Smokers CAN Lower Oral Health Risks With Proper Measures
Posted on Feb 04, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
If you smoke, you may be tempted to quit as one of your New Year’s resolutions. By now, you may be “over the hump” and feel success in this challenge (and breathing much easier!). Good for you!
However, if you’ve stumbled and faltered (and perhaps even thrown up your hands in defeat), you are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), over 55 percent of smokers in the U.S. had made a quit attempt in 2018, with only 7.5 percent succeeding. (https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/cessation/smoking-cessation-fast-facts/index.html)
Yet, less than 7 percent of adult smokers reported (in 2015) that they had sought counseling or medications in their attempts to quit. Yet, the need for support is clear. For most people who are trying to quit, it is a long, tough journey. The CDC also reports that:
“more people in the United States are addicted to nicotine than to any other drug. Research suggests that nicotine may be as addictive as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol.”
As the need to maintain healthy immune systems has never been more urgent, smokers will hopefully reach out to every source in order to kick the habit, for good. Data assembled by a team at the University of California (San Francisco) found that smoking nearly doubles the rate of COVID progression.
The analysis took into account over 11,500 COVID patients. The findings showed by current and former smokers were twice as likely to have conditions that require hospitalization and higher death rates. (https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2020/05/417411/smoking-nearly-doubles-rate-covid-19-progression)
The authors of the study warned that both cigarettes and e-cigs were involved in this higher risk rate.
Smoking increases mucus production and inflammation, which injures the lungs’ defense system. This is why people who smoke are more likely to have serious respiratory infections and illnesses.
However, my role as an Asheville periodontist is not to lecture our patients. We believe our patients deserve to be informed about the risks to their oral health, in particular, and provide encouragement. Too, we want patients to understand the best ways to avoid developing periodontal (gum) disease and the subsequent repercussions (such as tooth loss) as a result.
So, let’s focus on your periodontal health if you smoke (including cigarette smoking or vaping).
Smokers are often unaware of what occurs in the mouth from smoking. To begin, smokers have a greater risk of periodontal (gum) disease due to its drying effect on the soft tissues in the mouth. When saliva flow is depleted, its ability to rinse away oral bacteria enables the mouth to a bacterial breeding ground.
As oral bacteria reproduce and accumulate in the mouth, gum tissues become inflamed. In the early stages of gum disease, symptoms may include frequent bad breath, tender and swollen gums, and gums that bleed easily when brushing teeth.
As gum disease progresses, the gums change in color from a healthy pink hue to red. The gums loosen their grip around the base of teeth and seem more spongy. Breath odor is consistently bad. Pus pockets may form at the base of some teeth.
Eventually, the bone and the tissue structures that support natural teeth are under attack. The infectious bacteria ramp up their onslaught of attack, tooth roots no longer have the firm support they need. Some teeth begin to loosen and may require removal.
Advanced periodontal disease, known as periodontitis, is a health risk that goes far beyond the mouth. For years, research has shown an intricate connection between the “good” bacteria in the mouth, especially beneficial in gut health. It has also been known that the “bad” and infectious bacteria of advanced gum disease can alter the roles of certain factors in the body that help to prevent the formation of disease.
For example, certain cancers can be activated or progressed through the inflammatory bacteria of gum disease. These bacteria are able to become blood borne and activate “pathogens” that create a domino effect of disease development.
When you factor in the vulnerability to the lungs from inhaling the toxic smoke of cigarettes, you have a perfect storm. Consider that the gum tissues are the first contact with these inhaled chemicals. Because oral tissues are absorbent in nature, they are at the front line of smoking’s effect.
If you do smoke, we want to help you minimize the risks it poses to your oral health. In addition to maintaining regular dental check-ups and cleanings (at least every 6 months), below are some tips for your at-home oral hygiene regimen.
• Brush twice a day (at least) for two minutes each time. Use a fluoridated toothpaste and a soft to medium bristle toothbrush.
• Floss your teeth every day and floss before your brush. You would be surprised at how many particles can be lodged between teeth that brushing won’t rid. If flossing is an awkward maneuver, try one of the water flossers, which are affordable and as effective as manual flossing.
