Your Tongue Is A Multi-Tasker!


Posted on May 05, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

With the tongue occupying such a large area inside the mouth (or ‘oral cavity’), you’d think its anatomy would be common knowledge. Because this muscle functions continually without tiring, it tends to be taken for granted. It’s importance to your overall health, however, is unbounded.

To correct a common misconception about the tongue, it is not the strongest muscle in the body. Although it ranks in the top 5 or so, the muscles surrounding the eyes actually have that supremacy. The heart, deemed the hardest working muscle in the body, and the masseter (jaw muscle) are also among those that are the body’s stand-outs.

The tongue does many things. It provides our sense of taste, is vital in pronunciation, moves food around as we chew, and aids in swallowing while helping to prevent certain things from being swallowed.

Not one muscle but a combination of 8, the tongue is coated with papillae. These are the tiny, bumpy protrusions on its surface. They help in various ways but are mostly credited for our sense of taste.

Different areas of the tongue are more sensitive to certain tastes. For example, the tip of the tongue detects sweet to the greatest extent while the sides detect sour.

Papillae also sense touch so that we can feel the form and texture of food.

Saliva helps to keep the tongue moist so it can move around the oral cavity freely. Saliva is also helpful to the tongue by moving bacteria from its surface. However, saliva cannot keep the tongue bacteria-free.

Saliva and food residue can get stuck in the grooves between the papillae, especially on the last third of the tongue. This can create areas for bacterial growth. These bacteria thrive on remains of protein-rich food like fish, cheese or milk.

Here is where, as an Asheville periodontist, I have a particular interest in the tongue. As bacteria accumulate, a whitish film covers the tongue, which also causes bad breath. Keeping bacteria in the mouth to manageable levels is greatly supported by saliva flow.

The tongue’s underside covers two salivary glands of the lower jaw (submandibular glands). These ducts are located where the tongue meets the floor of the mouth.

If you’ve read some of my previous articles, you’ll recall that I’m constantly reminding readers of the hazards of having a dry mouth. Smoking, consumption of alcohol and caffeine, and many medications are all obstacles to the salivary glands being able to function efficiently.

A dry mouth provides a breeding ground for bacteria reproduction. When you consider the amount of bacteria embedded in the tongue’s surface, oral bacteria levels in the mouth can run rampant.

Because the tongue’s surface color can indicate too much oral bacteria, it should be looked at during at-home oral hygiene regimens. It is advised that, after brushing teeth, using the toothbrush to brush the tongue. This can dislodge an enormous amount of bacteria.

Although brushing the tongue tends to be done on the front area, it’s helpful to brush towards the back of the tongue where most bacteria exist (hence, the whiter color and smoother surface). Gagging will stop you from going too far so use that as a guide.

Some toothbrushes have a tongue scraper surface on the back side of the bristles. There are also tongue scrapers available for purchase. These are flexible strips that should be used to scrape from back to front 3 or more times after brushing. Rinsing the scraper is advised after each pass.

To provide even more support in helping the oral cavity control bacteria, an oral rinse can be very helpful. After brushing (for a minimum of 2 minutes) and flossing, swish for 30 or more seconds with an alcohol-free mouthwash. While the intensity of the mouthwash may be greater with initial use, most people notice its easier to swish around the mouth within a week or so.

Low bacteria levels in the mouth make for fresh breath and reduced risk of developing cavities and gum disease. Periodontal disease begins with gingivitis, which causes gum tissues to be tender and bleed when brushing.

Periodontitis, an advanced stage of gum disease, causes red, sore, spongy gums. Other symptoms are persistent bad breath, bleeding easily, gums that loosen from the base of teeth, and teeth that loosen.

Periodontitis can also cause health risks far beyond the mouth. Because these infectious bacteria can enter the bloodstream through tears in the gum tissues, it has been shown to trigger or worsen the development of serious health problems. Some of these are stroke, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, some cancers, and diabetes.

When it comes to the tongue, remember its important role to your oral and overall health. Keep the mouth moist and its surface clean and your reward will be sweet (without the calories!).

If you are experiencing any signs of gum disease, call 828-274-9440 for an appointment. Gum disease does not go away on its own and will progressive worsen without treatment. Remember – it is the number one cause of adult tooth loss in the U.S.

 

Flossing – A Valuable Step In Avoiding Gum Disease & Tooth Loss


Posted on Mar 17, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Adults who wish to stay healthy and active as they age often workout daily, walk at least 30 minutes per day, try to get 7 – 8 hours of sleep each night, and brush their teeth twice a day.

