By Susan Braden
Ladies usually have the advantage over men when it comes to how quickly they heal. Women may want to look into long-term dental coverage, however, because scientists have suprisingly found that oral wounds in older women heal half as slowly as those in younger men.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago discovered that regardless of age, mouth wounds in men consistently heal much quicker than those in women. Older women are at an increased risk of slower healing, and with the growing number of surgeries performed on older populations, researchers are trying to find ways to accelerate the healing process and wound coverage.
These findings may seem a surprise, because for other wound types, scientists have found that women heal faster than men do. This may be because inflammation of skin wounds helps them close and heal faster, and men possess increased levels of the anti-inflammatory hormone testosterone. Women thus have a quicker healing time for skin wounds because they have less testosterone.
But this quicker healing time is not the case inside women's mouths, where inflammation actually tends to draw out the healing process. Thus the anti-inflammatory testosterone, abundant in saliva, may be the reason oral wounds heal faster in men. “It’s one of the few times in the field of healing where men have an advantage over women,” said lead study author Christopher Engeland, UIC research assistant professor.
The study was conducted on more than 200 people, both male and female. Researchers inflicted a small, circular wound on the inside of the mouth and closely tracked its progress for seven days as it healed. The subjects fit into two categories: ages 18-35 and ages 50-88.
The study shows that the healing process for mouth tissues is different in a fundamental way than that of skin tissue. Scientists and doctors hope to improve the mouth's healing process and to learn what factors each specific type of tissue needs to accelerate closure and coverage of wounds. In light of this study's findings, oral specialists may also need greater insight on how to monitor female patients after oral surgery. With advances in healing and increased accessibility to dental coverage, oral procedures could one day become even more effective for women.