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Dental Fear & Gum Disease In The U.S.

Posted on May 25, 2016 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

In dentistry, caregivers are always encouraging you to be committed to your 6-month exams and cleanings. These periodic visits help to remove buildup that can lead to damage to teeth and gum tissues. Too, they are often able to catch small problems while treatment needs are still minimal.

It is very difficult, however, to coax a fearful patient into a dental office. Typically, many avoid regular care and only force themselves into a dental chair because they are in pain. By this time, many treatment needs are more involved, more costly and require greater treatment time. This tends to acerbate the problem, merely adding to their dread of dental visits.

It is estimated that up to 75% of American adults have some level of fear associated with dental visits. This is a huge number! So, as a Periodontist, it’s no surprise that nearly half of the adults in the U.S. have some level of periodontal (gum) disease.

Even a thorough oral hygiene routine at home misses bacteria on occasion. When oral bacteria are not quickly removed by thorough brushing and flossing, they amass together and form a cement-hard colony that attaches to tooth surfaces. This accumulation of bacteria reproduces rapidly as they eat away at tooth enamel and gum tissues.

This hardened mass of bacteria is known as calculus, or tartar. It can only be removed by special instruments used in a dental office by a dentist or dental hygienist. If not removed, it continues to thrive and expand.

As oral bacteria consume gum tissues, inflammation begins. This causes tender gums that bleed when brushing. As it progresses, you may notice persistent bad breath and gums that darken to red versus a healthy pink color. Gum tissues may recede, exposing sensitive areas of tooth roots.mcdc7_periodontitis

Eventually, the infectious bacteria will penetrate the gums and attack below the gum line. This is when the inflammation can damage the bone structures that support tooth roots. Pus pockets may also form on gums and teeth may loosen. As a matter of fact, periodontal disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss.

While people who avoid dental visits may try to be ultra-diligent in their home-care routine, it’s easy to be susceptible to oral bacteria. A number of factors heighten your vulnerability, including dry mouth and what you eat.

Dry mouth occurs due to a wide range of factors. Some medications have a drying affect on the mouth. Certain foods and beverages contribute to dry mouth, especially those containing caffeine and alcohol. Smoking is very drying to oral tissues. And, the aging process leaves us with drier mouths.

Eating sugary foods and many carbohydrates are just as detrimental to your oral health. Many Americans snack during the day, often on chips, crackers and candy bars – which are then washed down with sugary sodas. All this converts into a sugar based super-food in the mouth that provides oral bacteria with sustenance that super charges their reproduction.

So, even as a twice-daily brusher and daily flosser, you are not immune from developing gum disease. Avoiding regular dental check-ups is a sure recipe for needing treatment down the road that may have easily been prevented.

How does a fearful adult overcome their problem so they can have the dental care they need? I believe it begins with a conversation. This time together helps us to understand the background to your fears — when they began, how long you’ve had them, etc. I’ll explain the various comfort options that will help to relax you as well as ‘signals’ you can do to indicate you’d like a break.

When many fearful patients understand they are in control of their care, they are more willing to have the care they need. However, it is equally important that they develop a sense of trust with their caregivers. Feeling that the goal is to help them avoid uncomfortable sensations should be evident throughout each visit.

When more adults are able to release their fears and have the dental care they need, we will hopefully see a nation of healthier smiles and less tooth loss. Until then, encourage fearful individuals you know to consult with dentist after dentist until they find one they feel is sensitive to their unique needs.

In our office, consults are held in a private consultation room that’s removed from the clinical side of the practice. Here, we sit in a living room-like setting to discuss your specific needs and options that are recommended for your goals.

Call 828-274-9440 to schedule a time when we can meet.

Healthy Body Begins With A Healthy Mouth

Posted on May 23, 2016 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

As a dental specialist, I diagnose and treat a number of problems in the mouth. A Periodontist has advanced training in treating all levels of gum disease and other problems associated with gum tissues. We are also the experts in dental implant placement and recontouring gum tissues (such as repairing gummy smiles or gum recession).

