Ask Santa To Make The Toothbrush Under The Tree Electric!
Posted on Dec 16, 2020 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
Although your Christmas wish list probably doesn’t include an electric toothbrush, it should. Studies have shown that brushing teeth with an electric version promotes better gum health and slower progression of periodontal (gum) disease. Electric tooth brushing is also helpful in reducing tooth loss, by 20 percent (compared to those who brush with manual toothbrushes).
If you use an electric toothbrush, most people think of its benefits in giving fresh breath and a bright smile. As an Asheville periodontist for over three decades, I have a firsthand view of how a thorough at-home oral hygiene regimen can help significantly in preventing gum disease and tooth loss.
An electric toothbrush can be an important tool in daily oral hygiene. Findings of an 11 year study published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology tracked the oral health of over 2800 adults. The use of electric toothbrushes was monitored to watch for periodontal disease, cavities, and the number of natural teeth.
From 2002 – 2006, participants were examined with follow ups conducted after 6 and 11 years. Eighteen percent of the participants were electric tooth brush users. At the time of their 11 year follow up, 37 percent had switched to using electric toothbrushes.
Although more adults are using them, the long-term effectiveness of electric tooth brushes has not been proven to be significant. It is suspected that this is due to the technique used rather than due to the brushing tool itself. For manual users, a significant challenge with brushing this way is in the choice of bristles. Stiff, hard bristles can be very damaging.
A hard bristled tooth brush can actually damage tooth enamel and gum tissues. To the detriment of teeth, people tend to press down too firmly as they brush, scrubbing with a ‘back & forth’ motion. They may feel this is the way to do a good job brushing. However, this action can wear down the protective coating of tooth enamel, leaving teeth more vulnerable to decay.
Another problem with a hard bristle tooth brush is its ability to damage tender gum tissues. These can thin out the protective seal that gums have around the base of each tooth. This increases the potential for bacterial entry of the sensitive tooth root area of teeth.
Hint: If the bristles on your toothbrush are fanned out after a couple of months, you are applying too much pressure when brushing.
The ideal technique for brushing teeth is to use gentle pressure with a swirling motion. By using a circular pattern over both sides of each tooth and along the tops, teeth are cleansed without wearing away gum tissues or wearing down precious tooth enamel.
This is where electric toothbrushes can help greatly. Many of the newer models include a beep when too much pressure is being applied. Most also have timers to indicate the time needed for each quadrant, which is your teeth divided into 4 sections. The timers are good aids in helping you to brush at least two minutes.
As devastating as tooth loss can be to one’s overall health, we now know that the bacteria of gum disease can enter the bloodstream. Research has shown this infectious bacteria can trigger inflammatory reactions elsewhere in the body. It has been linked to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, some cancers, diabetes, arthritis, impotency, preterm babies and more.
Whether using a manual or electric tooth brush, it is necessary to brush twice a day to effectively remove plaque. Plaque is the sticky film you feel on teeth when you wake up or at the end of the day.
Plaque is a buildup of oral bacteria that coats teeth and gums. If not removed daily, it forms a hardened mass of calculus (or tartar) that attaches to teeth. This is what you may feel your hygienist scraping off teeth during cleanings since it cannot be brushed or flossed away.
Another place that oral bacteria can thrive are in the grooves in the tongue. These offer a dark, warm and moist environment for bacterial reproduction. To uproot these icky organisms, use your toothbrush to brush your tongue after brushing teeth. Be sure to reach the back of the tongue where the majority of oral bacteria are embedded. Swish with water several times after.
Flossing is another way to improve gum health, lower cavity risk and prevent tooth loss. It is estimated that only 31 percent of American adults floss on a daily basis. Flossing removes trapped bits of food remain in the mouth, which feeds oral bacteria and allows them to quickly multiply. Because brushing cannot dislodge all food particles caught between teeth, daily flossing should be a part of oral hygiene routines.
Proper flossing is easy for those who are in the habit and takes only a minute each day. For those who have difficulty with manual dexterity or find the maneuver awkward, water flossers are effective alternatives and easy to use. (This is another good item to add to your wish list!)
Practice these recommended techniques and you’ll not only do a better job at having a clean mouth, you’ll find your time at the sink requires less effort. If you feel you may be experiencing symptoms of periodontal disease, act promptly. You should be seen at your earliest convenience for treatment since this disease will only worsen over time.
