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Why Men Should Maintain Excellent Oral Health

Posted on 18.09.2014 by perfectsmile

Study after study has shown that men are far worse at looking after their health than women, visiting clinicians less regularly and often only seeking help when a problem becomes too bad to carry on ignoring. The reasons for this are probably a mixture of cultural factors and simple physical facts. From early childhood, for example, boys are encouraged to adopt a ‘tough’ macho approach to pain and illness, and the fact that women are the ones who carry and give birth to babies means that they are far more likely to view liaising with doctors and other medical personnel as being a natural part of life. Whatever the reasons, however, the fact is that men are far more likely to neglect their health, and the same is true when it comes to oral health. Here again, men are less likely to visit their dentist for check-ups and other routine maintenance and will often put off booking an appointment until there is a problem such as pain. Statistics highlight the fact that the average man brushes his teeth 1.9 times a day and will lose 5.4 of his teeth by the age of 72. This figure rises to 12 if the man in question is a smoker, and men are also more likely than women to develop gum disease and cancer of the throat and mouth. Gum Disease The key fact to bear in mind when discussing oral health in this manner is that looking after your teeth isn’t simply a matter of making sure your smile looks as good as possible – researchers have now found, for example, that there is a link between gum disease and cardiovascular  problems which increase the likelihood of strokes and heart disease. Combine general medical neglect and apathy with a tendency to neglect the condition of their teeth then, and it’s easy to see why this poses a very serious problem for men. Gum disease is caused when plaque, the sticky yellow film which coats teeth, is left to harden into a substance known as tartar. Acids contained in tartar then irritate the gums, attacking the tissue which helps to keep the teeth anchored in the gums. This causes ‘pockets’ to form – gaps which can then fill with more bacteria, thus exacerbating the problem in an ongoing downward spiral. If you think you may have gum disease (also known as periodontal disease), then consult your dentist at the earliest opportunity. The symptoms to look out for are as follows:

  • Gums bleeding when you brush your teeth
  • Gums becoming red, swollen and tender
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Teeth which become loose or separated from each other

Medication The fact that men are more likely than women to suffer problems with their heart means that they are also more likely to be taking medication to deal with these problems. Many such medications, for conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease, or those taken to alleviate depression, can leave patients with a dry mouth caused by less saliva being produced. Saliva is sometimes referred to by dentists as ‘natures mouthwash’, since it helps to clean food particles and bacteria from the mouth, thus reducing the risk of decay. A man with a dry mouth, therefore, is at increased risk of suffering cavities and other problems. Tobacco Smoking or chewing tobacco greatly increases the risk of developing gum disease or mouth cancer, and men are twice as likely as women to be affected, with 95% of mouth cancers occurring in people over the age of 40. The places where mouth cancer is most likely to present include the floor of the mouth and the tongue, in particular the soft tissue at the back of the tongue and on the lips and gums. It is imperative to diagnose and treat mouth cancer as quickly as possible since, if it is left unchecked it can lead to severe pain, loss of function, drastic surgery resulting in disfigurement and ultimately even death.  If you are a man who uses tobacco then it’s more imperative than ever that you see your dentist regularly to have your teeth cleaned and to allow any problems to be spotted at an early stage, especially since your dentist will also be able to screen you for mouth cancer. Sport If, like many men, you are a regular participant in sports, then you run the risk of suffering trauma or damage to your teeth, particularly if the sport in question is a contact sport such as football, rugby or even cricket. In sports where there is a risk of another person, or a piece of equipment, impacting upon your teeth, it is vital that you wear a mouth guard to protect your teeth. Plan of Action Bearing all of the above in mind, it’s clear that, for men in particular, looking after their teeth is a vital part of maintaining overall good health. It’s crucial, therefore, to adopt and maintain a strict oral hygiene regime and to book an appointment with your dentist at least twice a year. This means cleaning your teeth twice a day using toothpaste containing fluoride and flossing once a day. Other useful tips are as follows:

  • Use a brush with soft bristles as this makes it easier to reach all the surfaces of your teeth from the right angle.
  • Replace your brush with a new one every 3 months, or after illness. Don’t be afraid of getting a new brush sooner if you notice that the bristles on your existing brush are in a bad condition.
  • Brush with correct technique – This doesn’t mean simply scrubbing as hard as you can, since over-zealous brushing can actually have a detrimental effect. The correct technique is to hold your brush at a 45 degree angle to the spot where your teeth and gums meet, and then move the head of the brush in a small circular motion, not pressing too hard. Make sure you clean for at least 3 minutes, and devote equal time to every part of your mouth.
  • Perfect your flossing technique – insert the floss gently between the teeth without forcing it, and then work it slowly back and forth, holding it in a C shape against the edge of each tooth.
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