Men’s health still needs a little TLC
As healthcare professionals, dentists work hard to improve both women’s and men’s health. However, men are trailing behind women when it comes to looking after themselves. As such, it’s important for dental professionals to be aware of the barriers that male patients may face in order to provide the most effective support.
The less healthy gender?
There are several studies to suggest that men are less healthy than women. For example, one found that women lived a few years longer than men.[i] Other evidence suggests that men are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease at an earlier age,[ii] are more prone to type 2 diabetes[iii] and are 40% more likely to die from cancer[iv] than women. In terms of dental health, oral cancer is more common in men than women,[v] as is periodontitis.[vi]
So, why is men’s health lacking? Firstly, men may have lower levels of health literacy[vii] and a poorer understanding of medicines.[viii] Secondly, men visit healthcare professionals less often than women.[ix] When it comes to accessing services at the GP practice, the largest gender gap is apparent among 20- to 44-year-olds.[x] Regarding dental care, a Scottish survey found that 68% of men had visited the dentist in the previous year, compared to 76% of women.[xi]
Changing the alpha male persona
There are theories that men’s perception of masculinity may be contributing to their attitude towards health. Similarly, traditional beliefs imply that men aren’t as ‘emotional’ as women, as this is seen as a feminine trait. Such perceptions of gender differences may be the result of social and biological influences throughout childhood and beyond.[xii]
However, times are changing. Modern society is filled with men that do not conform to traditional ideas of the ‘alpha male’. Consequently, their image is evolving, as is their attitude towards physical and mental health. A study commissioned by The Book of Man found that 79% of the 44-year-old UK men surveyed thought that ‘old school masculinity has to change’.[xiii] Perhaps with this societal shift will come greater motivation for men to look after themselves better too!
Supporting men’s health
As with everyone you see, it is essential to build a rapport with male patients. Only then will they feel comfortable to honestly discuss concerns they have and allow you to deliver tailored advice. In addition, the same high-quality clinical materials and oral health products are important for male and female patients.
Ultimately, it’s crucial that patients of all genders have access to the information and dental care they need. We should be raising awareness of the importance of regular dental appointments and an effective home routine among all patients. Tailoring our advice according to the individual will always deliver the best results, regardless of gender.
[i] Wang H, Dwyer-Lindgren L, Lofgren KT, Rajaratnam JK, Marcus JR, Levin-Rector A, et al. Age-specific and sex-specific mortality in 187 countries, 1970–2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. Lancet. 2012;380:2071-94.
[iii] Logue, J., Walker, J.J., Colhoun, H.M. et al. Do men develop type 2 diabetes at lower body mass indices than women? Diabetologia (2011) 54: 3003.
[v] Public Health England. An oral health needs assessment of vulnerable groups in Camden and Islington. 2015. [Accessed October 2019]
[vi] Frencken JE, Sharma P, Stenhouse L, Green D, Laverty D, Dietrich T. Global epidemiology of dental caries and severe periodontitis – a comprehensive review. Journal of Clinical Periodontology. 2017; 44(Suppl 18); S94-S105
[vii] Von Wagner C, Knight K, Steptoe A, Wardle J. Functional health literacy ad health-promoting behaviour in a national sample of British adults. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. 2007; 61(12); 1017-1017
[viii] Most men delay seeking advice about medicines. The Pharmaceutical Journal. November 2012. [Accessed September 2019]
[ix] NHS England. Improving access for all: reducing inequalities in access to general practice services. September 2018. [Accessed October 2019]
[x] Hippisley-Cox J, Vinogradova Y. Trends in consultation rates in general practice 1995/1996 to 2008/2009: analysis of the QResearch® database. Leeds: Health and Social Care Information Centre, 2009.
[xi] Scottish Government. Scottish health survey 2017: volume one – main report. Dental health. September 2018. [Accessed October 2019]
[xii] Chaplin TM. Gender and Emotion Expression: A Developmental Contextual Perspective. Emot Rev. 2015;7(1):14–21. doi:10.1177/1754073914544408
[xiii] The Book of Man. Crisis Point. Men are on the edge. [Accessed September 2019]