In my specialty, I see the origins that can destroy a smile as well as complicate one’s quality of life. What happens in the mouth can create a downward spiral for the entire body. For example, periodontal (gum) disease can lead to tooth loss. Tooth loss can lead to eating a less healthy diet. Consuming a poor diet can lead to a decline in overall health and more gastrointestinal problems. And so on.

While tooth loss can be overcome with Dental Implants, the cycle of destruction that is possible from an overload of oral bacteria is a far deeper problem. As damaging as oral bacteria can be in the oral cavity (the mouth), the bacteria of gum disease can become bloodborne and cause severe reactions elsewhere in the body.

Here is how the problem begins: First, gum disease bacteria eats away at gum tissues in the mouth. This weakens the tissues, which are easily torn and bleed. Oral bacteria are then able to enter the bloodstream by penetrating these tears.

As the infectious bacteria travel through the body via bloodflow, they can trigger inflammatory reactions elsewhere in the body. This inflammation has shown correlation to some serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, pre-term babies, impotency (ED) and more.

Although the destruction of oral bacteria can be severe, and even deadly, it is also rather easy to prevent. The bacteria of gum disease occurs when there is an accumulation of oral bacteria in the mouth, typically as a result of poor oral hygiene at home. The age-old urging from the family dentist to brush twice daily, floss each day, and limit snacking on sugary treats stands true today.

When bacteria in the mouth are not removed thoroughly each day, they band together to form a sticky film, known as plaque. As this film remains, it takes just days to harden into a cement-like substance that attaches to teeth. This is calculus (or tartar), which is actually a massive colony of oral bacteria that is so destructive it can eat into tooth enamel.

Mayo Clinic image showing perio disease

Mayo Clinic image showing perio disease

As the oral bacteria reproduce and thrive, they subsist on gum tissues as sustenance. Gums become weak and bleed easily when brushing. Gums become tender and darken in color. Persistent bad breath sets in and pus pockets form at the base of some teeth. If not treated, gum disease will eventually lead to teeth loosening, requiring removal.

How many times in our lives have we wanted to turn back the hands of time and take proactive measures to prevent costly and time-consuming problems? It makes perfect sense to us that a car needs regular maintenance, sufficient oil levels and proper tire tread. Yet, having 6-month check-ups and cleanings seem less necessary since “nothing hurts.”

The mouth has been described as the window to the body. As research continues to find links between gum disease bacteria and serious health problems, this is becoming a more profound statement. It can also be said that the mouth is the moat to the castle. It can either serve to protect the structure (your body) or pollute it.

Just as you are committed to maintaining good overall health, remember that your oral health is a key component in that goal. Take the proper steps to avoid the pitfalls of gum disease, for your smile and your whole-health. If you are experiencing signs of gum disease, call 828-274-9440 for an exam. Gum disease will only worsen without treatment.

The Mayo Clinic has excellent explanations of periodontal disease. Visit the site at:

When It Comes To Replacing Missing Teeth, Dental Implants Are The Ideal

Posted on May 16, 2016 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Modern dentistry provides excellent options to replace missing teeth. When replacing several teeth in one area, a standard method has been a crown and bridge combination. However, when considering all options along with the advantages and challenges of each, Dental Implants stand out as the ideal, for many reasons. They are the closest thing to the look, feel and function of natural teeth. Quite frankly, the only deterrent for most is the higher cost of implants.

When a bridge is used to replace missing teeth, it must be attached to neighboring teeth on both sides for support. This requires that the supporting teeth to be crowned for this reason alone. Remember, once a tooth is crowned (or ‘capped’), it will always require a crown. When a Dental Implant is placed, it does not rely on the support of adjacent teeth.

Without the presence of natural tooth roots in the jaw bone, the bone begins to decline in mass. This process is known as resorption. This can become more obvious when the area of gum tissue under (or above) the bridge diminishes in height. Eventually, a gap may be visible between the bottom of the bridge and the gums.

As the bone declines in mass, the teeth supporting the bridge are more susceptible to problems. On average, the next teeth to be lost are teeth adjacent to areas of missing teeth. This is one reason Dental Implants have such an edge. They actually recreate the presence of tooth roots, halting the bone resorption process. And, since implants are held by the jaw, just as natural tooth roots, they restore dependable biting and stable chewing.

