Is dentistry inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community?

This Pride Month, we asked our audience whether dentistry is an inclusive profession for the LGBTQ+ community – find out what was said here…

Dentistry’s Big Questions explores the hottest topics of the profession.

In honour of Pride Month, we asked: Is dentistry inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community?

Hear some thoughts below…

Scroll to the bottom for next week’s Big Question.

Jenna Ellis, dental technician

I have worked in dentistry for around 10 years now and overall my experience has been a positive one. I myself am in a same-sex relationship, and have worked and currently work with a great team who support me and understand me without treating me any differently to anybody else.

However, in the past I have had colleagues make comments or ask inappropriate questions related to my sexuality. Now, being the type of person that I am, in the past this has been seen as banter and has never bothered me. But having said that, when we look at what is going on now around people’s rights and accepting peoples beliefs, sexualities and races and how this has now become an offence within the law if somebody is discriminated… the things that I have experienced in the past would be unacceptable today.

I do feel this has a stronger link to the older generation and a lack of understanding and knowledge of the LGBTQ+ community as well as traditional views. At the moment especially, it’s very important that, not only the general public, but laboratory owners, dental practice owners, management and colleagues are up to date and equipped with the knowledge of today’s rights within the workplace.

They should also have an understanding of how some people can be affected, how to approach a person using the right pronouns, learning how somebody would like to be identified, or even conversations within workplaces that are inclusive to all.

From my understanding, a high percentage of the LGBTQ+ community experience some sort of anxiety or depression and other things related to their mental health. It is important that the mental wellbeing of those affected are also considered.

Charlie Steward, dental hygiene and therapy student

My dental career began in 2021. I had just come out as gay to my family but was still hiding my identity at work. A year into my training, I finally found the courage to come out. I was so lucky to have a supportive team; I couldn’t imagine the negative impact I’d have suffered had they not accepted me.

Unfortunately, I have encountered a dental professional who wasn’t so accepting. Due to my decision not being out, I never brought the issue to attention. It hurt not having the strength to tell anyone, but for me, suppressing my emotions at the time was the safest option.

In response to the question, a (now deleted) comment was left on the Instagram post expressing an individual’s discomfort in trans rights, in particular mentioning biological differences in gender identification.

This professional, and those alike, need to remember the protected characteristics of the patient and fellow professionals. We shouldn’t have an opinion of patients’ identification as their identity doesn’t restrict the education and practice we provide.

It is clear that patients are most vulnerable in the dental chair, some more than others such as those with gender dysphoria. These patients walk in to have treatment, not their identity judged. Medications including hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can cause oral health problems so we need to create a safe environment for our patients where questions can be asked.

Professions will always have members who are prejudiced to certain identities. This is sadly a problem, but I don’t believe that dentistry should ever be branded as a profession not safe or non-inclusive to the LGBTQ+ community. We, like all medical professionals, are here for our patients and believe in learning to keep in date with the world we live in.

Nick Coller, dental hygienist and facial aesthetics practioner

So often conversations around the LGBTQ+ community are toxic. We’re angry, we want more rights than other people, we want special and different treatment, we want to take over other people’s safe spaces. The truth is we have often have not had safe spaces of our own. We have known prejudice, violence, bullying and harassment in ways some other members of society have not.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community face unique challenges that can all too easily get overlooked. We suffer from ‘minority stress’. We are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. Our community has a far greater incidence of self-harm, eating disorders, drug abuse, homelessness and suicide compared to the rest of the population.

I don’t hold myself out to and I can’t possibly hope to speak for the entire LGBTQ+ community. I can, however, try to raise awareness this Pride Month of the challenges that members of my community face – be they patients or colleagues.

Part of our duty of care is to ensure we treat our patients without discrimination. This can mean challenging our own preconceived ideas and prejudices towards members of society that we might not come into regular contact with outside of our working environment. However, according to Stonewall, one in seven LGBTQ+ people avoid seeking healthcare due to fear of discrimination by staff.

Ultimately, I believe that you, like me, might have chosen dentistry as it is a caring profession. I take it that you have an interest in people, appreciate differences and you want to make a difference in helping others.

What are your thoughts? Email [email protected]

The next Big Question is: Do women in dentistry still face barriers?

What do you think? Let’s get a discussion going – email your thoughts to [email protected] to feature in our follow-up article in which we will share the views from across the profession.

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