Be In-The-Know To Avoid Cavities, Gum Disease
Posted on Apr 02, 2020 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
During this highly unusual time, people are relying on the internet for communication (work and social), information, and entertainment. Computers, tablets and smart phones are keeping us connected as we ‘shelter in place’ until this global pandemic is under control.
A lot of Americans are using their “stuck inside” time to expand their minds. Whether it’s to enjoy an audio book, watch PBS specials, or learn how to do something on YouTube, using the time positively is helping people avoid getting mired down in worry and anxiety.
As a periodontal specialist in Asheville, NC, I hope adults will use some of their time to become more aware of the hazards of gum disease. The damage that periodontal disease (‘perio’) can have far reaching consequences, affecting the health inside and mouth and overall health, as I’ll explain.
People are often surprised to hear that they have developed gum disease since it is often without obvious symptoms in early stages. Once it’s fully underway, however, many people ignore the warning signs or assume they’ll “go away”.
In my dental specialty, I believe that by keeping Americans informed of how the progression of gum disease occurs could help to greatly reduce the extent of this disease, which plaques over 47 percent of adults.
Let’s begin by looking at the process of gum disease:
• Oral Bacteria: The mouth is a warm, dark and moist environment — perfect for harboring bacteria. The mouth is the first point of contact for a large extent of the bacteria that enters the body. Bacteria is on food, utensils, lip gloss and even your tooth brush. All mouths have bacteria, some of it are beneficial. Although bacteria in the mouth are perfectly ‘normal’, the problem begins when too much bacteria accumulate.
• Plaque: Without proper brushing, flossing, saliva flow and diet, oral bacteria can reproduce rapidly. For an example of just how quickly these bacteria accumulate, run your tongue over your teeth after brushing in the morning. They should feel slick and clean. Then, before brushing at bedtime, run your tongue over your teeth again. The accumulation of oral bacteria over the mere course of a day has likely formed a sticky film on teeth. This is known as plaque. This film is actually a coating of bacteria.
• Tartar (or Calculus): In just 48 hours, unremoved plaque can harden into tartar. These ‘chunks’ are colonies of oral bacteria and typically attach to the base of teeth near the gum line. These cement-hard masses can no longer be brushed or flossed away. They must be removed by a dentist or hygienist with special tools. If allowed to remain, like plaque, tartar will continue to multiply as these bacterial colonies feed on tooth enamel and tender gum tissues.
• Gingivitis: This is the first stage of gum disease. At this level, gum tissues are under attack and become sore. They may bleed easily when brushing and you may experience an aching sensation in some areas. Breath odor is stronger, even soon after brushing. At this point, with proper measures, you can restore your gums to a healthy state. However, the window of opportunity to combat gingivitis is brief.
• Periodontal (Gum) Disease: At this stage, the gums are inflamed and tender. They begin to darken in color and the seal of gum tissues surrounding teeth begins to loosen. The breath is persistently bad. As this stage of gum disease worsens, it can lead to severe health risks elsewhere in the body.
• Periodontitis: This is the advanced stage of gum disease. The gums are so tender that eating becomes difficult. Breath odor is putrid, as it reflects the rotting state in your mouth. The gum tissues are highly inflamed. Pus pockets may form on the gums near the base of teeth. Eventually, teeth will loosen as the gum tissues and bone structures that support them are destroyed. Tooth removal at this stage is not uncommon.
To no surprise, gum disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss. Yet, it’s one of the most preventable diseases with simple measures.
An even more concerning aspect of gum disease is its ability to enter the bloodstream. Once bloodborne, these infectious bacteria can trigger inflammatory reactions elsewhere in the body. Gum disease bacteria has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, stoke, memory loss, preterm babies, impotency, some cancers and even Alzheimer’s disease.
This is why we want you to be aware of the importance of having a healthy mouth. We realize there are financial obstacles for some people. However, most dental and specialty offices offer payment plans, many are interest free with no down payment required.
Some people avoid dental visits because they have anxiety or fears. Dental fear is fairly common, even in America where dental care is so advanced (in most practices). If deep fear or anxiety has prevented you from regular dental visits or having much-need treatment, finding a dentist who is experienced in caring for fearful patients is easier today.
Using advanced technology, such as laser dentistry, cone beam imaging, and other features, we are able to diagnose problems more precisely, which helps to minimize treatment. Many options enhance patient comfort and speed healing time.