• Brush your tongue after your teeth to unroot embedded bacteria, especially reaching the back area of the tongue (where most bacteria are embedded). This also helps to give you fresh breath.
• Use an oral rinse that replenishes moisture (and is alcohol-free) twice a day (or as directed). These are available OTC at most drug stores.
• Chew sugarless gum, preferably a brand that contains Xylitol. Xylitol looks and tastes like sugar, yet has 40 percent fewer calories.
• Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Be aware that beverages such as most coffee, tea and colas contain caffeine are drying to the mouth. Many medications also have the side effect of oral dryness – another good reason to stay hydrated.
• Limit your intake of sugar and carbohydrates. These are oral bacteria super boosters.
In our Asheville periodontal dental office, please know that we are here for you regardless of your needs or goals. Although we prefer you give up smoking, we want to give you the very best care possible so you can enjoy a healthy mouth and confident smile.
If you haven’t had regular dental exams or have any of the symptoms associated with gum disease (mentioned above), call our dental office to schedule a thorough periodontal exam at 828-274-9440.
Erectile Dysfunction (ED) Risks Increase With Presence of Gum Disease
Posted on Jan 07, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
Men have a long way to go when it comes to taking good care of their teeth and gums, according to several surveys.
One from the Academy of General Dentistry stated that men in the U.S. are less likely to have regular dental check-ups and cleanings than women. Another survey shared by the Journal of Periodontology said men are less likely to brush regularly, and more likely to lose teeth as they age as well as develop oral cancer and gum disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, over 56 percent of men have gum disease, compared to just over 38 percent of women. Men, in particular, should be aware of the increased health risks associated with periodontal (gum) disease.
Researchers have given closer assessment to recent studies and found that erectile dysfunction (ED) is more common in men with gum disease.
In addition to higher ED risks, research has found that men with a history of gum disease are 14 percent more likely to develop cancer than men with healthy gums – 49 percent more likely to develop kidney cancer, 59 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer and 30 percent more likely to develop a blood cancer.
If concerns about heart disease and cancers aren’t enough to get men thinking more seriously about their oral health, ED may be a condition that does.
Gum disease has emerged as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and cardiovascular disease raises the risk for ED. For men, there are a number of factors that contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. These include smoking, obesity, chronic stress, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and chronic sleep apnea.
One study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine revealed that men in their thirties with severe gum disease are 3 times more likely to have erection problems. As cardiovascular health issues develop, erection ability suffers, and as health problems increase in number and severity, so does the severity of ED.
The association between periodontal disease, heart disease, and erectile dysfunction relates to inflammation brought on by gum disease bacteria. This process actually comes down to a biochemical reaction. During sexual arousal, the body releases nitric oxide, which plays a key role in enabling erection. Chronic inflammations, including periodontal disease, impairs release of nitric oxide and contributes to ED.
In the U.S., an estimated 18 percent of males have erectile dysfunction. Although men who are over age 70 are more likely to have ED, males most affected by ED are getting younger. One outpatient clinic showed that 1 in 4 men who sought help for erectile dysfunction were under the age of 40.
Could maintaining a healthy mouth lower the risk of ED? In a 2013 study, it was found that treating periodontal disease improves ED symptoms. Thus, a growing number of physicians are advising male patients who have both ED and periodontitis to seek periodontal treatment as a way to reduce its risk.
In data analyzed from five studies published between 2009 – 2014 (which included 213,000 male participants between ages 20 – 80), men who had chronic periodontitis (advanced gum disease) were more likely to have erectile dysfunction.
In another study, nearly half of the men with ED also had diabetes, another chronic inflammatory disease with links to periodontal disease. Chronic inflammation in the body can be lowered when gum health is kept in good condition.
Men can help to protect their overall health by keeping their oral health at an excellent level. It is especially important to watch for signs of gum disease. Symptoms include: puffy, red gums; inflamed, swollen, or bleeding gums; gums that recede from the base of teeth; and persistent bad breath.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, call our Asheville periodontal dental office for an examination as soon as possible. Gum disease does not improve without treatment.
