Dentist reveals why women experience more teeth issues than men

Mature woman looking in beauty mirror in bathroom checking her teeth
Women may find they experience oral health issues even though they take good care of their teeth. (Getty Images)

Taking care of your teeth is an important part of daily hygiene routines. You brush, you floss, you gargle with mouthwash. But, while everyone faces dental problems, it may be that women experience more issues than men.

A TikTok video shared by Dr Ellie Phillips, a dentist based in Austin, Texas, highlighted that women’s saliva has a different pH value compared to men. pH values measure acidity, and research has shown that women tend to have saliva that is lower in pH value - which means it is more acidic - compared to men.

In her video, which has garnered more than 4.6 million views since Dr Phillips posted it last week, the medical professional explained that she often has female patients coming to her and questioning why they struggle with their teeth despite taking good care of them.

In comparison, these patients find that their male partners don’t seem to have the same dental issues even though they take less care of their teeth.

"Let’s take a step back. I was in dental school in the Sixties and it was fascinating because I was trained to believe that the pH of our saliva was seven," Dr Phillips explained. A pH value of seven is neutral.

"It took me years and it took me to get a pH metre and actually test all the people that I could find in my environment to discover that women’s saliva pH is not seven. It’s frequently six, it’s frequently 5.5," she continued.

This means that the reason you may be experiencing dental issues, such as weakened teeth, plaque or gum disease, may be due to having more acidic saliva.

"Acidic saliva is really damaging to oral health," Dr Phillips said. She went on to explain that dentists previously believed the pH value of saliva was seven because of studies conducted in the Fifties on male dental students.

"Even when I went to dental school, it was 1% women [students], the rest were men,” she said. “In the Fifties it was pretty much all men, so when they tested the saliva of men, they have a pH of seven, 7.4, pretty much all the time.

"If you’re a woman, you need to understand that your salivary pH fluctuates. We have cycles, just like everything else in our lives, there are times when it’s better and times when it’s worse, and the challenge is contending with this acidity in our mouths that does everything we don’t want it to do."

Do women really have more acidic saliva than men?

The short answer is: Yes. Several studies have shown that the pH value of women’s saliva tends to be lower than men, meaning it is more acidic.

Women also tend to have a lower flow rate of saliva than men, which could also affect conditions in the mouth that can promote dental decay.

Close up of dentist holding angled mirror and hook while examining patient. Young woman is with mouth open getting dental checkup in hospital.
There are some differences between women and men's oral health, studies have shown. (Getty Images)

Dr Mani Bhardwaj, clinical director and principle dentist of The Smile Studios Dental Group, tells Yahoo UK: "Numerous studies conducted have found that Salivary pH values are significantly lower in females than men, meaning women really do have more acidic saliva, this was also true before, and after salivary stimulation.

"Having more acidic saliva may increase the chance of tooth surface loss caused by erosion from acidity, especially when combined with certain drink or foods, which introduce more acidic elements to your carefully balanced mouth pH.

"For example, sugary soft drinks and extremely acidic fruit juices mixing with the saliva can cause more acid erosion wear on the tooth surface."

How do you combat acidic saliva?

In her TikTok video, Dr Phillips suggests using xylitol, a sugar alcohol that is often used as a sugar substitute as it tastes sweet but does not cause tooth decay.

Xylitol, even in small amounts, can "stimulate a flow of saliva into your mouth" that can help dilute acidic saliva.

Other ways to combat acidic saliva include neutralising it by introducing more pH-positive foods and drinks into your diet, Dr Bhardwaj says. This includes things like milk, cheese and yoghurts.

He reassures women who may be worried about acidic saliva that it is "not generally problematic", but could be exacerbated by consuming foods and drinks that are more acidic.

"Neutralising acidity would be the key to success by adjusting your diet and introducing more dairy and vitamins and drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated," he advises.

"Some mouthwashes may also help in neutralising acids, and using a good toothpaste with fluoride can help to replenish the erosion caused to the enamel surface."

Should women take care of their teeth differently?

In general, both women and men should look after their oral health in the same way - this includes practising good oral hygiene with brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing and going for regular dental check-ups.

Dr Bhardwaj also recommends having a balanced diet to help keep your mouth and teeth in tip top shape.

However, if your dentist does find that you have issues with tooth wear and other oral health problems, you should follow their advice to ensure your teeth don’t get further damage.

"Brushing with a fluoride toothpaste, cutting out sugar, and upping the calcium and vitamins in your diet, are some ways to remineralise your teeth enamel to prevent tooth decay and prevent other oral health issues," he says.

"Saliva that is properly pH balanced helps maintain a healthy mouth and protect your teeth, and there are healthy everyday habits you can incorporate to neutralise the acidity of your saliva.

"Acidic saliva can lead to erosion, which can ultimately lead to enamel loss, tooth decay, and in extreme cases, tooth loss. Keeping the mouth’s environment clean and having a balanced diet, will help look after teeth, in both male and female patients."

Watch: Dad pulls out tooth with a pair of pliers - after failing to get a dentist appointment

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