You CAN Avoid Gum Disease – Know How It Forms & Easy Prevention Tips

Posted on Dec 14, 2018 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

I know of so many friends and family members who have avoided or minimized serious health problems (and perhaps even death) by taking preventive measures when it comes to their health. Annual screenings (such as mammograms, prostate checks, pap smears, and colonoscopies, to name a few) have enabled countless people to simply treat or avoid serious conditions and get back to their lives and loved ones.

When we “take charge” of our health, we can also avoid the time and expense required for treating problems that could have been prevented in the first place. For example, not smoking helps us avoid the risk of many cancers and respiratory diseases. Eating a healthy diet and regular exercise lowers our risk for heart disease.

I believe that when people know what to do to avoid problems, they can be proactive in their health. This is especially true for periodontal (gum) disease. What I find is that many individuals are simply not familiar with effective prevention measures nor the signs and symptoms of this infectious disease.

People are often surprised to learn that gum disease first begins without obvious symptoms. Even when it’s fully underway, the warning signs are often ignored or deemed “normal.” For instance, seeing blood in the sink when brushing is a sign that the gums are weak and inflamed, even though some people assume this means they’re doing a good job. (BTW, you should NEVER see blood in the sink when brushing!)

The path that leads to gum disease can easily be bypassed, however. The process of how it forms and progresses is:

•  Oral Bacteria Overload: Bacteria in our mouths is unavoidable. It is on our food, utensils, the glasses we drink from and the pencil we hold between our teeth. Because the mouth is a warm, dark, and moist environment, it offers an ideal setting for bacterial growth. Although certain bacteria levels are manageable through brushing, flossing, and saliva flow, problems begin when too much bacteria accumulate and remain in the mouth.

•  Plaque: Without regular brushing, flossing, sufficient saliva flow, and low-sugar diet, oral bacteria can reproduce rapidly. Their accumulation can quickly form a sticky film that you feel on teeth (a ‘fuzzy’ feeling), known as plaque.

•  Tartar (or Calculus): In just 48 hours, plaque can harden on teeth. This is known as tartar (or calculus) and is actually a cement-hard mass of oral bacteria. Like plaque, tartar will continually grow as the bacteria reproduce. Their destruction includes boring into tooth enamel and eating away at gum tissues.

•  Gingivitis: This is actually the first phase of gum disease. At this stage, gum tissues are under attack and become sore. It can cause the gums to bleed when brushing and gum tenderness. You may experience an aching sensation in some areas. Your breath will be bad more often. By taking proper measures as soon as you notice these symptoms, the gums can be restored to a healthy state. However, there is a fine line between being able to undo gingivitis and its progression to gum disease.

•  Gum Disease: At this level, the gums are inflamed and tender and red rather than a healthy pink color. Your breath will be unpleasant on a consistent basis. The gums may also begin to pull away from the base of some teeth, exposing sensitive tooth root areas. As the inflammation progresses, pus pockets may form at the base of some teeth. Without treatment, teeth will loosen as the bacteria destroy the structures that support tooth roots. Eventually, tooth removal may be required.

Almost half of American adults have some level of periodontal disease, which is also the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss. Yet, it’s one of the most preventable diseases with simple measures.

It has also been found that the bacteria of gum disease can enter the bloodstream, triggering systemic inflammation. Gum disease has been linked to a long list of serious health problems. These include heart disease, some cancers (including prostate, lung, and pancreatic cancers), stroke, preterm babies, arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and erectile dysfunction (ED).

Twice daily brushing (at least two minutes each time), daily flossing, drinking plenty of water, and limiting sweets and caffeine (including colas, tea, and coffee) are simple ways to keep your mouth healthy between regular dental check-ups and cleanings. Remember that your 6-month check-ups are very important. During these visits, any tartar that has accumulated can be removed and signs of early gum disease can be noted – and promptly resolved.

These simple steps can help you avoid the discomfort of gum disease as well as the devastation of losing your teeth and having to decide on replacement. These procedures – and the expense – can be avoided. And, contrary to what some people believe, losing teeth is NOT a natural part of the aging process. With proper care, you can easily enjoy a smile of natural teeth throughout your lifetime.

