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Let’s Talk About Your Breath.

Posted on Sep 28, 2023 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Who, me?

While many people may suspect their breath is less-than-fresh, most don’t realize that others are noticing. And, let’s face it – no one wants to be associated with bad breath.

Bad breath that is persistent, or halitosis, is not just the stale odor in your mouth when you wake up or the lingering scent of onions on a burger you had for lunch. Halitosis is typically a symptom that results from other conditions. While chewing gum and breath mints may temporarily improve the odor, going bad breath will continue until the root cause has been determined and treated.

I’ve often heard, “If you think you might have bad breath, you probably do.” To check your own breath, Colgate suggests: “Try the sniff test—there are a couple of ways to do it. If you lick your wrist, let it dry for a moment, then take a whiff, you should be able to get an idea if your breath has an odor too. Another method is to floss toward the back of your mouth, then smell the floss.”

If you feel bad breath is a constant problem, then halitosis is likely what needs to be the focus. And, where is it originating? Gum disease? GERD? Diabetes?

It may make you feel better to know that halitosis is actually fairly common. It is estimated to affect 1 in 4 people worldwide. It may be so common because the reasons it exists can vary widely. These can include:

• Poor oral hygiene – Without a thorough at-home oral hygiene routine, oral bacteria accumulate. At minimum, twice-daily brushing, flossing and 6-month dental cleanings are needed to keep harmful bacteria under control. If not, plaque forms, which is the sticky film that layers over teeth and gums. Plaque can harden into masses of bacteria known as tartar. Tartar can no longer be removed by brushing and flossing.

• Gum disease – The early stage of gum disease is gingivitis. This is an inflammation of gum tissues that cause gums to swell, become tender and bleed easily when brushing. Untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, which damages gum tissue and can lead to tooth and bone loss of the structures that support natural teeth.

• Dry mouth – Saliva is the mouth’s natural rinsing agent, removing food particles and bacteria from the mouth. Without adequate saliva flow, it can lead to halitosis. Smoking, certain medications, and some foods and beverages contribute to oral dryness.

• Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – This digestive disorder allows stomach acids to seep back into the esophagus, the tube that takes food from your mouth to your stomach.

• Nasal and airway infections – When congestive mucus from conditions like sinus infections and pneumonia are coughed up, a foul odor can emerge from the mouth.

• Diabetes – People with diabetes have a higher risk of gum disease. By the same token, gum disease can make it harder to manage diabetes because of increased blood sugar.

• Liver disease or kidney disease – The liver and kidneys are designed to filter toxins out of your body. When people have liver or kidney disease, these toxic substances aren’t being cleared out, resulting in halitosis.

• Sjögren’s syndrome – This autoimmune disease can lead to muscle pain, dry eyes, dry skin and dry mouth (which is often linked to halitosis).

• Head and neck cancers – Oral or throat cancers cause sores that don’t heal, mouth pain, difficulty swallowing, a lump in your neck and unexplained weight loss.

If you have bad breath that doesn’t go away, schedule an appointment with your dentist. If halitosis is due to poor oral hygiene, a dental cleaning or periodontal (gum) procedure should help. If you have healthy teeth and gums, then halitosis may be linked to an issue in another part of your body.

If halitosis is a symptom of another condition somewhere in your body, your primary healthcare provider can help you with proper diagnosis and treatment. Once your physician determines the cause of your halitosis, he or she can develop a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

However, if gum disease is the cause, a periodontist can help resolve your problem in the most conversative yet effective process possible. If gum disease is the cause for your halitosis, a procedure known as scaling and root planing may be advised. This helps to reach inflammatory bacteria that have moved down below the gum line.

Once your gums are restored to a healthy state, your periodontist may advise added at-home steps, such as a special mouthwash to combat certain bacteria in your mouth. However, proper oral hygiene is the best way to keep your breath smelling clean and fresh. Here are some general guidelines:

• Use an alcohol-free antibacterial mouthwash.

• See your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings. For some people, this may be every six months. But others may need more frequent visits to keep their oral health in check.

