Depending on whose guidelines you’re reading, you need to visit your dentist at least once a year. However, in the United States, men do that less often than women.
According to Statista, about 72% visited a dental clinic in 2018—almost 6 percentage points higher than men. And the trend hadn’t really changed since 1997.
If you’re one of them, hopefully, the following will finally convince you to get those orthodontic appliances fitted or tooth decay treated.
1. There’s a Link Between Gum Disease and Gastric and Esophageal Cancer
In a 2020 study by the BMJ, those who had a history of gum disease could have already increased their risk of gullet cancer by 43% and gastric cancer by a whopping 52%.
The numbers get worse if the individual also suffered from teeth loss. If they are now missing one or more teeth and had gum disease before, the odds of having esophageal cancer rose by 59% and gastric cancer by almost 70%.
Reason: bacteria. Not taking care of your dental health can allow pathogens like tannerella forsythia to flourish.
If that isn’t enough, based on the information of the American Cancer Society (ACS), men are already predisposed to both cancers than women. For example, in esophageal cancer, the lifetime risk is 1 is to 125 among males compared to 1 is to 417 in women.
2. Gum Disease Is Also Associated with Hypertension and Cardiovascular Events
Hypertension has a lot of risk factors, but a 2019 study by the European Society of Cardiology might have added gum disease to the list.
If you have periodontitis or gum inflammation, you are likely to have a higher blood pressure reading than those without the condition. However, the researchers also found out that there’s a direct correlation between severity and hypertension risk.
In other words, if your gum disease is already moderate, your odds of having abnormally high blood pressure go up to 22%. But if it’s already severe, the risk is almost 50%. When this becomes uncontrolled, you are likely to experience cardiovascular events like stroke.
But wait, a 2021 research by Forsyth Institute said that you need not have hypertension to experience a heart attack, cardiac arrest, or stroke if you have gum disease. The inflammation of the gums alone can, in fact, help predict your chances of suffering from any cardiovascular event.
These are all bad news as men are already twice as likely to experience a heart attack compared to women throughout their lifetime, according to Harvard Medical School. One possible reason is that the hormone levels of females offer some protection against cardiovascular disorders.
The good news is you can significantly lower your odds of having both hypertension and cardiovascular event when you get that gum inflammation treated stat. In the Forsyth University study, the risk disappeared among those who underwent treatment even if they suffered from bone loss because of the disease.
3. Your Gum Problems and Teeth Loss Can Be Linked to Faster Cognitive Decline
Compared to men, women are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. But because men don’t visit their dentists often than females do, they can also be increasing the rate of their cognitive decline in case they are found to have early-stage Alzheimer’s.
This is the result of a 2010 study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. In the research, the team followed 597 men between the ages of 28 and 70 for over 30 years. Each participant underwent a dental examination every three years.
Based on the analysis, the more teeth they lost every decade, the higher are their chances of developing cognitive decline.
Why is that? A later study by King’s College London and the University of Southampton can provide some answers. The presence of a large number of harmful bacteria in the mouth can also increase the levels of antibodies produced.
When these antibodies go up, so will the inflammatory molecules all over the body, and that includes the brain.
4. Gum Disease Treatment Can Ease the Symptoms of Prostate Inflammation
First, prostate inflammation or prostatitis is not prostate cancer. No study has established a link between the two too, which means the swelling of your walnut-sized gland isn’t a risk factor for cancer.
However, because it is inflammation, it is painful—excruciating even. When left untreated, it can be a potential cause of infertility and frequent urinary tract infections, which can be life-threatening.
But what’s the connection between the gums and the prostate? For some reason, gum inflammation leads to more inflammation in other parts of the body. Treating it, therefore, is like dousing water to kill the fire, easing prostate symptoms.
Will visiting your dentist regularly guarantee you won’t suffer any of the illnesses above? The answer is no. Many known interventions including exercise and diet don’t. But you can lower your risk significantly, and that can be good enough to give you peace of mind.