Wondering what to give the fathers in your life for Father’s Day? A trip to the dentist might be just the thing!
According to the Academy of General Dentistry, men are more likely to neglect their oral health than women, increasing their risk for cavities, tooth loss and gum disease. There is also a higher rate of cardiac disease among men than women. That increased risk means men are more likely to take medications that can cause dry mouth and other oral problems.
“Preventive oral care is crucial to maintaining overall health,” said Dr. Scott De Rossi, chairman of the Department of Oral Health and Diagnostic Sciences at The Dental College of Georgia. “Not only do regular cleanings and check-ups maintain the health of your teeth and mouth, it’s the best way to catch oral cancers or gum disease early. And, maintaining oral health may reduce risk for other inflammation-related health problems.”
A routine part of a visit to the dentist includes an oral cancer screening during which the dentist or dental hygienist does a visual check for abnormalities in the mouth, throat and lips.
“Most oral cancers are seen in men over the age of 50 with risk factors being drinking alcohol, smoking or using smokeless tobacco products,” said De Rossi. “Ideally, patients should have an oral cancer screening at least once a year. A dentist can even help with smoking cessation tips.”
Here are some basic steps men can take to protect their oral and overall health:
- Go to the dentist. A study of 800 young adults revealed that women were nearly twice as likely to have seen their dentist for a check-up in the past year and to have scheduled any recommended follow-up treatment after the first exam. During an exam, a dentist can catch and treat any cavities before they become a major issue, inspect gums for periodontal disease and recommend any changes in one’s at-home oral care routine.
- Treating gum disease. One of the results of skipping dental visits is a higher rate of gum disease: nearly 57 percent of men have some form of gum infection compared to 38.4 percent of women, according to the American Academy of Periodontology. This is particularly important for men to treat or prevent because it carries a link to a few male-specific health problems, such as prostate issues and erectile dysfunction. Although the two issues take place in very different parts of the body, they are both connected to inflammation. The inflammation that occurs in gum disease can damage blood vessels if the bacteria gets into the bloodstream.
- Have an annual oral cancer screening. Oral cancer is an ideal cancer to identify early by screening, as it is frequently preceded by an identifiable premalignant lesion that may grow over a period of several years. If cancer symptoms are found early, it may be easier to treat.
- Improving at-home oral care. A great oral care routine at home means two things: brushing at least twice a day to fight bacteria and flossing at least once a day. Both can help minimize a man’s risk for gum disease and tooth loss.
- Coping with medications that cause dry mouth. Men’s risk for heart disease can mean they are more likely to take medications that can cause dry mouth. This increases one’s risk for cavities and gum disease because there isn’t enough saliva to help wash away bacteria and food particles. There are other ways to cope, such as taking regular sips of water, using a saliva substitute and chewing sugar-free gum.
- Protect from athletic injuries. An athlete is 60 times more likely to sustain a mouth injury when not wearing a protective mouth guard. Mouth guards, also called mouth protectors, help cushion a blow to the face, minimizing the risk of broken teeth and injuries to your lips, tongue, face or jaw.