• Keeping a moist mouth is very important to oral hygiene. Drinking plenty of water during the day is advised. Colas, sweet tea, and energy drinks actually make dryness worse. You should also monitor the medications you take (both prescription and over-the-counter) and look for side effects that include oral dryness. And, smoking is one of the worst contributors of all to oral dryness.

• Proper brushing and flossing is necessary. Brush for at least two minutes twice daily and rinse 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!

• The tongue harbors a significantly high percentage of oral bacteria. After brushing, use a tongue scraper to uproot oral bacteria embedded in the grooves of the tongue. This will significantly lower bacteria levels. A study at the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine found that 80 to 90% of bad breath comes from bacteria on the tongue.

• Boost the production of saliva by using sugar-free chewing gum, sucking on sugar-free candy or eating healthy foods that require a lot of chewing. Your dentist might recommend or prescribe products that can produce artificial saliva or help your body produce saliva.

• Avoid alcohol, caffeine and tobacco products because they can dry out your mouth.

It is also important to know the signs of gum disease (bleeding or sore gums, persistent bad breath, receded gums, and/or gums that are red rather than a healthy pink). If these are present, it is important to see a periodontal specialist as soon as possible. Gum disease will only worsen without treatment. It can also allow infectious bacteria to enter the bloodstream, which research has linked to serious (and even deadly) health problems.

Call our Asheville periodontal dental office to schedule an examination or begin with a consultation. If fear or anxiety has prevented you from regular dental visits, we can discuss several options (including oral or IV sedation) to provide comfortable, relaxed appointments. Call 828-274-9440.




Oral Health & Tooth Loss Within America’s Aging Population

Posted on Sep 18, 2023 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

There are currently 54.1 million U.S. adults ages 65 and over; a number that is expected to grow to 95 million by 2060.

In 1900, the percentage of American adults over the age of 65 was just 4.1%. Today, that number has grown to nearly 16%. By 2040, the elderly adult population is estimated to be more than double the senior population of the year 2000.

Many baby boomers (Americans born between 1946 – 1964) will keep their teeth longer than any generation before, yet they continue to experience a preventable decline in oral health.

Common risk factors such as smoking, poor diet, a reduced capacity to care for one’s teeth and obtain professional dental care, and biological mechanisms – such as low salivary flow caused by medications – may contribute to tooth decay and tooth loss.

Periodontitis (advanced gum disease) is a prevalent oral disease in older adults. It is typically marked by inflammation of the gums and supporting structures of the teeth, resulting in sore and bleeding gums as well as painful chewing problems. Loss of the supporting structures of the teeth (including supportive bone) results from an imbalance of bacteria that exist in the space between the teeth and the gums. This leads to an inflammatory response that develops into periodontal disease.

As teeth lose support from their diseased foundation, mobility and tooth drifting can occur in addition to abscesses, which can ultimately result in tooth loss. As the disease intensifies, bone loss around affected teeth can advance with a worsening infection that can lead to serious health problems far beyond the mouth.

Periodontal disease is associated with chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, and dementia. Along with other challenges to maintaining good health, the prevalence of any periodontitis among older adults is high. Three in five older adults are affected, with prevalence higher in men and persons with low incomes. Four in five older adults who smoke cigarettes have some form of periodontitis.

The loss of all natural teeth, known as edentulism, reduces quality of life because it interferes with the ability to eat, speak, and feel comfortable among other people. Tooth loss also affects a person’s ability to consume nutritious food and can impact social involvement with others while consuming food.

Overall, 17% of adults 65 and older are edentulous. Fortunately, edentulism has declined over the years among older adults aged 65 to 74, from about 50% in the 1960s to 13% today.

Prevalence of total tooth loss among adults ages 65 and over is higher in both North and South Carolina than many other states, which is in the 16.6 – 26.3 percentage range. This compares to states like Illinois, Wisconsin and Utah, which are some states in the 6.2 – 11.3 percent range.

Having fewer than nine teeth is considered severe tooth loss and can cause major difficulties in eating a healthy diet of fresh and nutritious fruits, protein-rich meats and sufficient fiber. Without chewing comfort, strength and stability, food choices can result in either weight loss or obesity. Extensive tooth loss also detracts from physical appearance and impedes speech, another challenge to social contact and job prospects. This can also inhibit intimacy, lower self-esteem, and impact overall quality of life.