For those who are missing two or more teeth, one Dental Implant can often support a ‘bridge’ of teeth. Because the cost of implant treatment depends greatly on the number of implants placed, this helps to keep expenses more manageable for most.

Dental Implants are made from a material that bonds successfully with your jaw bone. Properly chosen, placed and maintained, an implant can last a lifetime. Dental Implants will never need root canals, do not decay and do not compromise the well-being of adjacent natural teeth. And, because implants become a part of you, they are your ‘own teeth’ once again! They’re like a “do over” for tooth loss!

Although the initial costs are higher than many options for tooth replacement, the advantages provide a wise investment when compared with other tooth replacement options. If you are considering replacing teeth, call 828-254-9440 for a consultation.

Periodontists Can Reshape Gum Tissues For A More Beautiful Smile

Posted on May 10, 2016 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

As a Periodontal Specialist, I have unique expertise in treating all stages of periodontal (gum) disease and in the placement of Dental Implants. Another part of my specialty is in the recontouring of gum tissues, or Periodontal Plastic Surgery.

Periodontal Plastic Surgery can greatly enhance the appearance of a smile!

Periodontal Plastic Surgery can greatly enhance the appearance of a smile!

While the shape, shade and length of teeth have a major impact on the appearance of a smile, so does the gum tissue that surrounds teeth. Think of your teeth as a window and your gums as the window frame. To ensure a balanced appearance of each window, the frame must be properly aligned in shape and size as well. Without it, an entire room would look ‘off.’ As with facial appearance, your smile is greatly affected by the appearance of teeth and their ‘frames’ of gum tissue.

There are several areas where gum reshaping can have a dramatic impact on a smile’s appearance. For those who are born with a ‘gummy smile,’ gum recontouring can restore the balance of gums to teeth and create a more beautiful smile.

In a gummy smile, too much gum tissue is exposed above the teeth most visible in a smile. This is a genetic trait and certainly doesn’t affect oral health. The detriment, for many with a gummy smile, is it causes them to refrain from smiling fully. Some with this trait smile with lips only and some conceal their smile with a hand.

The procedure to correct a gummy smile can be done in one visit. Excess gum tissue is removed and the remaining gums are arched over each tooth for a natural appearance. In most cases, porcelain crowns or veneers are placed to accentuate the natural look and feel of the teeth involved. The result is a fabulous smile that can be shared fully and joyfully!

Gum reshaping is also done when certain teeth are bordered by more gum tissue than that bordering surrounding teeth. The procedure most commonly performed to correct this is crown lengthening. This is usually done in conjunction with crown placement but may be possible in mild cases of excess gum tissue.

Crown lengthening helps to establish an appealing, balanced smile line that ‘frames’ each tooth with an arch similar to that over adjoining teeth. The procedure requires just one visit and healing time is generally minimal.

Another way that Periodontal Plastic Surgery can enhance the appearance of a smile is grafting to repair gum recession. This is when the gum tissue pulls away from the base of the tooth, exposing darker, more sensitive tooth root sections. Causes of receded gums are often due to age, bite misalignment, gum disease and over-zealous brushing.

Also referred to as Gingival Grafting, this procedure typically involves taking a small area of tissue from the roof of your mouth (which heals quickly) and placing it over the area of recession. It is secured in place for a healing period of approximately two weeks. The results restore the look of a healthy, naturally-framed tooth.

A Periodontal Specialist not only provides you with the skills to create an optimal outcome, he or she understands the TLC needed for minimal disruption to the gums involved. This tender, vulnerable tissue requires a gentle touch and precision hand to provide each patient with an exceptional result with minimal healing time required.

The next time you walk into your living room, pay particular attention to the windows. Imagine the windows having different sized frames that are mismatch on each side and worn. The entire room would look less inviting. When it comes to your smile, your gums help to create an ‘inviting’ smile that makes a positive impression.

Ask about Periodontal Plastic Surgery to enhance the appearance and health of your smile during a consultation appointment. Call 828-274-9440 to schedule.