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.

How the “Bad” Bacteria in the Mouth Can Lead To Serious Health Problems

Posted on Aug 08, 2023 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

The human body is a fascinating structure. It seems every year there are new findings that show just how complex and amazing it is.

Recently, one of the biggest areas of interest has been the study of microbiome in the body. Once thought to be icky little cesspools, these colonies of microorganisms are now seen as having an important role in our health. For example, the microbiome in the gut has been shown to aid in digestion and it’s now seen that skin microbiome may potentially help people overcome conditions like acne and eczema.

As a periodontist, I’ve followed research in how microbiome is being recognized for having a positive role in oral health. While bacteria that convert sugar to acid are the driving force behind tooth decay, this means that those critters in our mouths are not always bad guys.

There are about 700 different species of bacteria in your mouth. Some can be “bad,” yet the good bacteria are able to give our overall health a “leg up” in certain regards.

Certainly, having a clean, healthy mouth helps to prevent cavities and periodontal (gum) disease. However, read on to learn how the health of your mouth can contribute to your overall health to a rather significant extent.

Over the years, numerous studies have been able to pinpoint how diseases – such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and more – might be triggered. The “trigger” seems to consistently link back to internal inflammation.

Inflammation in the body has been shown to set actions into play that cause the onset or worsening of a wide variety of health problems. Periodontal (gum) disease is a chronic inflammatory disease. This means the bacteria attacking gum tissues are in a consistently active state.

When the bacteria of gum disease enter the bloodstream (through tears in weakened gum tissues), it can create inflammatory triggers far beyond the mouth. This bloodborne inflammation, in turn, results in higher risks for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, preterm babies, arthritis, respiratory diseases and even impotency.

How can this occur?

In chronic inflammation, the body’s defense mechanism becomes stuck in the ‘on’ position. This sets off a chain of reactions that alter the helpful response of the immune to a harmful one. When an area in the body stays in an inflammatory setting, damaging reactions can occur.

Once in the bloodstream, several species of harmful gum disease bacteria can add to existing inflammation, including that in the arteries, where it can lead to heart attack and stroke.

In one study of 265 stroke patients, researchers found that patients with gum disease had twice as many strokes (due to thickening and hardening of brain arteries) as patients without. Additionally, patients with gum disease were three times as likely to have a stroke involving blood vessels in the back of the brain, which controls vision, coordination and other functions.

In a separate study of over 1,100 patients who had not experienced a stroke, researchers noted that 10% had severely blocked brain arteries. They also found that patients with gum inflammation were twice as likely to have moderately severe narrowing of brain arteries.

Another example is in the similarities between tissues of gum disease and those taken from arthritic joints. Studies show that gum disease is not only a risk factor for arthritis (both are inflammatory diseases), one can contribute to the other. Thus, gum disease is a risk factor for developing RA and arthritic patients have a greater risk for gum disease.

Additionally, people with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease than people without it, likely because they’re more susceptible to contracting infections overall, according to the American Academy of Periodontology.

Studies also show that pregnant women with periodontal disease have a greater risk of having pre-term and low birth weight babies. These indications have been found in amniotic fluid and in fetal cord blood samples of infants.

Findings show, too, that the bacteria of periodontal disease may contribute to a higher risk of pancreatic cancer. For years, researchers at the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society have conducted cancer prevention and screening studies.

By studying oral samples, notably higher levels of two types of oral bacteria were measured in study participants with pancreatic cancer. One oral bacteria was found to create a 50% increased risk for pancreatic cancer and the second oral bacteria led to a 59% greater likelihood.

Chronic inflammation, in any area of the body, is a health risk that poses severe health challenges now highly recognized in the medical field. Not surprisingly, we occasionally see patients who have been advised by their surgeons to have their gum health checked prior to surgery. This proactive measure is to reduce risk factors that could complicate surgical outcome.

Your body’s natural defenses along with good oral hygiene — such as daily brushing and flossing — helps to keep bacteria under control. Also, people should readily recognize the signs and symptoms of periodontal disease.