Signs of gum disease include tender gums that bleed easily when brushing, gums that darken in color to red (versus a healthy pink), frequent bad breath, and gums that pull away from teeth (receded gums) and expose darker root areas of the tooth.
As a periodontal specialist, I have advanced skills in the treatment of all stages of gum disease (as well as in the placement of dental implants). Our office features some of the most advanced technology available in dentistry to optimize patient outcomes and comfort.
Here, we will help you achieve the healthy smile you want and prevent tooth loss to the greatest extent possible. If you’ve already lost teeth, we’ll discuss their replacement through dental implants. Dental implants are the closest thing to natural teeth, restoring biting and chewing strength and stability.
Call 828-274-9440 to learn more or to schedule a consultation to discuss how you can achieve excellent oral health.
Are YOU One Who Is More Likely To Have Gum Disease?
Posted on Dec 10, 2020 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
As a periodontist, I have a pretty unique view of the inside of a mouth.
In my specialty, we are particularly focused on the condition of the gum tissues in the mouth, or “periodontal” tissues. We are specially trained to treat all stages of gum disease and in the diagnosis and placement of dental implants.
A periodontal specialist is also trained in performing esthetic procedures that involve gum tissues, such as crown lengthening and correcting a “gummy smile”.
To clarify, a periodontist is a dentist who extends his or her education and skills further (typically 3 years past completing dental school) to specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease and other gum conditions.
1). THE NATURAL AGING PROCESS
Although we treat patients of all ages, there are certain segments of the population we see more often. For instance, a large segment of our patients are age 50 and older. In addition to having more susceptibility to have gum disease, many in this age group have lost teeth.
In a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) on data related to prevalence of periodontitis in the U.S.: over 47% of adults ages 30 years and older have some form of periodontal disease. For adults 65 years and older, that number rises to over 70%.
This is because the aging process causes the body begins to succumb to wear and tear. The skin sags, bones weaken, joints ache, hearing dulls, and eyesight wanes. This means that more precautions and measures are needed to keep the teeth and gum tissues in good shape.
In addition to healthy gums, it’s important to keep your natural teeth as you age. Natural teeth to support neighboring teeth and provide stimulation to the jaw bone is unsurpassed.
Having the ability to comfortably and efficiently bite and chew is vital to having a healthy body. When dentures or partials compromise the ability to eat a diet of healthy foods – and chew food properly – gastrointestinal problems are common.
Although dental implants are excellent replacements for missing teeth, there is nothing as perfect as your “permanent” teeth.
There are a number of reasons why seniors face more oral challenges, including:
• A dry mouth: The tissues inside the mouth need to be kept moist. Saliva is designed to do this. However, with age, the flow of saliva becomes less plentiful. Just as the skin and hair get drier with age, the mouth undergoes this as well. When saliva flow is less efficient at rinsing bacteria from the oral cavity, bacteria grow at a more rapid rate. This allows bacteria accumulation to occur more frequently than twice-a-day brushing can control.
• Reduced ability to maintain at-home oral hygiene: Aging causes the fingers to be less nimble and stiffens joints. This is a particular challenge when it comes to brushing and flossing. Angling a toothbrush to reach all areas in the mouth and proper flossing maneuvers require manual dexterity that are more difficult due to the natural aging process.
• Medication side effects: The average American adult in the 65-79 age group has over 27 prescriptions filled each year. (https://www.statista.com/statistics/315476/prescriptions-in-us-per-capita-by-age-group/). Although you may need these medications, keep in mind that some can be detrimental to your oral health. This is why it’s important to provide a complete list of all medications you take (including vitamins and herbal supplements) at every dental appointment so your dentist can adjust care to your specific needs.
• Hormonal changes: Due to declining estrogen levels, post menopausal females have a higher risk for gum disease and subsequent tooth loss. This causes an increased risk of bone loss or osteoporosis as well as inflamed gum tissues around the teeth (called periodontitis). When there is a decline in jaw bone mass, it can result in tooth loss.
Bacteria overgrowth in the mouth is the cause of gum disease. Periodontal disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss. Its bacteria can also enter the bloodstream, causing inflammatory reactions far beyond the mouth.
Advanced gum disease bacteria has been linked to a number of serious health problems. These include heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, memory loss, some cancers, impotency and Alzheimer’s disease.
