Researchers at the University of Maryland Dental School propose that sex hormones could possibly indicate the biological basis for men to be more susceptible to gum infection than women.

The researchers Harlan Shiau, and Mark Reynolds, at the Dental School, have worked on probably the first ever inclusive assessment of the progress and sequence of gum disease from a gender perspective.

The authors scrutinized evidence to establish a natural base to account for the differences in vulnerability to periodontal disease between the sexes. The observations revealed that the sex steroids affect the immune system in the regulation of inflammation. Additionally the origin of the dissimilarity could be genetic.

"Differential gene regulation, particularly in sex steroid-responsive genes, could likely play a part in the observed sexual dimorphism of destructive periodontal disease," said Shiau. "We think it is a plausible explanation," he added. The observation of men "having worse gum disease than women" was generally accepted by dental clinicians previously, says Shiau, "but we wondered if the traditional explanations were adequate.

This study provides health care professionals with important comparative data for estimating gender-related differences in risk for destructive periodontal disease."

Research analysis has established that globally men, have a larger prevalence of periodontal malady than women. The researchers then explored the probable biologic explanation by inferring sexual dimorphism of disease incidence in autoimmune disease research.

"Also, we considered the competing hypothesis that the environment explains the dimorphism, such as the observation that men have worse oral hygiene and compliance than women. However, there exist population studies, which control for potential co-variants, like these, and have still yielded significant gender effects." Shiau explains.

"The innate immune response plays a considerable role in the pathogenesis of periodontal disease. The literature seems to indicate that a heightened innate immune response in men compared to women, as well as potential differences in regulation of amplification and termination of inflammation, provide a sound biologic basis for sex differences in periodontal disease progression," says Shiau.