April is National Oral Cancer Awareness Month

Posted on Apr 12, 2022 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

April is recognized as National Oral Cancer Month. It provides an annual opportunity for the medical and dental communities to remind the American population of the dire consequences that can be brought on by this cancer.

Oral cavity and oropharyngeal (which includes the base of the tongue and soft palate) cancers occur most often in the tongue, gums, floor of the mouth, tonsils, and other parts of the mouth and oropharynx. These cancers also occur in the lips and salivary glands (typically those in the roof of the mouth).

According to the American Cancer Society’s, recent statistics of oral and oropharyngeal (throat) cancers include:

• In 2022, an estimated 54,000 new cases will occur with about 11,230 deaths.

• The average age of people diagnosed with these cancers is 63, but over 20% (1 in 5) of cases occur in patients under the age of 55.

• These cancers are more than twice as common in men as in women and slightly more common in white people than black people. Overall, the lifetime risk of developing oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer is about 1 in 60 for men and 1 in 140 for women.

Although the death rate and new cases of oral cavity has risen only slightly over the past 20 years, there has been an increase specifically in oropharyngeal cancers associated with an human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in both men and women. These HPV-positive cancers tend to act differently than HPV-negative cancers.

A number of other factors can affect your risk for developing mouth and throat cancer. These include:

Tobacco and alcohol use – Tobacco use is one of the strongest risk factors for head and neck cancers, including oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer. The risk for these cancers is much higher in people who smoke than in people who don’t. Most people with these cancers have a history of smoking or other tobacco exposure, like chewing tobacco. The more you smoke, the greater your risk. Smoke from cigarettes, pipes, and cigars all increase your risk of getting these cancers. Some studies indicate that long-term exposure to secondhand smoke might increase the risk of these cancers.

Oral tobacco products (snuff, dip, spit, chew, or dissolvable tobacco) are linked with cancers of the cheek, gums, and inner surface of the lips. Using oral tobacco products for a long time is linked to a very high risk. These products also cause gum disease, destruction of the bone sockets around teeth, and tooth loss.

For people who continue to smoke and use oral tobacco products after cancer treatment, their risk of developing a second cancer in the mouth, throat, larynx (voice box), lung and other organs greatly increases.

Drinking alcohol increases the risk of developing oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers. Heavy drinkers have a higher risk than light drinkers. Smoking and drinking alcohol together multiplies the risk of these cancers. The risk of these cancers in people who drink and smoke heavily is about 30 times higher than the risk in people who don’t smoke or drink.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection – HPV is a group of more than 150 types of viruses called papillomaviruses. Some of these viruses cause a type of growth commonly called a papilloma or wart.

Infection with certain types of HPV can cause some forms of cancer, including cancers of the penis, cervix, vulva, vagina, anus, mouth, and throat. HPV type 16 (HPV16) is the type most often linked to cancer of the oropharynx, especially those in the tonsil and base of tongue.

The number of oropharyngeal cancers linked to HPV has risen greatly over the past few decades due to becoming more common in younger people who have a history of multiple sex partners (including oral sex). This is true for even those with no history of alcohol abuse or tobacco use.

Gender – Oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers are twice as common in men than in women. HPV-related oropharyngeal cancers are also seen more often in men.

Poor nutrition – Studies have found that a diet low in fruits and vegetables is linked with an increased risk of cancers of the oral cavity and oropharynx.

Being obese or overweight – Too much body weight appears to increase the risk of these cancers.  It is advised that eating more plant-based foods, such as non-starchy vegetables and whole fruit, may help people lose weight as well as reduce their risk of oropharyngeal and laryngeal cancer.

Age – Because oral and oropharynx cancers can take many years to develop, they’re not common in young people. Most patients with these cancers are older than 55 when the cancers are first detected. HPV-linked cancers tend to be diagnosed in people younger than 50.

Sunlight – Cancers of the lip are more common in people who have outdoor jobs where they are exposed to sunlight for long periods of time.

Genetics – People with certain genes have a higher risk of mouth and middle throat cancer.

Signs and symptoms of mouth cancer may include:
• A lip or mouth sore that doesn’t heal within two weeks
• White or reddish patch on the inside of the mouth
• Loose teeth
• A growth or lump inside the mouth
• Mouth pain
• Ear pain
• Difficult or painful swallowing

Although oral cancer may first make itself known by a spot on the lips, inside of cheeks or on (or under) the tongue, oropharyngeal cancer can exist without symptoms. When symptoms do arise, they may be:
   Mass felt in the neck or in the back of the throat
   Difficulty or pain with swallowing
   Muffled voice
   Ear pain
   Throat pain or sore throat


A periodontist is a dental specialist who has advanced skills in treatment involving the gums, including gum disease, gum reshaping and in the placement of dental implants. This specialist can also detect suspicious areas that may be early warning signs of oral or oropharyngeal cancer. Through a painless process, the examination can determine is a biopsy is needed for a thorough testing process. The earlier the treatment, the less involved the process will be. Too, early treatment helps to increase survival rates.

