On Father’s Day, we celebrate our dads and the unique role they play in our lives. We often give him a gift, a token of our appreciation, which can range from a tie to an ice tray with cubes shaped like mustaches. But perhaps the most thoughtful gift we could give our dad this year is an appointment at his dentist office. Why? Two words: Gum disease.
Perio.org, the American Academy of Periodontology’s website reports the percentage of men with gum disease is higher than women, 56.4% vs. 38.4%, respectively. While the specific causes for the greater frequency of gum disease for men are not clear, experts suspect it is because men don’t see their dentist as often as women do. Alternatively, men also experience elevated rates of plaque and tartar, as well as a higher frequency of gingival bleeding than women – poor indications for men’s periodontal health as compared to women’s.
These numbers are not only concerning for men’s oral health but also for the connection gum disease has to their overall health. Gum disease can affect systems throughout the body, and has been linked to prostate disease, heart disease, stroke, erectile dysfunction, and cancer.
Gum Disease and Prostate Disease
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a substance produced by certain cells within the male prostate gland, is present in small quantities in the serum of men with healthy prostates. However, it is often elevated in the presence of prostate cancer or other prostate disorders, such as prostatitis. Prostatitis is an infection or inflammation of the prostate gland, which can cause difficulty urinating, pain in the groin, pelvic area, or genitals, and, sometimes, flu-like symptoms. Research has shown that men with gum disease indicators, such as red, swollen or tender gums, as well as prostatitis have higher levels of PSA than men with only one of the conditions. This means that prostate health may be associated with periodontal health, and vice versa.
In 2015, a study from Case Western Reserve University showed that by treating men with gum disease it also reduced their symptoms of inflammation in the prostate, reducing the PSA levels in the majority of the men in the study (21 of the 27 considered). This research indicates that the two conditions have a link.
Gum Disease and Heart Disease
According to the Heart Foundation, heart disease is the number one cause of death for men (and women) in the U.S. Studies also point to a link between gum disease and heart disease. The swelling that hardens arteries in heart disease and the swelling that occurs in the gingival tissue for gum disease could have a connection. Although it isn’t confirmed at this point as a causal connection, meaning one disease causes the other disease, experts know the bacteria and other inflammatory toxins below the gum line make it throughout the body, including the heart. Reducing any amount of bacteria in the body, including that which is present in gum disease, will reduce the risk of heart disease. It is important to note that preventing gum disease will not prevent heart disease. However, better oral health can elevate health levels in general.
Gum Disease and Cancer
Research suggests that periodontal disease and some forms of cancer are associated as well. According to Perio.org, “men with a history of gum disease are 14% more likely to develop cancer than men with healthy gums.” The American Dental Association (ADA) agrees, explaining that the finding was based on the study of 48,000 men in the U.S. aged 40 to 75. The research also revealed increased risk factors for lung cancer (36%), kidney cancer (49%), pancreatic cancer (54%), and blood cancer (30%) over men without gum disease. Needless to say, these numbers aren’t encouraging as it relates to the relationship between the two diseases.
Gum Disease and Erectile Dysfunction
The Journal of Sexual Medicine published a study a few years back that showed 53% of male patients with Erectile Dysfunction (ED) also suffered severe gum disease. ED affects millions of men in the U.S.; some experts estimate that one in four men seek treatment for the condition. The percentages increase with age. According to WebMD, 5% of men around 40 have ED while 15 to 25% of men aged 65 have it. Like all the other connections, the link between ED and gum disease is tied to the inflammation of the gums that passes to the other systems throughout the body.
Men would be wise to visit their dentist to discover if they are suffering from gum disease. While it is serious, gum disease is treatable. Traditional surgery or the FDA-cleared laser treatment option, the LANAP® protocol, (recently cleared to re-grow bone) can reduce or eliminate the inflammation associated with gum disease. It is not only crucial for your dad’s oral health, but also his overall health.
So before you grab the new shirt or golf hat for dad this year, consider how you can get him to visit his dentist. It could be the most important gift you ever give him. And that includes the Chia Pet you gave him last year!
“Heart Disease: Scope and Impact.” www.theheartfoundation.com. Web. 24 May 2016. <http://www.theheartfoundation.org/heart-disease-facts/heart-disease-statistics/>.
Miller, Kelli. “Periodontal Disease and Heart Health.” www.webmd.com. Web. 24 May 2016. <http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/periodontal-disease-heart-health>.
Missih, DDS, MPH, Comlan. “The link between periodontal disease and cancer: A Review.” www.perioimplantadvisory.com. January 2013. Web. 24 May 2016. <http://www.perioimplantadvisory.com/articles/2013/01/the-link-between-periodontal-disease-and-cancer-a-review.html>.
“Periodontal Disease Linked to Some Cancers, Study Finds.” www.colgate.com. Web. 24 May 2016. <http://www.colgate.com/en/us/oc/oral-health/conditions/gum-disease/article/ada-06-periodontal-disease-linked-to-some-cancers-study-finds>.
Waxman, Olivia. “What Does Gum Disease Have to Do with Erectile Dysfunction?” Healthland.time.com. Web. 5 December 2012. < healthland.time.com/2012/12/05/what-does-gum-disease-have-to-do-with-erectile-dysfunction/>.
“Erectile Dysfunction May Affect 1 in 4 Men Under 40 Seeking Treatment, Study Suggests.” www.huffingtonpost.com. 11 June 2013.Web. 24 May 2016. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/11/erectile-dysfunction-young-men-age-40-younger_n_3405085.html>.
“Erectile Dysfunction: Your Top 6 Questions Answered.” www.webmd.com. Web. 24 May 2016. <http://www.webmd.com/erectile-dysfunction/guide/erectile-dysfunction-basics>.