April Is National Oral Cancer Awareness Month
Posted on Mar 25, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
Every person fears hearing the “C” word. A diagnosis of cancer, whether a diagnosis of oneself or of a loved one, invokes a dread of lengthy treatment, years of subsequent health concerns, or even death.
Over the years, breast, colon and skin cancers have received more publicity, which supports the importance of periodic screenings. As a periodontist, PLEASE add another screening to your annual must-do list.
The month of April is designated as national Oral Cancer Awareness month.
Oral Cancer is one of the most deadly of all cancers with one of the worst survival rates. Like pancreatic cancer, oral cancer can remain hidden, which allows it progress long before obvious symptoms emerge.
Once symptoms do appear, oral cancer can be difficult to battle. Treatment is often disfiguring. Sadly, every hour of every day, an American succumbs to oral cancer.
According to the National Cancer Institute Survey, there has been a 15 percent increase in oral cancer rates over the past three decades.
Adult males are at the highest risk for oral cancer, with black males being the most susceptible. The risk also increases with age, especially after age 50. Although the risk typically peaks between the ages of 60 – 70, males between ages 50 – 59 tend to have the highest numbers.
It is important to be aware of the warning signs of oral cancer, including:
• A sore, irritation, lump or thick patch in the mouth, lip, or throat
• White or red patch inside the mouth
• Feeling something is stuck in the throat
• Difficulty chewing or swallowing
• Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue
• Numbness in the tongue or other areas of the mouth
• Unexplained swelling of the jaw
• Pain in an ear without hearing loss
While these symptoms do not always indicate oral cancer, any that do not clear up on their own within 2 weeks should be examined without delay.
As mentioned prior, these symptoms may indicate the presence of oral cancer that is well underway. As with any cancer, periodic screenings are helpful in catching oral cancer in early stages. This is generally part of annual oral health exams conducted by your dentist.
Unfortunately, many people assume “if it doesn’t hurt, then nothing is wrong.” This, I believe, is one of the reasons our nation has such high levels of periodontal (gum) disease and subsequent adult tooth loss. And, as rising oral cancer statistics show, the casual attitude toward dental exams can lead to far worse than losing teeth.
The Centers Of Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reports that only 62 percent of adults between the ages 18 – 64 have a dental check-up each year. This means that over one-third of adults are going unscreened. If the key component in catching oral cancer early lies in the hands of a dentist, until the patient is in the dental chair, the challenge will continue.
This dental exam is painless. Many patients, if not told, are not aware that the dentist is performing it. During this, the dentist does a visual examination of oral tissues, checking the lips and inside of the mouth (including under the tongue). The dentist will also check the roof and floor of your mouth.
If suspicious areas are noted during the exam, the dentist will order a biopsy. In this, a small sample of tissue from the area of concern is removed and examined under a microscope. This will determine whether further tests are needed.
Added to oral cancer concerns over the past couple of decades are rising numbers in younger age groups is the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV).
The CDC reports that HPV is now the most common sexually transmitted infection. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.
There are different types of HPV, some that cause genital warts and others that cause cancers. It is spread through vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone infected with the virus and can be passed even without signs or symptoms. And, symptoms may not appear until years after having sex with an infected person.
A periodontal specialist has extensive training in the treatment of the soft tissues in the mouth. In addition to treating all stages of gum disease, a periodontist is your first call when any unusual symptom in the mouth arise. This dental specialist is your first step in protecting your smile and adding to a healthy YOU.
If you have not seen a dentist on a regular basis or have noticed any of the symptoms associated with oral cancer, act promptly. Call our Asheville periodontal dental office for an examination appointment: 828-274-9440
Flossing – A Valuable Step In Avoiding Gum Disease & Tooth Loss
Posted on Mar 17, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
Adults who wish to stay healthy and active as they age often workout daily, walk at least 30 minutes per day, try to get 7 – 8 hours of sleep each night, and brush their teeth twice a day.
Tooth brushing helps to keep oral bacteria levels in the mouth to manageable levels. With the help of saliva, which is a rinsing agent for the mouth, these bacteria are generally kept under control. By preventing rampant growth, the ‘oral cavity’ (interior of the mouth) is able to avoid a destructive onslaught caused by these icky organisms.
A study shared by Dental Dental showed that about 70 percent of American adults brush their teeth twice a day. Unfortunately, this leaves more than a fourth of adults who do not.
Daily flossing is also recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA) as a preventative way to keep cavities and gum disease at bay. Still, an estimated 30 percent are committed to daily flossing – less than a third.
This means that a whopping 70 percent do not include flossing in their daily oral hygiene regimens. Too, about a third of Americans admit to never flossing, with 39 percent of men and 27 percent of women who do not.
