3 minute read
Problems with teeth and gums can have wide-spreading impacts beyond the mouth. Taking good care of your oral health is important for your overall health, and risk factors for oral health problems can vary depending on your sex and gender.
Studies show that men tend to neglect their oral health more than women, which puts them at higher risk of developing dental problems. Biological differences can also affect risk factors and outcomes for men and women.
Read our summary to discover more about oral health risk factors, how they can be managed and why having good oral health matters.
Why is oral health important?
Good oral health is as important as any other aspect of your health, for the sake of your teeth and gums, and for its wider impact on overall health and wellbeing.
Oral health problems such as tooth damage, decay or misaligned teeth may affect your ability to eat and chew food, and stop you from getting the nutrition you need. Dental issues that affect speech or appearance can also impact on your ability to communicate clearly or your willingness to smile openly.
When we eat, bacteria enter the mouth and can build up if we don’t clean and floss between teeth properly. When bacteria is left untreated, it can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. It can also enter the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body. Gum disease in particular has been linked as a risk factor for a number of systemic diseases, including cardiovascular (heart) disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and stroke, among others.
Taking good care of your oral health can help to lower these related health risks. Likewise, existing medical issues can increase your risk of developing oral health problems.
Men’s oral health risks
While men and women are prone to the same oral health issues, men are considered to be at higher risk of developing certain conditions and behaviours.
A recent review of studies by the American Journal of Men’s Health found that men are more likely than women to:
- ignore their oral health
- have poor oral hygiene habits
- develop gum disease, oral cancer or dental injuries
- visit the dentist less frequently, and usually to treat a problem
Poor oral hygiene
Women tend to take better care of their oral hygiene, are more aware of the importance of oral health and feel more positive about visiting the dentist compared to men.
Research by the American Dental Association (ADA) and Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) found that 8% more women brush their teeth twice a day or after every meal compared to men.
In Australia, more women say they visited the dentist within the past year (53%) compared to men (46%), according to the latest National Study of Adult Oral Health. Men are more likely to visit the dentist when they have a problem that needs treatment, rather than for preventive care.
Men are also more likely to engage in habits such as smoking and drinking excessive alcohol, which increase their oral health risks.
In its early stage, gum disease can cause gums to swell, turn red and bleed when you brush your teeth. In its later stages, gum disease may cause gum recession and tooth loss, as well as contributing to other health risks.
In Australia, gum disease affects around 35% of adult males, but only 23% to 26% of females. This greater prevalence in men may be due to a combination of poorer oral hygiene and biological differences, such as different immune responses between the sexes.
Men are also more likely to have health conditions such as atherosclerosis and diabetes that are risk factors for gum disease.
Oral cancer or mouth cancer refers to cancers affecting the soft tissues in and around the mouth, including the cheeks and lips. These cancers affect more men than women at a ratio of 2:1, according to a 2002 study.
This significant difference is attributed to lifestyle risk factors, with men being more likely to use tobacco products, drink excessive alcohol and have more sun exposure as a result of working outdoors.
As oral cancer treatments have a greater chance of success when diagnosed early, men’s tendency to avoid preventive dental care can also harm their chances of recovery.
Men are also twice as likely as women to experience dental trauma and injuries, according to a 2016 study. This is attributed to more men taking part in contact sports, such as rugby, as well as other activities and behaviours that put their teeth at risk. Men are also less likely to wear protective mouthguards.
Dental emergencies such as chipped, cracked or knocked out teeth can cause other complications without prompt treatment by a dentist.
How to lower your oral health risks
Men and women can lower their risks of oral health problems and associated health risks with a good preventive care routine.
Brush and floss properly
- Brush your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes to prevent the build-up of plaque
- Use fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush to help protect your teeth
- Change your toothbrush or electric toothbrush head every 3 months
- Floss before or after brushing at least once daily
Cut down on sugar, cigarettes and alcohol
- Avoid too much sugar in food and drink, as these feed bacteria in plaque
- Sip water with meals or sugary drinks to help cleanse your mouth
- Chew gum to stimulate saliva flow
- Quit smoking or cut down to lower your oral health and general health risks
Protect your teeth from injuries
- Wear a custom mouthguard provided by your dentist when playing contact sports
- Take care when biting hard foods to avoid damaging your teeth
- Don’t use your teeth to open things or bite or chew anything that isn’t food
Go to the dentist
- See a dentist and hygienist every 6 months for a check-up and clean
- Ask your dentist about an oral cancer screening if you may be at risk
See a dentist in Kelmscott today
Our dentists in Kelmscott Dental welcome new patients from all nearby Perth suburbs. If it’s been longer than 6 months since your check-up, you’re worried about your teeth or you just want some advice, call our friendly team today on (08) 9495 7999 or book online.
This week from 13th to 19th June 2022 is Men’s Health Week. This annual event is aimed at raising awareness of the importance of men’s health issues and seeking help where and when it’s needed.
- Do L & Luzzi L 2019. Oral Health Status. p38-96. In: ARCPOH. Australia’s Oral Health: National Study of Adult Oral Health 2017–18. Adelaide: The University of Adelaide, South Australia.
- Lipsky MS, Su S, Crespo CJ, Hung M. Men and Oral Health: A Review of Sex and Gender Differences. American Journal of Men’s Health. May 2021. doi:10.1177/15579883211016361