Thursday, February 15, 2018

What IS Periodontal Disease, anyway?

Periodontal Disease is an inflammatory condition which allows invasive microorganisms to get inside your body through the crevices between your teeth and gums.  It is a breakdown of the boundary between you and the outside world, and without a strong boundary, any organized system will decay.  Back in the good old days, periodontal disease went by the onomatopoetic name pyorrhea.  In its advanced stages, it is characterized by puffy, red gums that bleed easily when touched, as well as loose teeth and bad breath.  In the early stages, however, it can be subtle, and difficult to detect.
Periodontal disease happens when we don't take care of our mouths.  It's really that simple.  Take a few minutes a couple times a day to ONLY pay attention to your gums and your teeth, cleaning them carefully, examining them in a mirror, brushing them gently yet thoroughly, flossing them meticulously, and feeling them with your tongue, and you will all but eliminate your risk of developing periodontal disease.  When you care for your teeth and gums like you love them, and appreciate them, and they will respond with health and vitality.  However, if you brush and floss as fast as you can while you think about stressful situations, or your upcoming work schedule, or the asshole who cut you off in traffic today, your mouth will likely act out as a child ignored by a parent.

Yes, there are some people who are genetically predisposed to periodontal disease, but a genetic disposition does not necessarily lead to the physical expression of a disease.  And yes, there are systemic conditions which seem circumstantially to influence the health of the gums, such as diabetes.  But it may be worth considering that periodontal disease is merely one of several localized expressions of the overall condition of the body.  Many a farmer will tell you that if you want to know if a horse is healthy, you look at the teeth.  What's going on in your mouth is an indicator.

There are only a few strains of bacteria that seem to thrive in high numbers in the presence of gum disease.  Many people think of these as "bad bacteria," but I prefer to honor and respect all living things, so my viewpoint is a bit different.  Like humans, I believe most bacteria exist peacefully, and their purpose is not to harm other living things, though there are a few exceptions who exhibit truly psychopathic behaviors.  The bacteria associated with periodontal disease are indeed always present in the living organism we call our body, albeit in small numbers, and I believe their role is to take out the trash.  When living tissue dies, they clean it up by consuming it and metabolizing it, feeding the constituent raw materials back to the body in a non-noxious form.  A perfectly balanced natural system.

When the body dies, these bacteria reproduce in high numbers, and begin the process of putrefaction and decay that follows the passing of life from the material body.  They also seem to thrive when there is stagnation, or lack of flow in the body, such as what happens when you don't floss between your teeth, or when pockets develop between the teeth and gums, or when the nerve inside a tooth dies, or when a person lies on their back for a week without rolling over.  These bacteria are merely responding appropriately to the lack of energy flow in an area of the body, and doing their necessary job of putrefaction and decay of apparently nonliving tissue.  I think it's safe to say that most of us would prefer to avoid this process while we're still alive.

So next time you feel like you want to skip the flossing and brushing because you're tired or busy, think about the message your sending to your teeth and gums, and microscopic companions.  Do you want to let them know that you no longer care about those body parts?  Should they begin the process of putrefaction and decay of your physical body while you are still occupying it?  Or would you rather spend some time, send some love, and pay some attention to those often neglected children?

If you decide you care enough about them to give them what they need, I guarantee they will reward you in multiples.

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