Let’s talk about sex. Biological sex, that is, and how it can influence your oral health. Gum disease, an inflammatory disorder of the gums and connective tissues, affects over half of American adults and whether you’re a man or woman can impact your likelihood of developing this disorder. Learn more about which factors are controllable, which are not, and what you can do to maintain a healthy, attractive smile.
Men or Women: Who’s More At-Risk for Gum Disease?
The most recent numbers released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that of the 64.7 million Americans with gum disease, 56.4% are men and 38.4% are women. A number of factors contribute to this disparity. For instance, smoking places you at a much higher risk for gum disease and, as the American Lung Association reports, there are a little over 6% more male smokers than female smokers. However, dentistry experts believe that women simply take better care of their teeth at home and seek professional dental care more often than men. One study published in the Journal of Periodontology demonstrated that:
- Over the course of the last year, women were two times more likely to have visited the dentist for a preventive care checkup than men.
- Women tend to have better gum health according to traditional measurements of the disease, including smaller pocket depth, less plaque accumulation, and less bleeding when gums are probed.
- Female patients follow up with their dentist's recommended treatment plan more often than men.
In addition to better and more frequent professional care, statistics reported by the American Dental Association show that women practice better daily oral hygiene than men. For instance, more women floss their teeth than men and 8.2% more women than men brush their teeth after each meal.
Women, Gum Disease, and the Hormone Connection
Even if you do practice consistent dental hygiene at home and never skip a checkup, women should still be aware that fluctuations in hormones can make you more likely to develop gum disease. Major hormonal changes, like those experienced at the onset of menstruation, during pregnancy, or during menopause, can alter the way blood reaches the gums, leaving these sensitive tissues more susceptible to inflammation. Even certain birth control pills, or a change in the type of birth control pill you take, can lead to sensitive, irritated, or inflamed gums. Practicing careful at-home dental care and regularly visiting the dentist for checkups can help ensure that minor inflammation (also known as gingivitis) does not progress into full blown gum disease.
The Case for Healthy Gums
Whether you’re a man or woman, whether you floss religiously, or whether you haven’t seen the inside of a dentist’s office since grade school, maintaining healthy gums is an essential part of your oral and overall health. Advanced gum disease contributes to the loss of more permanent adult teeth than either tooth decay or sport injuries. It can also increase your risk of developing systemic illnesses like heart disease, respiratory disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and arthritis. Following a consistent regimen of brushing after meals and flossing at night requires a time commitment of about 10 minutes per day, while biannual visits to the dentist might take 3-4 hours out of your year. That’s a small investment that can reap big rewards throughout your lifetime.
About Dr. Marco Cueva
Marco Cueva, DDS, MS is a board-certified periodontist with extensive training and experience treating all stages of gum disease and placing dental implants. New patients can schedule an appointment at our Allen, TX dentist office by calling 972-390-9944.