In reality, men and women face very different challenges with maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Women have a few advantages that men don’t while struggling with being more at risk for certain issues.
Two conditions impacting oral health that women are much more likely to have than men are temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ) and Sjögren’s syndrome. TMJ is chronic pain or soreness in the jaw joints and is most commonly caused by bruxism (chronic teeth grinding), but can also be caused by joint structure, vitamin deficiency, stress, arthritis, or hormones. 90 percent of people diagnosed with TMJ are women.
Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks salivary glands and tear ducts (leading to dry mouth and dry eye), as well as other tissues and organs. Dry mouth can make chewing and swallowing more difficult, but it’s also dangerous to oral health. We need our saliva to wash away leftover food particles, neutralize the pH of our mouths, and fight oral bacteria.
The major hormonal changes a woman experiences during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause can all affect oral health. During puberty and pregnancy, gingivitis and gum inflammation are common, which is why good oral hygiene habits are essential in these conditions. That means daily flossing and twice daily brushing with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste.
Women going through menopause are likely to experience dry mouth and bone loss. Bone loss in the jaw can compromise the gums and the roots of teeth. We recommend discussing these things with the dentist, ideally before any symptoms begin to appear.
Eating disorders are far more common among teenage girls than among teenage boys. In fact, twice as many girls develop these dangerous disorders than their male counterparts. Eating disorders are devastating to every system in the body, including oral health.
Malnutrition, including vitamin and mineral deficiency, can lead to a variety of oral health problems because teeth and gums lack the raw materials to maintain themselves. Another way eating disorders affect oral health is through acid erosion in the case of bulimia.
Those suffering from eating disorders should seek psychiatric help to begin the mental recovery process, but recovery for dental health will require help from dental professionals and a rigorous dental hygiene routine.
It might seem after learning all of this that women must be much worse off than men in the oral health department, but they do have a major advantage: women, on average, are better at taking care of their teeth. Women are more likely to keep good oral health habits, including scheduling regular dental appointments. They’re also more likely to go to the dentist when experiencing tooth pain, instead of trying to tough it out. All this means that the effects of these problems are greatly reduced.