Unexpected Effects of Periodontal Disease

Older man with dentures smiling

An estimated 50 percent of American adults have the oral health disease known as periodontal or gum disease. Of that 50 percent, more than half (about 57 percent) are men. Periodontal disease has been linked to a long list of other dangerous conditions – from diabetes to heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and even stroke. But now, a new study from the Department of Stomatology at the University of Granada in Spain has found another reason to mind your oral health: Periodontal disease can contribute to erectile dysfunction in men. The University of Granada study was the first of its kind to be conducted in Europe. It was conducted in conjunction with the urology department at San Cecilio Hospital in Granada’s Health Sciences Technology Park with a sample of 80 men and 78 controls. Dr. Alexandra George is a dentist from Wexford, Pennsylvania. She says periodontal disease, like erectile dysfunction, becomes increasingly common with advanced age. “According for the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 47.2 percent of adults above the age of 30 have some form of periodontal disease,” she says. “Worse yet, that number skyrockets with age. By age 65, 70.1 percent of adults have some form of periodontal disease.” And those numbers coincide quite accurately with erectile dysfunction numbers. By age 40, about 5 percent of men report full erectile dysfunction, and those numbers jump to 15 percent by age 70. For less severe erectile dysfunction, it is estimated that the percentage of men affected by some form of erectile dysfunction coincides with the decade of age, so by age 40, 40 percent have some form of erectile dysfunction, and by age 70, 70 percent will have some form of the disorder. To conduct the study, researchers took sociodemographic data from the participants. They then gave each participant a periodontal exam and tested each man’s testosterone, lipids, blood glucose, c-reactive protein and glycated hemoglobin levels. “The glycated hemoglobin and c-reactive proteins are markers for erectile dysfunction,” says George. What the researchers found was that of the patients with erectile dysfunction, 74 percent exhibited signs of periodontal disease. Furthermore, those with the most serious cases of erectile dysfunction also had the worst cases of periodontal disease and subsequent periodontal damage. In fact, men with periodontitis were 2.28 times more likely to have erectile dysfunction than men with healthy gums. “It just goes to show that once again, none of the systems of the body are truly independent of each other,” says George. “Oral health isn’t simply confined to the mouth. It affects the entire body, for better or worse.”

Dr. Alexandra S. George

Medically reviewed by Dr. Alexandra S. George - D.D.S., L.Vl.I.F. on August 6th, 2019