Men with defective or inadequate amounts of sperm might well be advised to go to their periodontist for treatment, following a new study by researchers at Jerusalem's Bikur Holim Hospital who found that infertile men are more likely to suffer from chronic gum infections than those with healthy sperm. Dr. Oshrat Shonberger, director of the hospital's fertility clinic, Dr. Avigdor Klinger, a periodontic specialist at the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Dental Medicine and colleagues reached this preliminary conclusion after studying 56 men aged 23 to 52 who came to the fertility lab for sperm analysis (in some, the fertility problems were in their female partners). The pilot study was conducted over three years. Some 13 percent were found to have healthy gums in their mouths, compared to 50% with gingivitis (an early stage of gum infection, 32% with chronic periodontitis and five percent with aggressive periodontitis. Normal sperm were found in 34%, low sperm counts in 52% and absence of sperm in 14% of them. The most striking finding, the team wrote, is that 65% of the patients with low sperm counts suffered from gingivitis, compared to only 48% of men with normal sperm. Half of those with no sperm (four out of eight) had chronic periodontitis. Sperm were more likely to have decreased motility (slow or minimal movement, which is necessary to fertilize ova) than those of men with healthy gums. The team concluded that the frequent occurrence of gum infections of men with low sperm counts "may point to an association between infertility, diminished semen quality and periodontal infections." Therefore, they said, periodontal treatment aimed at eradicating gum infections may improve semen quality and relieve infertility problems. "A larger study sample of men, representing a larger and more diverse population, is needed for further investigation and adequate statistics." Periodontic infection has already been shown to contribute to heart disease, stroke, pre-term birth and low-birthweight babies and to pose a serious threat to patients with respiratory diseases, osteoporosis and diabetes. However, Israel's basket of health services does not cover periodontal care.