Why a Trip to the Dentist Could Save Your Life

Poor dental hygiene is associated with a whole host of potentially deadly illnesses. In short, a trip to the dentist could change your life.
Why a Trip to the Dentist Could Save Your Life
Many people face dental health problems that often have a huge effect on their daily lives. (Shutterstock)
John Mac Ghlionn

America is in the midst of a crisis. More specifically, it's in the midst of a cost of living crisis.

As more Americans struggle to pay the rent and put food on the table, their health is suffering. Millions of Americans can’t afford a dental checkup. This is concerning on many levels. As this piece aims to show, unlike Vegas, what happens in the mouth doesn't stay in the mouth. Poor dental hygiene is associated with a whole host of potentially deadly illnesses. In short, a trip to the dentist could change your life. In some cases, it could actually save your life.
According to a recent study by U.S. researchers, a troubling association between gum disease, otherwise known as periodontal disease, and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) seems to exist. Nearly half of adults above the age of 30, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suffer from some form of gum disease.
The researchers explain that RA is an autoimmune disease, which sees the body attack itself. When gum disease occurs, bacteria seep into the bloodstream. This seepage triggers an immune response, which, in turn, negatively affects the body’s healthy proteins. This results in the joints flaring up. Of the estimated 18 million people worldwide living with RA, 1.3 million of them live in the United States.
Gum disease has also been linked to blood supply blockages. Each year, an estimated 800,000 Americans suffer strokes. In 2019, researchers discovered that inflamed, bleeding gums affect the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. In 2020, the American Heart Association published a report linking gum disease with “the development of artery blockage.” It noted that treating gums could potentially reduce the risk of stroke.
The same year, a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggested a link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease. The bad bacteria involved in gum disease appear to play a role in “the development of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, especially vascular dementia,” noted the National Institute on Aging, reporting on the study.

Inflammatory molecules may exit the mouth, enter the bloodstream, and poison the brain. “Previous lab studies,” according to the report, “have suggested that this is one mechanism influencing the cascade of events that leads to dementia.”

The bad news doesn’t end there.

Unhealthy gums are associated with mental health problems, including anxiety and depression.

In 2021, experts in the UK examined the link between gum disease and mental health. The University of Birmingham-based researchers found that participants with a recorded history of gum disease at the beginning of the three-year study were more likely to go on and be diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or another serious mental illness than those with healthy gums.

As the University of Birmingham notes, “In patients with a recorded history of periodontal disease at the start of the study, the increased risk of developing mental ill-health was 37%." Moreover, “the risk of developing autoimmune disease was increased by 33%.”

According to the fascinating report, “the risk of developing cardiovascular disease was raised by 18%, while the risk of having a cardiometabolic disorder was increased by 7% (with the increased risk much higher for Type 2 diabetes at 26%).”

Importantly, as Dr. Devan Raindi, one of the authors of the study, told Medical News Today, gum disease is more than a physical issue. It’s also a psychological one. Gum disease, he said, “can lead to loss of confidence” and negatively affect one’s “ability to socialize.”
Most worryingly of all, perhaps, is the possible link between gum disease and suicide. A 2022 study by researchers at the University of Florida found that college students who reported recent thoughts of suicide had markedly different bacteria in their saliva than students who hadn't recently considered suicide.

After controlling for the influence of sleep and diet, two other factors that shape one’s mental health, the researchers found that the students with suicidal thoughts had higher levels of bacteria associated with gum disease than their nonsuicidal peers.

As is clear to see, gum disease is a serious matter. And, as already mentioned, millions of Americans, due to the ongoing effects of inflation, can't afford to get dental work done, not even a simple cleaning. This is a problem that's likely to get considerably worse. That's because more and more dentists are raising their fees.

Which leaves us asking, "What, if anything, can be done?" This is beyond my area of expertise. But surely the lack of access to affordable dental care should be considered a national crisis. A country is only as healthy as its people. This is a fact that shouldn't escape the attention of the country’s lawmakers. Although a trip to the dentist could save your life, millions of Americans simply can’t afford to make the trip. This needs to change, and fast.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. He covers psychology and social relations, and has a keen interest in social dysfunction and media manipulation. His work has been published by the New York Post, The Sydney Morning Herald, Newsweek, National Review, and The Spectator US, among others.