I have, on several occasions, discussed the importance of oral health as it pertains to women (check out my blogs: The Oral Health of Women and Dental Care for Expectant Mothers). But did you know that men are actually less likely to take as good of care of their physical and oral health as their female counterparts? According to the Know Your Teeth article, “Why is Oral Health Important for Men,” most men often neglect preventative dental care and typically only see a dentist when a problem occurs. They are also more likely to lose more teeth than women (about 5 by age 72; 12 if they’re a smoker), and have a higher risk of developing oral and throat cancer as well as periodontal disease. It’s time to discover why this phenomenon occurs and how serious the risks involved really are.
The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) recently took an online poll of general dentists and consumers that confirmed the belief that men visit the dentist less than women. Nearly 45% of participants admitted that they don’t regularly see a dentist with about 30% claiming they were embarrassed or afraid to go. 18% of those polled say they just don’t have the time to go to the dentist regularly and approximately 5% blamed not having a dentist to call their own for their lack of routine care. Not visiting the dentist definitely contributes to the overall risk increase for oral disease. Periodontal disease typically results once untreated plaque turns to tartar, creating a breeding ground for bacteria that cause irritation to the gums. Researchers have found a connection between gum disease and cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even dementia, making this particular oral disease, potentially life threatening. Men are also known to be more likely to suffer from heart attacks than women, leading many to take medications which can cause dry mouth. Saliva aids in the reduction of cavity-causing bacteria, therefore lack of saliva increases the risk of oral issues. Men also experience oral cancers twice as often as women do. Cancers affecting the oral cavity are typically treatable when caught early, however if left untreated, easily spread to other parts of the body, causing approximately 8,000 deaths a year. All of these issues are easily prevented with good oral hygiene and routine visits to the dentist. Excuses aside, taking the time to have a professional cleaning and exam twice a year is certainly worth it.
Despite all of the apparent cards stacked against men, there is actually some good news. More and more dentists are starting to report that their number of male patients is increasing. It appears that the tough economy and high unemployment rates are having an effect on the image of middle-aged men. With suddenly having to compete with younger applicants for jobs, more and more men are concerning themselves with the appearance of their teeth. AGD spokesperson J. Nick Russo, Sr., DDS, claims that more men are requesting bleaching, veneers, and bonding procedures, as more studies are showing how important one’s smile truly is. Dr. Russo is slightly disappointed that the appearance of teeth is what’s credited for bringing more men into his practice, as opposed to concern for overall health, however he admits that he’s glad to see them for whatever reason they come in.