An interesting new study from Turkey adds to growing evidence that there is an association between gum disease and erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is on the rise worldwide, even if the affected organs are not. The worldwide market for drugs to combat ED (such as Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, and others) long ago exceeded the 5 billion dollar per year mark. The average cost per dose of these medications ranges from $15 to $19 per pill. That raises the cost of romance!
In what may be good news for the men suffering from erectile dysfunction and thus buying these drugs, the Turkish study seems to indicate that they could achieve many of the same effects simply by going to a dentist and getting their gum disease treated.
The link between erectile dysfunction and periodontitis
Previous studies in Israel, India, and Taiwan have established the association of gum disease with erectile dysfunction, indicating that men with chronic periodontitis were about three times more likely to have ED than those who don’t have it. Whether the gum disease is a causative factor or whether other, still undiscovered factors cause both periodontitis and erectile dysfunction has been a source of disagreement and controversy, but the link between the two conditions is fairly well established.
In the recent Turkish study, accepted for publication in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, the researchers worked with a group of 162 men with gum disease, all of whom were examined to discover the extent of their periodontitis, and who also completed detailed questionnaires on their erectile dysfunction problems. Of this group, 42 of the 80 men with chronic periodontitis also suffered from ED, while only 19 of the 82 men without gum disease had ED.
Half of the men received treatment for their gum disease, while the other half did not. In self-reporting questionnaires filled out by both groups, the men who received treatment for their periodontitis also saw significant reductions in their erectile dysfunction problems, while the men whose periodontitis was not treated did not.
What’s the link between the health of our gums and the health of our genitals?
No one seems to know, even the researchers who conducted this study. All that they know for sure is that there seems to be such a link, since it has been repeatedly demonstrated by studies in different countries. This may be yet another case in which the culprit is inflammation, the body’s reaction to – and often overreaction to – conditions occurring in the body, with the damage being done by the overreaction, not the conditions themselves. Another possibility is that those with gum disease may be more likely to be in poor general health overall or have vascular disease, both of which can affect erectile function.
It is important to note that the researchers in this study warn against drawing a cause-and-effect relationship between the health of one’s gums and the health of one’s…uh…manly parts, but the relationship does seem to exist, and treating the periodontitis does seem to positively reduce the erectile dysfunction.
So the one thing we can say for sure is that keeping your gums healthy is a good idea, and not just because it’ll keep your breath smelling fresher and keep your teeth from falling out – both of which are sexier than their alternatives. That dental visit may bestow even more benefits on your love life than you would have suspected.