What do daily exercise, taking a multivitamin, and brushing your teeth all have in common? These are all fairly simple daily habits that could improve a man’s overall health, but ones that far too many men are ignoring. Oral health, in particular, is an area where many men could stand to “brush up” their skills a little, so to speak.

The Oral Health Battle of the Sexes

While both men and women report that a great smile is one of the first things they notice about a potential dating partner, women apparently take that more seriously than men.

A study published in the April 2011 issue of the Journal of Periodontology showed that women are more proactive about teeth and gum maintenance than their male counterparts. Women are twice as likely to have been for a recent dental checkup (in the past year), and were proactive in scheduling recommended follow-up treatments. These healthy habits resulted in far lower incidence of common periodontal disease indicators, such as plaque, calculus, and bleeding gums.

Other Benefits of Good Oral Health

Man brushing teethTaking care of your teeth care is the best way for a man to maintain a healthy mouth and a beautiful smile, but the benefits extend beyond just aesthetics. Research published in the June 2008 issue of The Lancet Oncology found that gum disease, often the result of poor oral health habits, puts men at a higher risk of developing cancer, including kidney cancer (49% more likely), pancreatic cancer (54% more likely), and blood cancers (30% more likely).

Gum disease has also been linked to higher risk for other serious health conditions, such as heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes.

Developing Healthy Oral Habits

To maintain that bright white smile, or get it back if you’ve neglected it for a little bit too long, dentists recommend making oral health care a priority.

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Spend at least two minutes brushing, and make sure you are moving the toothbrush throughout your mouth to clean every surface.
  • Floss teeth at least once a day to remove food particles and plaque that get stuck between teeth, where your toothbrush can’t reach.
  • Throw out your old toothbrush every three months, after you have been sick, or when you can see obvious signs of damage, such as bent or missing bristles.
  • Avoid behaviors that can damage teeth, such as smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco, or drinking dark beverages (such as coffee or soda) that can wear down enamel.
  • Visit a dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings. While brushing teeth daily is important, it’s no substitute for the professional cleaning you get from the dentist every six months.

It’s also important to know the warning signs of periodontal disease so you can seek treatment. These signs include gums that are red or swollen or that bleed easily, areas where gums have pulled away from the teeth, persistent bad breath, tooth loss, or changes in your bite (the way your jaws fit together). If you notice any of these potential warning signs, see your dentist or consider visiting a periodontist to look into it more closely.

If you don’t have a dentist, you can contact The Dental Clinic at Roseman University at 801-878-1200 to schedule an appointment for affordable dental care in the Salt Lake valley provided by student dentists.