For many fearful patients, we also offer oral or IV sedation (“twilight sleep”). We are fully equipped for the safety and comfort of administering sedatives for our patients for treatment in our office. Here, patients know us for our gentle touch and respectful, attentive care for each individual.
Occasionally, I hear a patient relay their impression of tooth loss being “just part of growing older.” That is far from the truth. The human body does ‘break down’ here and there but keeping your teeth for a lifetime is a reasonable expectation with proper measures.
Having healthy gums that support teeth can be achieved with an involved relationship with a dentist and a committed oral hygiene routine at home. With proper care, you can easily enjoy a smile of natural teeth all your life.
Twice daily brushing (at least two minutes per time), daily flossing, drinking ample water and limiting sweets and caffeine are simple ways to keep your mouth healthy between regular dental check-ups and cleanings. And, those 6-month check-ups are important. At this time, any tartar that has accumulated can be removed and signs of early gum disease can be noted.
Losing teeth due to gum disease leads to expensive and lifelong upkeep with crown-&-bridge, partials, full denture or dental implants. These tooth replacement needs can be avoided.
If you are experiencing symptoms of gum disease, call 828-274-9440. If fear is an obstacle to having a healthy, confident smile, begin with a consultation to discuss your needs.
The Value Of Dental Implants Goes On & On.
Posted on Jan 08, 2020 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
Many people have a list of favorite holiday movies. One that stand out for me is “Christmas Vacation,” where Clark Griswold attempts to create the perfect Christmas for a hoard of family members who have descended upon his home.
In the movie, Clark learns that, instead of his company’s annual Christmas bonus, he’s received a certificate for “Jelly of the Month” club. Cousin Eddie famously comments, “It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”
Laughs aside, this always reminds me of how much we spend, all year long, on things that really add very little to our lives. People invest in new cars, clothes, jewelry, and fancy electronics – many purchases based on ads indicating these items will bring us great pleasure.
Yet, year after year, Americans struggle to pay January credit card bills laden with holiday purchases. And, we begin a new year not as fulfilled as we thought. I’d like to make a suggestion: your smile!
Is there anything that would give you as much pleasure as a healthy, confident smile?
Life’s best moments are things like laughing with close friends, dining out in our favorite restaurant, close conversations with loved ones, and the bite of a red apple picked right off the tree.
As a Periodontist, I see how difficult life can be for patients with dentures and partial dentures. To witness the transformation of an individual who has replaced “slippery” dentures with dental implants has been a particular joy throughout my career.
Over the past three decades, there have been remarkable advancements in implant dentistry. It has easily become the preferred replacement for missing, natural teeth. Today, there are implant types that offer exceptional choices to fulfill nearly any need when it comes to replacing teeth with dependable stability and a natural look and feel.
While I share the excitement of our implant patients when they “see” their appealing, confident smiles after treatment completion, as a periodontist, I know it is the foundation beneath the gums that is the true benefit of dental implants.
Like natural teeth, implants are held by the upper or lower jaws. The jaw bones actually thrive on the presence of tooth roots for stimulation to keep the bone healthy. Without tooth roots, the bone goes through a process known as resorption. Resorption causes bones to lose height and width, almost like they are melting.
Dental implants are able to mimic the stimulation they need to prevent the process of resorption.
Bone loss contributes to a number of problems. Once resorption sets in, the teeth adjacent to the area of bone loss are affected. Bone loss that neighbors areas of resorption weakens tooth root stability. When a natural tooth is lost, statistics show the next to be lost will most likely be an adjacent tooth.
Bone loss can even be seen in some people. It causes the appearance of a collapsed mouth (referred to as a “granny look”) where the nose is unusually close to the chin. It is also the reason that dentures and partials begin to move or “slip.” This can cause uncomfortable rubbing on gum tissues.
When a denture is first made, it is shaped to fit the unique contours of your gum ridge (the gum-covered arch that once held your natural tooth roots). As bone loss continues, the once-secure fit loosens and cause sore spots on tender gum tissues while chewing. Denture pastes or adhesives can help, but eventually even relines are of little help.
For many, another appealing advantage of dental implants is that they are a lifelong investment. Dental implants, properly selected and placed, are designed to last a lifetime with proper maintenance.
Adults are also seeing dental implants as a wiser option than crown-&-bridge combinations. Unlike dental implants, crowns and bridges can require repairs or replacements over time. Too, crowning natural teeth for the sole purpose of supporting a bridge forever compromises the health of otherwise natural teeth.
