Monday 22 July 2019

Edentulousness (no natural teeth) and intellectual (learning) disability

Edentulousness: "The property of being edentulous; lack of teeth."

I was brought to talk about edentulousness on this blog as a result of the findings reported by Kinnear and colleagues [1] and their observations suggesting that: "Adults with IDs [intellectual disability] have a high prevalence of edentulousness."

Based on data from an "adult cohort with IDs residing in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Scotland", researchers compared rates of edentulousness in their 560 adults with ID with (asymptomatic) population data (n=2547) on this issue. The results were pretty worrying as "rates of edentulousness were consistently higher in the ID cohort" across various different age ranges: "9% vs. 1% aged 25-34 years; 22% vs. 2% aged 35-44 years; 39% vs. 7% aged 45-54 years; 41% vs. 18% aged 55-64 years; and 76% vs. 34% aged 65-74 years." Researchers also concluded that edentulousness was quite a bit more likely in those described as having "severe IDs".

When it came to other factors outside of ID severity that might be related to edentulousness, a few issues were observed such as "taking antipsychotics" and "living in the most deprived neighbourhoods." Other variables such as the presence of a diagnosis of autism and "problem behaviours" were are told, did not reach the thresholds for 'sufficient evidence'.

Why is all this important you might ask? Well, for lots of reasons, not least that the Kinnear results potentially highlight the important (continuing) issue of health inequality in relation to learning (intellectual) disability (see here). Indeed, one of my first thoughts when I read the Kinnear results is that quite a few of those news reports about people with learning disabilities that have been seen down the years, show people missing teeth. I can't help thinking what such pictures do for a person and their self-esteem. Even worse, such findings further highlight how for some people with ID, the state of edentulousness is literally forced on them (see here) with little or no regard for the views of them or indeed their loved ones.

Such findings do suggest that organisations need to try harder when it comes to improving the oral health of those with ID. I'm minded to suggest that those people who have a history of poor diet, those who are prone to pica (eating non-edible objects), those who have bruxism (teeth grinding) and/or those who have a history of persistent vomiting should perhaps be afforded particular dental attention. The link with antipsychotic use? Well, I also think more needs to be done in this area. There is already some data on medicines affecting oral hygiene [2] among which antipsychotics seem to have a place. The hows-and-whys need a little more understanding outside of the suggestion of xerostomia (dry mouth). Despite also the lack of any significant link between 'problem behaviours' and edentulousness identified by Kinnear, I'd still like to see whether certain 'challenging behaviours' might be contributory to such a state (see here) and perhaps one reason why antipsychotics were prescribed in the first place?


[1] Kinnear D. et al. Prevalence of factors associated with edentulousness (no natural teeth) in adults with intellectual disabilities. J Intellect Disabil Res. 2019 May 6.


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