TUESDAY, Dec. 4 (HealthDay News) -- If you're a man, new
research suggests that brushing and flossing regularly could have
an impact on your sex life.
A small Turkish study found that men in their 30s who had severe
periodontal disease were more than three times as likely to suffer
from erection problems than were those with healthy gums.
The study showed that 53 percent of those with erectile
dysfunction -- problems getting or maintaining an erection -- had
inflamed gums, as compared with 23 percent of those without signs
of gum disease.
The potential link between dental problems and sexual
performance is vascular health. Erections are created when the
brain senses sexual stimulation, causing the muscles in the penis
to relax and increasing blood flow into the organ's spongy tissue.
The veins are then shut off to keep blood from flowing out of the
The study was based on the premise that because gum disease can
reduce the elasticity of the endothelial lining of blood vessels,
it may also be linked to erectile dysfunction.
"We know that periodontal diseases cause systemic endothelial dysfunction, which leads to vascular pathology," said lead study author Dr. Fatih Oguz, an assistant professor in the department of urology in the School of Medicine at Inonu University in Malatya, Turkey. "And vascular pathologies are the most common cause of erectile dysfunction."
Previous studies have shown a correlation between chronic
periodontitis -- gum disease -- and systemic vascular diseases such
as coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and premature births,
according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the CDC, advanced gum disease affects 4 percent to 12
percent of adults in the United States.
"Erectile dysfunction and chronic periodontitis in humans are caused by similar risk factors, such as aging, smoking, diabetes mellitus and coronary artery disease," Oguz explained. His study was published Dec. 4 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
The researchers compared 80 men with erectile dysfunction to 82
men without the problem. All were between 30 and 40 years old and
were patients of Oguz's urology department.
People were excluded from the study if they had a systemic
disease such as diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure, if
they had been undergoing therapy for gum disease within the last
year, if they were taking oral antibiotics within the last six
months and if they smoked. The results of the study were also
adjusted for body mass index (a measure of body fat), household
income and education level.
All of the patients underwent a periodontal exam by a
periodontist who had no knowledge of whether any patient had an
erectile dysfunction problem. The researchers found that chronic
periodontitis is present more often in patients with erectile
dysfunction than in those without the problem.
Some experts questioned the study results.
"Periodontal disease might be associated with other underlying disease, but erectile dysfunction? I would strongly disagree; it's not a causative condition," said Dr. Bruce Gilbert, a professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, in Lake Success, N.Y. "But I would say that the study results implore us to consider that diseases of the mouth are something to consider when we assess the overall health of the body."
Gilbert was concerned that researchers did not find out enough
about the men who reported erectile dysfunction. Erectile
dysfunction, he explained, is typically a problem for much older
men. "The problem can be neurological, hormonal, psychogenic,
especially in men of this age," he noted. "The participants just
filled out a form about sexual dysfunction? That was not
Dr. Nancy Newhouse, president of the American Academy of
Periodontology, agreed. But she added that the study makes an
important contribution because it shows how diseases of the mouth
can affect the rest of the body. "Our medical colleagues don't
spend much time dealing with the oral cavity," she said. "The mouth
Newhouse said people with evidence of periodontal disease -- a
treatable chronic condition -- should be wondering about their
general health. "If your gums bleed, you're really not
While the study found an association between severe gum disease
and sexual problems for men in their 30s, it did not prove a
To learn more about erectile dysfunction, see the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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