Sexual dimorphism and dentistry

04 November 2021
3 min read
Published:

Cemal Ucer considers how the differences between men and women can impact oral health.

Sex is one of the most basic differentiating factors between patients, and has been shown to affect health outcomes and disease in myriad ways. Despite this, a great deal of medical research has not adequately accounted for even this basic distinction between patients, treating women as essentially interchangeable with men. Women experience adverse drug reactions nearly twice as often as men, and a major component of this is likely to be caused by historical and contemporary failures in adequately enrolling women in clinical trials, or even considering sex in analysis.

Physiological differences between the sexes can affect immune system function and disease susceptibility. Gender roles and expectations can also markedly affect behaviour and psychological wellbeing, which in turn can have health consequences. For example, smoking prevalence is notably higher among men (in the UK, 15.9 per cent of men smoke versus 12.5 per cent of women). Other sociological factors can intertwine or exist independently alongside gender. To use the smoking example again, among the British population cultural/ ethnic background plays a modifying role, with, for instance, comparatively few Asian women taking up smoking (on average 2.9 per cent women and 13.9 per cent men). Socioeconomic class is a major modifier of many aspects of life, not least health outcomes and morbidity, and gender has a very complex relationship with socio-economic status.

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