Tooth brushing helps to keep oral bacteria levels in the mouth to manageable levels. With the help of saliva, which is a rinsing agent for the mouth, these bacteria are generally kept under control. By preventing rampant growth, the ‘oral cavity’ (interior of the mouth) is able to avoid a destructive onslaught caused by these icky organisms.

A study shared by Dental Dental showed that about 70 percent of American adults brush their teeth twice a day. Unfortunately, this leaves more than a fourth of adults who do not.

Daily flossing is also recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA) as a preventative way to keep cavities and gum disease at bay. Still, an estimated 30 percent are committed to daily flossing – less than a third.

This means that a whopping 70 percent do not include flossing in their daily oral hygiene regimens. Too, about a third of Americans admit to never flossing, with 39 percent of men and 27 percent of women who do not.

Yet, the devotion of twice daily brushing and daily flossing requires only about 5 minutes of time – total. It is recommended to spend two minutes brushing teeth in the morning and before bed. A practiced flosser requires about a minute to floss. (Consider that five minutes is about the amount of time for a commercial break between TV programs.)

Yet, if you could see what I see…

As a periodontist, my specialty includes advanced training in the treatment of gum disease. I know the destructive nature of infectious oral bacteria. I have a bird’s eye view of what can occur without a committed oral hygiene routine at home. When an overload of bacteria accumulate in the mouth, cavities are able to form and gum tissues become food for living and breeding bacteria.

While brushing twice a day is important, the bristles of a toothbrush are typically unable to dislodge food particles caught between teeth. Left behind, these particles begin to rot rather quickly, leaving even more sustenance for bacterial growth and reproduction.

To see just how much your toothbrush misses, brush your teeth thoroughly for the recommended two minutes at the end of the day. Rinse and spit a couple of times. Then, using a strand of floss, move gently between teeth, easing up and down to reach the sides of all teeth. Move the floss just slightly beneath the gums at the base of each tooth. After all teeth are flossed, rinse and spit again. Most people are shocked at just how much their toothbrush failed to remove.

When oral bacteria amass past the point that is manageable by the immune system, these bacteria become infectious. This causes inflammation in the gum tissues, which can lead to the formation of periodontal (gum) disease. This begins with gingivitis, which has mild symptoms. Untreated, it worsens to periodontal disease and the advanced level of periodontitis.

It begins when oral bacteria accumulation creates a sticky film in the mouth known as plaque. When not removed thoroughly and frequently, plaque can form cement-hard bacteria colonies that attach to teeth. This hardened form of bacteria is known as tartar and, once formed, can no longer be brushed or flossed away.

As a Periodontist, I often see people who have developed periodontal disease who come (or have been referred) because they have obvious symptoms, such as red, swollen gums. However, I also see patients who are surprised to learn they have developed the disease. Yet, even without obvious symptoms, gum disease may exist and be fully underway.

Nearly half of American adults have some level of gum disease (over 47 percent in recent estimates). Periodontal (gum) disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss even though it’s one of the most preventable of all diseases with simple measures.

Losing natural teeth leaves an individual with having to make decisions for replacement – crown-&-bridge combination, partial denture, full denture or Dental Implant. These time-consuming procedures and expenses can be avoided. And, contrary to what many believe, losing teeth is not a natural part of the aging process. With proper care, you can easily enjoy a smile of natural teeth all your life.

It is often surprising to people to learn that oral health is an integral part of overall health. Inflammation in the mouth doesn’t simply remain in the mouth. Through tears in diseased gum tissues, the oral bacteria of gum disease are able to enter the bloodstream. As the bacteria travel throughout the body, their toxic nature can activate inflammatory effects elsewhere.

Infectious gum disease bacteria have been the focus of a numerous amount of research over the years. Studies have found that the bacteria of gum disease can trigger or worsen heart disease, stroke, preterm babies, arthritis, diabetes, some cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, erectile dysfunction (ED) and impotency. As research continues, even more serious (and deadly) connections are being made.

They key is to keep oral bacteria levels to a minimum, which is why brushing and flossing are an important part of your daily care routine. Neither step should be taken for granted. Yet, as a periodontal specialist, I understand how it can be difficult to get into the habit of daily flossing.

For some, the tight floss around fingers is uncomfortable. For others who have large fingers or problems with manual dexterity, the act of flossing is awkward or challenging. However, for those who floss on a daily basis, it becomes a maneuver that is as simple as brushing teeth.

For individuals who are challenged by manual flossing, there are some excellent water flossers on the market. These are affordable and can be just as effective as ‘string’ flossing when used properly – and daily.

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. During these visits, tartar that may have formed can be removed and signs of early gum disease can be addressed.

