Surviving the Wild West
Back East, the only rattlesnake I ever saw was in a western movie. But during 20 years in Patagonia, I barely avoided stepping on one sunning itself outside my front door, and, over time, even managed to collect 5 or 6 more on our land. Gordon Whitefoot, sadly, died from a rattlesnake bite… (my yard cat)! My wife Donna is on a first name basis with the Hualapai Tiger beetle commonly called a kissing bug. She spent a morning at Holy Cross hospital experiencing, firsthand, the “kiss” of its venom. And, of course, there are scorpions, which you can hunt at night, if so inclined, with the help of a black light.
Here in the Southwest, we’re surrounded by things that all want a piece of us. But, and this is a lot more nasty, there are also venomous creatures living inside us that are just as dangerous. They also want a piece of us. But they’re a lot smaller, microscopic actually, so usually one bite isn’t life-threatening. But as they multiply and swarm like locusts, a million tiny toxic bites become concentrated and magnified. Just like hemotoxic rattlesnake venom necrosis tissue and causes it to rot away, so it is with the “rattlers” under your gums . Crotalus adamanteus (western diamondback) and Porphyromonas gingivalis (gum- eating bacteria) both produce very toxic venom. The smaller of the two lives buried in the plaque around your gums, while the rattler lives in the tall weeds around the yard. Cut the weeds or scrape the plaque and you‘ve got them on the run. If, however, you allow either to continue nesting, either in the yard or in your mouth, you could be headed for a lot of trouble.
While a rattlesnake bite can be fatal, with proper treatment most victims survive. Conventional treatment consists of limiting the spread of the venom by remaining calm so your heart won’t pump it to distant critical areas, and also applying a tourniquet. It would be nice if gum disease didn’t spread its venom to other vital organs such as your heart and liver. But it does! Should the thought pop into your head of tightening a tourniquet around your neck to prevent the gum- toxins from, well it’s probably not a good idea. The effects of gum disease are not just the dissolving of the fibers that hold the teeth in your jaw bone, but the collateral damage done to your heart and liver and other vitals.
With every heartbeat, gum toxins are pumped to distant organs. Studies show a strong correlation between gum disease, heart disease, diabetes, and childbirth abnormalities. I don’t find this surprising at all since our heads are attached to the rest of us. In this modern day and age, we have doctors who specialize in specific organs. We have to remember, however, that all organs are intimately related to each other. They are not autonomous, but totally synchronized and dependent on one another. Blood (from the capillary destroying venom) on your toothbrush should be a red flag, alerting you that something’s not right. Bad breath that makes people flinch can be another sign of necrosing (rotting) gums.
Your dentist can check for any rattlesnakes lurking in your gums. It’s a rather simple process. Odds are you’ll never get bitten by a rattle snake. But 75 to 80% of us will be bitten or already have been bitten by something just as dangerous. Pay attention to the signs and symptoms we’ve discussed. And like a rattlesnake bite, seek professional help. Your dentist is a good starting point. And remember no neck tourniquets.
Stay well…Dr. Bill Ardito – Sunshine Dentistry AZ
855 W. Bell Road, Suite 600
Nogales, AZ 85621