Is Your Insurance Ruining Your Oral Health?
Posted on Nov 26, 2019 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
A necessary ‘evil.’
These days, insurance coverage seems to be an ever-expanding chunk out of paychecks. Even so, coverages seem to be getting more and more limited.
Yet, health insurance is an investment that provides peace of mind and reminds us that we need to do all we can to stay healthy – and NOT need it! Deductibles, uncovered items, and prescriptions can drain the wallet in spite of what is shelled out for monthly premiums.
Regardless of the insurance coverage you have, taking full advantage of its benefits is an annual goal. Some people have Health Savings Accounts (HSA) to give some padding for certain expenses not covered by insurances.
Because of out-of-pocket expenses, dental patients sometimes make decisions on accepting treatment based on what their insurance covers. This can be detrimental to the patient.
Dental insurance was developed to give people some help for basic annual expenses. For many, this includes twice-a-year dental exams and cleanings. Some policies include assistance for an annual crown or filling, and some coverage for periodontal (gum) therapy to treat gum disease.
Although adults may see these coverages as ample, they can be far from sufficient some years. For aging adults or people who have conditions such as diabetes or take medications that have an oral dryness side effect, basic insurance coverage can be far from what is in your best interest.
Keep in mind that insurance companies are for-profit businesses. What these companies deem coverage-worthy may be far from what is best for a patient’s long term oral health.
Think about this … As of Aug. 2, 2018, publicly traded health care companies amassed $47 billion in profit. (https://www.axios.com/health-care-industry-on-track-massive-q2-profits-1533226387-dacec8f8-c9f5-406c-a49e-1103e3316c64.html) That’s BILLION.
Sadly, insurance companies tend to serve as judge and jury for some people when it comes to treatment decisions. If an insurance company overrules what a dentist or dental specialist advises, it can leave the patient with an even more-complex situation.
They also use additional limiting terms such as “usual and customary.” This means that it is the insurance company that determines what is reimbursed for the treatment rather than the skill level and reputation of the provider.
Another dilemma for today’s insured patient has to do with the treatment recommended. For instance, when I consult with a patient who is missing teeth, I typically advise dental implants. My recommendation is based upon what will provide the patient with a lifelong solution for missing teeth as well as other benefits.
I look at a dental implant as the ideal in tooth replacement, since it is held in the jaw bone just as natural tooth roots. An implant restores the dependable foundation necessary for biting and chewing, enabling the patient to eat a healthy diet and chew foods comfortably, which supports the digestive system and overall health.
Dental implants are a more expensive option (initially) than crown-&-bridge combinations, dentures, or partials. They are designed to last a lifetime; often far beyond the span of time an average policy holder would stick with the insuring company.
As beneficial as they are to your overall health, dental implants are often deemed as ‘elective’ by insurance companies. This is where the patient must decide: “Is protecting my overall health and smiling confidence a priority to me or should I go with what my insurance coverage allows?”
What it comes down to is, essentially, how we perceive insurance coverage. While major medical insurance gives us peace of mind should we experience a health challenge that would otherwise drain us financially, dental insurance coverages are different.
Dental insurance, for the most part with most policies, is structured as a ‘support’ for helping those covered to maintain a healthy mouth. For people who already have good oral health and are able to tend to it sufficiently between checkups, this is fine. However, for most American adults, tooth repair, tooth loss and gum problems are a fact of life, particularly as we age.
For most of us, the decisions we make today will affect us in the years to come. When it comes to your oral health, don’t let your long-term oral wellness, the longevity of your teeth, the comfort of healthy eating, or the confidence of smiling and laughter be dictated by what insurance coverage allows.
When it comes to your smile, put your needs first.
If you trust your dentist and others involved to guide you towards good oral health and maintaining your smile, consider their recommendations and ask questions. Be an informed consumer. But, most importantly, make decisions that are in your best interest rather than that a for-profit insurance company deems is worthy for your smile.
If you don’t have regular dental care and would like recommendations, feel free to contact us at 828-274-9440. We work with exceptional general dentists in Western North Carolina and will be proud to connect you. Or, feel free to begin with a thorough periodontal exam here. We will make recommendations based upon your unique needs and goals.
Obesity Increases Risk Of Gum Disease.
Posted on Nov 20, 2019 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
Imagine one-third of your body being made up of maple syrup.
Sounds pretty absurd, doesn’t it? Yet, for Americans who are categorically obese, this imagery is actually a good description.
Obesity is when fat makes up over thirty percent of body mass. According to the Centers For Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), adults in the U.S. who are categorized as obese is at nearly 40 percent! Another 30 percent are categorized at overweight. That’s two-thirds of adults in the U.S. who have too much fat makeup.
And it’s not just adults over the age of 20 who have this problem. Sadly, nearly 30 percent of children are overweight or obese as well.
In North Carolina, over 63 percent of adults are either overweight or obese, according to a study by the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study. (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/oby.20451)
The problems associated with being overweight and obese are many, and can be deadly. Obesity seems to trigger a predisposition to a variety of serious health conditions and diseases. These include increased risk of stroke, certain cancers, coronary artery disease, and type 2 diabetes.
In addition to the added and unnecessary load that strains the back, knees and ankles, the challenges continue. Obesity decreases lifespan, up to an estimated 20 percent of people who are severely obese. (https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMsr043743)
As 2019 holiday indulgences (often sugary and carb-laden) are before us, many of us also follow the season with with the traditional new year’s resolution of “lose weight” at the top of the list. Along with improved health and greater confidence in overall appearance, we’d like to add another reason to reach your goal.
Chronic inflammation is a known side effect obesity. Why does this matter to a Periodontist? Obesity is also known to exacerbate other inflammatory disorders, including periodontitis (advanced gum disease). To be clear, periodontal disease is also the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss.
