Men vs. women on oral health

July 09, 2015

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Men's Health Week is upon us. From June 15 to 21, 2015, the Men's Health Network is shining light on preventable diseases in men and boys across the U.S. and promoting early detection and prompt treatment.1 While oral diseases present ailments that afflict both genders, they affect the bodies in different ways. There are certain conditions that males are more susceptible to than females and vice versa. It's important for both men and women to know their dental health risks, take preventative care and seek treatment from a dentist when necessary. Discover the gender differences for these two common oral ailments:

"Men are at a higher risk for developing periodontal disease."

Gum disease
Men are at a higher risk for developing periodontal disease, otherwise known as gum disease. In fact, 34 percent of males between the ages of 30 and 54 have gum disease, while only 22 percent of females in that age range have it.2 This same disparity exists for older age groups - 56 percent of men between the ages of 55 and 90 have periodontal disease compared to 44 percent of women also in that age group. However, for both genders, it's evident that their risk for the disease increases with age.

While men may be more susceptible to gum disease overall, women's risk both for the disease and its impact on their overall health increases during certain stages of their lives, especially pregnancy. When a woman is pregnant, the hormone changes in her body may lead to an increased risk for developing gum disease.3 In fact, many women experience pregnancy gingivitis during the third trimester, in which there is an increased inflammatory response to plaque.4 This can cause the gums to bleed and swell, and the infection can spread into the blood stream, which may affect the developing baby.5

While the condition may affect males and females differently, both genders can take the same precautions to prevent gum disease, including brushing twice and flossing once daily. This will help remove the plaque that irritates the gums. Additionally, smoking cigarettes can put you at a higher risk for developing gum disease.

Dental trauma
Traumatic dental injuries refer to incidents that happen from physical impact. Whether from sports or roughhousing, chipped teeth account for the majority of all traumatic dental injuries.6 Though less common, dislodged teeth are another risk when physical contact is involved in an accident.

Wearing a mouth guard is important to protect against dental trauma.
Wearing a mouth guard is important to protect against dental trauma.

Women are currently outnumbered by men in college athletics. Specifically, for NCAA Division I schools, females make up 46 percent of student athletes.7 With men taking the lead in sports participation rates, their risk for dental trauma goes up. Though males may be more susceptible to this dental health problem because they are exposed in greater numbers to the risk factors, both men and women need to take precautions when playing sports. Aside from practicing a proper daily oral hygiene routine to keep teeth strong, athletes should wear mouth guards to protect their teeth from injury.

While some of these oral health differences stem from biological factors, many are the result of lifestyle choices. Whether male or female, everyone should brush their teeth twice a day, floss at least once daily and regularly see a dentist to prevent serious dental health issues.

1. "National Men's Health Week," Men's Health Network. http://www.menshealthmonth.org/week/index.html

2. "Men's Oral Health," Delta Dental. https://www.deltadentalins.com/oral_health/mensOralHealth.html

3. "Oral health fact sheet," Office of Women's Health. http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/oral-health.html#e

4. "Oral Health Care During Pregnancy and Through the Lifespan," The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, August 2013.  http://www.acog.org/Resources-And-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Health-Care-for-Underserved-Women/Oral-Health-Care-During-Pregnancy-and-Through-the-Lifespan

5. "Gum disease, pregnancy and your baby," European Federation of Periodontology. http://perioworkshop.efp.org/gum-disease-pregnancy-and-your-baby/

6. "Traumatic Dental Injuries," American Association of Endodontists. http://www.aae.org/patients/treatments-and-procedures/traumatic-dental-injuries.aspx

7. "NCAA Gender Equity Report 2004-2010," http://www.ncaapublications.com/p-4267-research-ncaa-gender-equity-report-2004-2010.aspx

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