Dental Health and Hygiene for Men
You may remember being told to brush and floss your teeth every day when you were a child. Had we known at the time that poor dental health and hygiene can increase the risk of ulcers, pneumonia, digestive problems, heart disease, stroke and diabetes, perhaps we would have been more diligent brushers and flossers.

Whether you know it or not, at any given moment there are millions of bacteria in your mouth. And while some are beneficial, helping you break down and digest the food you eat, others create plaque - a sticky, acidic substance that causes gum disease. If it is removed every day through the practice of good dental hygiene, plaque is relatively harmless. But if it remains in the mouth, your teeth slowly decay, causing cavities and gum disease. Over time, poor dental hygiene can destroy the bones and tissue that hold your teeth in place, ultimately leading to tooth loss.

Men, especially, are more likely to suffer from gum disease than women. For example, 34 percent of males aged 30-54 have some form of gum disease, compared to 23 percent of females in the same age group. But if you take an active role and implement your dentists' suggestions in your daily life, you will likely keep your teeth, and your health, well into the later stages of life.

Here are some of the risk factors for developing gum disease:

Being male: Men are more likely to suffer from gum disease than women.

Being African-American: Black men are more likely than white men to develop gum disease.

Lack of funds and insurance: People at the lowest socio-economic levels tend to have the most severe gum disease. This is largely because they don't have access to (or can't afford) regular dental care.

Age: As we get older, our gums gradually recede, exposing the roots of the teeth to plaque. We also produce less saliva, which plays an important role in rinsing plaque out of the mouth.

Genetics: If your parents lost teeth to gum disease, you are at greater risk.

Neglect: Not brushing and flossing regularly.

Poor diet: Sugary snacks and drinks encourage the growth of plaque, and crunchy snack foods can damage enamel and teeth.

Clenching, grinding teeth: Chronic teeth grinding can sometimes result in a fracturing, loosening, or loss of teeth. The chronic grinding may also damage tooth enamel and wear teeth down. This kind of damage can lead to the need for a host of expensive dental work, including bridges, crowns, root canals, implants, partial dentures, and even complete dentures.

Smoking: Recent studies have shown that tobacco use may be one of the most significant risk factors in the development and progression of gum disease. In addition, following periodontal treatment or any type of oral surgery, the chemicals in tobacco can slow down the healing process and make the treatment results less predictable.

If you notice any of these symptoms of gum disease, see a dentist as soon as you can:

  • Red, swollen, tender gums.
  • Gums that bleed when you brush or floss.
  • Gums that have receded (pulled away) from the teeth.
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth.
  • Pockets of pus around teeth or gums.
  • Loose teeth, changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite.
  • Pain when chewing or difficulty chewing certain kinds of foods (usually crunchy foods).
This article was supplemented with Information form the Men's Health Network.