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Stigma of Addiction in Receiving Dental Care: A Qualitative Study

Stigma of Addiction in Receiving Dental Care: A Qualitative Study

Stigma is quite pervasive regarding mental health and addiction, and the medical field is no exception to this phenomenon. The dental industry in particular faces unique challenges in addiction recovery, specifically as it relates to oral hygiene. While not discussed as often, patients with addiction do experience stigma in the dental care industry – and learning more about this area for growth could inspire more education and interventions for those in the healthcare field to learn more about addiction, as well as ways to provide more patient-centered care. Even in healthcare fields such as dentistry, stigma can have a significantly negative impact on those looking for help. Providing the best care possible while not compromising patient-provider rapport is crucial for healthy business.

A 2017 study published in the journal PLOS One sought to explore the lived experiences of those with a self-reported history of depression along with combined use of alcohol and crack-cocaine. A total of 25 participants were involved in the study, with 17 being male patients. The majority of participants reported only seeking dental care for emergency purposes. After 300 pages of interviews were transcribed, the researchers found the following perceptions of stigma from the patients:

  • Participants were negatively stereotyped as “unworthy”
  • They felt labeled as “different”
  • “Excluded from the decision-making process” with their dentist
  • “Discriminated against”
  • “Treated unfairly”
  • Felt “powerless in interacting in the health and dental care systems”

Results from the study weren’t all negative, however, so don’t get too discouraged; participants reported the positive aspects of their dental care as having experienced empathy, reassurance, and effective communication, which were all quite empowering for patients. If stigma is so prevalent in the dental industry, what can dental healthcare teams do to become more proactive with this concern?

From a patient’s perspective, the lack of understanding about one’s lived experiences really seems to place a wedge between patient-provider interactions. Ultimately, understanding more about addiction, how it works, and what can lead up to addiction could provide healthcare teams with more insight for better communication practices. Additionally, patients with addiction may be less likely to return or to seek help if they continue to have negative experiences with healthcare providers – these positive interactions could make a world of difference for them, and could even jumpstart their recovery by knowing there’s others out there that care.

If you haven’t already, speak with a professional from a reputable treatment center to learn more about treatment programs to best suit your needs. It’s never too late for you to begin your journey to recovery.

Created by professionals for professionals, our Professionals Treatment Program utilizes industry proven practices for fully restoring professionals back to better health. We serve multiple industries with our specifically catered programs and services, providing life changing care for addiction and co-occurring issues. Call us today to book an appointment: 855-422-4129

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