Protect Your Heart. Start With Your Smile!


Posted on Jul 17, 2019 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

According to a report on the health of Americans (published by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, or ‘CDC’), it is estimated that over 47 percent have some form of gum disease. Although we all aspire to have a smile that is appealing, it is what lies beneath the teeth and gums that can reek havoc on one’s overall health.

Signs of gum disease

Over time, inadequate daily oral hygiene enables an overload of bacteria in the mouth. For people who have habits such as smoking, unhealthy diets, and alcohol consumption, their vulnerability is even more susceptible to this bacterial buildup.

This is also true for people as they age. Aging contributes to a reduced ability to produce saliva, the mouth’s oral rinsing agent. When saliva flow fails to ‘wash away’ bacteria at sufficient levels, the accumulation runs rampant.

Oral bacteria are living, eating, and reproducing organisms. They thrive on rotting food particles caught between teeth. They attack gum tissues and tooth enamel. Eventually, they can work their way down tooth roots and attack the bones and tendons that support teeth.

What’s even scarier is the fact that these infectious critters can enter the bloodstream. This potent bacteria are now associated with a number of serious health conditions due to their ability to trigger systemic inflammation.

When the gum tissues can no longer combat the onslaught of bacteria, there can be very few signs of periodontal (gum) disease initially. Signs that emerge are typically frequent bad breath along with swollen, tender and beefy red gums that bleed when you brush. As they grow in number, the gum tissues become weaker and they can penetrate the bloodstream.

According to the American Academy of Periodontology (www.perio.org),
“Several studies have shown that periodontal disease is associated with heart disease. While a cause-and-effect relationship has not yet been proven, research has indicated that periodontal disease increases the risk of heart disease.
“Scientists believe that inflammation caused by periodontal disease may be responsible for the association.
“Periodontal disease can also exacerbate existing heart conditions. Patients at risk for infective endocarditis may require antibiotics prior to dental procedures. Your periodontist and cardiologist will be able to determine if your heart condition requires use of antibiotics prior to dental procedures.”

For this reason, cardiologists are more often advising their patients to be evaluated by a periodontist prior to heart surgery. As mentioned above, gums that bleed are a sign of gum disease. These oral bacteria, given an opportunity to enter the bloodstream, are able to travel anywhere, including the heart. They can reach the heart muscle and cause a severe infection.

For decades, researchers have probed the link between gum disease and cardiovascular health. People with gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) have two to three times the risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other serious cardiovascular event.

Acting as a contributing factor to heart disease is highly serious. Yet, the risks associated with gum disease don’t stop there. Research has shown this potent oral bacteria can set a path of destruction into motion. It has been linked to some cancers, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, preterm babies, impotency, and even Alzheimer’s.

Twice-daily brushing and daily flossing takes mere minutes and is inexpensive to do. Seeing a dentist every 6 months for oral exams and cleanings saves an individual far more by preventing problems than they cost. Yet, too many adults fail to devote the investment to this necessary part of a healthy lifestyle.

An estimated 65 percent of adults ages 18 – 64 see a dentist only once a year. Approximately 55 percent of adults brush their teeth twice a day, which is too little. (https://www.reference.com/health/many-times-day-people-brush-teeth-34d1104798029b7a) I believe it would be jolting to most adults to view dental floss under a microscope after their teeth have been flossed.

As an Asheville periodontal specialist, I have an up-close view of the damaging affects of insufficient oral hygiene. It often results in tooth loss, which is not a natural part of the aging process, as some people believe. Having your natural teeth for a lifetime is more than achievable and has even been shown to add to one’s lifespan (by up to ten years).

If you’ve failed to be fully committed to your oral health, there is no better time to begin than the present. Start with a thorough periodontal examination. Call 828-274-9440.

If dental fears have prevented you from having regular dental care, consider beginning with a consultation. This occurs in a comfortable, private consultation room that is removed from the clinical side of the office. This will be a friendly, informative conversation and you will not be asked to sit in a treatment chair during this visit.

Let’s protect you, top to bottom, beginning with your smile!

Bad Breath? That May Be The Least Of Your Problems!


Posted on May 23, 2019 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

We’ve all run into people who have bad breath. Although a tuna salad lunch or onion-laden hot dog can cause folks to pull back from close-up conversations, these forms of bad breath are temporary.

The smelly breath odor that is more concerning is that which comes from the sticky film of bacteria that coats the mouth and emits sulfuric odors (likened to rotten eggs). This film, known as plaque, coats the teeth and gums when allowed to build up.

For example, the reason you wake up with not-so-fresh breath in the morning is the result of the mouth being closed all night while bacteria reproduces and accumulates. Without brushing and due to declined saliva flow (your mouth’s natural rinsing agent) during sleep, oral bacteria amass. Thus, you wake up with the sticky film and the breath that goes with it.

For those who are mouth-breathers during sleep or who snore, dry oral tissues allow for even more bacterial growth.

Once you brush and rinse thoroughly, however, you can expect your breath to become more pleasant. Persistent bad breath, however, may be the a side effect of medication, an illness, or periodontal (gum) disease.

As a periodontal specialist, I’m very much aware of the distinct odor produced by gum disease. Although it varies slightly from person to person, it has an offensive scent than that of typical bad breath.

The best way to determine gum disease as the true source is through a periodontal exam. In addition to persistent bad breath, periodontal disease symptoms include gum tenderness, gums that bleed when brushing, and gums that are red in color rather than a healthy pink. Early stage gum disease (gingivitis) may not cause any obvious symptoms, however.

Regardless of the source of unpleasant breath odor, it is imperative to have and maintain good oral health – for reasons that can impact your overall health. Through decades of research and studies, the bacteria of gum disease has been linked to serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, arthritis, diabetes, impotency and some cancers.

For example, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and pneumonia are just two diseases that have a connection to gum disease. Researchers have found that RA sufferers have a higher incidence of periodontal (gum) disease compared to individuals with a healthy oral condition.

Studies have also shown that RA patients are nearly 8 times more likely to have gum disease. Although insufficient oral hygiene can certainly be a determining factor in acquiring gum disease, other parameters point to a deeper association between RA and gum disease.

Because both RA and gum disease both cause internal inflammation, a connection between the two are most prevalent when examining the joints and oral tissues. Oral tissues with the presence of periodontitis compared to tissues of RA-affected joints show a number of similarities. Research has also discovered a genetic link between the two.

And the health threats go further. One study published by Science Daily found that the bacteria present in the mouth can release toxins that can make their way into the brain. (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190123165002.htm)

Once there, they may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. While studies on this connection continue, other studies have found a clear path of triggers traced to the inflammatory reactions caused by the bacteria of gum disease.

Once periodontal disease is established in the mouth, its pathological byproducts can enter the bloodstream, lymph fluid, and bone structures. This can lead to the spread of infection and inflammation to all areas of the body. In this way, periodontal disease has been shown to be a cause of systemic disease.

While fresh breath and a gleaming smile are important, it’s clear that oral wellness plays a leading role in helping you avoid serious, and even deadly, health conditions.

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of gum disease mentioned above or are past due for a dental exam, call our Asheville periodontal office at 828-274-7440. If desired, you can begin with a private consultation, where we will discuss your symptoms and health history. During this time, I’ll answer your questions, explain treatment options and discuss comfort methods.

Pregnant? Make Oral Health A Particular Priority!


Posted on Apr 23, 2019 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

With pregnancy, there seems to be a long list of do’s and don’ts for the mom-to-be. For instance, pregnant women are advised to avoid most drugs, alcohol, certain foods, and all smoking! Proper exercise, a balanced diet, and plenty of sleep help to keep both mother and baby healthy when it comes time for delivery.

Now, obstetricians are urging their pregnant patients (or those trying to become pregnant) to add a very important item to this list. They are advising particular devotion to achieving and maintaining good oral health.

The reason to keep a healthy mouth is based on decades of research and findings related to how infectious bacteria of periodontal (gum) disease can penetrate the bloodstream. Once bloodborne, the bacteria are able to activate inflammatory triggers elsewhere in the body.

A mother-to-be is especially vulnerable to gum disease due to hormonal changes during her pregnancy. Almost 50 percent develop pregnancy gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease that causes gums to become swollen, tender and bleed easily when brushing.

However, because of their susceptibility, the risk for full-blown gum disease is higher for pregnant females with nearly a third developing gum disease.

Research has shown that gum disease increases the risk for pre-term delivery (prior to 37 weeks) and babies of low birth weight (less than 5.5 lbs.). One study showed the preterm birth rate for females without gum disease to be approximately 11 percent compared to nearly 29 percent for pregnant women with moderate to severe periodontal disease.

It has also been shown that gum disease increases the likelihood for late-term miscarriage and pre-eclampsia. When oral bacteria reach placental membranes via the bloodstream, inflammatory reactions were found to trigger pre-eclampsia or early labor.

One study showed that pregnant women with higher blood levels of antibodies to oral bacteria also had higher incidences of preterm birth and babies of low birth weight. These elevated antibodies have been found in amniotic fluid and fetal cord blood samples of infants who were preterm or of low birth weight at birth.

When periodontal disease is present, however, successful treatment has shown to lower the risk of preterm births.

For all individuals, however, the bacteria of gum disease is coming to light as a major contributor to a number of serious health problems. It is the nation’s’ leading cause of adult tooth loss and has been linked to heart disease, stroke, some cancers, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure and impotency.

Once the infectious bacteria of gum disease enter the bloodstream (typically through tears in weakened gum tissues), it can trigger inflammatory reactions, many serious and some that can have deadly consequences.

It is important to know the signs and symptoms of gum disease. These include gums that bleed when brushing, frequent bad breath, swollen or tender gums, gums that pull away from the base of teeth, or gums that darken in color.

While any of these should prompt an individual to seek out periodontal treatment, pregnant women have a particular need to seek care. A periodontist has specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of all levels of gum disease – in a way that is safe for pregnant women (as well as all patients).

If you have any of the symptoms mentioned above (whether pregnant or not), you are urged to schedule an appointment at your earliest convenience. Call 828-274-9440 to arrange an examination to begin.

Oral Bacteria Research Shows Links To Pancreatic Cancer


Posted on Apr 15, 2019 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

According to a number of studies, the oral bacteria of periodontal (gum) disease has been linked to serious health problems, including some cancers. Apparently, the inflammation triggered by the infectious bacteria in the mouth are now suspected to be a contributing factor in the development of pancreatic cancer.

Because it is typically not diagnosed until at advanced stages, pancreatic cancer has a a long-standing reputation for its deadly track record. This year, over 50,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Less than 10 percent will survive past the five year mark.

For years, researchers have been able to show that the infectious bacteria of periodontal disease are able to enter the bloodstream through tears in weakened tissues. Once bloodborne, these bacteria have been a trigger for inflammatory reactions elsewhere in the body. In addition to some cancers, research to-date has linked oral bacteria to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, preterm babies, impotency and erectile dysfunction.

In a long-term study to track oral bacteria-pancreatic cancer links, the DNA from saliva samples was analyzed from over 360 adults who eventually developed pancreatic cancer. Researchers compared these samples to the DNA in saliva of a similar number of adults who remained healthy.

Adjustments were made in both groups for considerations of age, race, sex and body mass as well as alcohol use, smoking and being diabetic. The participants who developed pancreatic cancer within two years after the DNA samples were taken were omitted to eliminate pre-existing factors that could influence statistical outcomes.

With findings from prior research, this study allowed researchers to hone in on two specific types of periodontal disease pathogens. Researchers noted that one pathogen was more prevalent in the saliva of participants who developed pancreatic cancer, noting a 59 percent greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer. The second pathogen was shown to increase this risk by 50 percent.

In early stages, the symptoms of gum disease include tender gums that bleed easily when brushing and frequent bad breath. As it worsens, the gums become sore and swollen, darken in color to red, and cause gum tissues to loosen their grip around the base of teeth. Eventually, teeth will loosen and may require removal. Because over 47 percent of American adults have some level of periodontal disease, it is no wonder that gum disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss.

Hopefully, the general public will learn of extensive research results that show that periodontal disease bacteria is destructive and deadly. As findings from further studies continue to be revealed, it is important to be proactive when it comes to the symptoms of periodontal disease. Remember, gum disease will only worsen without treatment.

Call 828-274-9440 to begin with a thorough periodontal examination. As a periodontist, our Asheville periodontal office offers specialized treatment for all levels of gum disease. Through this, I will explain how we will determine the state of your current oral health and subsequent recommendations that will restore you to excellent oral wellness.

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