This week is Men’s Health Week. Men in Australia live on average 4.3 years less than women. A baby boy born here in 2010 has a life expectancy of 78.0 years while a baby girl born at the same time could expect to live to 82.3 years old. Right from the start, boys suffer more illness, more accidents and die earlier than their female counterparts. (1)
What’s more, the last 11 years of a man’s life tend to be in poor health.
Men take their own lives at four times the rate of women (that’s five men a day, on average). Accidents, cancer and heart disease all account for the majority of male deaths. (1)
The good news however, is that only 30% of a man’s health is determined through genetics. The other 70% is determined through lifestyle choices. (2) Those lifestyle choices affect all aspect of health, including dental health. In addition, a healthy approach to your dental well-being leads to a healthier lifestyle.
Men don’t brush their teeth as often as women
A study has shown that Australian men are significantly less likely to brush their teeth twice a day than women. Only 36% of men brush their teeth twice per day! (2)
You may remember from previous blogs, that brushing twice per day is only part of the picture. By not cleaning between your teeth (with floss or interdental brushes), 40% of tooth surfaces are missed.
This build-up of bacteria on the teeth causes inflammation, infection and tooth decay, which have consequences on general health.
Heart disease is a leading cause of death in men.
There is more and more evidence coming out on the links between poor oral health and cardiovascular disease, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. Those with gum disease are twice as likely to have heart disease.
Men are more likely to suffer heart attack
Although it’s important for all men to be diligent with their dental health, some men should take extra time to make sure their oral hygiene is at its best, especially if they have a heart condition.
Signs of gum disease:
- gums that are red and/or swollen
- bleeding gums
- bad breath
- teeth that are loose
- teeth that seem to be moving
Seeing your dentist regularly means that gum disease could be caught early, which makes it much easier to treat.
Men are more likely to get cancer of the head and neck
Another leading cause of death in men is cancer. One cancer that we are particularly worried about is cancer of the head and neck. In Australia in 2019, 73% of head and neck cancers diagnosed were in men.
Oral cancers are those that affect the lips, tongue, floor of mouth, cheeks, gums, roof of mouth, tonsils and salivary glands. These are a type of head and neck cancer.
Cancers of the mouth can affect anyone, but it is more common in men over 40 years old (95% of oral cancers are in the over 40s).
Too much alcohol increases
your risk of oral cancer.
The main risk factors for mouth cancer:
- Viruses (human papillomavirus; Epstein-Barr virus)
- Poor oral hygiene and gum disease
- Family history of mouth cancers
- Exposure to the sun (cancers of the lip)
- Betel nut chewing
Signs that warrant an urgent check by your dentist:
- A persistent ulcer
- A lump in your neck
- A swelling or sore on your lip that won’t heal
- Difficult or painful swallowing
- Changes in speech, including hoarseness
- Bleeding or numbness in the mouth
- White or red patches anywhere in the mouth, for example on the gums, tongue or roof of the mouth
Depression can also lead us to neglect basic habits such as healthy eating, brushing and flossing. Neglecting our oral health can lead to many problems from tooth decay and gum disease.
Tell your dentist about any stresses or anxieties
you have, including any medications you are
What should I tell my dentist?
Telling your dentist about the medications you take for depression and anxiety is very important. Many of these medications can lead to a dry mouth. Saliva is so important for protecting your teeth and gums. It contains many substances, from those that are antibacterial, to ones that can actually stop and even reverse early tooth decay. Those with dry mouth are much more likely to suffer from tooth decay and gum disease, and these diseases can progress at an alarmingly rapid rate if left unchecked. Your dentist can help with keeping a close eye on things, and also prescribing or suggesting products that can help.
Men are more likely to snore
Snoring can affect the quality of life of those trying to get a good night’s sleep. However, snoring can by a symptom of a more serious disease – obstructive sleep apnoea.
Obstructive sleep apnoea is caused when fatty tissue at the back of the throat temporarily closes the airway during sleep. It is more common in men than in women, although after menopause women may be more at risk.
Almost everyone who has obstructive sleep apnoea snores. This is because snoring is the result of narrow or floppy upper airways. (4) People with moderate to severe sleep apnoea are more likely to die prematurely. Treatment is simple and can drastically improve your quality of life.
Untreated sleep apnoea increases your risk
of falling asleep at the wheel.
At Dentistry On George we can treat those, on recommendation from a sleep physician, who have mild to moderate sleep apnoea with an oral appliance. This is like top and bottom mouth-guards that hold the lower jaw, and therefore the tongue, forward. This reduces the soft tissues collapsing in at the back of the throat.
- Make sure you are brushing twice per day and cleaning in between the teeth with floss or interdental brushes
- Eat a healthy diet, low in sugars
- Visit your dentist regularly
- Get help for your snoring
Regular dental check-ups are an integral part of our overall health. This becomes even more important if there are other health issues at play, such as heart disease.
At Dentistry On George we do a thorough and meticulous check of not only your teeth and gums, but of your medical history and other factors that could be significant. If a sleep issue is suspected, a sleep history will be taken and referral to a sleep physician for testing.
Contact us to arrange your dental health assessment or to find out more about any of the issues raised in this article. Our friendly team are here to help.
Our friendly team are here to help you.