Updated: Oct 29, 2019
There I was, just minding my own business at the bathroom counter -- trying my best to look better. Amid applying mascara, something caught my eye flying out of the wall. Hmm...that’s not good! Upon inspection, it wasn’t just one something, but a whole swarm of somethings. Termites had burrowed a hole from inside the wall out into the bathroom. I hollered at my husband and told him that it was time to sell our house.
Mike assured me that this problem was solvable. Apparently, a sign of termite infestation is often the presence of flying termites, also known as “swarmers” or “alates.” The flying termites are the ones who have left their nest to establish a new colony. These pesky invaders were already doing their damage and were planning on capturing new territory before we even knew we were at risk! While the damage was getting done, we were totally oblivious. Because we live in “termite country,” we really should have been aware of the need to take proactive measures to protect ourselves. It would be so much better if these critters made loud, obnoxious noises so that we could have taken action sooner. Gum disease is a lot like having termites; it is also silently destructive.
Literally thousands of times, I have wished that gum disease were painful in the early stages. Pain prompts action! We all tend to move to lesser pain, which can often be a reason to avoid proactive dental care. The irony of this silent epidemic is that it causes damaging chronic inflammation that can “infect” the entire body; it doesn’t hurt until extreme, irreversible damage has been done. There can be minimal bleeding, swelling, and bone loss in the mouth although significant chronic inflammatory problems are happening elsewhere in the body.
The exact reason that gum disease isn’t painful during the initial phases isn’t completely understood. You have to be sleuthing out the early signs, much like for termite infestation! One of the initial signs of termites is “quiet clicking sounds” but you have to put your ear close to the wall to hear them munching. Who has time for that? But once we knew we had termites, it became a priority. Once gum disease causes pain or loose teeth, it becomes a priority too.
So what are some of the “quiet clicking sounds” of gum disease? Hopefully you are seeing a dental team that is:
Doing a thorough “Comprehensive Periodontal Exam” annually. This is in addition to an exam for decay and involves measuring six areas around each tooth. Pocket depths of 5 or more millimeters signal trouble; bleeding anywhere indicates bacterial infection. This is standard of care.
Unraveling your health history, blood tests, and medication list and correlating those to your personal dental situation. Every part of the body can affect every other part of the body.
Smelling your breath. (Yes, you read that right.)
Taking photos of any areas in your mouth that bleed during probing or teeth cleaning so that you can take action. Sometimes treatment beyond a “regular cleaning” is necessary to save big problems later.
Potentially testing your saliva for dangerous pathogens. I use a simple test by Access Genetics. It renders lots of valuable information.
Travel with me on this journey as I explore and share current research globally in the area of oral-systemic health. Increasingly, evidence is proving that the bacteria in the mouth strongly influence many inflammatory disease states, including irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer. Addressing oral health consistently increases the medical outcomes for my patients. Since my TEDx Talk, many researchers worldwide have contacted me and sent their most current findings. Gum disease affects 80 percent of the global population. I am committed to sharing this information for anyone who wants to listen!
Benjamin Franklin was right - “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and that goes for gum disease and termites! Thank you for joining me today. Live a life of energy and vitality! You can do it. I will help you.
Blessings for health in body and spirit,
Debbie Ozment, DDS, MS
P.S.: Here’s the link for last week’s post called Heal-th or Hell-th.