Although many serious health problems are linked to the potent bacteria of gum disease, it is one of the most preventable of all diseases. Twice daily brushing, daily flossing, a diet limited in sugar and carbohydrates and drinking plenty of water are simple guidelines to follow.
Even with these easy steps that take mere minutes per day, it is estimated that over 47 percent of American adults have some level of gum disease.
For the good of your overall health and well-being, renew your commitment to a healthy smile for the new year. Begin with a thorough examination. (A referral is not required.) We’ll discuss how to get your oral health in good shape and ways to maintain it between dental check-ups.
Call 828-274-9440 to schedule or ask to begin with a consultation. If dental anxiety or fear has kept you from regular dental care, mention this during your appointment. This is a common problem for both men and women. If desired, we offer a number of comfort options, including Oral Sedation or I.V. Sedation (twilight sleep).
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.
Save Money & Time At The Dentist! Practice Effective Home Care.
Posted on Sep 22, 2020 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
If you could prevent a deadly disease by devoting 5 or so minutes a day to a few at-home basics, you’d probably be all in. Of course, we know that ample sleep, daily exercise and a healthy diet is beneficial to our health. What some people don’t know is the intricate connection between oral health and overall health.
Adults are becoming more aware of how the health in their mouths impacts the risk of developing serious, and even deadly, diseases. To begin, periodontal (gum) disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss. The challenges associated with dentures and partials can cause a lifetime of frustrations, costs and psychological woes.
As devastating as tooth loss can be to one’s overall health, it is now known that the bacteria of gum disease can become blood borne. Research has shown this infectious bacteria can trigger inflammatory reactions elsewhere in the body, correlating to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, some cancers, diabetes, arthritis, impotency, preterm babies and more.
It is wise to have regular dental check-ups without fail. These 6-month visits can remove built-up plaque from teeth, tend to gum inflammation, and catch small problems before they become big ones. However, what you do in-between these visits can have a major impact on your oral health.
Below are some tips to make your oral care at home more effective …
• Your Toothbrush – 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) attached to teeth. Calculus cannot be brushed or flossed away (and is what your hygienist is scraping off teeth during cleanings).
– An electric toothbrush can help in the prevention of tooth loss. Studies have shown that electric brushing promotes better gum health and slower progression of gum disease. It is also said to reduce tooth loss by 20 percent. Many of the newer models include timers to indicate the time needed for each quadrant of your mouth. This is your teeth divided into 4 sections. Some also warn when using too much pressure.
– If you prefer a manual toothbrush, stay away from stiffer bristles, which can be damaging to tooth enamel. Also, avoid pressing down firmly or using a scrubbing, ‘back & forth’ motion. Hard bristle toothbrushes can also damage tender gum tissues. Use a circular motion over both sides of each tooth and along the tops with gentle pressure. (Hint: if your bristle are flayed out after a couple of months, you’re pressing down too hard.)
– Whether using a manual or electric tooth brush, it is necessary to brush twice a day for effective results. In order to thoroughly remove the sticky film of plaque from teeth, brush at least two minutes each time.
– After each brushing, brush your tongue with your toothbrush. The tongue has grooves and pores where oral bacteria breed and thrive. Brushing the tongue will uproot these organisms and help to significantly reduce the bacteria level in your mouth.
• Your Dental Floss – Another way to improve gum health, lower cavity risk, and prevent tooth loss is through flossing. It is estimated that only 31 percent of American adults floss on a daily basis. 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 of it and takes less than a minute. However, the key word here is “proper.” Flossing is best done with about 18 inches of floss. We recommend unwaxed but people with tight teeth find waxed helps them avoid having to ‘pop’ in-between teeth, which can cut into tender gum tissues. Wrap both ends of the floss around the forefingers. Use the thumbs and middle fingers to help maneuver the floss.
– Go slowly as you move the floss back and forth to get in-between and scrape down each tooth’s side several times. Move the floss just slightly below the line where teeth meet gum tissues to dislodge bacteria at the base of teeth. Adjust the floss so you have a clean section after flossing every 3-4 teeth. Be sure to scrape the backs of molars (or the farthest back teeth) on top and bottom.
