FORT POLK, La. –
June is Men’s Health Month and the Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital public affairs officer discussed the topic of men’s health with providers and health care professionals at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Louisiana.
Capt. Gregory DeRose Jr., is a doctor of dental surgery and the brigade dentist for 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. DeRose practices dentistry at the Shira Dental Clinic and discusses his personal and professional opinions on the subject and why it’s important to highlight the topic in June and throughout the year.
Question: Why is it important to highlight men’s health?
Answer: In my opinion, a large majority of men have a heightened sense of pride and feel “invincible” - I feel like that’s especially true in the military. Therefore, we’re more likely to engage in unhealthy activities without any regard for possible consequences; excessive alcohol drinking, smoking or vaping, reckless activities with friends, etc… As silly as it sounds, it can almost feel like a sign of weakness for a man to have to go to the doctor. Men tend to try to get over any health issues on their own until necessity dictates immediate action. Why? Because we’re taught that men are supposed to be tough, we’re supposed to fight through the pain. That’s ridiculous, there should be no shame in receiving the proper care by a healthcare provider.
Question: What are some things you do personally to maintain a healthy lifestyle?
Answer: I work out regularly at least three to four times per week. Workouts don’t have to mean two hours in the gym. I stick to about 45 minutes and make sure I’m moving just about the whole time to keep my heart rate increased, which pushes my body to get the most out of my workout.
I stay away from sodas (even diet sodas). My wife and I almost exclusively drink water and will sometimes add sugar-free flavoring. Occasionally we’ll have a sweet tea, but that’s less than one every couple of weeks. Sugar is fine when consumed in moderation, but most people tend to over-indulge.
I substitute sugar in my coffee with Splenda. Early concerns about Splenda speculated that it was carcinogenic, but many studies by the Food and Drug Administration have shown that is not true at all and it is completely safe to consume. This reduces risk of developing diabetes, which has a prevalence of 11% in men and 8% in women.
REST! I cannot stress that enough. I shoot for a minimum of seven hours of sleep every night. Shutting your body down and giving your systems time to reset is absolutely critical. It’s especially crucial for your mental health. Lack of sleep can and will lead to depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, suicidal thoughts or behaviors, and a whole list of other psychiatric conditions.
Amino-Acid Supplements: Amino acids are used to make proteins in the body to help break down food, helping our bodies grow, repairing body tissue, etc. There are nine essential amino acids that we must get through our diet to help our bodies function, but most diets alone cannot provide that.
I eat fish a couple of times each week to help with heart health. Not fried, but grilled. Omega-3 fatty acids lower the risk of heart attack, they lower blood pressure, and they reduce risk of heart disease (the #1 cause of death in men).
Question: What advice do you have to other men about the importance of their health?
Answer: Know your family history and have regular check-ups. Many health conditions are hereditary and passed down through genetics. For example, if prostate cancer runs in your family, you wouldn’t wait until age 50 for your first prostate exam; instead, you’d consider age 40 instead. The same goes for dental exams as well. If your parents both had dentures made at an early age, consider having a dental exam every six months instead of every 12 months in order to help prevent periodontal disease, another condition influenced by genetics.
Question: As a dentist, how can a person’s oral health be an indicator of other health concerns?
Answer: Research has repeatedly shown that harmful oral bacteria has been linked to brain and heart problems. The same bacteria that cause periodontitis (gum disease) can travel through the bloodstream and cause inflammation in the blood vessels, in turn leading to increased risk of a heart attack, stroke, and hypertension. Hypertension is known as the “silent killer” because usually it’s not something that you can feel or are aware of until it’s too late. You want to mitigate that risk of developing these debilitating diseases by maintaining good oral hygiene.
Question: What are some issues you encounter on a regular basis with your male patients that may indicate more serious health concerns?
Answer: A large number of men that I see at Shira Dental Clinic are smokeless tobacco users. They don’t even have to disclose that information, I can automatically tell by the corrugated appearance of their vestibule (inside the lip where they hold the tobacco). This is known as Snuff Dippers Keratosis. The major concern with this condition is the risk of developing Verrucous Carcinoma or Squamous Cell Carcinoma, two malignant types of oral cancer.
In my personal experience, the military male population routinely has worse oral hygiene than the female population. When questioned about it, most males I see at my clinic use the excuse of field training because “there is no running water”. Going to the field for training is no excuse not to maintain good oral hygiene, even if there’s not a convenient water source. In fact, it’s actually a good thing to not rinse after brushing since that allows the fluoride in the toothpaste to have longer contact-time with the teeth.
Male Soldiers also tend to report a higher consumption of energy drinks than females do. There’s almost nothing worse for your teeth than energy drinks. Not only are they high in sugar, but the high acidity of energy drinks (even the sugar-free ones) lowers the pH in the mouth and allows for an environment for harmful bacteria to thrive. This on top of not brushing in the field can be extremely detrimental to your oral health. I can only imagine that the ingredients in energy drinks are harmful for the health of other parts of your body as well.
Question: Why is it important for men to have regular dental exams?
Answer: Just because none of your teeth hurt, doesn’t mean disease isn’t present. Most small to moderate sized cavities don’t hurt at all or cause sensitivity in the teeth. Once teeth actually start to hurt, it sometimes indicates that a small cavity has become a much bigger problem. It’s likely that the cavity has affected the nerve of the tooth, which could’ve been caught and dealt with sooner at routine exams. I can’t tell you how many times that patients become surprised when I tell them that they have cavities since they say that “nothing hurts”. There’s usually not a direct correlation.
Question: Why is it important to keep our teeth and gums healthy? For overall health? For quality of life?
Answer: Like I mentioned previously, the health of our oral cavity has a direct correlation to the health of other major organs in our body such as the brain and heart. Essentially everything that enters a person’s body first passes through their oral cavity so that’s why it’s important to maintain good oral health. An unhealthy mouth can lead to an unhealthy body. One of the most painful non-life threatening experiences is a toothache. When it sets in, it can feel like nothing else in the world matters until that toothache is gone. That can certainly have a negative impact on a person’s quality of life. Finally, cavities aren’t reversible and there’s nothing you can do on your own, outside of seeing a dentist, to make them go away. Take care of your teeth before it gets to the point disease.
There’s also a huge misconception about dentures. Some Soldiers I see don’t take care of their teeth and just say that one day they’ll get dentures and have perfect teeth. Dentures are not a replacement for teeth, they’re an alternative to no teeth. With dentures, you have roughly 50% of the chewing force of natural teeth, altered taste, and most of them don’t fit very well. Not to mention the negative social connotation associated with dentures. Keep your natural teeth healthy!
Editor’s note: This is part three of a five part series that will be posted at https://bayne-jones.tricare.mil and the Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital Facebook page every Wednesday in June for Men’s Health Awareness month.