If you are experiencing symptoms of gum disease, call 828-274-9440. In our state-of-the-art Asheville periodontal dental office, our patients are treated with respect, compassion and a gentle touch. Here, you’ll never be lectured. Our goal is to restore your smile to a healthy state and develop a program to help you keep it at its best.

New patients are always welcome. A referral is not needed to become a patient.

Erectile Dysfunction (ED) Risks Increase With Presence of Gum Disease


Posted on Jan 07, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Men have a long way to go when it comes to taking good care of their teeth and gums, according to several surveys.

One from the Academy of General Dentistry stated that men in the U.S. are less likely to have regular dental check-ups and cleanings than women. Another survey shared by the Journal of Periodontology said men are less likely to brush regularly, and more likely to lose teeth as they age as well as develop oral cancer and gum disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, over 56 percent of men have gum disease, compared to just over 38 percent of women. Men, in particular, should be aware of the increased health risks associated with periodontal (gum) disease.

Researchers have given closer assessment to recent studies and found that erectile dysfunction (ED) is more common in men with gum disease.

In addition to higher ED risks, research has found that men with a history of gum disease are 14 percent more likely to develop cancer than men with healthy gums – 49 percent more likely to develop kidney cancer, 59 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer and 30 percent more likely to develop a blood cancer.

If concerns about heart disease and cancers aren’t enough to get men thinking more seriously about their oral health, ED may be a condition that does.

Gum disease has emerged as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and cardiovascular disease raises the risk for ED. For men, there are a number of factors that contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. These include smoking, obesity, chronic stress, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and chronic sleep apnea.

One study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine revealed that men in their thirties with severe gum disease are 3 times more likely to have erection problems. As cardiovascular health issues develop, erection ability suffers, and as health problems increase in number and severity, so does the severity of ED.

The association between periodontal disease, heart disease, and erectile dysfunction relates to inflammation brought on by gum disease bacteria. This process actually comes down to a biochemical reaction. During sexual arousal, the body releases nitric oxide, which plays a key role in enabling erection. Chronic inflammations, including periodontal disease, impairs release of nitric oxide and contributes to ED.

In the U.S., an estimated 18 percent of males have erectile dysfunction. Although men who are over age 70 are more likely to have ED, males most affected by ED are getting younger. One outpatient clinic showed that 1 in 4 men who sought help for erectile dysfunction were under the age of 40.

Could maintaining a healthy mouth lower the risk of ED? In a 2013 study, it was found that treating periodontal disease improves ED symptoms. Thus, a growing number of physicians are advising male patients who have both ED and periodontitis to seek periodontal treatment as a way to reduce its risk.

In data analyzed from five studies published between 2009 – 2014 (which included 213,000 male participants between ages 20 – 80), men who had chronic periodontitis (advanced gum disease) were more likely to have erectile dysfunction.

In another study, nearly half of the men with ED also had diabetes, another chronic inflammatory disease with links to periodontal disease. Chronic inflammation in the body can be lowered when gum health is kept in good condition.

Men can help to protect their overall health by keeping their oral health at an excellent level. It is especially important to watch for signs of gum disease. Symptoms include: puffy, red gums; inflamed, swollen, or bleeding gums; gums that recede from the base of teeth; and persistent bad breath.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, call our Asheville periodontal dental office for an examination as soon as possible. Gum disease does not improve without treatment.

Although many serious health problems are linked to the potent bacteria of gum disease, it is one of the most preventable of all diseases. Twice daily brushing, daily flossing, a diet limited in sugar and carbohydrates and drinking plenty of water are simple guidelines to follow.

Even with these easy steps that take mere minutes per day, it is estimated that over 47 percent of American adults have some level of gum disease.

For the good of your overall health and well-being, renew your commitment to a healthy smile for the new year. Begin with a thorough examination. (A referral is not required.) We’ll discuss how to get your oral health in good shape and ways to maintain it between dental check-ups.

Call 828-274-9440 to schedule or ask to begin with a consultation. If dental anxiety or fear has kept you from regular dental care, mention this during your appointment. This is a common problem for both men and women. If desired, we offer a number of comfort options, including Oral Sedation or I.V. Sedation (twilight sleep).

Ask Santa To Make The Toothbrush Under The Tree Electric!


Posted on Dec 16, 2020 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Although your Christmas wish list probably doesn’t include an electric toothbrush, it should. Studies have shown that brushing teeth with an electric version promotes better gum health and slower progression of periodontal (gum) disease. Electric tooth brushing is also helpful in reducing tooth loss, by 20 percent (compared to those who brush with manual toothbrushes).

