Sexual Health Q&A

What is the link between erectile dysfunction and gum disease?

Researchers from Taiwan suggest that men who have chronic periodontitis – a severe form of gum disease – are more likely to have erectile dysfunction (ED) than those who do not. This does not mean that gum disease causes ED. It just means that there’s an association: men who have been diagnosed with gum disease tend to have ED more often than men without gum disease.

The researchers found that the association is stronger in men under age 30 and over age 70.

Other researchers from Turkey investigated the relationship between chronic periodontitis and erectile dysfunction for men in their thirties. In their study, 53% of the men who had ED also had chronic periodontitis. In the comparison group of men who didn’t have ED, only 23% had gum disease.

After considering age, body mass index, household income, and education level, the Turkish researchers found that the men with gum disease were more than three times as likely to have ED than the men without gum disease.

Scientists aren’t sure why there’s a link between gum disease and ED. However, they do know that gum disease can lead to problems with the cells that line blood vessels. Since blood flow to the penis is an important part of an erection, it’s possible that the problems from gum disease may affect blood vessels in the penis.

Periodontitis happens when gingivitis – inflammation or infection of the gums – isn’t treated. The infection spreads to the structures that hold the teeth in place. Once this happens, teeth loosen and fall out.

Common symptoms of periodontitis include breath odor, swollen or bleeding gums, and gums that look shiny, red, or red-purple. Sometimes there is pain when the gums are touched.

To prevent periodontitis, men are advised to take good care of their oral health. Consistent brushing, flossing, and regular dental checkups are important.