Learning disability found to be contributing factor to development of dental caries in children with cerebral palsy


Dental caries, or tooth decay is estimated to develop at the same rate in people with learning disabilities as in the general population.. The prevalence of untreated dental caries, however, is much higher among people with learning disabilities, particularly among those living in non-institutional settings.

The researchers in this Brazilian study set out to look at whether the severity of learning disability was a factor affecting the development of dental cavities in patients with cerebral palsy.

They worked with 165 people in three settings, a physical rehabilitation centre, a special school and a regular school, using a cross-sectional methodology. 76 of those involved had been diagnosed with spastic cerebral palsy while 89 had no neurological impairment. They were matched for age and gender and selected randomly by lottery.

All those taking part were then examined by a dentist to look at the number of dental cavities, and also underwent a test of intellectual functioning and motor abilities.

What they found was that the children with cerebral palsy with learning disabilities did have a larger number of dental cavities those with cerebral palsy but no learning disabilities.

The researchers used multivariate logistic regression to analyse their data and found that only intellectual functioning appeared to have a significant effect on the development of dental cavities suggesting that learning disability was a contributing factor for the development of dental caries in patients with cerebral palsy.

Does intellectual disability affect the development of dental caries in patients with cerebral palsy? Nogueira Moreira R et al., in Research in Developmental Disabilities 33, 5, 1503-1507

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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