Obviously, maintaining healthy gums and keeping your natural teeth is important. If you’ve experienced tooth loss, we can replace them with dental implants. These are the closest thing to the natural teeth you had and will restore stability and dependable biting and chewing.
At any age, the goal is to keep bacteria levels in the mouth to the lowest level possible. When oral bacteria are allowed to accumulate, it can lead to Gingivitis. This is an early stage of gum disease. As it progresses, periodontal disease continually worsens. Eventually, it becomes periodontitis, which is an advanced level of gum disease.
Although gum disease can exist without obvious signs or symptoms, the most commonly noticed are:
• Red, swollen or tender gums
• Seeing blood in the sink when brushing
• Receded gums
• Loose or separating teeth
• Pus pockets on gum tissues
• Sores in the mouth
• Persistent bad breath
2). ADULTS WITH DENTAL FEAR
Another large segment of our patients are those who have avoided dental care for years, often due to having dental fear.
One study, published by StudyFinds.org, shares recent findings of 2,000 adults in the U.S. regarding dental visits. Results show a whopping 62% of those surveyed stating they were too afraid to even visit a dentist’s office. (https://www.studyfinds.org/adults-too-scared-visit-dentist-teeth/)
If dental fears or anxiety have kept you from regular dental checkups for a year or more, it would be rare to NOT have some level of gum disease. Quite frankly, some people with high fear levels avoid seeing a dentist for decades. Those visits are vital in one’s ability to have healthy gums.
While twice daily brushing and daily flossing are necessary components for having good oral health, the routine alone isn’t enough to combat a number of additional factors that make one vulnerable to the disease.
For example, a study by Delta Dental revealed, only 7 out of 10 adults are brushing twice a day. This means that 30% aren’t brushing enough. (https://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2014-archive/october/survey-finds-shortcomings-in-oral-health-habits)
We also see a number of moms-to-be. For decades, the Surgeon General has warned that pregnant females who had gum disease had a far greater risk of a pre-term, low birth weight baby. Research has shown that gum disease increases the risk for pre-term delivery (prior to 37 weeks) and low birth weight babies (less than 5.5 lbs.).
“Studies have found that expectant mothers with periodontal disease are up to seven times more likely to deliver premature, low birth weight babies.” (https://www.adha.org/resources-docs/7228_Oral_Health_Total.pdf) One study showed the preterm birth rate for pregnant women with moderate to severe periodontal disease to be nearly 29%.
Estimates are that over half of pregnant women have some form of gingivitis (gum inflammation, an early stage of gum disease) or periodontitis (infectious, advanced gum disease). Nearly a third of pregnant females will acquire gum disease because of their higher vulnerability to inflammation.
When these indications exist, it is important to seek periodontal treatment as soon as possible. Gum disease only worsens without treatment, requiring more time and expense to rid this serious, even deadly, inflammatory disease.
4). ALL ADULTS
Regardless of age or health status, oral wellness has always been important to overall health. Without good gum health, there is a greater drain on the body’s immune system. This is now even more important than ever, due to COVID and the flu season upon us.
Remember, even a twice-daily brusher and daily flosser does not mean you will avoid gum disease. Avoiding regular dental check-ups is a sure recipe for needing treatment down the road that may have easily been prevented.
In our Asheville periodontal dental office, patients can begin with a consult in our private consultation room that’s removed from the clinical side of the practice. We are always happy to discuss oral health options with new patients. A referral is not needed.
Call 828-274-9440 to schedule.
If Your Mouth Is Frequently Dry, You Have Higher Risk For Gum Disease
Posted on Dec 02, 2020 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
Our bodies are home to trillions of micro-organisms. This includes micro ‘ponds’ of viruses, fungi, and bacteria. As we’ve learned over the years, some of this bacteria is highly beneficial to how our systems operate.
Although the thoughts of bacteria often conjure up images of infectious organisms, the mouth is home to some very “good” bacteria. For bacteria that are present under normal circumstances, they do not cause disease and actually have a purpose. It’s the “bad” bacteria I want to focus on for now.
Oral bacteria is the source of nearly every problem that develops in the mouth. The oral cavity (mouth) is structured to manage a certain level of bacteria. As the entry point of most of the bacteria we add to our bodies, it can process a “normal” amount on a day-to-day basis. It is the overload of bacteria that becomes the origination source of problems.
