Qualitative exploration of dental and health care personnel’s awareness of signs displayed in victims of torture with focus on the oral cavity


  • Karolina Willix Department of Dental Medicine, section of Cariology, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden
  • Evelina Ekman Department of Dental Medicine, section of Cariology, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden
  • Karin Klefbom Transcultural Center, region Stockholm, Sweden
  • Lena Karlsson Department of Dental Medicine, section of Cariology, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden




torture, oral cavity, dental personnel, health care personnel



Introduction Numerous torture victims have experienced severe physical or phycological trauma to their face, mouth, and teeth. A dental visit carries a risk for torture survivors to relive the trauma, since the situation may trigger a recollection of previous suffering. Although health care personnel at resource center for torture victims are equipped with various tools to help and assist these individuals in their rehabilitation, very few centers have protocols in place to refer out victims to dental professionals with experience and knowledge in the area. The aim of this study was to investigate the extent of dental and health care personnel’s knowledge and awareness to detect various torture signs with focus on the oral cavity. 

Material and Methods Dental (n=16) and health care (n=6) personnel conducted individual interviews, group interviews, and qualitative data from a questionnaire. All interviews were transcribed, and a phenomenological-hermeneutical method was used to analyze the participants' answers.

Results Six health care and 16 dental personnel answered the questionnaire, and 5 health care and 16 dental personnel participated in the interviews. Dental personnel demonstrated a lack of knowledge and experiences regarding signs of torture with focus on the oral cavity, nor a multidisciplinary collaboration on torture victims. Most of the health care personnel had clear suggestions for external signs of torture and showed good knowledge of how to refer a torture victim to dental personnel.

Discussion Through a multidisciplinary approach, potential harmful long-term effects resulting from dental care visits can be prevented and the approach can additionally contribute to better resource utilization in health care. There is a need for increased awareness and knowledge of injuries and signs resulting from torture in the oral cavity among dental and health care personnel.


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How to Cite

Willix, K., Ekman, E., Klefbom, C., & Karlsson, L. (2021). Qualitative exploration of dental and health care personnel’s awareness of signs displayed in victims of torture with focus on the oral cavity. Torture Journal, 31(3), 84–95. https://doi.org/10.7146/torture.v32i3.127791