– For those who have problems with manual dexterity or find the maneuver awkward, water flossers are effective alternatives (shown to be just as effective as manual flossing) and easy to use. A water flosser pulsates a stream of water between teeth that is forceful enough to dislodge trapped food bits but without harming teeth or gums. They are affordable, easy to purchase online or in many stores, and easy to use.
• Your Oral Moisture – Having ‘dry mouth,’ the frequent state of oral dryness, can cause bad breath and lead to higher risks of cavities and gum disease. Saliva is your mouth’s natural rinsing agent that helps cleanse oral bacteria from the mouth. This keeps bacteria to a minimum and their ability to cause problems at lower risk.
– When saliva flow is insufficient, however, bacteria ‘hang around’ in the mouth longer and multiply rapidly. Periodic dry mouth can occur from consuming alcoholic beverages, caffeine and is a normal part of the aging process. Certain medications can also cause oral dryness. These include antihistamines and some prescribed for depression and urinary incontinence. Medical conditions, including acid reflux, sinus infections, diabetes and bronchitis can also cause dry mouth. A bad cold, snoring or just being in the habit of breathing through the mouth are drying as well.
– And the worst culprit of all for dry mouth? Smoking.
– Drink lots of water throughout the day. (Sports drinks and colas don’t count.) If you take medications that have drying side effects, use an oral rinse that replenishes saliva. There are several available over-the-counter.
• Your Diet – What you eat and drink can easily undo all the good you’ve done in your oral home care routine that day. And, you may not even know some of these consumables are putting your smile at risk. These include:
Sugar & Carbs: The American population over-indulges in sweets and carbohydrates to an often unhealthy extent. The obesity rate in the U.S. (nearly 40% of adults) makes it pretty clear this isn’t occurring from eating green beans and grilled fish. The problem for your smile is how oral bacteria are super-charged by the foods we should be avoiding or enjoying on a limited basis. Our diets now are boosting the reproductive ability of oral bacteria. And, since many of these foods stick to teeth, the potential for damage is much higher.
Caffeine: Caffeine has a drying effect on oral tissues. A dry mouth means less saliva flow, which gives oral bacteria less opportunity to be rinsed from the mouth efficiently. Caffeinated beverages include coffee, tea, colas, and many energy drinks. While not caffeinated, alcoholic beverages are also drying to oral tissues. Remember, oral bacteria is the source of the majority of problems in the mouth.
Wine (and other alcoholic beverages): While wine is said to be good for you, how it is consumed creates a particular problem when it comes to your smile. Anytime you eat or drink, your mouth experiences an acid attack, which is a normal part of the digestive process. However, this acid is so potent that it can soften tooth enamel, leaving teeth vulnerable to decay for about 30 minutes. As most people do, sipping wine over a period of time simply draws out this acid bath. Add to that the acidity of wine and your smile gets a one-two punch for a higher risk of decay.
Citrus & acidic foods and beverages: The acidity in citrus (oranges, lemons, grapefruit, etc.) can erode tooth enamel, leaving them more susceptible to decay. And, it’s not just tart-tasting fruits that bring this risk. Foods with vinegar (pickles, salad dressings, etc.) and tomatoes or tomato-based foods (red pasta sauce, catsup, etc.) have an acidic effect on tooth enamel that heightens the risk of decay.
Snacking: As mentioned above, every time you eat or drink, an acid attack begins in the mouth. This means that when you sip your soda or nibble on a cookie, an acid attack kicks in. When your mouth is experiencing frequent acid attacks during the day, it’s easy to see why the damage can cause such high risks to tooth enamel and gum tissues.
Be aware of the recommendations above to do a better job at having a clean mouth. If you feel you may be experiencing symptoms of periodontal disease, however, don’t delay. 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 periodontist, I specialize in gum tissues (as well as dental implants). Our environment optimizes patient outcomes and comfort throughout treatment. Call (828) 274-9440 to schedule an examination or begin with a consultation appointment.