Oral hygiene and sexual health may have more in common than you think. For men, gum disease may be associated with an increased risk for impotence.

Before you start flossing and brushing your teeth, periodontitis, severe gum disease, does not cause impotence. Rather, in this study, there was an interesting association with the number of gum disease sufferers who were also impotent or had sexual problems.

The erectile dysfunction study was led by members of the Far Easter Memorial Hospital and the Herng-Ching Lin School of Health Care Administration at Taipei Medical University. The study involved 33,000 Taiwanese men with erectile dysfunction and 162,000 Taiwanese men who did not have erectile dysfunction.

Periodontitis occurs when gingivitis goes untreated. This severe form of gum disease causes inflammation which can ultimately lead to tooth loss. If periodontitis is untreated, it can lead to infections of the jaw bones and gums.

For the total number of participants in the study around 12 percent had periodontitis. Of the 23,400 Taiwanese men with gum disease, 27 percent had erectile dysfunction while nine percent had no sexual problems. The gum disease group was followed for five years.

During this time period, gum disease was more common in men with erectile dysfunction when compared to the group who did not have sexual problems, After researchers took into consideration other factors like income and pre-existing medical conditions, gum disease was still more common in men with erectile dysfunction in two specific age groups. Gum disease and erectile dysfunction was more prevalent in men under the age of 30 and men over the age of 70.

Researchers are unsure how these two previously unrelated conditions are associated but according to Aaron Katz, chairman of the department of urology at Winthrop-University Hospital, inflammation and blood vessel damage to the penis may be the culprits. Inflammation, caused by periodontitis, could be causing damage to blood vessels which make their way to the penis.

Luckily enough, gum disease is easily treatable and periodontitis is preventable. Brush your teeth, floss and schedule routine dental visits to ensure healthy gums. While the link between gum disease and erectile dysfunction is unknown at this preliminary stage, it never hurts to have good dental hygiene.

The study was presented at a meeting of the American Urological Association. All studies should be considered preliminary until published in a peer reviewed journal.