If you are experiencing symptoms of gingivitis or periodontal disease, call our Asheville periodontal office at 828-274-9440. As a periodontist, I have specialized skills to restore your oral health and customize a program to help you keep it at its best.

Being Overweight Can Make You More Susceptible To Gum Disease.

Posted on Oct 22, 2018 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

An alarming percentage of Americans are more than just fat, they are obese. Obesity is when body mass index is 30 or greater. According to the Centers For Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of adults in the U.S. who are categorized as obese was 39.8 percent in 2015~2016. (

This means that nearly one-third of an obese adult is made up of fat. And, it’s not just our country that suffers from toting an excessive load of weight. In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that approximately 600 million obese adults were obese with numbers expected to rise due to high-calorie diets and sedentary lifestyles.

An oft-unknown side effect of obesity is chronic inflammation, which has been found to exacerbate other inflammatory disorders, including periodontitis (advanced gum disease). The systemic effect of obesity seems to trigger a predisposition to a variety of serious health conditions. In addition to a higher risk for periodontal disease, these include Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

These findings are nothing new, however. Over a decade ago, the Journal of Dental Research reported that “The possible causal relationship between obesity and periodontitis and potential underlying biological mechanisms remain to be established; however, the adipose tissue actively secretes a variety of cytokines and hormones that are involved in inflammatory processes, pointing toward similar pathways involved in the pathophysiology of obesity, periodontitis, and related inflammatory diseases.” (

As research continues to study the cause-&-effect, Periodontists have learned that obese patients have a 6 times higher potential to develop periodontal (gum) disease. While the role of a periodontal specialist is to tend to the oral well-being of patients regardless of their BMI, addressing this higher risk with obese individuals can be a sensitive issue.

Losing weight is not easy. And, research has even 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 path to shedding pounds even more difficult.

For instance, studies have shown that sugar can be addictive. Sugar consumption even activates the same regions in the brain that react to cocaine. Giving up sugar to the recommended 6 teaspoons per day limit can be rather challenging for those who have a “sweet tooth.” (

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.” (

As difficult as losing weight can be, it is important to be aware of risk factors that can make you more vulnerable to gum disease, which is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss. Early symptoms include gums that are tender, swollen, and may bleed easily when brushing teeth. This stage is known as gingivitis, which can be reversed with prompt and thorough oral hygiene measures.

As it 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 form on gums and teeth may loosen, eventually requiring removal.

There is no doubt that an association between obesity and periodontal disease exists. Overweight adults should take special precautions to maintain good oral health, both at home and through regular dental check-ups. This is particularly important since the bacteria of gum disease has been linked to serious health problems because of its ability to trigger inflammatory reactions. 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 paramount that you be seen by a periodontist promptly 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.

Call 828-274-9440 to schedule an initial examination and consultation.

Gum Health Is A Factor In Sexual Health For Men

Posted on Oct 15, 2018 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Men in their 30s who suffer with severe periodontal (gum) disease are 3 times more likely to have erection problems, according to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. (

This supports previous research that shows links between periodontal disease and heart disease, a common contributor to erectile dysfunction. Although solid findings have not found the connection points of cause-&-effect, the association is thought to be related to inflammation brought on by gum disease bacteria.

These are all valid reasons that men should take an active role in the health of their teeth and gums before other areas of the body are affected. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention estimate that nearly half of U.S. adults have periodontal disease. Of that, 56 percent of males have gum disease and over 38 percent of females have some level of it.

Other areas where periodontal health has been associated with the status of men’s health, in particular, include prostate health, heart disease, impotence and cancer. For example, research has found that men with a history of gum disease are 14 percent more likely to develop cancer than men with healthy gums. Additionally, 59 percent  of men are more likely to develop pancreatic cancer with 49 percent more likely to develop kidney cancer  and 30 percent more likely to develop blood cancer (such as leukemia).

Periodontal disease, according to numerous research, is now found to be associated with a long list of serious health problems. In addition to those listed above, it has been linked to arthritis, diabetes, preterm babies, erectile dysfunction (ED) and even Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, gum disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss.

Gum disease is one of the easiest of all diseases to avoid. Twice daily brushing and dail flossing take only minutes per day. Having 6-month dental check-ups and cleanings are structured to help you maintain healthy gums and be cavity free between visits. And, if problems do exist, they can be caught early so treatment needs will be minimal.

