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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Stigma of addiction and mental health in dental settings : patients' experiences Alan, Rana


Objectives: The objective of this study was to explore the nature of stigma experienced by dental patients who have substance use and mental health issues. Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposefully selected group of 13 English-speaking participants (7 males) who struggled with a variety of substance use and/or mental disorders, and lived in one of two treatment centres. An interview guide containing open-ended questions was used to discuss their experiences with dental professionals, and their perceptions of stigmatization. All interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analyzed using a qualitative thematic analysis. Results: Analysis of about 300 pages of interview transcripts demonstrated that participants perceived stigma in dental settings when they were viewed as “junkie” or “crazy”, were negatively stereotyped, and finally were rejected as patients or received negative attitude and substandard care from dentists who were misusing their position of power. Lack of or poor understanding and education about issues of addiction and mental health were pointed out as the origin of stigma. Positive experiences with dental professionals were characterized by empathy, reassurance and communication, which were empowering for patients. Conclusion: Individuals with substance dependence and mental health issues felt stigmatized by some dental professionals who they felt had labelled, stereotyped, and discriminated against them; making them feel disempowered. Findings of the study highlighted the need to better prepare current and future dentists to address the oral care of patients with substance dependence and mental illness in their clinical practice.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada