Gag Reflex? Some Tips To Help.

Posted on Sep 04, 2019 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

For people who have a sensitive gag reflex, going to the dentist can be a trying experience. After all, the suction tube that removes water spray and saliva accumulating in the back of the mouth can trigger it. Once activated, gagging becomes all the more likely.

A gag reflex is a protective reaction that helps prevent foreign bodies from entering the trachea. While gagging is an involuntary and natural response, over thirty percent of otherwise healthy adults have an abnormal gag reflex.

For those who have a severe gag reflex, the mere thoughts of a suction tube or having a dental impression taken can create both dread and fear of embarrassment. After all, gagging triggers a spasm, which causes some people to have dry heaves or even regurgitate. Gagging may also be caused by acid reflux. For some, it can be triggered by certain smells and even anxiety.

Having a severe gag reflex is nothing to be ashamed of; it’s a common occurrence. If you feel this is a concern, feel free to mention this prior to any procedure (including dental cleanings). If you have avoided dental care because of gagging worries, we can discuss ways to help minimize the response and make procedures more comfortable.

The tips offered below may also help you reduce the severity of your gagging reflex as well.

• Breathe through your nose – Breathing through the nose can alter your focus from the potential to gag. Some patients find it beneficial to count their breaths to distract their minds. Breathing through the nose can also help your ability to relax. Concentrate on taking deep breaths in and out as you relax the jaw muscles.

• Go to your ‘happy place’ – When the fear of gagging is replaced by pleasant thoughts, patients are less likely to gag or the severity of the reflex is reduced. Think about things and people who make you happy. Your grandchildren? Your best friend? Relive a terrific vacation in your mind. Relaxing on a beach? Hiking a beautiful mountain? Think about foods that bring back memories. Peach cobbler with ice cream melting on top?

• Occupy your mind with tasks – A great distraction is to think of to-do’s in our head. For example, make a grocery list or the birthdays you need to remember for the next few months. The goal is to take your focus away from what’s going on in your mouth.

• Ask about sedation options – Having a severe gagging reflex may be helped greatly with an added sedative. In our Asheville periodontal office, we offer oral and IV sedation. Oral sedation is in pill form and has a quick recovery. I.V. sedation (referred to often as twilight sleep), provides a deeper level of sedation.

• Know you can take a break – Our patients are not prisoners in a chair, at any point – We realize some procedures can be long and are happy to provide a break to sit up, or move your mouth around, or get up and walk around. An opportunity to move your head and neck muscles around may revive you and provide just the relaxation you need.

• Don’t think of drooling as awkward – Saliva is a natural flow of moisture in the mouth. Drool is simply saliva that gets past the lips. As dental professionals, drool is not something that bothers us If drooling helps to relax your gag reflex, then go for it. If you do, we’ll help keep you comfy with suction and dabbing with tissues as needed.

Remember, gagging is rather common occurrence in a dental office. If gagging has caused you to avoid or delay having regular dental care or lengthy procedures, consider scheduling a consultation appointment in our beautiful Asheville periodontal dental office.

Call 828-274-9440 to schedule.

Scared? Afraid? Simple Steps To Get Past Dental Fears.

Posted on Apr 30, 2019 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

If you’re one of those people who have no dread of going to see a dentist, be glad. For the large percentage of adults who do experience anxiety or fear associated with dental visits,  they are actually in the majority.

In the U.S., an estimated 70 percent of adults have some level of dental fear, unfortunately. About 5-10 percent of them can be categorized as “dental phobics.” These individuals have such an intense fear of dental visits that the mere thoughts of walking into an office causes reactions such as sweating or more rapid breathing.

As a periodontist, I’m a frequent witness to just how severe dental fears can be. Some people cry, some keep a white-knuckled grip on the arms of a dental chair (once they finally talk themselves into one), and some ask to be put to sleep for things as minor as dental cleanings.

The periodontal specialty provides patients with a dental professional who has advanced training in the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease. It also covers the diagnosis and placement of dental implants, which are the “ideal” tooth replacement. In this field, I’ve seen the repercussions of both due to dental fear.

By not receiving regular dental cleanings and exams, the risks for developing gum disease rise significantly. And, since gum disease is the leading cause of adult tooth loss, it plays a key role in one’s potential to lose natural teeth.

Dental fear leads to a vicious cycle of poor oral health and tooth loss. When people are too afraid to see a dentist for regular care and fail to have small problems repaired while treatment needs (and costs) are still minimal, the process is ongoing. As gum health declines, the risks for tooth loss increases.

No one wants to end up in dentures. While TV commercials for denture adhesives or same-day denture clinics try to come across as upbeat, life wearing a denture is anything but. Long-time denture wearers struggle to bite, chew, and even speak without worrisome, uncomfortable slips or rubbing against tender gum tissues.

Too, the uncertainty of a denture can make some people uneasy when dining out or in other social settings. It’s not unusual for denture wearers to decline invitations when food is a key centerpiece of the gathering. This is sad. It is also detrimental to one’s health. Social involvement is an important part of our overall well-being.

If you are among those who avoid dental care because of uncontrollable jitters or downright “scared” feelings, below are several steps you may wish to consider to help you move past them:

• Begin by writing down what you believe caused your fears in the first place. Was it a painful procedure? Was it a rough dentist who ignored your obvious discomfort? If you know what sparked your fear in the first place and can look-it-in-the-eye in actual words, you can begin to deal with them. This may help you bring them out of the shadows and into the light where you can begin to conquer them.

• Close your eyes and imagine your life with a healthy smile — one that makes you feel good about being close to others. Imagine conversations having fresh breath and smiling with confidence. Imagine getting compliments on your smile! Think about how you may interact more confidently with others with a smile you’re proud to share.

• If you haven’t seen a dentist on a regular basis, you may need to begin with a periodontal examination. You can do an internet search (Periodontist) in your area and get to know them through their web sites. Read the doctor’s bio and become familiar with what he or she offers in terms of technology and comfort options. When a periodontist keeps current on the techniques and technology surrounding this specialty, patient comfort is typically a leading factor among these features.

• Visit the periodontist’s office after hours. Yes, go there when they are closed so you’ll feel less intimated. Sit in the parking lot and imagine where you’d park for your visit, once scheduled. Walk up to the entrance and become familiar with the look of the entryway. This way, when your appointment is made, you’ll feel more comfortable making your way in the door.

• Call the office and be comfortable sharing your concerns. Don’t feel shy about saying, “I have a lot of dental fear and would like to begin by meeting the doctor.” Most offices have these conversations with new callers more often than you realize. As mentioned prior, dental fear and anxiety are fairly common. Most offices offer an initial consultation so you can get to know the doctor before scheduling an exam. Ask about where this consult will be held. The periodontist should have a private room available for this, where it is not part of the clinical side of the practice.

• The day of your appointment, call the office and ask about anticipated waiting time for your appointment. Most offices run on-time and your wait should be less than 15 minutes. However, unforeseen emergencies do arise that may disrupt an on-time schedule. If delayed, consider rescheduling. Having a lengthy wait time may add to your anxiety and it may be best to arrange another visit.

• When you go, take a book, newspaper, or favorite magazine for your wait time. Don’t assume that the periodontist has a selection you’ll be interested in. Some people like to work a crossword or ‘Jumble’ during their brief wait here.

• When meeting the doctor or staff, know that it is important to be straight-forward about your fear level. Don’t gloss over it. Being upfront will help the doctor tailor your care to address your fears or concerns at an appropriate level.

• Ask the doctor about comfort options, including sedation. Both oral and IV sedation (twilight sleep) should be available. Feel free to ask questions about how they are administered, recovery time, and safety monitoring measures. Your safety is as important as your comfort.

• Finally, listen to your gut. Did you feel the doctor truly ‘heard’ your concerns? Did you feel the staff was attentive? Did you feel confident in the appearance of the practice? Sometimes, the most important measure of comfort is what that “little voice” inside is telling us. If you don’t feel good about moving forward, consider a consult at another periodontal office. You should leave your consult feeling positive about moving forward.

One of the most satisfying parts of my specialty is watching a once-fearful patient transform into one with a healthy, confident smile! And, the foundation of that is a relationship of trust between the doctor and the patient.

If you are ready to get past your dental fears so you can have the smile you desire, begin by calling our Asheville periodontal office and speaking with our friendly staff at: 828-274-9440. Or, start with the steps listed above and move at a pace that feels best for you.

We Make Your Comfort A Priority At Every Visit

Posted on Jul 10, 2018 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

As a periodontal specialist, I’ve always been proud to combine specialized skills with a commitment to exceptional care that creates healthy smiles. I am also committed to performing procedures to the highest degree of patient comfort – regardless of the treatment.

Dental care – of any type – can be provided without the patient experiencing pain. For some people, an unfortunate experience in the past can create a road block to achieving and maintaining good oral health and a smile they are proud to share.

We all have reactions to certain things that are automatic. For example, when some people see a wasp, they may have a sudden urge to flee. Other people may react to seeing a wasp by swatting it away. The same is true for dental fear. Different people have different reactions.

Some of our patients are relaxed from the moment they walk in our office and throughout treatment. Others are fine until they are seated in the treatment chair and then experience some anxiety (which is often overcome once numbing medications have taken full effect). Still, others are nervous and uneasy the entire time.

And, while a painful experience in the past may be the root source of dental fear, some people have no idea how their fears originated. Others have uneasy feelings that are triggered by certain smells and sounds common to a dental office. People with fear or anxiety often experience sweating or a more rapid heartbeat, many for unknown reasons.

If you experience negative feelings associated with dental visits, there is nothing ‘wrong’ with you. We all have individual response systems that can create feelings of vulnerability. Some people even perceive pain before they are touched.  This can cause people to avoid dental care – some for decades.

Here, we are a judgement-free zone. We do not lecture patients or judge them for avoiding dental care. We know it is not the way that people want to be, especially when dental fear is the catalyst of otherwise healthy adults who have developed oral decay, periodontal (gum) disease, or experienced tooth loss.

Unfortunately, it’s not just a smile that suffers when oral bacteria run rampant. Periodontal (gum) disease is an inflammatory disease. This potent bacteria can enter the bloodstream through tears in weakened gum tissues, triggering inflammatory reactions elsewhere in the body.

The bacteria of gum disease has been associated with heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, memory loss, arthritis, diabetes, preterm babies, some cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, and impotency. As research continues, new associations are coming to light at an alarming pace.

Our comfy reception area

Our entire team makes patient comfort a priority at every visit. You’ll notice the difference from the very first time you enter our office – from the reception area that pampers you to the staff who greet you. Our patients are offered a selection of gourmet coffees and enjoy cable television and WIFI connection during brief wait times.

We also offer a private consultation room where patients can freely discuss concerns and preferences. During these sessions, we explain treatment options and answer your questions in a living room type setting. This allows patients to learn about individualized care recommendations without the need to be seated in a treatment chair.

Enjoy beautiful, relaxing views from our surgical suite.

Even our surgical suite provides a unique setting. A large window provides beautiful mountain views, which our patients find very soothing. For added comfort and relaxation, we offer oral sedation or I.V. sedation (twilight sleep) for most procedures for those who want or need these options.

Both sedations are administered to the highest standards of safety possible. Our sedated patients are closely monitored throughout treatment with advanced safety equipment and trained professionals.

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 places the patient in a deeper sedative state, also erasing memory of the procedure. It is administered by a highly-trained doctor of anesthesiology for optimal comfort and safety.

Our entire staff are committed to extending patients a sincere level of compassion and commitment to exceptional care. While the doctors on our team are all top-notch, I must admit that our staff members are the aces when it comes to making patients feel truly pampered.

When patients realize our goal is to provide optimal care and complete comfort, they relax. This instills a sense of trust, which we believe is the very foundation for a patient who releases fear and anxiety and no longer feels the urge to avoid dental care.

We know that patients who are ‘afraid’ of dental care truly desire healthy, confident smiles. By helping to remove the basis of their fear, they are able to achieve that, often overcoming their fear and sense of dread for good.

If you or someone you know has fear that has prevented needed or desired dental care, schedule a consultation appointment. This will take place in our private consultation room. Here, we can discuss your needs and concerns and have your questions answered thoroughly. You can then determine what pace is best for you.

Call 828-274-9440 to learn more. Our friendly staff will make you feel good from the very first call! If fear has kept you from achieving the healthy smile you desire, or if you know someone who avoids dentistry because of fear, your very first conversation will hopefully be the beginning of a lifetime of confident smiles!

Dental Fears And Periodontal Disease – Likely Partners.

Posted on Mar 01, 2018 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

I’m not afraid of spiders. I don’t necessarily welcome them into my home but seeing one doesn’t ‘freak me out,’ either. However, I know several people who have a fear of spiders that goes beyond simply feeling creeped out by them.

Most of these individuals aren’t certain when or why their fear of spiders began. They just know they have it. For some people, it’s the same with fear of dentistry. While some adults can track back to precisely when and why their dental fears began, others aren’t quite sure.

In a dental office, some people react negatively but uncontrollably to sounds, smells and sights. However, when dental fears exist because of a traumatic experience in a dental chair (often as a child), we know the element of trust between the individual and his/her dentist was broken.

A dentist who continues a procedure on a patient while the patient is uncomfortable – whether an adult or child – can create an everlasting fear associated with dental visits. This moment is forever in the corners of a patient’s mind, evoking anxiety or fearful sensations every time a dental visit is considered. It’s the body’s way of triggering its ‘fight or flight’ response. Like shivering in the cold, it’s a reaction that is not easily controlled.

Although we cannot erase traumatic moments from one’s subconscious, we can help patients get past their fears and achieve healthy, confident smiles. And, the need for a healthy mouth is rising to the top as one of the most important aspects of having good, overall health based on a remarkable amount of research.

Research has found that certain strains of oral bacteria from gum disease create reactions in the body that can trigger systemic inflammation. Thus far, research findings have shown a correlation between periodontal disease bacteria and some cancers (including pancreatic and lung), Alzheimer’s disease, pre-term babies, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and erectile dysfunction (ED).

As if all that weren’t bad enough, one study suggests that gum disease relates to a reduction in one’s quality of life: “Periodontal disease has been linked to lower quality of life.” “Quality of life encompasses several domains, including psychological functioning and social relationships among others. Oral health-related quality of life has been shown to be reduced in patients with periodontal disease.” (

While estimates show about 75 percent of American adults have some degree of dental fear or anxiety, over 47 percent have some level of periodontal disease. As a periodontist, both are alarming numbers. Nearly half our nation is walking around with a potentially life-threatening disease in their mouths. Yet, many are unaware of its presence.

The symptoms of gum disease begin silently. When they do emerge, some people ignore them, such as seeing blood in the sink when brushing. There is a misconception that this is a sign of brushing thoroughly. (Wrong! See below for helpful tips for proper brushing.*) Other symptoms, such as sore, swollen gums and frequent bad breath may be assumed to be temporary problems.

If dental fears or anxiety have kept you from regular dental checkups for a year or more, it would be rare to NOT have some level of gum disease. Quite frankly, some people with high fear levels avoid seeing a dentist for decades. Those visits are vital in one’s ability to have healthy gums.

While twice daily brushing and daily flossing are necessary components for having good oral health, the routine alone isn’t enough to combat a number of additional factors that make one vulnerable to the disease.

For example, snacking on sweets or carbohydrates super-charges the oral bacteria in your mouth. And, these between-meal munchies set off an added acid attack in the mouth (as occurs any time we eat or drink as part of the digestive process). Couple this oral acid with sugar-loving bacteria and perhaps the extra acidity of a cola or catsup and WHALLAH you have a perfect recipe for destructive bacteria in the mouth.

What creates even more vulnerability is the lack of proper brushing techniques. A number of people swipe a toothbrush over easy-to-reach teeth, do a quick swish, and they’re done. And, as a study by Delta Dental revealed, only 7 out of 10 adults are brushing twice a day. This means that 30 percent aren’t brushing enough. (

Like anything, using proper measures makes all the difference.

* Begin with a soft to medium bristle toothbrush and a fluoridated toothpaste. Pretend your mouth is divided into four sections and spend 30 seconds in each area. Swirl the toothbrush around all sides of your teeth, including the tops that have deep pits and crevices where bacteria can hide.

Hint: if your bristles are bent to the sides after a month or so, you’re pressing down too hard. Lighten up so the tips of the bristles swipe over the surface.

Floss daily to dislodge food particles caught between teeth. These bits can rot quickly and add to bacteria levels in the mouth. What’s that? Flossing is a pain? Electronic water flossers are affordable, easy to use, and do an effective job.

Once your teeth are brushed, brush the tongue to remove oral bacteria that burrow into its grooves. Be sure to reach the back portion where the majority exist. Swish and spit several times.

Hint: Consider purchasing a toothbrush that has a tongue scraping section (typically the reverse side of the bristles). For some people, this is more comfortable than brushing.

If you are one of the 75 percent who have dental fear or anxiety OR one of the 47 percent who have some type of periodontal disease OR – even worse – have BOTH, please call us to schedule a consultation to discuss restoring the health and appearance of your smile.

In addition to providing a specialized environment for treating all stages of gum disease, we are also experienced in helping fearful adults achieve good oral health and smiling confidence. We offer a respectful, compassionate staff, an inviting office setting as well as Oral and I.V. sedation (twilight sleep), if desired.

Call 828-274-9440.

Recent Posts