Why Men Are At Greater Risk of Gum Disease – And What To Do About It

November 8, 2010

Though possibly not the sort of sex that immediately springs to mind, it seems that men’s sex hormones may be the biological reason why they are at greater risk than women for a particular kind of gum disease.

Researchers at the University of Maryland Dental School have found that destructive periodontitis, an infection of the gums, is more common in men than women and their gum disease tends to be worse. Periodontitis is a condition in which the gums, deeper supporting tissue, and potentially the bone surrounding teeth become infected and inflamed.

Gum disease starts with plaque, a sticky white substance that coats teeth and which is formed when bacteria in the mouth mixes with saliva and residues from starchy foods and sugar in your diet. If plaque isn’t properly removed by brushing and flossing, it accumulates and hardens underneath the gum line into tartar. Once tartar builds up, it’s much more difficult to remove than plaque and, over time, it can lead to inflamed gums, or gingivitis. This is a mild form of gum disease and one of the most common symptoms is darker red gums that bleed with brushing or flossing.

Until now it has not been certain why men are more susceptible to gum disease, but this research has revealed that it is down to the male sex steroids. These affect the immune system regulation of inflammation, which when not working well leads to the development of infection.

Another competing hypothesis in the dental world for the fact that men are known to suffer more gum disease is the environmental one. Just as men visit doctors less frequently than women, they also don’t go to the dentist as often and apparently are more likely to have worse oral hygiene and compliance with treatment and aftercare than women.

Natural Remedies for Gum Disease:
Apart from good oral hygiene, regular flossing and visits to the dentist, there are some simple things a man can do to guard against future gum disease. Natural helpers are:

1) Vitamin C
Scurvy is something we associate with 18th century sailors, and they got it because their diet was so poor in vitamin C and they had bleeding gums as a result. Today, research indicates that people with low intakes of vitamin C have higher rates of periodontal disease (ie less than 60mg a day). It also helps to prevent gum disease because vitamin C is an antioxidant which is needed to repair connective tissue and accelerate bone regeneration.

Vitamin C rich foods include grapefruit, oranges, kiwi fruit, mango, papaya, strawberry, red pepper, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cantaloupe melon.

2) Vitamin D
Vitamin D has been found to have anti-inflammatory effects and may reduce susceptibility to gum disease. Vitamin D comes from sunlight, so sensible and limited exposure will boost your levels and if you want to take a supplement as part of a multivitamin you would be looking for at least 200 IU.
3) Stress levels
Keeping your stress levels low is healthy for everyone, but particularly here as stress increases plaque accumulation. Vitamins C and B complex are the stress vitamins to boost, so increase your intake and find something that helps you stay relaxed and cut down on stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol.
4) Coenzyme Q10
Low levels have been linked to gum disease and it is essential as coenzyme Q10 is needed to properly repair gum tissue. It is produced naturally in the body and also found in meat and fish.
5) Tea tree oil
Tea tree has so many uses I believe every medicine cabinet should have a bottle but in this particular instance tea tree toothpaste will do the job. It has proven antibiotic properties and a study on people with severe chronic gingivitis who used the toothpaste for 4-8 weeks were found to have a significant reduction in the degree of gingivitis and bleeding.
6) Change your toothbrush
A Dutch study found that the use of electric toothbrushes with oscillating, rotating heads for 3 months reduced gingivitis compared to manual brushing with a regular toothbrush. There was also some reduction in plaque, although it was not statistically significant.


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