Dr Somayyeh Azimi1,2, Mr Fernando Lima1, Prof Linda Slack-Smith2, Ms Jenny Bourke1, Hon. Prof Hanny Calache3, Dr Mohammed Junaid1,2, A/Prof Helen Leonard1
1Telethon Kids Institute, Australia, 2University of Western Australia, Nedlands, Australia, 3Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia
Little is known about why some children with intellectual disability or autism spectrum disorder are being hospitalised for their dental care and others are not. This study investigated dental hospitalisations in Western Australian children with intellectual disability and/or autism aged up to 18 years.
Data on Western Australian live births from 1983 to 2004 from the Midwives Notification System were linked to the Intellectual Disability Exploring Answers database, the Western Australian Hospital Morbidity Data System and the Birth Defects Registry databases. Children with intellectual disability and/or autism were followed from birth to 2010 and the data grouped into three age-groups. Primary and secondary admissions for relevant dental diagnoses were identified and factors associated with having a dental hospitalisation investigated for children with intellectual disability and/or autism.
There were 1366, 1596, and 780 dental hospitalisations amongst 1122, 1154, and 609 children
with intellectual disability and/or autism in the 0–6, >6–12, and >12–18 year age-groups, respectively. Children with severe ID were much more likely to be hospitalised than those with mild/moderate intellectual disability. More socioeconomically disadvantaged children were less likely to be hospitalised than children whose parents were socially advantaged.
There is concern that more vulnerable children in the WA community with intellectual disability and/or autism are receiving an inadequate level of dental services compared with other groups, resulting in potentially preventable hospitalisations, a situation needing urgent remediation. Dental practitioners at all levels need training and confidence in treating children with intellectual disability and/or autism.
Somayyeh Azimi is an overseas dentist who completed her Ph.D. at UWA. She is currently a postdoc researcher at International Research Collaborative – Oral Health and Equity Centre (UWA) and at Telethon Kids Institute. Somayyeh has a focus on addressing disparities in oral health and improving children’s oral health.