Yet, the devotion of twice daily brushing and daily flossing requires only about 5 minutes of time – total. It is recommended to spend two minutes brushing teeth in the morning and before bed. A practiced flosser requires about a minute to floss. (Consider that five minutes is about the amount of time for a commercial break between TV programs.)
Yet, if you could see what I see…
As a periodontist, my specialty includes advanced training in the treatment of gum disease. I know the destructive nature of infectious oral bacteria. I have a bird’s eye view of what can occur without a committed oral hygiene routine at home. When an overload of bacteria accumulate in the mouth, cavities are able to form and gum tissues become food for living and breeding bacteria.
While brushing twice a day is important, the bristles of a toothbrush are typically unable to dislodge food particles caught between teeth. Left behind, these particles begin to rot rather quickly, leaving even more sustenance for bacterial growth and reproduction.
To see just how much your toothbrush misses, brush your teeth thoroughly for the recommended two minutes at the end of the day. Rinse and spit a couple of times. Then, using a strand of floss, move gently between teeth, easing up and down to reach the sides of all teeth. Move the floss just slightly beneath the gums at the base of each tooth. After all teeth are flossed, rinse and spit again. Most people are shocked at just how much their toothbrush failed to remove.
When oral bacteria amass past the point that is manageable by the immune system, these bacteria become infectious. This causes inflammation in the gum tissues, which can lead to the formation of periodontal (gum) disease. This begins with gingivitis, which has mild symptoms. Untreated, it worsens to periodontal disease and the advanced level of periodontitis.
It begins when oral bacteria accumulation creates a sticky film in the mouth known as plaque. When not removed thoroughly and frequently, plaque can form cement-hard bacteria colonies that attach to teeth. This hardened form of bacteria is known as tartar and, once formed, can no longer be brushed or flossed away.
As a Periodontist, I often see people who have developed periodontal disease who come (or have been referred) because they have obvious symptoms, such as red, swollen gums. However, I also see patients who are surprised to learn they have developed the disease. Yet, even without obvious symptoms, gum disease may exist and be fully underway.
Nearly half of American adults have some level of gum disease (over 47 percent in recent estimates). Periodontal (gum) disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss even though it’s one of the most preventable of all diseases with simple measures.
Losing natural teeth leaves an individual with having to make decisions for replacement – crown-&-bridge combination, partial denture, full denture or Dental Implant. These time-consuming procedures and expenses can be avoided. And, contrary to what many believe, losing teeth is not a natural part of the aging process. With proper care, you can easily enjoy a smile of natural teeth all your life.
It is often surprising to people to learn that oral health is an integral part of overall health. Inflammation in the mouth doesn’t simply remain in the mouth. Through tears in diseased gum tissues, the oral bacteria of gum disease are able to enter the bloodstream. As the bacteria travel throughout the body, their toxic nature can activate inflammatory effects elsewhere.
Infectious gum disease bacteria have been the focus of a numerous amount of research over the years. Studies have found that the bacteria of gum disease can trigger or worsen heart disease, stroke, preterm babies, arthritis, diabetes, some cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, erectile dysfunction (ED) and impotency. As research continues, even more serious (and deadly) connections are being made.
They key is to keep oral bacteria levels to a minimum, which is why brushing and flossing are an important part of your daily care routine. Neither step should be taken for granted. Yet, as a periodontal specialist, I understand how it can be difficult to get into the habit of daily flossing.
For some, the tight floss around fingers is uncomfortable. For others who have large fingers or problems with manual dexterity, the act of flossing is awkward or challenging. However, for those who floss on a daily basis, it becomes a maneuver that is as simple as brushing teeth.
For individuals who are challenged by manual flossing, there are some excellent water flossers on the market. These are affordable and can be just as effective as ‘string’ flossing when used properly – and daily.
Twice daily brushing (at least two minutes per time), daily flossing, drinking ample water and limiting sweets and caffeine are simple ways to keep your mouth healthy between regular dental check-ups and cleanings. And, those 6-month check-ups are important. During these visits, tartar that may have formed can be removed and signs of early gum disease can be addressed.
If you are experiencing symptoms of gum disease, call 828-274-9440. In our state-of-the-art Asheville periodontal dental office, our patients are treated with respect, compassion and a gentle touch. Here, you’ll never be lectured. Our goal is to restore your smile to a healthy state and develop a program to help you keep it at its best.
New patients are always welcome. A referral is not needed to become a patient.
Bad Breath – The “Body Odor” of the Mouth.
Posted on Mar 09, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
That may be our unspoken reaction when we encounter someone who’s breath odor reeks. And, we’ve all encountered it. It tends to leave a rather negative impression of the individual; one that ‘sticks’ with us every time we see him or her in the future.
Occasionally, I like to address the causes of bad breath since, at one time or another, it’s an issue for us all. Bad breath, like body odor, leaves an undesirable imprint.
