The connection between erectile dysfunction and periodontal disease is undeniable. Men with periodontal disease are three times more likely to experience erectile dysfunction than the general population. While it seems hard to believe the two conditions are related, periodontal disease allows bacteria into the body, causing widespread damage.
What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, leaving pockets behind for bacteria to enter. This bacteria can spread beyond the teeth and move into the bone, eventually damaging the interior lining of blood vessels throughout the body. Unfortunately, periodontal disease often goes untreated until it is quite advanced. Symptoms of periodontal disease include receding gums, red or bleeding gums, bad breath and loose teeth. Caught early, your dentist can help restore your dental health through a series of frequent cleanings. More advanced cases require more aggressive treatment, such as gum surgery.
The Link Between Periodontal Disease and Erectile Dysfunction
Periodontal disease damages the body’s endothelial cells, which make up the lining of the blood vessels. When these cells are damaged, it impedes blood flow. It can have negative effects on various functions, including the penis’ ability to become erect. Because of the small size of the blood vessels in the penis, damage to blood vessels often shows up there first. Erectile dysfunction that results from peritoneal disease should be a warning sign that blood vessels in other areas, such as the vascular system, are damaged as well.
Prevention and Treatment
Caught early, periodontal disease responds well to treatment. Men are less likely to visit a dentist on the recommended twice yearly schedule, which is the most effective way to prevent periodontal disease from developing. Scheduling and keeping twice yearly visits to the dentist for routine cleanings, as well as brushing and flossing two times a day, are the most important step in maintaining a healthy mouth.
Treatment once periodontal disease develops depends on how far the disease has progressed. Deep cleaning the teeth, through a process called scaling and root planing, can effectively treat periodontal disease in many cases. The dentist will clean the teeth, above and below the gum, as well as the roots. Removing accumulated plaque and tartar also removes the spots where bacteria accumulate. The dentist can prescribe an antibiotic mouth rinse, gel, or oral medication as well.
More stubborn cases of periodontal disease may require surgery. Flap surgery involves the dentist pulling back the gums for deep cleaning, then suturing the gums back into place. Bone and tissue grafts may also be recommended to help replenish bone and tissue lost to periodontal disease.
Once treated, periodontal disease is easily kept in check with regular cleanings. While twice yearly cleanings are recommended for most people, individuals who are at an increased risk of periodontal disease may be advised to visit their dentist every three months. Because the early symptoms of periodontal disease are easy to miss, regular visits to the dentist can prevent a recurrance of the condition.
Dr. Nadia Kiderman is a dentist based in NYC.