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Exploring oral health and dental care experiences, perceptions and behaviours of adults whose parents were incarcerated during their childhood Amir, Nida


Objectives: Parental incarceration is an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) that can have a negative effect on health related Quality of Life (QOL) outcomes in adulthood. It is unclear how this ACE influences oral health in childhood and in adulthood. This study explores: 1. The oral-health and dental care experiences of men and women whose parents were incarcerated during their childhood; 2. How this childhood experience influences current behaviours and perceptions of oral health and dental care in adulthood. Methods: Semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with adults who had one or both parents incarcerated during their childhood. The transcripts were analyzed using Interpretive Phenomenology to identify and describe dominant themes. Results: The eight participants in this study (four males, four females) were found to have experienced more than one ACE. Four themes emerged: 1) Instability; 2) Poverty, stigma and shame; 3) Past dental experiences, and 4) Value of empathetic dental professionals. Conclusion: This study aimed to provide awareness into the concepts that exist about oral health and dental care in adults that have experienced parental incarceration. We found that participants were able to receive dental care on a regular basis during childhood, (urgent and general dental care) however, preventive dental care at home was lacking. The manner in which dental care was delivered in childhood had a strong influence on dental behaviours in adulthood. Financial barriers such as inability to afford dental-care and non-financial barriers such as dental fear, stigma and shame exist for the participants in adulthood in accessing dental care. Perceived poor dental aesthetics made participants feel low self-esteem and social isolation, and restricted their career options. Oral health of their children is given more priority than their own and dental professionals who are empathetic are preferred. The findings of this study highlight that, similar to other vulnerable groups, it is important for dental practitioners to understand and practise Trauma Informed Care universally when working with children, in particular those who may have suffered from ACE, in order to provide experiences that promote their future oral-health.

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