The reason people are advised to brush at least twice a day and floss daily is to remove accumulated oral bacteria from the mouth. When not removed on a regular basis, a sticky film of bacteria form that coats the teeth and gums. This film is known as plaque. Without sufficient and frequent removal of plaque, it begins to harden at the base of teeth.
This is tartar (or calculus), which is actually a cement-hard mass of oral bacteria. Tartar cannot be brushed or flossed away; it requires removal by a dental professional. During your dental cleanings, you probably notice when your hygienist is scraping away at teeth. It is tartar that she is trying to remove.
Your periodic dental cleanings are important. If tartar is allowed to further amass, the bacteria can become inflamed, attacking gum tissues. As bacteria continue to reproduce, they create an inflammation that extends beneath the gum line. The infection they trigger can reach down into the structures that support natural teeth, including tooth roots, tissues, ligaments and bone.
Periodontal disease is the leading cause of adult tooth loss. The advanced stage of gum disease, known as periodontitis, creates a bacteria so potent that research has linked it to serious diseases elsewhere in the body. These include some cancers, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, arthritis, preterm babies, and impotency.
Saliva is the mouth’s natural rinse that helps cleanse oral bacteria from the mouth. This keeps bacteria levels to a minimum and lowers their ability to cause problems. When saliva flow is depleted, however, bacteria remain in the mouth longer – and multiply rapidly.
Saliva helps to continually cleanse your mouth, removing particles that can rot and cause bad odors. A condition called “dry mouth” (known as Xerostomia) is when production of saliva is decreased.
When the “dry mouth” condition is continual, the problem may be due to low salivary gland production or some diseases. Dry mouth naturally occurs during sleep and in people who breathe through their mouth. However, as a periodontal specialist, I find that most cases are due to factors that can be easily controlled with simple changes.
To support saliva flow and reduce “bad” bacteria in the mouth, twice daily brushing and flossing help. However, knowing contributors to a dry mouth can help you better manage or control oral bacteria levels. These include:
The aging process – Aging causes the skin, cartilage, and tissues to become less supple, drier. We can’t stop the aging process but can help protect our oral health by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Coffee, tea and colas don’t count. Also, consider using an oral rinse designed to replenish moisture in the mouth.
Medications – Many over-the-counter and prescribed medications today have a side effect of oral dryness. Some of the worst culprits are antihistamines, depression and incontinence medications, and some that control blood pressure. If you take one of these, ask your doctor about options that may be less drying to the mouth. Or, increase your water intake and use a daily rinse to replenish oral moisture.
Sleep habits – To dry something out, a flow of air is just the thing. This also applies to the mouth. Snoring or breathing through the mouth during sleep create added dryness to oral tissues. Talk to your doctor about ways to resolve these problems. It may be as easy as adjusting your sleeping position or adding a side pillow.
Medical conditions – Having acid reflux, sinus infections, diabetes and bronchitis can cause dry mouth. A bad cold can also force people to breathe more through their mouth. For these conditions, be especially committed to your oral hygiene routine at home (brushing and flossing) and up your water intake.
Caffeinated beverages – Caffeine has a drying effect on oral tissues and therefore depletes the helpful rinsing benefits of saliva. Most colas contain caffeine, which is drying to oral tissues. Add to that the high acidity level in colas (also harmful to tooth enamel). Also drying are coffee and tea. Like colas, these drinks contain acid added to caffeine. If you drink these beverages, be sure to rinse your mouth after or alternate with gulps of water.
Alcohol (including beer and wine) – Mixed drinks, wine and beer are all drying to oral tissues. Add the acidity and sugar levels that exist in wine or mixers and these drinks pack a double-whammy to oral tissues. Again, swish with water between drinks or have a glass of water nearby to dilute the impact of these.
Smoking (cigarettes, cigars, vaping) – People who have smoked for years often have dry skin that ages their appearance far beyond their actual years. The same is occurring inside the mouth. Cigarette and cigar smoke is laden with toxic chemicals, which is true for e-cigs as well. Just be aware at your added risk and the drying effects and take added measures to keep your mouth clean and moist.
If you have delayed or avoided dental care, call 828-274-9440 to request a consultation, or begin with a thorough examination in our Asheville periodontal office. We offer the latest techniques, technology, and skills while always making patient comfort a top priority.