Healthy gums fit snugly around the base of teeth and be a light pink color. Although the initial stage of gum disease (gingivitis) may exist without obvious symptoms, common signs of gum disease include:

• Swollen or puffy gums
• Bright red or purplish gums
• Gums that feel tender or bleed easily
• Spitting out blood when brushing or flossing
• Frequent or persistent bad breath
• Pus pockets between some teeth and gums
• Loose teeth or a change in the way teeth fit
• Painful chewing
• Gums that pull away from teeth or are sensitive to heat and/or cold

Maintaining good at-home oral hygiene is easy and takes just minutes a day. Brush twice a day (two minutes each time) and floss daily. Drink plenty of plain water throughout the day and limit sugar. Have dental cleanings every six months and follow your dental hygienist’s recommendations to keep oral bacteria at minimal levels between visits.

If you suspect you have gum disease or have delayed (or avoided) having regular dental care, call our Asheville periodontal dental office to schedule an examination. Or, ask to begin with a consultation appointment. During this time, we can discuss any concerns and I’ll answer your questions. Call 828-274-9440.

Let’s help you achieve a healthy, confident smile that adds to the well-being of your overall health!


AI in Dentistry – A Good Thing.

Posted on Jul 05, 2023 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

I remember when microwave ovens first appeared on the market. My mom wouldn’t even go near one in operation. Now, we know how to use them and the good things that come from their use.

Shoot forward 50 years and, like it or not, AI (artificial intelligence) is here. Self driving cars and round vacuums that move along floors are no longer Jetson-like imaginings. They’re blending into our lives in ways that are beneficial and non-threatening.

Like the microwave oven easing its way into day-to-day living, it’s logical that some people fear AI as a bad thing. After all, movies made decades ago prompted a vision of robots meandering among the human race as a new, threatening species.

As an Asheville periodontist, I’ve already seen – and incorporated in use – the positive aspects of breakthrough technology. Understanding its detection capabilities and accuracy, I’m particularly excited about the potential AI brings to the medical and dental fields.

You may be surprised to know that dentists are already beginning to turn to AI technology to quickly and accurately detect and prevent periodontitis, decay, bone loss and other gum health issues.

For example, a medical technology company in Boston has developed an AI platform that can assess X-ray images to an extent of over 50 times what can be detected by dentists through visual reviews. This allows dentists to give more effective treatment recommendations for patients while supporting the potential to avoid (or minimize) existing problems from developing or worsening.

For patients, AI assessments can also be reassuring. For those who anticipate particular treatment needs – a root canal, for instance – these assessments can zero in on exact issues so treatment planning is as conservative and as minimal possible, while being fully effective for the particular need.

Not just in medical and dental offices, but we’ll likely see AI used mainstream in many sectors. It can optimize accuracy in organizational materials, financial and budget projections, construction, farming, etc. For those of us in the periodontal dental field, AI has a vast potential to greatly improve the oral – and overall – health of our population.

Gum disease affects over 47% of American adults. With the help of AI, we can identify a higher percentage of cavities in earliest development stages while cutting the rate of misdiagnosis in half (thus curtailing over-treatment, in some cases). AI analysis will also aid in early detection of abscesses, lesions and oral diseases. It can prove to be a remarkable asset in catching oral cancer, helping to increase its poor survival rate or minimize the severity of treatment.

Through decades of research and extensive studies, keeping good oral health has been shown to be a supporting factor in good overall health. By keeping the “bad” bacteria in the mouth to manageable levels, the immune system operates more efficiently. Too, risk of medical complications from diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses can be significantly decreased.

It is suspected that many people are unaware that they even have periodontal (gum) disease, mainly because gum disease often begins with no obvious symptoms of its presence. Then, once symptoms appear (such as seeing blood in the sink when brushing), people may shrug this off as normal, or merely a sign they are being thorough in their brushing technique.

Gum disease is a particular problem for our aging population. The normal aging process dries out our hair, skin, and yes, the mouth. When the mouth is dry and saliva flow is insufficient, bacteria accumulation is more likely. This, in turn, provides a more welcoming environment for bacteria growth.

