Dentist explains why women experience more teeth issues than men

Taking care of your teeth is an important part of your daily hygiene routine. You brush your teeth, floss, and rinse with mouthwash. But while everyone faces dental problems, women may experience them more than men.

A TikTok video shared by Dr. Ellie Phillips, a dentist in Austin, Texas, highlights that women's saliva has a different pH than men's. pH measures acidity, and research shows that women tend to have a lower salivary pH than men, meaning the saliva is more acidic.

In Dr. Phillips' video, which has received more than 4.6 million views since it was posted last week, the medical professional explains that she often has female patients come to her asking why they are doing so well in their care. There is a problem with the teeth.

In contrast, these patients found that their male partners did not seem to have the same dental problems, although they were less concerned about their teeth.

“Let's take a step back. I was in dental school in the '60s, and it's interesting because I was trained to believe that the pH of our saliva is 7,” Dr. Phillips explains. A pH of 7 is neutral.

“It took me years to buy a pH meter and actually test everyone I could find in my environment to discover that the pH of female saliva is not 7. It's usually 6, usually 5.5 ,” she continued.

This means that the reason you may be experiencing dental problems, such as brittle teeth, plaque, or gum disease, may be due to the acidic nature of your saliva.

Acidic saliva is really harmful to oral health,” says Dr. Phillips. She went on to explain that dentists previously thought saliva had a pH of 7 because of research conducted on male dental students in the 1950s.

“Even when I went to dental school, only 1% were women. [students], the rest are men,” she said. “In the 1950s, it was almost always men, so when they tested male saliva, their pH was almost always 7, 7.4.

“If you're a woman, you need to understand that your saliva pH fluctuates. We have cycles, like everything else in our lives, sometimes it's better, sometimes it's worse, and the challenge is dealing with how this acidity changes in us. In the mouth it does everything we don't want it to do.

Is female saliva really more acidic than male saliva?

The short answer is: yes. Several studies have shown that women's saliva tends to have a lower pH than men's, meaning that women's saliva is more acidic.

Women tend to have lower salivary flow than men, which may also affect the condition of the mouth and promote tooth decay.

Close-up of dentist holding angled mirror and hook while examining patient. Young woman with open mouth undergoing dental checkup in hospital.Close-up of dentist holding angled mirror and hook while examining patient. Young woman with open mouth undergoing dental checkup in hospital.

Research shows that there are some differences in the oral health of women and men. (Getty Images)

Dr Mani Bhardwaj, clinical director and chief dentist at Smile Studio Dental Group, told Yahoo UK: “A number of studies have found that women's saliva pH levels are significantly lower than men's, which means women do have more acidic saliva, and that's before the saliva stimulates it. And that's the case after that.

“Having more acidic saliva may increase the chance of tooth surface loss due to acid attack, especially when combined with certain drinks or foods, which can introduce more acidic elements to your carefully balanced oral pH.

“For example, sugary soft drinks and extremely acidic juices mixed with saliva can cause more acid-erosive wear on the tooth surface.”

How to fight acidic saliva?

In her TikTok video, Dr. Phillips recommends using xylitol, a sugar alcohol often used as a sugar substitute because it tastes sweet but doesn't cause cavities.

Xylitol, even in small amounts, can “stimulate the flow of saliva into the mouth,” helping to dilute acidic saliva.

Dr. Bhardwaj says other ways to combat acidic saliva include neutralizing it by adding more pH-positive foods and drinks to your diet. This includes things like milk, cheese and yogurt.

He reassures women who may be concerned about acidic saliva that it's “generally not a problem,” but consuming more acidic foods and drinks may exacerbate the problem.

“Staying hydrated by adjusting your diet, consuming more dairy products and vitamins, and drinking lots of water will be the key to success,” he advises.

“Some mouthwashes may also help neutralize acids, and using a good fluoride toothpaste can help replenish any damage to the enamel surface.”

Should women care for their teeth differently?

In general, both women and men should take care of their oral health in the same way—this includes maintaining good oral hygiene, brushing twice a day, flossing, and getting regular dental checkups.

Dr. Bhardwaj also recommends eating a balanced diet to help keep your mouth and teeth in optimal condition.

However, if your dentist does discover that you have tooth wear and other oral health issues, you should follow their recommendations to ensure that your teeth do not suffer further damage.

“Brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste, eating less sugar, and increasing calcium and vitamins in your diet are all ways to remineralize tooth enamel and prevent cavities and other oral health problems,” he said.

PH-balanced saliva helps keep your mouth healthy and protect your teeth, and you can develop healthy daily habits to neutralize the acidity of your saliva.

“Acidic saliva can cause erosion, ultimately leading to enamel loss, tooth decay, and in extreme cases, tooth loss. Maintaining a clean oral environment and eating a balanced diet will help protect the teeth of both male and female patients.

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