Another challenge for older adults is orofacial pain. Orofacial pain in older adults can originate inside the mouth from tooth-related or gum infections. It may also originate outside the mouth, such as pain in the jaw joint area, or face and cheeks. Orofacial pain often results from ill-fitting dentures or a microbial infection causing an inflammatory reaction known as denture stomatitis (an oral yeast or fungus condition)

Older adults also struggle with “dry mouth.” Dry mouth is surprisingly common – an estimated 35 million U.S. adults may have this condition, known as xerostomia. Common causes include medications, autoimmune disease, systemic diseases, and as a result of head and neck irradiation.

Drugs are by far the most common risk factors for chronic dry mouth. Nearly 9 in 10 (89%) adults aged 65 and older take prescription medicine. More than half (54%) report taking four or more prescription drugs. The drugs most consistently implicated in “dry mouth” are antidepressants, diuretics, beta blockers, bronchodilators, and antihistamines.

High-risk behaviors are generally less common among older adults than in younger age groups. About 9% of those 65 years and older reported that they were current smokers, and 8% reported excessive alcohol consumption (having five or more drinks in one day at least once in the past year). Cannabis use also is on the rise among seniors although it remains less than 5%.

The problems associated with poor oral health and tooth loss extend greatly to other areas of the body. Oral bacteria and their toxins can spread into the bloodstream through ulcerated or inflamed tissues during chewing, routine oral hygiene, and dental procedures. In weakened gum tissues, even the act of tooth brushing can open up entry points for bacteria plaque and gingival inflammation in the bloodstream.

In addition, the presence of oral bacteria or their toxins may induce inflammatory responses, which can prompt insulin resistance. Oral bacteria can reach tissues in the lung, heart, gut, placenta, joints, and even the brain. They have been associated with infective endocarditis, and chronic inflammation may contribute to systemic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Obviously, there are many causes for oral health challenges, all having a detrimental effect on quality of life to some extent. We want to help the residents of Western North Carolina enjoy their retirement years with a healthy, confident smile and oral health that supports good overall health.

First, know the signs and symptoms of periodontal (gum) disease, which include:

• Swollen or puffy gums
• Gums that turn red, dark red or dark purple gums
• Gums that are tender or bleed easily
• Seeing blood when brushing or flossing
• Persistent bad breath
• Pus pockets that form between teeth and gums

When periodontal disease exists, it is important to know that this will not go away without treatment. Once this infection is underway, it will only worsen, leading to more painful symptoms and even eventual tooth loss.

If you have signs of gum disease, see a periodontal specialist as soon as possible. In addition to lowering the risk of tooth loss, a periodontist can help you lower the risks of gum disease’s infectious bacteria in the bloodstream, which research has linked to serious (and even deadly) health problems.

Call our Asheville periodontal dental office to schedule a consultation. If fear or anxiety has prevented you from regular dental visits, we can discuss several options (including oral or IV sedation) to provide comfortable, relaxed appointments. Call 828-274-9440.



Common Contributors to Tooth Loss

Posted on Sep 11, 2023 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Our natural teeth seem hard and solid, able to endure much over the span of a lifetime. However, as we all know, teeth can be knocked out due to accidents or injury and lost due to becoming overly decayed, fractured, infected and – the leading cause – periodontal (gum) disease.

Your gum tissues serve as protection for the tooth structures you cannot see – the tooth roots and bone and tissues supporting the roots. And, teeth need these bone structures to stay healthy and vice versa; the bone structures beneath the gums need the presence of the roots to stay healthy.

The jaw bones are kept healthy by tooth roots that provide stimulation to the bone as well as nourishment that runs through the tooth’s interior.

When a tooth is removed, so is the stimulation and nourishment to that area of the jaw bone. Without it, the bone begins to shrink. As it declines in height, adjacent teeth are more vulnerable to loss. Statistics show that teeth adjacent to areas where natural teeth are missing will be the most likely to be lost next.

According to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), 69% of adults between ages 35 – 44 have lost at least one permanent tooth. By age 50, Americans are missing an average of 12 teeth. For adults between the ages of 65 – 74, 26% are missing all of their natural teeth. That’s over one-fourth of the adult population over age 65.

