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Severe Gum Disease May Lead to Impotence

Severe Gum Disease May Lead to Impotence

A fresh, healthy mouth plays well in your favor each time you lean in for a kiss. And it may have a surprising benefit in the bedroom: helping prevent erectile dysfunction (ED).

Related: Dental danger signs you shouldn't ignore.

A study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine indicates that men with severe gum disease (also called periodontal disease) were three times more likely to suffer from ED than those whose oral hygiene was good. Turkish researchers surveyed 80 men with ED and 82 men without it and gave them periodontal exams. All the men were between age 30 and 40, a young age for ED. After adjusting the data for things like body mass index (BMI), health history, income and education, the researchers found that 53% of the men who suffered from ED had gum disease, compared with 23% whose gums were healthy.

Related: 5 tips for a healthier smile.

Inflammation may be to blame
Gum disease is an infection in your gums caused by the bacteria in plaque. Red, swollen gums that bleed when you brush or floss are the usual signs, but you can also have gum disease and not know it. That infection causes inflammation -- an immune response in the body -- that may spread from your mouth to damage blood vessels throughout your body. Experts think that’s why gum disease has been linked to heart disease, strokes and diabetes—and now ED. “A healthy mouth is a healthy life. There is a direct relationship between the health of your mouth and your overall physical health,” says Sharecare expert and dentist Dr. Rita Medwid.

Brush up on the basics
The study doesn’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship between gum disease and ED. More research is needed. But there’s no reason to wait to take better care of your mouth.

2-minute drill. Be sure to brush for at least two minutes, twice a day. Think of your teeth as a set of four quadrants. Spend 30 seconds brushing the outside and inside of each one.

Thread those spaces. Just like brushing, flossing once a day should be automatic (and it may be linked to your total health in more ways than you think).

Activate your saliva. Your body's best defense against cavities is saliva. Drink plenty of water to keep it flowing and take a pass on sodas and sugary drinks.

Related: Here's how to eat for a nicer smile.

Medically reviewed in April 2019.

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