INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- It sounds far-fetched, but a man's sexual health may be linked to his gum health.
A small study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine finds that men in their thirties with severe periodontal disease are three times more likely to have erection problems.
Dr. Nancy Newhouse of Independence is president of the American Academy of Periodontology, and says the study doesn't prove that gum disease causes erectile dysfunction. But she says there is a link that makes sense.
"Gums tend to bleed, and it's the bacteria in the mouth that get into the bloodstream that start to cause the inflammatory changes inside the blood vessels. One of the primary causes of erectile dysfunction is vascular disease," says Dr. Newhouse.
The inflammation resulting from gum disease has also been linked to a higher risk of heart disease and even cancer.
Dr. Newhouse says the study is a reminder to men to get regular dental check-ups and not delay treatment for gum disease.