Men can do a better job of protecting their overall health by keeping their gums healthy. It is also important to know the symptoms of gum disease. These include gums that bleed when brushing, sore or swollen spots on gums, persistent bad breath, and gums that are red rather than a healthy pink color.

If you have any of these symptoms, call (828) 274-9440 or tap here to schedule an examination appointment as soon as possible. Gum disease will only worsen without treatment.

Suffer From Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)? Why To Make Good Oral Health A Priority.

Posted on Jul 23, 2018 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a painful, debilitating disease. It is primarily known to destroy joints but can also affect internal organs (including heart, lungs, and kidneys). Although more common in older adults, RA can occur in younger ages as well, including adolescents and children.

For most people, the symptoms of RA begin with morning stiffness along with weak and aching muscles. As it worsens, joints become sore and stiff, most often affecting the fingers, wrists, elbows, hips, knees, ankles, toes, and neck.

An inflammatory disease, RA can further lead to swelling in the joints, disfigurement of the hands and feet, and numbness and tingling in the extremities. While there is no cure for RA, its discomfort and progression can be eased through medications, physical therapy, or surgery.

Like RA, periodontal (gum) disease is an inflammatory disease. And, like RA, gum disease causes pain, swelling, and tenderness. As it worsens, the inflammation can extend beyond the gums and attack the bone structures supporting the teeth as well as surrounding tissues.

For years, research has been following the close connection between RA and gum disease. They’ve even noted that gum disease and RA share a genetic likeness, having similar pathogen structures ( agents that cause disease or illness). Another close similarity is in the formation process of both gum disease and RA.

And, the similarities between the two diseases continue further. While both conditions cause chronic inflammation in tissues that connect to bone, researchers have found the particular species of bacteria in each of nearly identical makeup.

A recent study has shown that people who are deemed “at risk” for RA have noteably higher incidences of gum disease. In the study, gum disease was diagnosed in 73 percent of individuals shown to have RA-associated antibodies before any evidence of joint disease (versus 38 percent of individuals without the antibody marker for RA). This suggests they originate from a site outside of the joints.

Perhaps from bacteria in the mouth? Based on its genetic similarities, this would be a logical conclusion.

The study, presented at the 2018 Annual European Congress of Rheumatology, took age, gender, and smoking into consideration.  (

Previous studies support this connection, even showing how a particular pathogen associated with periodontal disease activates the same destructive process of RA. On a positive note, research has shown that the successful treatment of gum disease can improve RA symptoms, which likely lessens the body’s inflammatory load.

A periodontal specialist has advanced training in the treatment of all stages of gum disease (as well as in the diagnosis and placement of dental implants). As a periodontist, it is troubling to know that nearly half of American adults have some level of gum disease. (

For our nation’s health, this poses a particular challenge since research continually reveals close connections between the bacteria of periodontal disease and serious health conditions. For example, research has linked gum disease to heart disease, stroke, memory loss, preterm babies, diabetes, some cancers (including pancreatic and lung cancer), Alzheimer’s disease, and impotency — in addition to its connections to RA.

I believe the prevalence of gum disease is mainly due to how its symptoms can go easily ignored until it’s potent bacteria are running rampant. By the time the disease is well underway, gum disease bacteria can have penetrated weakened gum tissues and entered the blood stream. This is how it is able to trigger inflammatory reactions that can reach far beyond the mouth.

When gum disease begins (due to an over-accumulation of oral bacteria), it causes the gums to become sore and often bleed when brushing. As the disease progresses, it can lead to persistent bad breath and gum tissues that darken in color. Untreated, pus pockets may form at the base of teeth and teeth can loosen. In advanced stages, teeth may require removal. Gum disease is the nation’s main reason for adult tooth loss.

The findings of research is indisputable in this: Our oral health is intricately connected to our overall health. As more adults understand how the presence of gum disease can greatly increase the risk for serious health conditions, we will hopefully see a better commitment to protect overall health through good oral health.

If you need to renew your own commitment to good oral health, or if you have signs of gum disease (as mentioned above), begin by calling 828-274-9440 to learn more or to schedule a consultation appointment (or tap here).


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