Monday, June 14, 2010

Men’s Health and Wellness: Oral Health

Good oral hygiene and regular dentist visits are important for everyone, but studies and surveys show that men are less likely than women to seek preventative dental care and often neglect oral health for years. In fact, one of the most common factors associated with infrequent dental checkups is just being male.

The average male is less likely to brush his teeth after every meal (20.5% compared with 28.7% of women). He is also less likely to brush his teeth twice a day (49% compared with 56.8% of women), and more likely to develop periodontal (gum) disease.

Periodontal disease is a result of plaque that hardens into a rough, porous substance called tartar. The acids produced and released by bacteria in tartar irritate the gums and create periodontal pockets that fill with even more bacteria which often leads to bleeding, red, swollen or tender gums, persistent bad breath, and loose or separating teeth. Researchers have also found a connection between gum disease and cardiovascular disease, which can place people at risk for heart attacks and strokes.

Things to keep in mind:

Do you take medications?

  • Because men are more likely to suffer from heart attacks, they are also more likely to be on medications that cause dry mouth. Heart or blood pressure medications and antidepressants often inhibit salivary flow which increases the risk for cavities as saliva helps to reduce the cavity-causing bacteria found in your mouth.

Do you smoke or use tobacco?

  • Statistics show that the average man will lose 5.4 teeth by the age of 72. If he is a smoker however, he can plan on losing 12 teeth by the age of 72.
  • If you smoke or chew, you also have a greater risk for periodontal disease and oral cancer. Men are affected twice as often as women.
  • The most frequent oral cancer sites are the tongue, the floor of the mouth, and soft palate tissues in the back of the tongue, lips and gums. If it goes undetected and is not treated in its early stages, oral cancer can spread and lead to chronic pain, loss of function, irreparable facial and oral disfigurement, and even death. More than 8,000 people die each year from oral and pharyngeal diseases. If you use tobacco, it is important to regularly see your dentist for cleanings and to ensure that your mouth remains healthy and cancer free.

Do you play sports?

  • For those of you who participate in sports, you have a greater potential for trauma to your mouth and teeth. If you play contact sports, like football, soccer, and basketball, it is extremely important that you use a mouth guard to protect your teeth.

Despite your gender, it is extremely important that we all take care of our oral health. The following tips will help to improve your oral health and therefore your overall health:

  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to reach every surface of the tooth. If the bristles on your brush are frayed, buy a new one.
  • Replace your toothbrush every 3 months or after you have been sick.
  • Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste twice a day for at least 3 minutes. This can reduce tooth decay by as much as 40%.
  • Floss daily.
  • Visit your dentist at lease twice a year for cleanings.