‘Your whole life is lived through your teeth’: biographical disruption and experiences of tooth loss and replacement

Rousseau, Nikki, Steele, Jimmy, May, Carl and Exley, Catherine (2014) ‘Your whole life is lived through your teeth’: biographical disruption and experiences of tooth loss and replacement. Sociology of Health and Illness, 36 (3). pp. 462-476. ISSN 0141-9889

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-9566.12080


The experience and meaning of tooth loss and replacement has varied historically and culturally but has received relatively little attention from social scientists. Our study set out to understand these experiences in the context of the arrival of newer, dental implant treatments. Semi-structured qualitative interviews were carried out with 39 men and women who had experienced tooth loss and replacement. A thematic analysis was sensitised by previous sociological work on chronic illness, particularly Bury's notion of biographical disruption. We found that while for some individuals the loss of a tooth was relatively insignificant, for others it was devastating and disruptive. In seeking to understand this difference, the concept of biographical disruption was a helpful analytical tool. Our analysis identified two forms of disruption. The first related to the meanings of tooth loss (the neglected mouth) and denture wearing (a marker of old age). The second, embodied, disruption concerned the relationship between the self and mouth in those wearing dentures (the invaded, unreliable mouth) and could occur even where tooth loss and denture wearing had been biographically anticipated.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: A900 Others in Medicine and Dentistry
L900 Others in Social studies
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Nursing, Midwifery and Health
Depositing User: Ay Okpokam
Date Deposited: 14 Feb 2017 11:44
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2019 15:27
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/29658

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