We hope you had a great Father’s Day weekend! Did you know June is Men’s Health Month? This nationally recognized observance aims to raise awareness of preventable health risks for men and boys. It may surprise you to find out oral health problems can affect men and boys in different ways than women! Ready on to find out why good dental healthcare is so important for men.
How Men’s Health and Dental Health Are Linked
Research shows that oral health and whole body wellness are closely linked in many ways. This applies regardless of demographics, although certain populations are at relatively higher risks for specific diseases and outcomes than others. For men, dental healthcare is an especially important part of maintaining overall health!
Men Might Be at Higher Risks for Many Diseases
On average, men die 5 years earlier than women. They tend to seek medical advice less frequently than their female counterparts. Men tend to suffer higher rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and injuries. They’re also at higher risk for dental and oral health problems!
When it comes to oral health, women are nearly twice as likely as men to keep up with their regular cleanings. Boys are more likely than girls to suffer permanent injuries to their teeth and jaws. Men are also at higher risk than women for conditions like periodontal disease.
Men May Also Be at Higher Risk for Gum Disease
Periodontal disease is an especially important concern for men. Men are at a disproportionately higher risk for developing advanced gum disease, compared to women. Where only about a third of women develop periodontal disease, over half of men do.
There are a variety of factors that likely affect these number. Men are much more likely to use tobacco products whereas women are more likely to floss daily. Hormones may also play a role, although it’s unclear whether men or women have the advantage in that respect. Testosterone tends to suppress the immune system, where estrogen can boost it. However, several female hormones have been shown to make gum disease worse. Our understanding of how hormones affect the gums for men versus for women is still shaky. In large part this is because there just hasn’t been as much research on how men’s hormones may affect the gums.
Poor Oral Health Negatively Impacts Men’s Health
Regardless of the reason, men are consistently shown to be at higher risk for sever gum disease. The process starts with irritated gums. Before long, those puffy, red, bleeding gums trigger a response from the immune system. Those immune cells trigger inflammation that can travel to other places in the body and potentially aggravate a variety of health concerns in other tissues.
The clearest example we have of this process is the link between gum disease and pancreatic cancer. Men with periodontal disease are 63% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer. Even after adjusting for age, smoking habits, obesity, diabetes, and other factors, decades of data continue to show a much higher risk for pancreatic cancer in men with advanced gum disease.
While the exact process is not well understood, the current best understanding is that inflammation from the oral tissues can travel to the pancreas, causing chronic low-grade inflammation of the pancreas. We do know for sure that pancreatitis is a main risk factor for pancreatic cancer, which appears to be the link.
Inflammation Impacts Whole Body Men’s Health in Many Ways
So we already talked about how men are at higher risks for things like heart disease. We know gum disease can also make cardiovascular disease worse, regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman. However, data continues to reinforce that men with periodontal disease have higher risk factors for many serious illnesses, including:
- Heart Attack
- Diabetes, or Worsening of Diabetic Conditions
- Kidney Disease
- Problems with Bone Density in Old Age
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Cognitive Decline in Old Age
The list goes on. Some of these links are at the very early stages of research, and more data is needed. However, the point is clear: men are at higher risk for gum disease and gum disease can make men sick.
Special Concerns for Boys
Dental health concerns don’t only affect grown men, however. Boys are also at increase risks for dental health problems, even in their youth! Both boys and girls will likely get puffy, irritated gums when they hit puberty. This can have a lot to do with teenagers just not wanting to brush, but those raging hormones probably play a big part!
Overall, however, gun disease is usually not a major concern for youths and teens. What’s more important when it comes to dental health for boys versus girls is injury rates. Boys show a significantly higher risk for dental trauma in childhood and adolescence. And for many males even through their college years and twenties.
You can chalk it up to the way boys play or their enjoyment of riskier activities, but dentists see an overwhelmingly higher number of boys to treat dental injuries than girls. That includes everything from having teeth knocked out or broken as toddlers to sports injuries as they grow. Whenever appropriate, make sure boys wear proper protection including a mouth guard!
Protect Yourself with Better Dental Healthcare
Dental researchers will continue digging into how oral health can impact men’s overall health. For now, we want to make one thing clear: better dental healthcare can help protect your whole body! We know we sound like a broken record sometimes, but it really is that important. Try to floss and keep your gums healthy! Brush well at least twice per day. Try to cut back on smoking, chewing tobacco, dipping, or vaping.
Most importantly, be sure you get your regular cleanings and dental health checks! We are here to help keep you healthy, from teeth on down. If you’re overdue, there is no better time to start catching up than now! Call us to schedule your next visit so we can help keep you on the road to great health. Keep smiling, Orlando!