Gum disease may raise risk of erectile dysfunction, pharmacist warns

Many of us regularly brush and floss our teeth to keep our mouth healthy. This can help prevent problems like tooth decay and bad breath. What may not be so obvious is the impact this can have on your sex life.

Abbas Kanani, chief pharmacist at online pharmacy Chemist Click, spoke exclusively to about how unhealthy gums can lead to erectile dysfunction.

The condition, also called impotence, leaves a person unable to get or keep an erection.

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

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

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Gum disease affects most adults in the UK to some degree, and people have experienced it at least once.

Left untreated, this can lead to deep infections causing tissue and bone loss, which can also lead to chronic inflammation damaging your endothelial cells.

This forms the lining of the blood vessels, including the blood vessels of the penis.

Mr. Kanani explained: “When these cells are damaged, it can lead to disruption of 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 tissue, but chronic inflammation means that blood chemistry never returns to normal, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

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“Periodontal disease is classified as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and cardiovascular disease increases the risk of erectile dysfunction, supporting the association that periodontal disease may increase the risk of erectile dysfunction.”

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

While in a group of 82 men without erectile dysfunction, 23% had periodontal problems.

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

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A separate study published in the American Journal of Men’s Health in 2018 also concluded that there is a link between gum disease and erectile dysfunction.

After a meta-analysis of nine existing studies, it was stated: “According to a review of the literature, there is a positive association between erectile dysfunction and chronic periodontitis; however, further well-designed controlled clinical trials are needed in this regard.

“It is emphasized that clinicians should refer patients with erectile dysfunction to oral health professionals for a comprehensive oral assessment and treatment.”

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

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

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

To prevent gum disease, the NHS recommends:

  • Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day – spit out after brushing, do not rinse.
  • Daily interdental cleaning with dental floss or interdental brushes
  • Changing your toothbrush every one to three months
  • Visiting a dentist and dental hygienist for regular checkups, especially if you are pregnant or have type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Bleeding gums when you brush your teeth, floss, or eat hard foods like apples.
  • Swollen, red and inflamed gums.

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