Research suggests that men who have gum disease (also called periodontal disease) are more likely to have erectile dysfunction (ED) than those who do not.
The milder form of gum disease is called gingivitis, which occurs when there is inflammation or infection in the gums. If left untreated, gingivitis worsens into periodontitis. The infection spreads to the structures that hold the teeth in place. Once this happens, teeth loosen and fall out.
Common symptoms of gum disease include:
- breath odor
- swollen or bleeding gums
- gums that look shiny, red, or red-purple
- pain when the gums are touched
- receding gums (pulling away from teeth)
- pus and sores
In 2019, the Journal of Sexual Medicine published a review of 5 medical studies on the link between gum disease and ED. Overall, the studies included over 210,000 participants.
The authors reported that men with periodontal disease were almost three times as likely to be diagnosed with ED. Risk was highest for Asian men.
The results do 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.
Scientists aren’t entirely 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. Inflammation may play a role as well.
Another theory is that men with periodontal disease may have lower levels of testosterone, a hormone that is important for erections.
Taking good care of your oral health is always a good idea. Here are some tips to reduce your risk for gum disease:
- Brush and floss your teeth daily. If you can, brush them after every meal.
- Brush your tongue as well, as it can harbor bacteria.
- Rinse your mouth with mouthwash to further reduce plaque.
- See your dentist regularly for a checkup and cleaning.
- Replace your toothbrush every three to four months.
- Ask your dentist what type of toothbrush is best for you (for example, an electric toothbrush or a manual one with soft bristles).
- Quit smoking.
- Don’t chew tobacco.