Men's oral health

According to surveys and studies from the Academy of General Dentistry and the American Dental Association, men are less likely than women to seek preventive dental care and often neglect their oral health for years.

  • The average man is less likely to brush his teeth after every meal (20.5 percent compared with 28.7 percent for women).
  • The average man is less likely to brush his teeth twice a day (49 percent compared with 56.8 percent for women).
  • Men are more likely to develop periodontal (gum) disease than are women:
    • 30 to 54 years: 34 percent of men compared with 23 percent of women
    • 55 to 90 years: 56 percent of men compared to 44 percent of women.

Assessing the risk

Recent studies suggest there may be a connection between gum disease and cardiovascular disease, which can place people at risk for heart attacks and strokes. Because of this, men should be especially vigilant for signs of periodontal (gum) disease such as red, swollen, tender or bleeding gums, persistent bad breath or loose teeth.

Although it’s important for all men to be diligent with their oral care, some men should take extra care to make sure they are practicing good oral hygiene:

Men who take medications. Some medications, such as heart or blood pressure medications or antidepressants, can cause dry mouth. Men who take these medications could develop inhibited salivary flow, increasing the risk for cavities. Saliva helps reduce the cavity-causing bacteria found in the mouth by washing away food particles. Saliva also helps neutralize the tooth-attacking acids formed by plaque.

Men who have dry mouth may need to increase their water intake to ease their symptoms. Other ways to ease dry mouth include:

  • Chewing sugarless gum
  • Avoiding alcohol, caffeine and carbonated beverages
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Avoiding overly salty foods
  • Using an alcohol-free mouth rinse.

Men who have inhibited saliva flow should also ask their dentist about saliva substitutes or other alternatives to promote saliva flow.

Men who use tobacco. Men who smoke or chew tobacco have a greater risk for gum disease and oral cancer. Even men who don’t use tobacco are more likely than women to have gum disease or cancer, so using tobacco increases that risk. Age is also a factor: 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 tissues in back of the tongue, the lips and gums. 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 for men who use tobacco to see a dentist frequently for cleanings and to ensure their mouth remains healthy. A general dentist can perform a thorough screening for oral cancer.

Men who play sports. Men who participate in sports have a greater potential for trauma to their mouths and teeth. When playing contact sports, such as football, soccer, hockey, basketball or baseball, it is important to use a mouthguard, which is a flexible appliance made of plastic that protects teeth from trauma. Men who ride bicycles or motorcycles should wear a helmet.

Taking care of your teeth

The following are some tips — whether you are a man or a woman — to improve your dental health:

  • Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste for two to three minutes at least twice daily. (Choosing a toothpaste with fluoride can reduce tooth decay by as much as 40 percent.)
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush properly by positioning the brush at a 45-degree angle where your gums and teeth meet.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three months or after you’ve been sick.
  • Floss daily. Use the proper technique and gently insert floss between teeth using a back-and-forth motion. Curve the floss into a C-shape against one tooth and then the other.
  • Visit the dentist at least once a year for cleanings and exams.
Why is oral health important to men? Academy of General Dentistry.
Survey results reveal oral hygiene habits of men lag behind women. American Dental Association.
Last updated: June 2009

The oral health information on this web site is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.

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