We are coming to understand more and more the links between oral and general health. Gum disease is a chronic infection, and it can damage your body in many ways. For men, gum disease may lead to an increased risk of erectile dysfunction (ED).
In recent years, several studies have pointed to a possible connection between chronic gum disease and ED. A nationwide study in Taiwan suggests a very strong connection, especially among men below the age of 30.
In this study, nearly 200,000 men were studied, about 32,000 patients with ED, and 162,000 controls. Both ED patients and controls were checked for a previous history of chronic periodontitis, and serious gum disease. More than 25% of ED patients had been diagnosed with serious gum disease, compared to only 9% of the control group. When researchers adjusted for known causes of ED–such as diabetes, heart disease, and alcohol abuse–they found that ED sufferers were 3.35 times more likely to have been diagnosed with serious gum disease than controls. Among people under the age of 30, the connection was even stronger, with ED patients being 4.54 times more likely to have a diagnosis of serious gum disease.
A smaller survey published in January 2014 confirms these results.
Neither of these studies addresses the cause of the association between ED and gum disease. In fact, no studies have yet been undertaken to explore the causative mechanisms, so the best we can do is speculate.
We know that people with gum disease are at an elevated risk of heart disease. We also know that ED has been identified as a harbinger of heart disease. This is because the erectile response is essentially a cardiovascular one. (Remember that ED drugs such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra) were originally developed as heart medications.)
Fortunately, a recent study also shows that treating gum disease treats ED as well. In a small study, 120 patients with severe or moderate ED and chronic periodontitis were divided into two groups, one that received periodontal treatment and one that didn’t.
In follow-up appointments after one and three months, gum disease improved in the treatment group but not in the control group. At the three-month follow-up ED had improved significantly in the treatment group, but not in the control group.
This study also notes that the mechanism for improvement isn’t known.
The more we understand, the more gum disease seems like it might be a lynchpin disease, one that connects many aspects of our health.
If you have gum disease and need treatment, please contact Nicolas A. Ravon, DDS, MSD in Beverly Hills today for an appointment.