Too, many medications on the market – both prescription and OTC – have a side effect or oral dryness. This is double trouble for seniors, who already have “dry mouth” to combat. However, for people who smoke and/or are consumers of caffeine, they fall into this risk group as well.

Caffeine is present in coffee, tea, most colas, and (darn!) even chocolate. It can be in high concentrations in things like energy drinks and “power” bars. Caffeine-fortified foods can surprisingly include marshmallows, some cereals (and breakfast bars), jelly beans, gummy bears and frozen waffles.

Although AI will be an added perk to diagnosing oral health problems, it is the dentist and the patient together who have much more important roles. While regular dental check-ups help to remove existing buildup on teeth (known as plaque, which can harden into tartar), at-home care is what helps to prevent problems between visits.

It is first important to know the signs and symptoms of the various stages of gum disease. Warning signs include:

• Red, swollen, or tender gums or other pain in your mouth
• Bleeding while brushing, flossing, or eating hard food
• Gums that recede or pull away from the base of teeth
• Loose or separating teeth
• Pockets of pus between gums and teeth
• Sores in the mouth
• Persistent bad breath
• A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
• A change in the fit of partial dentures

The dentist-patient relationship can never be replaced by AI. Once you find a dental office where you feel respected, comfortable, and have total confidence, technology itself is merely an add-on.

If you have not had regular dental care or feel you have symptoms of gum disease (as listed above), it is recommended that you renew your commitment to your smile and your overall health with a complete periodontal dental examination.

During this time, your periodontist will note any areas that are diseased or at risk of developing such. He or she will explain recommended treatment and discuss a comfortable pace for your individual needs. Payment plans can also be discussed after determining the type of treatment most appropriate for your care.

If dental fear or anxiety has kept you from regular dental care, our NW Carolina periodontal dental office has a reputation for helping adults overcome the obstacles it can pose. Please share your concerns prior to or during your examination appointment. We offer several comfort options (in addition to our reputation for a gentle touch) and can explain what may be best for your care. We offer oral and IV sedation (twilight sleep), which are administered safely and with advanced monitoring equipment.

Too, our vast array of advanced technology often helps to minimize treatment while optimizing comfort. Please learn more about these features at: BiltmorePerio-Technology

We can’t stop progress, nor should we resist it. While most anything can be used with ill-will, I see AI in dentistry as a positive part of providing exceptional oral health to our patients – and our adult population!

But first, we must get you into the office. And that’s your decision. We don’t have technology to coax you in and hope you will take that step on your own before problems force you into a dental chair (which is often the case, unfortunately).

Call 828-274-9440 for an appointment or to have your initial questions answered.



Amazing Technology In Treating Gum Disease

Posted on May 09, 2023 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Recently, an episode of the CBS News’ television program “60 Minutes” provided an in-depth update on the development of prosthetic limbs. Now “robotic” in description, advancements are making it possible for people with spinal cord injuries and amputations to control prosthetic limbs with their minds, including grasping objects.

What is miraculous, however, is how these advanced prosthetics can also restore a sense of touch to their brains. The decades-long project is due in most part to the Defense Department.

Technology today is remarkable. Advancements are moving forward at an impressively accelerating pace. We are witnesses to the the repair and rejuvenation of bodily parts in almost a “good as new” state. This is also true in the area of dental technology.

A periodontist is often a “behind the scenes” dental specialist, working with general dentists and various other dental specialists. While periodontists may be in the background, they stay busy. In addition to treating all stages of gum disease, these specialists have advanced skills in the placement of dental implants.

It is estimated that over 47% of American adults have some level of periodontal (gum) disease. This disease is the nation’s number one cause of adult tooth loss. However, gum health needs to be seen by the general population as a vital player in one’s overall health.

The destruction of periodontal disease is not just confined to the mouth. It spreads. Gum disease destroys bone structures below the gums. These structures are the upper and lower jaw bones, which support natural tooth roots.

The jaw bones are actually kept healthy by the presence of tooth roots. These roots provide stimulation to the bone as well as nourishment that feeds through the tooth’s interior.

