Oral Health Matters: Men’s Overall Health
With National Men’s Health Month occurring in June, it’s a good time to focus on how to encourage men to take better care of themselves.
That begins with recognizing that, though being on average taller, heavier, and with more muscle mass than women, men are, according to a wide range of health indicators, far from being the stronger of the sexes. Life expectancy at birth for males was 75.1 years in the first half of 2020, compared to 80.5 years for women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Oral hygiene as an early indicator of poor overall health
In general, men exhibit worse oral hygiene behavior than women, as demonstrated by the fact that they are less likely to:
- ·visit the dentist for preventive reasons
- brush their teeth twice a day
- brush their teeth after every meal
- floss daily
At the same time that they are more neglectful of tooth care, men are more vulnerable to medical conditions that often predispose them to poor oral hygiene, as they are more likely than women to:
- Smoke and chew tobacco: In 2015, 16.7 percent of adult males and 13.6 percent of adult females smoked cigarettes. Meanwhile, 4.5% of men currently use smokeless tobacco versus only 0.3% of females. Men’s heightened tobacco use not only stains their teeth but can lower their saliva pH, as tobacco smoking and chewing has been associated with more acidic saliva that breaks down enamel and increases the risk of cavities.
- Use alcohol heavily: Men experience higher rates than women for alcohol-related deaths and hospitalizations, according to the CDC. Drinking alcohol can not only raise the chance of cancers of the throat, esophagus, liver, and colon, but of the mouth, too.
- Engage in contact sports where they can incur traumatic dental injuries: Mouthguards are a necessity in sports such as football, basketball, baseball, and hockey. Playing without these only increases the possibility that males will be taking care of their teeth on an emergency rather than preventive basis.
- Develop heart disease: Poor oral health can lead to heart disease, the most common form of death for men. On the other hand, positive steps to lower the risk for this—including eating a balanced diet with fruits and veggies, quitting smoking, staying active, and reducing stress—also benefits oral health.
- Develop diabetes. Men have a greater propensity for Type 2 diabetes at a lower weight, partly because male bodies have more belly fat. High levels of glucose, a type of sugar, can produce more bacteria in diabetics’ mouths, and, consequently, more problems with their teeth and gums.
Dental care: a great first step in defending men’s overall health
In several ways, oral health is related to overall health as the proverbial “canary in a coal mine,” or early warning of danger. With men’s great variety of overall health issues, paying attention to their oral health needs is a vital necessity.
Self-care is the first—and, more often than not, the best—line of defense in preventing dental problems, which means more careful attention to brushing and flushing.
But dentists can not only deal with obvious oral health problems such as cavities and gum bleeding, but larger health issues that a patient would not necessarily notice. During a regular dental exam, the dentist can detect more than 120 diseases with symptoms that affect the mouth, including oral cancer and diabetes. Early detection is key, and can make all the difference in both avoiding daily health complications and extending a man’s life.
For more information on why oral health matters, check out the Dental Central section of our website here.
 https://nida.nih.gov/publications/research-reports/tobacco-nicotine-e-cigarettes/are-there-gender-differences-in-tobacco-smoking; https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/smokeless/use_us/index.htm; https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/threats-to-dental-health/do-you-know-your-saliva-ph-heres-why-its-important