alcohol consumption are seen in individuals across all sexual orientations and gender identities. However, since there is a higher incidence of alcohol and tobacco use in the LGBTQ+ community, they also run a higher risk of dental problems, including oral cancer, than heterosexual and cisgender individuals. Regular dental checkups and regular professional teeth cleanings can minimize damage from tobacco and alcohol, but cutting back on or eliminating these habits is the best option.

Mental Health Issues

High-stress levels, anxiety, and depression contribute to poor oral health. In turn, suffering from dental pain, infection, or tooth loss can make self-consciousness and depression worse, creating a cycle that contributes to isolation and dissatisfaction for some members of the LGBTQ+ community. They can therefore be less likely to see a dentist and be less attentive to their oral hygiene, creating many opportunities for serious oral health problems.

As dental professionals, we must all be dedicated to helping members of the LGBTQ+ community protect and improve their oral health. If you have neglected your dental health in the past, we hope you’ll contact your dentist for an oral exam, dental cleaning, and valuable tips on caring for your teeth and gums for a gorgeous smile. If you are looking for a compassionate and qualified dentist, give us a call at Smileboston Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry office Phone Number 617-277-4100 to schedule your appointment. At Smileboston, we welcome all patients regardless of their gender, orientation, or identification.

Tags: , ,