The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Meta-analyses reveal direction and timing of sex and gender differences in oral health


Anthropology, University of Oregon

Saturday 3:00-3:15, Galleria South Add to calendar

Understanding the direction, timing and causes of sex and gender differences in oral health are research objectives approached from different perspectives by anthropologists, epidemiologists and geneticists. This study uses a meta-analytic approach to assess the extent and timing of male-female differences in oral health from data on caries and tooth loss in prehistoric and living populations. Two significant trends were initially identified: females tend to have higher caries rates than males and the increase in caries with age is greater in females than in males. These trends are consistent across diverse ethnic groups and subsistence systems. A meta-analysis of thirty-two independent reports of caries experience in South Asia, reveals higher caries rates more commonly among females than males. Data on caries prevalence and experience was gathered by gender for children and adults. Results show that: (a) in male children caries rates are greater than, or equal to, female rates, (b) the gender bias reverses (F > M caries rates) from adolescence through the reproductive years, (c) mature adults typically exhibit significant differences, with higher caries rates in females, (d) a male gender bias in adults is rare, and (e) though some studies find no significant gender difference in caries, a female bias predominates. Tooth loss is also greater in women than men and results from caries rather than periodontal disease. Recent studies of oral health by sex in prehistoric samples shows greater appreciation for the impact female hormones and reproductive biology have on sex and gender differences in oral health.

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