Gum disease could raise your risk of erectile dysfunction, warns pharmacist

Many of us stick to good tooth brushing and flossing routines to help keep our mouths healthy. This can help prevent issues such as tooth decay and bad breath. What might not be so obvious is the effect it could have on your sex life.

Superintendent pharmacist for online pharmacy Chemist Click, Abbas Kanani, spoke exclusively with about how unhealthy gums could result in erectile dysfunction.

The condition, which is also referred to as impotence, leaves the person unable to get or keep an erection.

It can be caused by many factors such as age, medication and stress as well as having high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

However, several studies have found a positive association between erectile dysfunction, and chronic gum disease, also known as periodontitis.

READ MORE: Myoclonus seen in up to 75% of patients with ‘early-onset’ Alzheimer’s – may affect hands

Gum disease affects most adults in the UK to some degree with people experiencing it at least once.

Left untreated, it can lead to deep infections causing a loss of tissue and bone which can also bring about chronic inflammation that damages your endothelial cells.

This forms the lining blood vessels, which includes the blood vessels in the penis.

Mr Kanani explained: “When these cells are damaged, it can result in impaired blood flow throughout the body, leading to erectile dysfunction.

“Inflammation anywhere in the body causes a ripple effect of biochemical changes in the bloodstream that help the body repair inflamed tissues, however chronic inflammation means blood chemistry never returns to normal, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

“Periodontal disease is classified as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and cardiovascular disease raises risk for erectile dysfunction – which supports the link that periodontal disease may raise the risk of erectile dysfunction.”

One study, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2013, found that among a group of 80 men who had erectile dysfunction, 53 percent had chronic gum disease.

Whereas in a group of 82 men without erectile dysfunction, 23 percent had periodontal problems.

“The results do not show that gum disease causes erectile dysfunction, however there is an association – men who have been diagnosed with gum disease tend to have erectile dysfunction more often than men without gum disease,” Mr Kanani said.

READ MORE: Covid variant has ‘potential’ to cause next epidemic surge – a ‘looming threat’

Separate research, published in the American Journal of Men’s Health in 2018, also concluded that there was a link between gum disease and erectile dysfunction.

Following a meta-analysis of nine existing studies it said: “From the literature reviewed, there seems to be a positive association between erectile dysfunction and chronic periodontitis; however, further well-designed controlled clinical trials are needed in this regard.

“It is emphasised that physicians should refer patients with erectile dysfunction to oral health care providers for a comprehensive oral evaluation and treatment.”

Mr Kanani said there could be several reasons for the link.

“Despite ongoing research into the association between erectile dysfunction and poor gum health, the issue is difficult to study,” he added.

“There are many common denominators that may be behind the apparent link such as underlying diabetes or hypertension, poor general health status, lack of medical attention for gum disease and vascular disease.”

To prevent gum disease the NHS recommends:

  • Brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day – spit after brushing, do not rinse
  • Cleaning in between your teeth every day using floss or interdental brushes
  • Replacing your toothbrush every one to three months
  • Seeing a dentist and dental hygienist for regular check-ups, especially if you’re pregnant or have type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Bleeding gums when you brush your teeth, floss or eat hard foods such as apples
  • Swollen, red and sore gums.