Does my dentist need to know if I am lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender?
It is entirely up to you if you choose to tell your dentist about your sexual orientation, gender identity or trans status. However, it may be help your dentist if they are aware of your identity as many LGBT patients have health needs that non-LGBT patients don’t have. So if you do give your dental team more details about yourself, it may help them to treat you more effectively.
Telling your team about yourself will mean they are less likely to make assumptions about the gender of your partner or ask inappropriate questions about your life. It may also make you feel more confident that you are receiving the best care and the most appropriate treatment for you.
It is also helpful if the dental team know about any concerns or anxieties you may have, so that they can help you to feel at ease.
How much of my medical history do the dental team need to know?
The dental team will need to know your medical history and about any medicines that you are taking. This includes any regularly prescribed medicines from your doctor or another health provider (such as HIV medications and Hormone Replacement Therapy). To treat you properly, they also need to know your HIV status and whether you have had hepatitis.
Dentists will not judge or criticise you. They are there to help improve your oral health and answer any questions or concerns you may have about your mouth, teeth and gums.
As an LGBT person am I more at risk of problems with my teeth and gums?
Looking after your teeth and gums is important for everyone. As an LGBT patient there may be some specific health details that your dental team need to know about.
Data shows LGBT people are more likely to smoke than straight and cisgender people. If you do use tobacco you are more likely to have problems in your mouth. Gum disease and tooth loss are just some of the problems that can happen. Smoking and alcohol also increase the risk of mouth cancer – something your dentist will check for at every examination.
Other personal issues like mental health, substance use and eating disorders can also affect your oral health.
LGBT people are also affected by higher rates of HIV and hepatitis. HIV can lower the body’s ability to fight infection, and the side effects of some HIV medications can cause problems in the mouth.
Some transgender people may take hormones they have bought online, and some HRT medication can cause oral health problems. Because of this, it is important that trans patients feel able to discuss any possible oral health issues with their dentist.
Sometimes LGBT people experience unique stresses, and these can contribute to poor mental health. Poor mental health can also have a knock-on effect for oral health. People who suffer from anxiety or depression are less likely to keep to a daily oral health routine and are less likely to visit a dental practice regularly. This can lead to oral health problems.
How do I choose a dentist that is right for me?
It is important that you feel comfortable with the person who is treating you. To put your mind at ease, it is a good idea to ask your dental practice questions about their awareness of LGBT patients’ needs. At first you can do this by telephone and you won’t have to give any details that you don’t feel happy giving.
You can use this as an opportunity to discuss any health conditions you may have. This will allow the dental team to share their knowledge and tell you how they can help you.
When you’re choosing the right practice to visit, it is important to feel confident that the dentist understands your needs.
Whatever dentist you choose, you can be sure:
- You are in a safe place where, if you choose, you can disclose information about your trans status, gender history and sexual orientation.
- No-one there will make assumptions about you simply because you are LGBT.
- Information about you will be treated confidentially and you will not lose control over what other people know about you.
- You will be treated with respect and without discrimination or judgement.
Who can I talk to?
The Oral Health Foundation has a confidential and impartial Dental Helpline that can give you free advice about the health of your mouth. You can call the Dental Helpline on +44(0) 1788 539 780 or send an email.
You can also talk to LGBT Foundation – a charity that gives support and information to LGBT people. You can call LGBT Foundation’s helpline on +44(0) 3453 303 030 or email [email protected]