Research has shown that obese adults have a 6 times higher potential to develop periodontal (gum) disease. As a periodontal specialist my goal is always to help patients achieve optimal oral health. Although discussing the risks of periodontal disease with obese patients can be a sensitive issue, this is without judgement of why they are overweight but rather how we can help them enjoy a healthier smile.
Most of us know – losing weight is not a process that is either easy or quick. Add to this that research has shown that factors such as sleep quality and what we eat (as much as how much we eat) can cause the brain to make the challenges of weight loss even greater.
For one, studies have shown that sugar can be addictive. Sugar consumption even activates the same regions in the brain that react to cocaine. For individuals who admit to having a “sweet tooth,” trying to stay within the recommended 6 teaspoons per day limit can be a battle when we are truly “addicted.” (https://www.brainmdhealth.com/blog/what-do-sugar-and-cocaine-have-in-common/)
Insufficient sleep also complicates the brain’s ability to regulate hunger hormones, known as ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin stimulates the appetite while leptin sends signals of feeling full. When the body is sleep-deprived, the level of ghrelin rises while leptin levels decrease. This leads to an increase in hunger.
The National Sleep Foundation states that “people who don’t get enough sleep eat twice as much fat and more than 300 extra calories the next day, compared with those who sleep for eight hours.” (https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/the-connection-between-sleep-and-overeating)
As difficult as losing weight can be, it is important to be aware of risk factors that can make you more suspectible to gum disease. Initial symptoms include gums that are tender, swollen, and may bleed when brushing. This stage, known as gingivitis, is actually reversible with prompt, thorough oral hygiene.
As gum disease worsens, however, the inflammation of oral bacteria can lead to persistent bad breath, receded gums that expose sensitive tooth roots, and gums that darken in color. If untreated, pus pockets can eventually form and the base of some teeth and tooth loosening can require removal.
Armed with this information, we want to help all patients, with overweight or obese adults especially, to take added precautions to maintain good oral health, both at home and through regular dental check-ups.
Avoiding periodontal disease is particularly important since its infectious bacteria have been linked to serious health problems. These include heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, some cancers, preterm babies, impotency, and Alzheimer’s disease.
If you are experiencing symptoms of gum disease, however, it is vital to be seen by a periodontist as soon as possible to halt further progression. A periodontist is a dental specialist who has advanced training in treating all stages of gum disease as well as in the placement of dental implants. The earlier the treatment, the less involved treatment requirements will be. Gum disease will not improve without professional care.
Call 828-274-9440 to schedule an initial examination or begin with a consultation.
Is Your Denture Increasing Your Risk For The Flu?
Posted on Nov 14, 2019 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
“Did you get your flu shot yet?”
Like every year, flu season is here. And part of the prevention measures many people take to avoid it are having their annual flu shot. Hopefully, this quick injection will help individuals to build up a resistance to getting it.
Even with this shot, however, a certain amount of people still get the flu. And, for people who have compromised immune systems, the flu can be a difficult illness to overcome. For some, it can lead to hospitalization and even death.
According to Harvard Health Publishing (https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/10-flu-myths): “in the United States alone, 36,000 people die and more than 200,000 are hospitalized each year because of the flu”.
Although we take precautions, such as washing hands and covering our mouths when we sneeze, germs are everywhere – especially in colder months when air circulates in more closed-in spaces.
When it comes to germs, an often overlooked source of germs are dentures and partials. Dentures, because of their gum-colored bases are porous, can be coated with a sticky bacteria known as biofilm. It has been found that this biofilm can harbor MRSA or bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics.
One study, published in the Journal of The American Dental Association, was conducted to determine methods to effectively kill bacteria in the material that make up the gum base of dentures and partials. The results, reported on by NBC News in 2012, revealed how truly serious these bacteria levels were. (https://www.nbcnews.com/healthmain/dirty-dentures-dangerous-mrsa-may-be-lurking-dentists-say-662637)
According to the report, dentures are “covered with thin layers of icky, sticky bacteria known as biofilms. Worse, some of the biofilm germs may be bad bugs such as MRSA, or drug-resistant staphylococcus aureus bacteria, which can lurk on the dentures until they’re breathed into the lungs, where experts fear they may cause nasty, hard-to-treat infections.”
The problems and risks don’t stop there. When bacteria in the mouth are breathed into the lungs, infections become much more difficult to treat. This is especially concerning due to the high number of denture and partial wearers who sleep in their appliances.
One study found that wearing dentures while sleeping doubles the risk of pneumonia in elderly adults. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4541085/) While sleeping in dentures obviously increases health risks, these icky organisms can create quite an obstacle to adults who have immune systems that are already compromised.
Just because we don’t see the actions of organisms that are housed inside our bodies, we must not forget that bacteria are there – living, eating and waste-producing. The tiny hide-outs of denture ‘pores’ give oral bacteria an ideal environment to thrive and reproduce.
With the additional frustrations of wearing dentures and partials, it’s no surprise that dental implants have become the preferred choice of today’s adult when it comes to replacing natural teeth.
Dental implants are held by the jaw bone, restoring a sturdy foundation for biting and chewing. They also recreate stimulation to the bone that supports them, thus halting the rate of bone loss that occurs from wearing dentures. And, dental implants are designed to last a lifetime, making them an excellent investment.
As a Periodontist, my specialty includes advanced training in the diagnosis and placement of dental implants. Over the years, I have been impressed with their track record, having one of the highest of all implant-in-bone success rates.
Why worry over the health risks associated with wearing dentures and partials? Dental implants are dependable, safe, lasting, and provide a natural look and feel. Call 828-274-9440 to schedule an appointment to determine if dental implants are right for you.