Men in their thirties who had inflamed gums caused by severe periodontal disease were three times more likely to suffer from erection problems, according to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
Turkish researchers compared 80 men aged 30 to 40 with erectile dysfunction with a control group of 82 men without erection problems.
This showed that 53 per cent of the men with erectile dysfunction had inflamed gums compared with 23 per cent in the control group.
When the results were adjusted for other factors, such as age, body mass index, household income and education level, the men with severe periodontal disease were 3.29 times more likely to suffer from erection problems than men with healthy gums.
"Erectile dysfunction is a major public health problem that affects the quality of life of some 150 million men, and their partners, worldwide," says lead author Dr. Faith Oguz from Inonu University in Malatya, Turkey.
"Physical factors cause nearly two-thirds of cases, mainly because of problems with the blood vessels, with psychological issues like emotional stress and depression accounting for the remainder.
"Chronic periodontitis (CP) is a group of infectious diseases caused predominantly by bacteria that most commonly occur with inflammation of the gums.
"Many studies have reported that CP may induce systemic vascular diseases, such as coronary heart disease, which have been linked with erection problems."
The average age of the men in both groups was just under 36 and there were no significant differences when it came to body mass index, household income and education.
Their sexual function was assessed using the International Index of Erectile Function and their gum health using the plaque index, bleeding on probing, probing depth and clinical attachment level.
"To our knowledge, erectile dysfunction and CP in humans are caused by similar risk factors, such as ageing, smoking, diabetes mellitus and coronary artery disease," says Dr. Oguz.
"We therefore excluded men who had systemic disease and who were smokers from this study.
"We particularly selected men aged between 30 and 40 to assess the impact of CP on erectile dysfunction without the results being influenced by the effects of ageing.
"The result of our study support the theory that CP is present more often in patients with erectile dysfunction than those without and should be considered as a factor by clinicians treating men with erection problems."