Erectile dysfunction which is common among men, defined as the inability to keep or get an erection, is caused by different psychological and physical factors. However, some authors have conducted studies that suggest that ED has a connection with gum disease.
Periodontitis or chronic bacterial infection of gums affects many older people and is the key cause of tooth loss. Periodontitis is known to increase the chances of an individual getting cardiovascular diseases as well as general inflammation. The two conditions are then linked to stroke and hardening of the arteries of which both are associated with erectile dysfunction.
Despite the fact that the biological mechanism of ED in periodontitis patients is yet to be fully understood, a senior author at the First Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University, China, Dr Zhigang Zao insists that it is still important to inform them of the potential association between the two.
The Study Findings
Zao and other reviewers analysed data from over 5 studies which were published between 2009 and 2014. The studies covered a total of 213,000 respondents aged between 20 and 80.
Interestingly, the reviewers found that erectile dysfunction was more common for men who were younger than 40 and older than 59 and who were receiving treatment for chronic periodontitis. ED was found to be 2.28 times more common for men with the gum disease than for men without it. This was after accounting for diabetes which can influence both gum disease and sexual function.
Among the studies, one done in 2013 found that erectile dysfunction symptoms improved with treatment of periodontitis. Additionally, Dr Zhao noted that when treated, chronic periodontitis could control and eventually eliminate inflammation which in turn may reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction. He further insisted on the importance of clinicians to be aware of the role played by periodontitis in the development and management of erectile dysfunction.
Limitations of the Studies
Despite the insightful findings of the study, there were some limitations observed. For one, erectile dysfunction and chronic periodontitis are caused by similar risk factors which include diabetes mellitus, smoking and coronary artery disease.
Most studies accounted for diabetes. However, smoking and alcoholic consumption, both which can have an effect on oral health and sexual function were not accounted for. Moreover, despite the extensive research carried out, the linkage between erectile dysfunction and periodontitis is still weak. More needs to be done in the field in order to gather more evidence.
Even though research on the two conditions has not proved 100% linkage, patients and clinicians alike need to be aware of these developments. For instance, if chronic periodontitis patients are made aware of the advice to have daily inter-dental cleaning to reduce gingival inflammation and dental plaque and that the proper management of their gum disease can help substantially with several chronic disorders, perhaps they might have a different outlook on their condition.
Furthermore, treatment is available for both erectile dysfunction and chronic periodontitis. All patients need to do is to talk to their doctors about the causes and treatments and possible associations with other health conditions.
Source: International Journal of Impotence Research, 10 November, 2016.
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