Men’s Health week from June 15 – 21 is aimed at increasing awareness of health issues that affect men and encouraging men to be proactive about their health. According to a number of studies, men are less likely than women to take care of their physical health, including their oral health. Good oral health has been linked to longer life expectancy. Despite this, men are less likely than women to seek preventive dental care and often neglect their oral health for years, visiting a dentist only when a significant problem arises. Many men avoid dental check-ups due to fear from childhood experiences. This is very common and nothing to be ashamed of. Thankfully, today there are many options available today to minimise discomfort including sedation or even dental work under general anaesthesia.
When it comes to oral health, statistics show that only 51% of men brush their teeth twice daily and will lose 5.4 teeth by age 72. If a man smokes, he can plan on losing 12 teeth by age 72. Men are also more likely to develop oral and throat cancers and periodontal (gum) disease. Periodontal disease results from the build up of plaque, which hardens to form calculus. Calculus irritates the gums causing the breakdown of the fibres that anchor the gums to the teeth. Researchers have found a connection between gum disease and cardiovascular disease, which can place people at risk for heart attacks and strokes.
Since men are more likely to suffer from heart attacks, they also are more likely to be on medications that can cause dry mouth. Saliva is a natural buffer to the effects of acid produced by bacteria in the mouth. If you take medication for the heart or blood pressure, or if you take antidepressants, your salivary flow could be reduced, increasing the risk for cavities. Smoking and alcohol are both risk factors for gum disease and oral cancer. Men are affected twice as often as women, and 95 percent of oral cancers occur in those over 40 years of age.
The most frequent oral cancer sites are the tongue, the floor of the mouth, soft palate, and the back of the throat. If not diagnosed and treated in its early stages, oral cancer can spread, leading to chronic pain, loss of function, irreparable facial and oral disfigurement following surgery and even death. It is important to never ignore a sore or ulcer that has been in the mouth for longer than two weeks.
Men who play contact sports have a greater potential for trauma to their mouths and teeth. Sports such as football, soccer, basketball and even baseball can be risky. It is important to use a professionally fitted mouthguard. Hobbies such as fishing may appear quite harmless, however many men use their teeth to cut fishing line. Whilst convenient at the time, this behaviour frequently results in a trip to a dentist with a chipped or fractured front tooth.
Taking Care of Your Teeth
In order to take better care of your oral health, it is important to brush and floss twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste and visit your dentist at least twice a year for cleanings.
Dr Ian Sweeney is a dental surgeon at
Northside Dental & Implant Centre, Turramurra.