How To Avoid Thinning Jaw Bones That Cause “Granny Look”
Posted on Sep 10, 2020 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
Imagine your mouth begins to sink into your face. Deep wrinkles form around your mouth and the corners of the mouth begin to turn downward, even when you smile. Jowls form, allowing skin to seem to loosen and hang on both sides of the face. The chin becomes more pointed and the nose and chin get closer and closer.
This sounds pretty awful. It is like a disfigurement of the face. It’s not a horror movie, though. This is real, caused by one of the most preventable of all diseases afflicting American adults. It’s a disease that affects over 47 percent of all adults over the age of 30. For adults over the age of 65, the figure rises to over 70 percent. (https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/conditions/periodontal-disease.html)
Amazingly, this highly prevalent disease is simply periodontal disease. Often referred to as gum disease, some people also refer to it as “perio.” These are fairly familiar terms when it comes to what adults endure. Yet, it seems to be easily ignored, which merely allows it to progress further.
Before we get into the causes (and easy prevention measures) of gum disease, let’s examine how the dreaded changes in facial appearance are related to it.
Gum disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss. Assumed to be a normal part of the aging process, it is anything but. Yes, older adults are more prone to acquiring gum disease due to a reduction in saliva and perhaps being less efficient at oral hygiene. But losing teeth can be prevented, and should be.
The problem with losing natural teeth has to do with their roots. It is the roots of a tooth that serve a much greater purpose than most people realize. While the appearance and function of dentures and partials (albeit reduced) can be replaced, they do nothing to replace what is lost beneath the gum line.
Simply put, the lack of tooth roots is the beginning of a “melting face.” This leads to bone loss and is known as resorption. Resorption is the shrinking of the bone structures that support teeth. As tooth roots are absent, the loss of bone mass can create a number of problems – both related to oral health and in facial appearance.
Tooth roots are a living part of your skeletal structure. Tooth roots are what provide nourishment and stimulation to the jaw bones. This helps the jaws to maintain a healthy mass. When tooth roots are removed, the bones slowly begin to shrink. Although most people don’t notice anything different for a while, bone loss begins almost immediately.
As described at the beginning of this article, there is a ‘look’ of bone loss, which causes changes in facial structures. This is because the bone mass is shrinking. As it shrinks, muscles detach and facial skin hangs looser.
Initially, you may only notice more wrinkles around the mouth. As it worsens, you may realize your chin seems to be more pointed. The extreme visual change of bone resorption is referred to as a ‘granny look.’ This causes people to appear far older than their actual age.
For those who wear a denture or partial, losing jaw bone mass also causes a change in the way the denture or partial fits. For example, a denture may fit fine the first year after teeth are removed and a denture is fitted. However, you’ll eventually notice slips when biting or chewing. This is because the bone under the “arch” that supports the denture or partial is declining in height.
The changing foundation for the denture allows it to “slip” or become “wobbly.” As bone loss continues, you may experience uncomfortable rubbing on tender gum tissues while eating. You may start to bypass foods that require rigorous chewing, opting for softer foods that dissolve quickly in the mouth. Outings with friends and family seem to be overshadowed by the fear of embarrassing slips.
Eventually, even frequent applications of denture pastes or adhesives are of little help. A reline may be recommended by your dentist to reshape your denture or partial to fit the reduced contours of the gum ridge (or “arch”). Continued bone loss will require yet another reline as the ridge flattens further.
Denture wearers are typically unaware that the pressure on the gums from wearing a denture accelerates the rate of bone loss. For those who sleep in their dentures, this means that pace of bone loss occurs 24/7.
Sleeping in a denture can also add to higher risks for the flu and pneumonia. A 3-year study of more than 500 adults was published by the Journal of International Oral Health. Of the 186 (of 453 denture wearers) who did not remove their dentures for sleeping, they had over twice the risk for pneumonia than those who did. Sleeping in dentures also led to higher levels of tongue and denture plaque, gun inflammation and other oral issues.
When it comes to replacing natural teeth, there are many reasons we recommend dental implants, a major advantage being their ability to halt bone loss. Because dental implants act as replacement tooth roots, they are able to restore stimulation to the jaw bones.
Additionally, dental implants use the same, sturdy foundation as natural teeth once had. This means you can bite and chew the foods you love (including that thick steak) without fearing embarrassment or uncomfortable rubbing against tender gum tissues.
Dental implants are also designed to last a lifetime, making them a wise investment.
A particular skill of the periodontal specialty is the advanced training in the diagnosis and placement of dental implants. This training allows the specialist to determine the best dental implant type for your needs. A periodontist can also enhance your outcome through proper placement.
If you are missing natural teeth or have become frustrated with a denture or partial, call 828-274-9440 for a consultation in our Asheville periodontal dental office. During this time, we can discuss the implant system that may be most appropriate for your needs. I’ll also be happy to explain the procedural process, comfort options, and easy payment plans.
For a smile that looks beautiful and functions to support good health, don’t let the detrimental effects of dentures lead to a “granny look”. Dental implants can help you enjoy a confident, worry-free smile through your lifetime.
The 1-2-3’s Of Dental Implants
Posted on Apr 29, 2020 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
Over time, certain things are often referred to in catchphrases that simplify what is being described. For example, “Kleenex” is actually a brand name that refers to tissues. “Clorox” is commonly used as a generic for bleach, even though it’s a specific brand. And, “Uber” has become a way to describe a paid means of auto transportation, even if a taxi or Lyft is being used.
This is why the term “dental implant” may be confusing to some people. This implies the replacement of a missing tooth or teeth with a base that is implanted into the jaw bone. However, to be clear, a dental implant is not an entire structure. Let’s look at the various components of a complete dental implant system.
