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Gum Disease and Erectile Dysfuntion (ED)

There appears to be a connection between severe gum disease and erectile dysfunction (ED), Turkish researchers say.

They studied two groups of men between the ages of 30 and 40. The first group included 80 men who had ED. The second group consisted of 82 men without ED.

Erectile dysfunction is the inability to get an erection firm enough for sex.

When selecting participants, the researchers considered several factors that can raise a man’s risk of developing ED. Conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure are all associated with ED, so men with those conditions were excluded from the study. Older men tend to have higher rates of ED, so the researchers included only men in their thirties. Men were also excluded if they smoked or had had gum treatment within the last year.

Each man was given a periodontal exam to check for gum disease. The researchers also asked each man to complete a questionnaire called the International Index of Erectile Function, which is often used to assess a man's ability to have erections.

Men with severe gum disease more likely to have ED than the men with healthy gums

The researchers found that 53% of the men with ED also had gum disease. The rate for men without ED was lower. In that group, 23% of the men had gum disease.

After accounting for age, body mass index, household income, and education, the researchers found that men with severe gum disease were over three times more likely to have ED than the men with healthy gums.

The researchers weren’t sure why there’s a link between gum disease and ED. They noted that sometimes gum disease can lead to problems with blood vessels and healthy blood vessels are important for getting an erection.

The study did not show that gum disease causes ED. It just shows that there’s a connection.

The men in this study had a form of gum disease called chronic periodontitis (CP). CP occurs when gingivitis – a milder form of gum disease marked by inflammation – goes untreated. When a person has periodontitis, the gums can start to pull away from the teeth, leaving spaces between the teeth and gums. These spaces can become infected with bacteria. Eventually, the bones and tissues that hold the teeth weaken and teeth may need to be removed.

Gum disease can be prevented with good oral hygiene. Brushing teeth daily with a fluoride toothpaste, flossing, and having regular dental checkups are all ways to avoid gum disease.


The Journal of Sexual Medicine

Oğuz, Fatih, MD, et al.

“Is There a Relationship Between Chronic Periodontitis and Erectile Dysfunction?”

(Full-text. First published online: December 4, 2012)

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

“Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments”

(August 2012)