Because of the strength and seemingly rock-solid presence of teeth, it may be assumed they’ll last for a lifetime. And, they can. Natural teeth can and should last a lifetime with proper maintenance and care. However, certain things can contribute to tooth loss; some of these may not be well known.

These include:

GUM DISEASE – Signs and symptoms of gum disease 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

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.

NOT FLOSSING – While tooth brushing helps to keep oral bacteria levels in the mouth to manageable levels, daily flossing is also recommended as a preventative way to keep cavities and gum disease at bay. Still, 70% of the American adult population do not floss daily. Even worse, about a third of Americans admit to never flossing (39% of men and 27% of women who do not).

SMOKING – According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), a smoker has twice the risk for gum disease compared with that of a nonsmoker. (

AGING – With age, the body becomes less efficient in maintaining itself. Due to hormone changes and being less hydrated, joints wear down, skin loses subtlety and muscle mass and strength declines. The same is true with teeth, especially as gum tissues dry out. This means their tight, protective grip around the base of teeth loosens and pockets can easily for between teeth. All these factors contributor to higher risks of gum disease and tooth loss.

ORAL DRYNESS – The tissues inside the mouth need to be kept moist. Saliva flow is designed to do this. However, with age, the flow of saliva is less plentiful. Just as the skin and hair get drier with age, the mouth endures this same consequence. When saliva flow is less efficient at rinsing bacteria from the oral cavity (inside of the mouth), bacteria grow at a more rapid rate. This means bacteria accumulation occurs more frequently than twice-a-day brushing can control.

MEDICATIONS – The average adult in the 65-79 age group has over 27 prescriptions filled each year. ( Many meds have the side effect of oral dryness or increased bleeding, including some herbal supplements. For example, Ginkgo Biloba and Vitamin E can act as blood thinners. When combined with aspirin, the combination may cause difficulties in blood clotting.

To halt the potential for tooth loss if you are already missing teeth, dental implants are recommended. They actually protect the health of neighboring teeth. In addition to helping the supportive bone structures retain bone mass, teeth supported by implants do not rely on the support of crowned (or ‘capped’) teeth on both sides. This means the integrity of adjacent teeth is preserved.

Dental implants come in over 40 different types designed to accommodate various challenges and preferences. This is one reason (of many) that a periodontist is an ideal choice for the diagnosis and placement of your implants. Our speciality understands the complete spectrum of implant systems. While some implant systems may be ideal for your needs, others may not. And, the choice of which will achieve your goals is not limited to just those types a non-specialist knows how to place.

For example, some dental implants provide you with a non-removable (“fixed”) option while others may involve removable teeth. Additionally, the proper selection of your dental implants may greatly save you in treatment fees.

For example, the All-On-4 dental implant system needs only 4 implants per arch, and can be placed in shallow bone. The treatment fees are less since the number of implants is low and the need for bone regeneration for severe bone loss may not be required. For these reasons, a periodontist may be able to help you achieve your tooth replacement goals within a budget you can manage.

Our Western NC periodontal dental office features some of the industry’s most advanced technology, which helps to optimize success rates, shorten treatment time, and enhance comfort. This includes 3-D Cone Beam imaging, which is ideal for diagnoses and treatment planning. These amazing images provide a clear view of the upper and lower jaw (including nerve canals) in a process that is quick, painless and at minimal radiation levels.

We also have a computerized Dental Implant Placement system for pre-surgical positioning of dental implants. Using a 3D model of the patient’s jaw, a template is developed for the most conservative treatment process needed, even for complex cases. This minimizes disruption of gum tissues and targets implant placement at ideal depths and angles.

Because we make patient comfort one of our highest priorities, we offer several sedation options, including oral and IV sedation. Oral sedation is a pill that helps patients relax. It also has an amnesiac effect, leaving most with little or no memory of treatment afterward. I.V. sedation (also known as “twilight sleep”) places the patient in a deeper sleep state and erases memory of the procedure. It is administered by a Medical Doctor (MD) who is a board certified Anesthesiologist.

If you have lost teeth (or struggle with a denture or partial) and are considering dental implants, begin with a consultation appointment. Call 828-274-9440. New patients are always welcome.