Although there are different types of implant systems (designed to accommodate specific needs), all work in in a similar fashion. The actual “implant” is a hollow, screw-like cylinder. This is the portion that is actually “implanted” in the jaw bone at a strategic angle and depth.
Once placed, the implant is covered over with gum tissue. For several months after, the implant goes through a process known as “osseointegration.” In this, the bone grows around the implanted portion, which secure it in place. This restores the foundation like that of natural teeth for dependable and comfortable biting and chewing stability.
This stage, often referred to as the “healing” process, typically takes several months. However, a denture or temporary can be worn comfortably so going without teeth is not a worry.
Once healing is complete, a post is secured inside the hollow core of the implant. This post will support your final replacement tooth or teeth. Most replacement teeth are made of porcelain, which provides the most durable of all materials used in dental restorations.
Porcelain is an ideal material for replacement teeth. It is less resistant to stains and provides an exceptionally natural look and feel, even reflecting light as a natural tooth.
A successful outcome in any Dental Implant treatment begins with the selection and placement process. A Periodontist has specialized training in the diagnosis and placement of all types of implant systems. This means the implant system recommended for you will be the type most suited to your individual needs and goals.
An important aspect of implant success also relies on the assessment of bone mass. When the upper or lower jaw has insufficient bone to support the implant being placed, there is a risk of failure. This can occur in implants placed too close to the sinus cavity (for upper implants) or a nerve that runs through the mandible (lower jaw).
Too, an implant requires careful selection and placement in order to adequately support the replacement teeth being attached. In some cases, as few as 4 – 6 implants can support a complete arch of teeth. This decision is best left in the hands of a periodontal specialist.
In cases of severe bone loss, a periodontist can also perform bone rebuilding procedures prior to implant placement. This is sometimes through bone grafting but most commonly the application of a bone-rebuilding material. Additionally, some implant systems, such as the “All On 4” utilize unique angles to provide support in minimal bone depth with no bone rebuilding necessary.
The best implant system for you can be determined after an examination. During this time, I can discuss options best for you and explain the process. Call 828-274-9440 to schedule an appointment. Or, ask to begin with a Consultation.
We also encourage you to share any concerns about comfort options or treatment fees. Many people avoid looking into dental implant treatment because they are afraid of the procedure or fear they cannot manage the fees. Rather than assume these are obstacles, share your concerns so we can address them head on!
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.
Know The Unseen Risks Of Wearing Dentures
Posted on Sep 19, 2019 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
As an Asheville periodontist, my goal is to provide each patient with the very best so they can enjoy a healthy, confident smile. For patients who have lost one or more natural teeth, some come to me because they want to avoid ending up having to wear a full or partial denture. For those who wear one and are unhappy with the feel and function, we are sought out as specialists in the diagnosis and placement of dental implants.
Denture wearers, especially those who have worn dentures for many years, can quickly become dissatisfied with the uncomfortable rubbing and difficulty eating foods they once enjoyed. Although their ‘appliance’ may have fit well when first made, changes in the fit, over time, are due to what is taking place below the gum tissues. These changes aren’t obvious, at first.
When first made, a denture is custom-designed to fit snugly to the unique contours of the gum ridge. This ‘ridge’ is the raised arch where natural teeth were once held. Over time, denture wearers begin to notice that the denture moves while chewing certain foods. This can rub sore spots on gums. As the denture loosens more, even using denture adhesives or pastes don’t help much.
Denture patients also learn that it can be painful for something as small as a sesame seed to become trapped between their denture and gums, piercing into tender gum tissues. Some people eventually switch to a diet of soft foods that dissolve easily to avoid rigorous chewing. Because of fear of embarrassing slips, others begin to decline social invitations when they are centered around food.
The problem for a denture wearer is what is happening underneath the gums. The looser fit is not because the denture has expanded – it’s the decline of the jaw bone. This occurs with the absence of tooth roots, which once provided nourishment and stimulation to the bone that supported them.
When natural tooth roots are removed, the jaw bone begins to shrink. This decline in bone mass also contributes to changes in facial appearance, such as deep wrinkling around the mouth and the formation of jowls.
The process of bone loss continues as the gum ridge your denture was contoured to flattens. Relines may temporarily adjust the denture to accommodate some of the change. However, as the jaw bone continues to decline, the denture continues to be difficult to keep in place.
The denture itself merely adds to the problem of bone loss. The pressure of wearing a denture actually accelerates the rate of bone loss. Since a number of denture wearers also sleep in their dentures, the 24/7 pressure speeds this rate even more.
Long-time denture wearers often complain that they are not able to chew, with some admitting they have to even remove their denture to eat. Fear of embarrassment is another common complaint. Speaking, laughing and even sneezing in the presence of others can create embarrassing moments that leave lasting impressions.
The solution to these problems – dental implants. Not only do implants restore the ability to bite and chew comfortably, they halt bone loss that is associated with dentures. Because they are held by the jaw bone, just as natural tooth roots once were, implants recreate the stimulation needed by the jaw bone to maintain its mass.
Does your denture bring to mind words like rocky, wobbly and slippery? If so, the problem will only worsen over time. When people choose dental implants to replace an ill-fitting denture, they can smile, laugh and chew with confidence.
Eating a healthy diet, socializing with friends and family, and feeling confident are essential to a healthy, happy life. Call our friendly Asheville periodontal dental office: 828-254-9440 to schedule an initial appointment. (A referral is not required). During this time, I’ll explain the type of implants that may be best for your needs as well as comfort options, including oral and IV sedation (“twilight sleep”). We are also happy to discuss estimated costs and payment options.