If you use an electric toothbrush, most people think of its benefits in giving fresh breath and a bright smile. As an Asheville periodontist for over three decades, I have a firsthand view of how a thorough at-home oral hygiene regimen can help significantly in preventing gum disease and tooth loss.

An electric toothbrush can be an important tool in daily oral hygiene. Findings of an 11 year study published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology tracked the oral health of over 2800 adults. The use of electric toothbrushes was monitored to watch for periodontal disease, cavities, and the number of natural teeth.

From 2002 – 2006, participants were examined with follow ups conducted after 6 and 11 years. Eighteen percent of the participants were electric tooth brush users. At the time of their 11 year follow up, 37 percent had switched to using electric toothbrushes.

Although more adults are using them, the long-term effectiveness of electric tooth brushes has not been proven to be significant. It is suspected that this is due to the technique used rather than due to the brushing tool itself. For manual users, a significant challenge with brushing this way is in the choice of bristles. Stiff, hard bristles can be very damaging.

A hard bristled tooth brush can actually damage tooth enamel and gum tissues. To the detriment of teeth, people tend to press down too firmly as they brush, scrubbing with a ‘back & forth’ motion. They may feel this is the way to do a good job brushing. However, this action can wear down the protective coating of tooth enamel, leaving teeth more vulnerable to decay.

Another problem with a hard bristle tooth brush is its ability to damage tender gum tissues. These can thin out the protective seal that gums have around the base of each tooth. This increases the potential for bacterial entry of the sensitive tooth root area of teeth.

Hint: If the bristles on your toothbrush are fanned out after a couple of months, you are applying too much pressure when brushing.

The ideal technique for brushing teeth is to use gentle pressure with a swirling motion. By using a circular pattern over both sides of each tooth and along the tops, teeth are cleansed without wearing away gum tissues or wearing down precious tooth enamel.

This is where electric toothbrushes can help greatly. Many of the newer models include a beep when too much pressure is being applied. Most also have timers to indicate the time needed for each quadrant, which is your teeth divided into 4 sections. The timers are good aids in helping you to brush at least two minutes.

As devastating as tooth loss can be to one’s overall health, we now know that the bacteria of gum disease can enter the bloodstream. Research has shown this infectious bacteria can trigger inflammatory reactions elsewhere in the body. It has been linked to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, some cancers, diabetes, arthritis, impotency, preterm babies and more.

Whether using a manual or electric tooth brush, it is necessary to brush twice a day to effectively remove plaque. Plaque is the sticky film you feel on teeth when you wake up or at the end of the day.

Plaque is a buildup of oral bacteria that coats teeth and gums. If not removed daily, it forms a hardened mass of calculus (or tartar) that attaches to teeth. This is what you may feel your hygienist scraping off teeth during cleanings since it cannot be brushed or flossed away.

Another place that oral bacteria can thrive are in the grooves in the tongue. These offer a dark, warm and moist environment for bacterial reproduction. To uproot these icky organisms, use your toothbrush to brush your tongue after brushing teeth. Be sure to reach the back of the tongue where the majority of oral bacteria are embedded. Swish with water several times after.

Flossing is another way to improve gum health, lower cavity risk and prevent tooth loss. It is estimated that only 31 percent of American adults floss on a daily basis. Flossing removes trapped bits of food remain in the mouth, which feeds oral bacteria and allows them to quickly multiply. Because brushing cannot dislodge all food particles caught between teeth, daily flossing should be a part of oral hygiene routines.

Proper flossing is easy for those who are in the habit and takes only a minute each day. For those who have difficulty with manual dexterity or find the maneuver awkward, water flossers are effective alternatives and easy to use. (This is another good item to add to your wish list!)

Practice these recommended techniques  and you’ll not only do a better job at having a clean mouth, you’ll find your time at the sink requires less effort. If you feel you may be experiencing symptoms of periodontal disease, act promptly. You should be seen at your earliest convenience for treatment since this disease will only worsen over time.

Signs of gum disease include tender gums that bleed easily when brushing, gums that darken in color to red (versus a healthy pink), frequent bad breath, and gums that pull away from teeth (receded gums) and expose darker root areas of the tooth.

As a periodontal specialist, I have advanced skills in the treatment of all stages of gum disease (as well as in the placement of dental implants). Our office features some of the most advanced technology available in dentistry to optimize patient outcomes and comfort.

Here, we will help you achieve the healthy smile you want and prevent tooth loss to the greatest extent possible. If you’ve already lost teeth, we’ll discuss their replacement through dental implants. Dental implants are the closest thing to natural teeth, restoring biting and chewing strength and stability.

Call 828-274-9440 to learn more or to schedule a consultation to discuss how you can achieve excellent oral health.

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