When it comes to oral health, do women have more challenges than men? Early in his career, Dr. James Otten, DDS, of Otten Dentistry in Lawrence, Kansas, wondered why females suffered more from TMJ disorders and facial pain by a ratio of 9 to 1 over males? Temporomandibular Joint and Muscle Disorders, commonly called “TMJ,” are a group of conditions that cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw joints and muscles that control jaw movement.
While some of his (mostly male) colleagues postulated that women were affected more than men because they were more susceptible and complained more about pain, Dr. Otten thought that was ridiculous and sought a better, more accurate answer. Because in most cases, and in Dr. Otten’s clinical experience, women are found to have a higher pain tolerance than men.
“It was my first introduction to the idea that somehow, women have more susceptibility to certain disorders than men,” he said. “I set off on a quest to find out what that was and also what are the other unique challenges for women with their oral health.”
According to Dr. Otten, there are five points that women should consider in relation to their oral health:
- Women are more pain tolerant. When women express complaints of pain, they’re likely to be profound. If we think about that, it makes sense because as soon as a female reaches puberty she has to deal with menstrual pain and must learn to accommodate and tolerate it throughout her adult life. “So when we see female members of our patient family with facial pain, we take them very seriously and try to discover the underlying reasons for their discomfort and find therapeutic approaches that can help both in the long and short term,” Dr. Otten said.
- Women are generally better and more conscientious about caring for their own health. This stems from the fact that women have an ongoing relationship with physicians from an early age and are better caretakers of their personal health. Because of this fact, women generally have better outcomes on a larger scale than men do.
- Women suffer more joint damage and degeneration then men. This widely reported phenomenon is also the basis for why women suffer more from TMJ problems than men do. Consider the fact that the sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone once they start being produced allow joints in the female to be more flexible. Think of how female gymnasts are so much more flexible than their male counterparts. Of course, this flexibility is meant to facilitate birth but also can facilitate injury, especially in the early teen years. Early detection and intervention is critical, according to Dr. Otten.
- Women understand the key connection between aesthetics and function. Even as far back as artists like Leonardo da Vinci, it was known that form does follow function. In dentistry, this means that teeth that look good also function well. “Women are much more conscientious about the appearance of their teeth and understand that wear, cracking and yellowing is not necessarily a ‘normal’ consequence of age, it could be pathologic,” Dr. Otten explained.
- As they age, women become more susceptible to breathing disorders. Recently, we have come to realize that there is a high connection and correlation between TMJ disorders and breathing disorders. This makes sense because often, when TMJ disorders are apparent in an individual, they also make the jaw smaller and crowd the tongue space, which affects breathing. Also the breathing disorders worsen with age for women while men show a fairly consistent problem throughout their life cycles.
At James Otten Dentistry in Lawrence, Kansas, our female patients are unique and special to us. Our practice is dedicated to personalized care because we understand that no two people – whether woman or man – are alike. Because we understand the importance of looking at the entire health profile of an individual, our evaluations include methodology to screen for all the issues that may be important to your health. We seek a natural balance of wellness, comfort and beauty.
As always, we’re here to help you with any health concerns you might have, and we welcome your questions and comments. If you’d like more information about any of these ideas or have any questions about any aspect of dentistry and what it can do for you as part of your lifelong health plan, give us a call today at 785.843.6404 or visit www.jamesottendds.com.
We are happy to have you visit our practice at no obligation and see how we personalize our care in a quiet and comfortable environment.