Although some health conditions can be the source of bad breath, it most commonly occurs due to an overload of oral bacteria. Too many bacteria in the mouth create an odor — a sulfuric, putrid odor.
Bacteria are living organisms that eat, reproduce and emit waste. Their ability to reproduce is astounding, resulting in a consistently growing number of waste-producing creatures.
Poor oral hygiene is the most common cause for bad breath. Not brushing and flossing or doing so adequately allows oral bacteria to reproduce, which leads to plaque.
Plaque is the sticky film you feel on teeth when you’ve missed brushing or when you wake up. When not removed thoroughly on a daily basis, plaque turns into a cement-hard substance known as tartar. This mass is actually a solid colony of oral bacteria that attaches to teeth. In this form, it cannot be brushed or flossed away.
Tartar attacks enamel and gum tissues. As bacteria multiplies, it causes the gum tissues to become inflamed. This inflammation can quickly develop into gingivitis, an early form of gum disease. If not resolved fully, however, gingivitis can lead to full-blown periodontal (gum) disease.
Occasional bad breath is a nuisance but can generally be controlled with good oral hygiene, keeping our mouth moist and limiting sugar. Things like drinking sugary colas and a diet of high carbohydrate foods rev up bacteria reproduction even more, boosting their ability to grow and thrive.
However, frequent bad breath is not only embarrassing, it is a warning sign.
As one of the symptoms of periodontal (gum) disease, persistent bad breath may be accompanied by tender gums that bleed easily when brushing or tender, swollen areas around some teeth.
As gum disease advances, symptoms include gums that turn red in color and become sore, swollen and bleed easily when brushing. As it worsens, bad breath becomes persistent. Pus-filled pockets may develop near the base of some teeth. Eventually, teeth may loosen and require removal.
While what we consume can greatly contribute to the ability of these icky organisms’ ability to reproduce, a common one is having a dry mouth. This condition is known as xerostomia (zeer-o-STOE-me-uh).
Good saliva flow helps to keep bacteria moving out of the mouth. However, when brushing is infrequent or the mouth becomes dry, saliva is less able to manage the bacteria levels in the mouth.
A dry mouth may seem less likely to be a breeding ground for bacteria since they typically thrive in environments that are warm, moist, and dark. However, when saliva flow is unable to efficiently cleanse bacteria buildup from the mouth, they are easily able to reproduce.
Having ‘dry mouth’ is rather common today. In addition to a part of the aging process, a number of common medications (including anti-depressants, decongestants, and anti-histamines) have a side effect of oral dryness.
Too, many beverages contribute to having a dry mouth. These include colas, coffee, tea, and those containing alcohol. (Please note that colas are acidic and most contain caffeine. These are anything but ‘refreshing’, doing very little to hydrate the body. Stick to plain water to quench your thirst and add moisture to the body.)
Another way that oral bacteria can run rampant has to do with our oral hygiene routines. To be truly thorough in cleaning tooth surfaces, it is recommended to spend two minutes per brushing, twice a day (whether manual or electronic).
It is estimated that nearly a third of American adults brush their teeth for an insufficient amount of time. Even worse, about that same amount fail to brush twice a day. This means that an alarming amount of bacteria remain to grow and thrive in the mouth.
Proper brushing and flossing is necessary. Brush for at least two minutes twice daily and swish thoroughly. Use a circular motion rather than scrub teeth back and forth to avoid damaging tender gum tissues. Never use a hard bristle tooth brush or brush with harsh substances such as baking soda! These can wear down tooth enamel and wear away precious gum tissue.
You may be surprised to learn that brushing only tackles about half the amount of bacteria in the mouth, leaving a tremendous amount that continue to grow and thrive. The tongue actually harbors 58 – 65 percent of the bacteria in the ‘oral cavity’.
Oral bacteria love to take up housing in the tiny bumps and grooves of the tongue since they are not easily dislodged. Thus, it’s necessary that tongue cleaning be a part of your oral hygiene regimen at home to keep bacteria levels under control.
Some toothbrushes have a “tongue scraper” on the reverse side of the bristles that’s an effective option. Or, you can brush your tongue with the bristles after your teeth are brushed. Be sure to reach towards the back of the tongue where the majority of bacteria exist.
An advantage of achieving and maintaining a clean, healthy mouth is being confident when close to others. Plus, you’ll be contributing to the health and well-being of your entire body. Research has shown that a healthy mouth is a supportive component of a healthy you!
If you are experiencing symptoms of gum disease or concerned your breath is frequently bad, call 828-274-9440. We’ll arrange a periodontal exam in our comfortable Asheville periodontal office.
Here, we are committed to the comfort of each patient as well as those who have avoided dental care in the past due to fear. Dental fear is common, and we have a reputation for a gentle touch and respectful care. We also make oral and IV sedation (twilight sleep) available.
Let’s help you establish a healthy smile and feel confident in closeness!