Myth Versus Fact: Differences in Oral Health Between Men and Women
Or: why the differences in oral health between men and women play a role in our day-to-day oral hygiene routines.
For all the obvious differences between men and women, you might not think that oral health would be one of them. Or, at least, the differences wouldn’t be all that big. After all, anatomically speaking men and women are the same—both have teeth, gums, a tongue and jaws. But what this blog will demonstrate is: the many differences in oral heath, and how they can be quite different.
For example, some of the things this blog will explore are:
- Whether it’s men or women who are better at looking after their oral health.
- The effects of gum disease on pregnant women.
- If men and women experience bad breath for the same medical reasons.
This blog will also explore which sex is affected more by sleep apnea (and for those who aren’t sure what sleep apnea is, we cover that too) and temporomandibular joint disorder (We also explain what that is for those who don’t know).
Myths and facts of the differences in oral health between the sexes
Whether the contrasts are rooted in biology, behavior or hobbies and activities: here’s some information to get you thinking about how you can take the best care of your mouth, and by extension your body. This blog is by no means exhaustive, but for those who are curious: keep reading to learn the differences in the oral health between men and women.
Myth: Men and women have different mouth structures, which affect their oral health
As we mentioned, there’s no anatomical difference between men and women’s mouths. They each have teeth, a tongue, gums and jaws. Both have baby (milk) teeth and then adult teeth, and both sexes are susceptible to gum disease as well as oral cancer.
Where the difference between the sexes actually lies
The difference lies in what’s going on in the rest of the body. Women, for example, undergo more hormonal changes through their lives than men. And it’s these hormonal changes which can negatively affect the health of their teeth if proper at-home care isn’t maintained, and care from a dentist isn’t given.
For example, 60-75% of all women experience gingivitis during pregnancy, which in turn can lead to gum disease and associated problems including temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD)*.
Unfortunately, dental issues aren’t the only medical concerns that can be caused by sore, bleeding gums. Gum disease in pregnancy is also a risk factor for low-birth weight babies. This is why women should pay extra attention to their oral health routines during times of hormonal fluctuations (menstrual, pregnancy and menopause).
Men, on the other hand, are at a higher risk for oral and throat cancer, oral Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea**.
Fact: men and women’s preferred physical activities can impact their oral health
While individual hobbies and interests vary, regardless of sex, it’s a statistical fact that men—on average—play more contact sports than women. Contact sports leads to tooth injury as well as soft mouth tissue damage and other periodontal issues.
Any person engaging in contact sports or activities should discuss protective equipment such as custom-made mouth guards, with his or her dentist. A custom-made mouth guard from your dentist is far better for your oral health because, unlike an over-the-counter mouth guard, a custom-made mouth guard is fitted to your teeth and gums. Also, when you go for your regular checkup you can take your mouth guard to make sure it’s still in good condition to protect your teeth.
There is also some evidence to suggest that mouth guard may play a role in minimizing the effects of concussion. While they can obviously not prevent concussion all together, it’s believed that having a well-fitting mouth guard in place can support your jaws and reduce the result of an impact.
Myth: men are more proactive about their oral health than women.
A study in the American Journal of Periodontology showed that women are almost twice as likely to have visited the dentist in the past year as men. Women also have a better attitude towards the importance of dental care, and therefore are more committed to daily oral hygiene practices.
Men tend to visit the dentist only when there is an urgent matter at hand. Married men are actually more likely to visit the dentist compared to single men, in part because the women in their lives make their appointments for them.
It’s true! Especially Moms. When they make appointments for themselves or the kids, they often book a time for their husband to get one too.
Fact: women and men both experience bad breath, but for different reasons.
Bad breath can be a sign of poor dental care or an underlying medical issue, and it affects both men and women. However, the reasons between the two sexes can vary. Men, for instance, are on average more likely to be smokers, which affect breath freshness, and they are also more likely to be on medications used to treat heart and blood pressure issues.
As previously mentioned, women are more prone to gum disease, which is also a risk factor for halitosis (the medical term for bad breath).
Reasons you may have stinky breath that have nothing to do with your sex include having a sinus infection, tonsil stones or eating pungent foods such as garlic.
Learn the differences in oral health between men and women
When you know better, you do better. Because, as the saying goes, knowledge is power, and knowing the warning signs your body exhibits can help you stay healthy for longer. This is especially true when it comes to knowing the risk factors—behavioral and biological—that can affect your dental health. Don’t wait until you’re in pain or to suffer a serious injury: regular checkups to your dentist can help you maintain optimal oral health.
Prevention is better than a cure
Knowing that women are more susceptible to gum disease can help them to stay on top of their oral health, and make sure that if they see blood after brushing and flossing that they speak with their dentist.
Visiting the dentist regularly can prevents serious problems from occurring. And it can let your dentist help you identify warning signs if you aren’t doing everything at home that you could (or should) be doing.
To find out more information, or to request a consultation call us today. If you’re in the NW Calgary area, call or visit Dentrix Dental Care at 403-288-5500 for our Market Mall location; or 403-289-9908 for our North Hill location.
* A quick note on temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD)
The temporomandibular joint connects your jaw to your skull. When this joint becomes damaged or otherwise injured it can lead to a disorder known as TMD. Causes of TMD include:
- Injury to the jaw
- Injury to the teeth
- Misalignment of teeth
- Misalignment of jaw
- Teeth grinding
- Poor posture
TMD is one of the most difficulty things to diagnose. Firstly, most people have never heard of it, and so struggle to associate earache, a headache, or neck and back pain with the health of their jaw.
Some of the signs and symptoms of TMD are:
- Jaw joint pain
- Ear pain/earache
- Jaw clicking or popping
- Popping sounds in ears
- Stiff or sore jaw muscles
- Locking of the jaw
The treatment for TMD depends on which signs and symptoms you are exhibiting. One treatment which has had quite a bit of success is Botox, as it provides relief by relaxing the muscles around the jaw joints.
If you are exhibiting any of the above-mentioned symptoms, please don’t hesitate to call your local dentists in Calgary for a checkup.
**A quick note on sleep apnea
Sleep apnea affects 3 in 10 men and 1 in 5 women, and occurs when air stops flowing to for lungs for more than 10 seconds. What happens when you stop breathing, even for 10 seconds, is your body wakes you to start the breathing again. You don’t consciously wake up but your brain kick starts your body into breathing again. This can happen between 50 to 100 times per hour. So, it’s no surprise that people with sleep apnea wake up tired and lethargic.
According to a study from 2014, people with sleep apnea are responsible for more car crashes than drunk drivers. Less concerning statistics include: people with sleep apnea find it difficult to concentrate and retain information.
Learn the Differences in Oral Health Between Men and Women
When you know better, you do better. This is especially true when it comes to knowing the risk factors- behavioral and biological- that can affect your dental health. In the NW Calgary area, call or visit Dentrix Dental Care at 403-288-5500 for our Market Mall location or 403-289-9908 for our North Hill location.