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.
Are Dentures Or Partials Causing Your Face To ‘Melt’?
Posted on Feb 12, 2020 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
Occasionally, I’ll unexpectedly walk by a mirror and notice an old man looking at me, only to realize “that’s ME!”
As we age, hopefully most people don’t “feel” their actual age, although the person in the mirror isn’t quite the image we want to have. Most of us “see” ourselves as looking ten or so years younger (and probably 10 or so pounds lighter!).
Aging gracefully is a positive part of our lives. At any age, as long as we look and feel like we’ve taken pretty good care of ourselves, each birthday should cause more smiles than not. However, for people who are long-time denture or partial wearers, the signs and challenges of aging are more obvious.
Wearing a full denture or a partial denture appears, visually, to replace missing teeth. While the gum based that supports these replacement teeth “plumps up” the face when they are in place, this fullness can be deceiving.
What is really taking place – that you can’t see – is the loss of bone mass, or resorption.
Resorption describes a melting away of bone. For the upper or lower jaw, the areas where natural tooth roots no longer exist experience this almost immediately after they are removed.
Resorption occurs when tooth roots are no longer providing stimulation and nourishment to the bones that support them. This causes the bone “ridge” that holds the denture or partial to flatten out.
Bone loss begins almost immediately after teeth are removed. The pressure on the ridge while wearing dentures or partials actually accelerates the rate of bone loss. For people who sleep in their dentures, this increases the process even more.
In addition to appearance changes, bone loss is the reason that dentures slip or rub. This is because the denture was conformed to the ridge when it was first made. As the ridge flattens, the denture no longer ‘hugs’ the surface it was designed for.
As resorption continues, changes in facial appearance are occurring as wel. The best way to detect bone loss is to remove your ‘appliance’ and look in the mirror. However, even with the denture in place, certain facial changes may be obvious.
Jowls form on the sides of face as facial muscles detach from the declining bone mass. Deep wrinkles form around the lips and the corners of the mouth turn down, even in a smile.
As resorption worsens, the mouth seems to collapse into the face. The chin becomes more pointed and the nose and chin move closer together. This appearance is referred to as a “granny look,” aging one’s appearance far beyond their actual years.
How do you avoid a ‘melting face’?
One of the many advantages of dental implants is their ability to halt bone loss. The implanted portion restores stimulation to the jaw bone and provides a natural biting and chewing stability.
As a periodontist, an area of this advanced dental specialty is the diagnosis and placement of dental implants. Because there are many different types of implant systems, having a specialist select and place the one best for you will enhance your overall outcome.
In our Asheville periodontal office, we also offer oral and IV sedation (twilight sleep). These are administered by a board certified Anesthesiologist. This is a medical doctor (MD) who ensures safety and comfort are priorities throughout your procedure.
With dental implants, you can improve your appearance and health. Learn more about the lifelong benefits of dental implants by visiting our web site or calling 828-274-9440.
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.
Is Your Insurance Ruining Your Oral Health?
Posted on Nov 26, 2019 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
A necessary ‘evil.’
These days, insurance coverage seems to be an ever-expanding chunk out of paychecks. Even so, coverages seem to be getting more and more limited.
Yet, health insurance is an investment that provides peace of mind and reminds us that we need to do all we can to stay healthy – and NOT need it! Deductibles, uncovered items, and prescriptions can drain the wallet in spite of what is shelled out for monthly premiums.
Regardless of the insurance coverage you have, taking full advantage of its benefits is an annual goal. Some people have Health Savings Accounts (HSA) to give some padding for certain expenses not covered by insurances.
Because of out-of-pocket expenses, dental patients sometimes make decisions on accepting treatment based on what their insurance covers. This can be detrimental to the patient.
Dental insurance was developed to give people some help for basic annual expenses. For many, this includes twice-a-year dental exams and cleanings. Some policies include assistance for an annual crown or filling, and some coverage for periodontal (gum) therapy to treat gum disease.
Although adults may see these coverages as ample, they can be far from sufficient some years. For aging adults or people who have conditions such as diabetes or take medications that have an oral dryness side effect, basic insurance coverage can be far from what is in your best interest.
Keep in mind that insurance companies are for-profit businesses. What these companies deem coverage-worthy may be far from what is best for a patient’s long term oral health.
Think about this … As of Aug. 2, 2018, publicly traded health care companies amassed $47 billion in profit. (https://www.axios.com/health-care-industry-on-track-massive-q2-profits-1533226387-dacec8f8-c9f5-406c-a49e-1103e3316c64.html) That’s BILLION.
Sadly, insurance companies tend to serve as judge and jury for some people when it comes to treatment decisions. If an insurance company overrules what a dentist or dental specialist advises, it can leave the patient with an even more-complex situation.
They also use additional limiting terms such as “usual and customary.” This means that it is the insurance company that determines what is reimbursed for the treatment rather than the skill level and reputation of the provider.
Another dilemma for today’s insured patient has to do with the treatment recommended. For instance, when I consult with a patient who is missing teeth, I typically advise dental implants. My recommendation is based upon what will provide the patient with a lifelong solution for missing teeth as well as other benefits.
I look at a dental implant as the ideal in tooth replacement, since it is held in the jaw bone just as natural tooth roots. An implant restores the dependable foundation necessary for biting and chewing, enabling the patient to eat a healthy diet and chew foods comfortably, which supports the digestive system and overall health.
Dental implants are a more expensive option (initially) than crown-&-bridge combinations, dentures, or partials. They are designed to last a lifetime; often far beyond the span of time an average policy holder would stick with the insuring company.
As beneficial as they are to your overall health, dental implants are often deemed as ‘elective’ by insurance companies. This is where the patient must decide: “Is protecting my overall health and smiling confidence a priority to me or should I go with what my insurance coverage allows?”
What it comes down to is, essentially, how we perceive insurance coverage. While major medical insurance gives us peace of mind should we experience a health challenge that would otherwise drain us financially, dental insurance coverages are different.
Dental insurance, for the most part with most policies, is structured as a ‘support’ for helping those covered to maintain a healthy mouth. For people who already have good oral health and are able to tend to it sufficiently between checkups, this is fine. However, for most American adults, tooth repair, tooth loss and gum problems are a fact of life, particularly as we age.
For most of us, the decisions we make today will affect us in the years to come. When it comes to your oral health, don’t let your long-term oral wellness, the longevity of your teeth, the comfort of healthy eating, or the confidence of smiling and laughter be dictated by what insurance coverage allows.
When it comes to your smile, put your needs first.
If you trust your dentist and others involved to guide you towards good oral health and maintaining your smile, consider their recommendations and ask questions. Be an informed consumer. But, most importantly, make decisions that are in your best interest rather than that a for-profit insurance company deems is worthy for your smile.
If you don’t have regular dental care and would like recommendations, feel free to contact us at 828-274-9440. We work with exceptional general dentists in Western North Carolina and will be proud to connect you. Or, feel free to begin with a thorough periodontal exam here. We will make recommendations based upon your unique needs and goals.