Dental care: sorting the men from the boys

Men are notorious at neglecting their health. Let's face it, in the battle of the sexes, women always come out on top when it comes to their health and wellbeing. In fact, this cavalier attitude towards male health is so widespread there is even a campaign to raise awareness amongst men of the importance of looking after themselves.

This month plays host to Men's Health Week (15-21 June) and it focuses on healthy living. With half of the population more likely to smokedrink alcohol to hazardous levels and be overweight or obese, the week of events - promoted by the Men's Health Forum - will put the spotlight firmly on some preventable measures that can be taken to promote good health.

Mouth matters

And, good oral health care counts too. Scientific evidence linking what's happening in our mouths to our overall health continues to stack up and by skipping a dental check-up, you run the risk of overlooking other health issues. By committing to regular visits to your dental practice, you open up a wealth of opportunity when it comes to keeping an eye on your wellbeing. An oral examination reveals a lot more than just teeth and gums. Given the screening opportunities, dentists, dental hygienists and dental therapists are perfectly placed to detect any disease early on. Dental therapists and dental hygienists can also talk you through any lifestyle changes you may need to make such as dietary habits, diabetes risks, smoking frequency and alcohol intake.

Sexual healing

And, if all this evidence fails to convince you, it may interest you to read that scientists have discovered that men with poor oral health are more likely to suffer with erectile dysfunction (ED). Bacteria caused by poor dental hygiene enter the blood stream and can eventually impair the blood flow to the penis. By simply brushing up on your dental care regime, you can halve the risk of impotence. So, gentlemen, neglect your dental health at your peril. Not only can a healthy smile be a great asset to your career and relationships, your mouth is also an important window on your inner health too.

Man up - and love your smile!
Dental therapist Kamran Rasul says there has been a gulf between the sexes when it comes to dental healthcare, but believes this is now changing. He says: 'Women have more of a time-consuming regime than men historically. They have always spent longer looking at themselves in the mirror - doing their make-up and hair - so I think it's a case of the more time we spend looking at ourselves, the more we notice detail - and this includes our dental health. With male grooming growing ever popular, however, men are now spending just as long in front of the mirror. So, trends are changing. I think recent media coverage of mouth cancer risks alert men to book a dental appointment and the rise in popularity of straighter, whiter teeth has also meant a lot more of them seeking cosmetic treatments too.'

Kamran's top 10 'keep fit' tips for a perfect smile

1. Eat a healthy diet and limit those (non-sugary) snacks between meals.

2. Ditch those sports drinks that can be acidic and will damage tooth enamel.

3. Chew sugar-free gum after meals to stimulate saliva that neutralises teeth plaque acids and, to avoid damaging tooth enamel, try waiting at least 30 minutes to brush your teeth after eating.

4. Clean between your teeth using interdental brushes or floss - it is not just about removing food particles, it also helps to get rid of that sticky plaque.

5. Still a smoker? Love a beer? Two thirds of mouth cancer cases are linked to smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol to excess is linked to around a third of all cases.

6. Suspect you have stinky breath? There's a quick test for that - lick the inside of your wrist, let it dry and sniff. If the smell is bad, you can be fairly sure you have bad breath. Brushing regularly and using a tongue scraper can eliminate smelly bacteria build-up.

7. Love a gadget? Electric toothbrushes are more effective at removing plaque so treat yourself to an upgrade for a better clean, remembering to replace your brush or brush head every three to four months.

8. Factor in your oral healthcare to your grooming regime, remembering to brush for at least two minutes twice a day (using fluoride toothpaste) and taking time to clean between the teeth, too!

9. Should you have any serious oral health concerns, contact your dental practice immediately. Stats show that early detection for mouth cancer results in a survival outcome of 90% but delayed diagnosis means survival rates plummet to as little as 50%. Additionally, oral HPV infection causes 40-80% of oropharyngeal cancers (throat cancers). Poor oral health is a risk factor for oral HPV infection.

10. Visit the dentist, dental hygienist or dental therapist regularly for an examination, cleaning, advice and maintenance tips.