Dental implants do not rely on adjacent teeth for support since they are anchored in the jaw bone. This restores the same, sturdy foundation as natural tooth roots. An added bonus is how the implanted portion recreates the presence of a tooth root, halting the process of resorption.
If you are missing natural teeth, consider the advanced skills of a periodontist to consult with on dental implants. For a private, no obligation consultation to discuss your specific goals or concerns, call 828-274-9440 for an appointment.
If fear of dentistry is an obstacle for you, we can also discuss our sedation options. Our office is known for providing respectful, gentle care and oral and IV sedation are available as needed, administered safely and to the highest standards. Feel free to mention your concerns during your consultation.
Afraid of the Dentist? Here’s How To Get Your Smile Back!
Posted on Oct 11, 2019 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
Have you ever suddenly seen a snake out of the corner of your eye?
Immediately, the brain kicks in a “fight or flight” response that causes us to react. Because we don’t know whether or not the snake is poisonous, the typical reaction is to quickly move away from danger.
Past trauma can also trigger reactions. Past experiences can sometimes cause people to react in ways they can’t control. For adults who have experienced a frightening or painful dental procedure, the fear it caused can become embedded (sometimes forever) in the subconscious.
Some things that cause us to flinch or freeze can occur from reasons we can’t even explain. Patients who are nervous or afraid when they first arrive often know what past episode triggered it. Some are unable to recall an unpleasant dental visit yet react to certain sights, smells or sounds.
Dental fear occurs in different people at different levels. It can activate reactions of more rapid heartbeat, sweating, heavier breathing, and muscle tension.
Here, at our Asheville periodontal office, most patients are relaxed from the moment they walk in and throughout treatment. Some are fine until they are seated in the treatment chair while others are nervous and uneasy the entire time.
Dental fear and anxiety are often the result of an unfortunate experience in a dentist’s office that made the person feel out of control and trapped. This tends to carry over so that perceived pain can be just as real as actual pain.
Experiencing uneasy feelings at dental visits is not uncommon. According to the Cleveland Clinic, between 9 – 15 percent of Americans say they avoid going to the dentist because of anxiety or fear. (https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/11176-dental-phobia-in-adults)
They also cite the most common causes as:
- Fear of pain
- Fear of injection or that the injection won’t work
- Fear of anesthetic side effects
- Feelings of helplessness and loss of control
- Embarrassment and feeling encroachment of personal space
Periodontal (gum) disease is the result of an accumulation of oral bacteria. It is also the leading cause of adult tooth loss. As a Periodontist, I find that most individuals have developed gum disease because they were too afraid of having regular dental care. Many avoid going to the dentist for years, only ‘giving in’ when something becomes so painful they can no longer delay treatment.
At Biltmore Periodontics, patient comfort is a priority at every visit. And, it is obvious from the moment you walk in our door. Our reception area is designed to pamper patients from the moment they enter. Patients are treated to a selection of gourmet coffees, cable television and WiFi connection. Seating is comfortable and our front office staff is attentive to the needs of each guest.
New patients begin in a private consultation room so we can discuss treatment needs and concerns in a living room style setting. During this time, I’ll answer your questions and explain treatment options, including sedation.
We offer oral sedation as well as I.V. sedation (twilight sleep) for most procedures, if desired. 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 doctor of anesthesiology for optimal comfort and safety. With both, patients are monitored with advanced safety equipment throughout treatment.
Our surgical suite offers a large window with beautiful mountain views. This is very soothing and relaxing for patients as they are attended to by gentle, compassionate hands.
Our entire staff provide a unified team, each bringing a sincere level of compassion and commitment to excellent care. While the doctors involved in your care are top-notch, I am always happy to hear so many patients tell me how our staff helps them to feel at ease and pampered.
It doesn’t take long for patients to realize our goal is to provide skilled care delivered with comfort. The more they experience this, the more relaxed they become and develop a sense of trust.
When patients trust us, many no longer need to feel anxious and “white-knuckled” in a dental chair. And, they see their dental care as a positive part of their overall health, which makes them more involved with their oral health – and smiling confidently!
Like everyone, fearful patients desire a healthy, confident smile. Once the obstacle of fear is removed, their ability to achieve that is greatly heightened.
If you or someone you know has fear that has prevented needed or desired dental care, schedule a consultation appointment. Call 828-274-9440 to learn more.
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.