Women experience more dental health issues than men, experts say. Here’s what to do about it

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Your dental health could depend on your gender.

Male and female teeth are very different, according to a TikTok posted by Dr. Ellie Phillips, DDS, an oral health educator based in Austin, Texas

Phillips’ viral video, which has amassed more than one million likes, explained the difference between men’s and women’s teeth.

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The dentist, who has worked in the industry for more than four decades, shared that women often tell her that they take great care of their teeth.

“‘I always attend dental cleanings,'” she said, quoting the women she treats. 

“‘I floss, I brush. I do everything I’m told to do, and my teeth have cavities, I have gum disease, gum recession, all these problems.'”

She added, “‘And there is my husband or my fiancé or my boyfriend — he doesn’t even clean his teeth half the time and doesn’t have any of these problems.'”

The importance of pH

When Phillips was in dental school in the 1960s, she was “trained to believe” that the pH of all saliva was 7.

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After using a pH meter to test multiple people over the course of many years, however, Phillips discovered that the pH of women’s saliva was frequently 5.5 or 6.

“Acidic saliva in your mouth … can be the very reason that your teeth are weakening, that you are promoting plaque in your mouth, that you’re getting gum disease,” she said in the video. 

“Acidic saliva is really damaging to oral health.”

Phillips suggested that the assumption of a universal saliva pH was based on studies from the 1950s, when only male dental students were surveyed.

“Even when I went to dental school, [it] was 1% women,” she said. “The rest were men.”

Dr. Dominik Nischwitz, a specialist in biological dentistry in Tübingen, Germany, noted that several studies have suggested that female patients can have significantly lower pH values, meaning their mouths are more acidic.

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“Women also have, generally speaking, a lower saliva flow rate than men,” he told Fox News Digital. 

Saliva’s ideal pH rate is between 7 and 7.4, according to Nischwitz.

“If we can help mothers create a healthy mouth for themselves, we can start to truly affect the global epidemic of dental disease.”

“If the pH of saliva constantly drops below 5.5, the tooth enamel gets demineralized, which means it will be more prone to tooth decay,” he warned. 

“If this is combined with a lower flow rate of the saliva, which can lead to a dry mouth, the tooth becomes weaker, because the remineralization or buffering capacity is too slow.”

Dr. Brandon Mack, DDS, a cosmetic dentist who practices in both New York and Florida, agreed in a response sent to Fox News Digital that acidity in the mouth can lead to worsened bacteria and tooth erosion.

“The saliva’s role is to serve as a buffer system that allows us to keep teeth at a certain level that [is] going to promote health and good probiotics inside the plaque biofilm,” he said. 

Mack emphasized the question, “Are there influences that disproportionately affect women who shift their acidic environment to a point where it’s going to be more detrimental to the mouth?”

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Although Mack could not confirm whether there is a difference in salivary pH between men and women, he “won’t deny” the potential for some type of “relative correlation of factors that affect women more than men.”

He said, “The quality of saliva is going to vary from individual to individual, and it’s going to depend on how many minerals — like calcium, phosphate and fluorohydroxyapatite — are in that saliva. We also have to consider the flow rate of the saliva, or how much saliva is present, and any kind of conditions that are going to affect men and women differently.”

What’s the solution?

In Phillips’ TikTok video, she recommends taking a daily dose of xylitol, a natural sugar alcohol, to counteract salivary acidity.

“When you put xylitol, even a tiny 1-gram amount, on the tip of your tongue, you will stimulate a flow of saliva into your mouth,” she said.

This extra saliva has “all the minerals you need,” Phillips said, as well as reparative cells for gum health.

The expert recommended ingesting xylitol, such as a Zellie’s dental mint, at the end of a meal and then abstaining from eating or drinking for an hour afterward.

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Mack agreed that xylitol is an “incredible tool,” as it doesn’t have any carbs that get “metabolized by acid-loving bacteria. Xylitol promotes pH buffering when the salivary flow is reduced,” he said. 

Mack recommended other products, such as StellaLife kits and xylitol candy and lozenges.

Patients can also take certain medications to increase salivary flow, he added.

In addition to taking xylitol, it is crucial to adhere to a healthy lifestyle and eat nutrient-rich foods, Nischwitz recommended.

“It is true that having a xylitol mint will lead to more saliva flow in the short term and is definitely recommended, but it won’t solve it completely if the lifestyle doesn’t support the oral microbiome,” he told Fox News Digital.

“It’s astounding that the microbiome that develops before the age of 4 contributes to up to 40% of the mouth bacteria that we have as adults.”

Processed foods are usually low in key minerals or can even deplete the body’s minerals due to chelating agents like phytic acid.”

Key micronutrients that help to remineralize teeth include vitamin D3, vitamin K2, magnesium, phosphorus, boron and essential amino acids, according to Nischwitz.

Using more natural toothpaste and ditching the super-acidic, chemical mouthwashes are other factors to consider, he recommended. 

“Instead of chemical mouthwashes, which harm your oral microbiome and make the saliva super acidic, try coconut oil pulling instead,” Nischwitz advised. 

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In a statement sent to Fox News Digital, Phillips reiterated that it is “paramount” for women to be included in research studies.

“Their hormonal fluctuations, menstrual cycles and biological nuances demand far greater attention and accommodation than they currently receive,” she wrote. “I’m thrilled that we’re finally delving into the crucial aspects of women’s oral health as a society.”

The condition of a mother’s oral health during pregnancy has a “direct impact” on her baby’s oral health, which is a “vital yet often neglected conversation,” Phillips said.

“It’s astounding that the microbiome that develops before the age of 4 contributes to up to 40% of the mouth bacteria that we have as adults,” she said. 

“If we can help mothers create a healthy mouth for themselves, we can start to truly affect the global epidemic of dental disease that’s upon us.”

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More than half of Americans suffer from dental issues that are most likely preventable, according to Phillips.

“This shift requires us to truly evaluate the current dental industry, start asking the right questions and expand the research on gender differences and effective oral care strategies,” she said.

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