By holding their roots securely, the jaw bones provide natural teeth with a sturdy foundation. This enables the ability to bite and chew comfortably and dependably.

However, when a natural tooth is lost, so is the stimulation and nourishment to that area of the jaw bone. Without it, the bone begins to shrink. As it declines in mass, the 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. This creates somewhat of a domino effect.

Dental implants were designed to recreate the presence of natural teeth both above and below the gum line. Because teeth attached to dental implants are supported by the jaw bones, the study foundation as was had by natural teeth is restored, along with the ability to bite and chew without movement or embarrassment when dentures (or partials) slip.

In addition to tooth loss, gum disease is a serious health threat. Although people are often aware of the issues that come with wearing dentures and partial, many are not familiar with the health problems associated with gum disease bacteria.

This infectious bacteria of gum disease are capable of causing inflammatory reactions elsewhere in the body. Systemic inflammation is the now-known epicenter of a number of major health problems, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, impotency and more.

Whether the patient’s need is the restoration of gum health or the replacement of missing teeth, the advanced skills of a periodontist can be highly advantageous. Through their unique understanding, they can help to minimize treatment time and complexity of treatment.

In our Asheville NC periodontal dental office, we feature some of the most advanced imaging and computerized technology available in the industry. These include:

LANAP Protocol Using PerioLase MVP-7: Efficiently and effectively treats periodontitis (advanced gum disease) with laser technology. It causes very little discomfort and has a quick recovery time. This has also been found to stimulate bone regrowth in damaged areas.

Dental Radiology With 3-D Cone Beam Technology: This imaging is ideal for diagnosis and treatment planning. The imaging covers the entire dentition area with clear views of the mandible and maxilla (upper and lower jaw).

CareStream Cone Beam Computer Tomography Imaging: This computerized tomography provides imaging in exceptional detail and range.

CS 3600 intraoral scanner: Patients no longer have to endure having impressions made with bulky, gloopy trays held in their mouths! This quickly and comfortably scans the mouth’s interior for digital impressions using a small, handheld scanner. It can also reach difficult–to–access areas in the patient’s mouth with improved patient comfort.

Simplant Dental Software for Computerized Dental Implant Placement: This system helps in pre-surgical positioning of dental implants on the computer, using a 3D model of the patient’s jaw. This aids in the selection of the implant type that ensures a precision fit.

Intraoral Camera Technology: This provides outstanding quality of images within the mouth. These images are sent to screen for a clear, crisp view so we can confer with patients on specific treatment issues.

Computer Imaging In Treatment Suites: Treatment suites are equipped with computers for convenient image sharing with patients.

Advanced Sterilization: Our custom sterilization unit adheres to (or exceeds) CDC guidelines for instrument processing protocols, particularly in the cleaning of instruments.

Fully-Equipped Surgical Suites: Relax during treatment while surrounded by beautiful mountain views of Asheville.

My staff and I also take great pride in providing patients with optimal comfort, along with an environment of respect. Some adults comes to us embarrassed by the condition of their oral health or missing teeth. Here, we strive to make patients feel they are not only in the right hands, but they are in the right place.

Comfort is supported by our sedation options. These include oral and I.V. sedation. Also referred to as “twilight sleep” or “sleep dentistry,” these sedatives are administered by skilled professionals who utilize advanced safety monitoring equipment.

I believe that the rampant number of people who have gum disease in the U.S. is largely in part due to being unaware of the symptoms. Some are easily ignored or “brushed off” as normal.

This is why it is important to be familiar with the signs and symptoms, which include:

• Red, swollen or tender gums or other pain in your mouth
• Bleeding while brushing, flossing, or when eating certain foods
• Gums that are receding (pulling away from the teeth) or make the appear teeth longer than normal
• Loose or separating teeth
• Pus between your gums and teeth
• Sores in your mouth
• Persistent bad breath
• A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
• A change in the fit of partial dentures

If you have any of these, you are urged to seek periodontal care as soon as possible. This disease will only worsen without treatment.

Call 828-274-9440 to schedule a consultation in our state-of-the-art Asheville periodontal dental office.

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