Differences Between Oral Health of Men and Women
Men and women may be equal in many ways but when it comes to oral health there are still some very clear differences, especially when it comes to looking after your teeth. Researchers discovered that generally women are more proactive than men when it comes to caring for their dental health.
Women Are More Likely to See Their Dentist Regularly
During a recent study, researchers discovered that women were almost twice as likely to have seen their dentist for regular checkups and cleanings during the past year. There were also more likely to have scheduled appointments for any recommended dental treatments and their gum health was likely to be better than men’s gum health. This is an extremely important factor because gum disease or periodontal disease can cause tooth loss and in its advanced stages can negatively impact general health. The study also found that women are more interested in their dental health, taking the time to get educated. This is another important factor because when you understand your oral health, you are far more likely to take good care of your teeth and gums. In comparison, men are less likely to visit the dentist and to follow any suggested treatment plans. Men can also be more at risk of poor oral health if they smoke or drink to excess. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but one thing that dental professionals have noticed is that often women have fewer signs of acid erosion compared to men.
Women Can Have Stronger Tooth Enamel Than Men
This is quite a surprising finding that was confirmed in a recent study that looked at whether women or men are more prone to acid erosion and the part played by genetics. Acid erosion, where people’s teeth are exposed to acid in the mouth can weaken tooth enamel, greatly increasing the risk of tooth decay. While acid erosion can be caused by lifestyle habits, it’s not uncommon for dentists to see people who should have acid erosion but who in fact have healthy teeth. Often men seem to have more acid erosion than women, regardless of lifestyle habits. Researchers discovered this was partly due to genetics, but they also discovered that tooth enamel in women does seem to be more protected against acid erosion than tooth enamel in men. This is partly due to the way tooth enamel is formed and partly due to the environment in the mouth, as for example, everybody’s saliva is slightly different, and some people’s saliva may have more of a protective effect than others. Obviously, there will always be variations, so this won’t be the case all the time, but it does mean that dentists can provide a more customized approached towards preventative dental care. However, women are far more affected by hormonal changes throughout their lifetime.
Hormonal Changes Affect Women’s Health
While women are more proactive when it comes to taking care of their teeth, hormonal changes can affect their oral health. This does mean that women need to take extra care of their dental health at certain stages during their lifetime. There are five stages of life when a woman may be more susceptible towards developing problems with their oral health. These times are puberty, during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, when using oral contraceptive pills, and when going through the menopause.
During puberty the production of estrogen and progesterone increases which in turn increases the flow of blood to gum tissues. At the same time, the gums begin to react slightly differently to the bacteria in plaque as sensitivity is increased. This means the risk of gums becoming red, swollen and tender is higher, and they are more likely to bleed slightly when brushing and flossing. Girls going through puberty do need to make sure they brush and floss thoroughly, removing plaque that could otherwise irritate and inflame their gums.
Monthly Menstrual Cycle
Changes to progesterone levels can increase the risk of sore, swollen and bleeding gums and may increase the risk of developing canker sores. These changes are temporary and generally begin a couple of days before a period, clearing up shortly afterward.
Pregnancy causes considerable changes in hormonal levels, and progesterone levels become higher which in turn increases the sensitivity of gums to plaque bacteria. This can cause a condition known as pregnancy gingivitis, where gums become red, swollen and tender and which are more likely to bleed during when brushed and flossed. Pregnancy gingivitis does clear up once the baby is born, but during pregnancy, it may be necessary to have professional dental cleanings more frequently, to reduce the risk of developing pregnancy gingivitis. Regular dental care is especially important for women who already have signs of periodontal disease as this could worsen during pregnancy and can even affect the unborn baby.
Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills can contain progesterone, increasing the levels of this hormone in the body. This, in turn, can increase the sensitivity of gum tissues to plaque bacteria. If you do take birth control pills is important to tell your dentist so your preventative dental care plan can be adjusted accordingly.
During the menopause, some women will notice an increased sensitivity to hot and cold foods, changes to the way foods taste and sometimes dry mouth is a problem, especially if certain medications have been prescribed to combat other effects of getting older. During the menopause levels of estrogen also decline, increasing the risk of a loss of bone density. This can affect your jawbone and one symptom is noticing your gums have begun to recede. Unfortunately, when gums do recede, it does increase the risk of tooth decay because it exposes the tooth roots that aren’t protected by tooth enamel.
Looking after Your Oral Health, Regardless of Your Age or Sex
While there are differences between the oral health of men and women everyone requires a good preventative dental care routine. It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, as with the right kind of dental care it should be possible to maintain good oral health throughout your lifetime. Certainly, here at Willow Springs Dental, our dentist Dr. Marc McRae will always provide a personalized, preventative dental care plan for patients of all ages and for both sexes.
Your preventative dental care plan will consider your current dental health, risk factors for developing dental diseases, gender, age and your medical history. After examining your mouth, Dr. McRae can suggest the most suitable treatment plan to restore and to maintain great dental health. Your regular checkups and professional cleanings are a vital part of this process allowing Dr. McRae to closely assess your dental health, to monitor any potential problems and to adjust your dental care when needed. With this level of care, you can always enjoy a healthy smile. Don’t hesitate to contact us today!