As an Asheville NC periodontal specialist, please react promptly to any signs or symptoms associated with these cancers. And, with this knowledge, make it your goal to share this information with a smile you love.

Some Surprising Repercussions of Dental Fear

Posted on Mar 24, 2022 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Dental fear has been ranked fifth among the most common of all fears, affecting nearly 50 million people in the U.S. Although a traumatic dental experience during childhood is often assumed to be the leading cause of dental fear, some findings show this is the case for about half of these adults.

For decades, dental fear has been to blame for many adults failing to have adequate oral health. Although cost, access, and awareness of need can be factors, nearly half of American adults avoid dentistry due to having some level of associated fear.

There are a number of false perceptions that don’t help lower this statistic. For example, a parent who tells a child “It won’t hurt much” before a dental visit simply sets the anticipation of pain into place. Hearing things like “That’ll be worse than a root canal,” and “nothing is wrong because nothing hurts,” add to the misconceptions when it comes to the reasons for avoiding regular, preventive dental care.

By some estimates, an adult with dental fear will endure pain for over two weeks to avoid seeing a dentist. They will self-medicate, use ice packs or try ‘home remedies’ found online, all to no avail. Some people end up in an emergency room because they could not force themselves to see a dentist.

Another factor may have to do with genetic makeup. In research conducted at the National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Oral Health Research Center in Appalachia, “a gene variant was found that may contribute to heightened pain sensitivity and thus dental anxiety.”



If you’ve ever heard the term, “you don’t know what you don’t know,” this is especially true for oral health. Although people are generally aware that insufficient oral hygiene can lead to bad breath and cavities, too many are unaware of some far worse consequences. Poor oral hygiene at home and lack of regular dental check-ups and cleanings form a straight line to developing periodontal (gum) disease.

While gum disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss, it can also contribute to devastating health problems far beyond the mouth. The bacteria of gum disease are inflammatory. These infectious bacteria can enter the bloodstream through tears in weakened gum tissues, triggering a number of serious reactions.

To name a few, gum disease bacteria has been associated with the development or worsening of:
• Heart disease
• Stroke
• Alzheimer’s disease
• Pre-term babies
• Arthritis
• Diabetes
• High blood pressure
• Some cancers

Obviously, these bacteria are highly potent. Although being committed to a thorough, twice daily oral hygiene regimen at home is an important part of having good oral health, regular dental care is also necessary. These visits help to catch early signs of gum disease (which can begin without obvious symptoms). Early treatment can help to reduce treatment costs and time. And, the care can be essentially ‘painless’ when administered by the advanced skills of a periodontal specialist.

As a periodontist in Asheville NC, I want to be encouraging to adults about the risks associated with lack of dental care. I can cite the hazards of non-compliance of regular check-ups over and over. But, for people who have deep-seated fears when it comes to dental visits, far more support is needed to help an individual go from being fearful to relaxed.

A periodontal specialist has advanced training and skills in the diagnosis and placement of all types of dental implants. In our beautiful Asheville periodontal dental office, patient comfort is a priority at every visit. Our office is designed to pamper patients from the moment they enter. For certain procedures or patients who prefer the addition of sedatives, we offer oral sedation as well as I.V. sedation (twilight sleep).

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 sleep state, also erasing memory of the procedure. It is administered by a doctor of anesthesiology for optimal comfort and safety. In our office, this is overseen by a board certified Anesthesiologist.

With both sedation options, patients are closely monitored with advanced safety equipment throughout treatment.

When patients realize our goal is to provide exceptional care in comfort, they relax. Over time, many patients feel they no longer need a sedative and are able to have regular dental care without worry.

Another way we enhance comfort for our patients is through our immense array of dental technology. In many cases, this advanced technology shortens both treatment time and speeds healing. For example, our LANAP (Laser-Assisted New Attachment Procedure) provides an advanced protocol to efficiently and effectively treat periodontitis (advanced gum disease).

Essentially non-surgical, LANAP treatment provides an alternative for patients with moderate to severe periodontal disease with a quick recovery time.

Regardless of numerous features to optimize patient comfort, it’s still difficult for many to feel ‘ready’ for dental care. We can reassure people on the phone, yet, some simply cannot make an appointment and actually arrive. This is why we often begin with a consultation in our comfortable, private consultation room. This room is removed from the clinical side of the office.

To learn more, call 828-274-9440 to begin with a consultation appointment. New patients are always welcome and a referral is not required.

ED Risks Higher With Presence of Gum Disease

Posted on Feb 25, 2022 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

For over two decades, medical researchers have closely focused on inflammation in the body and its power to activate health problems, heart and cardiovascular diseases in particular.

It has been determined that inflammation anywhere in the body can set off a series of biochemical changes in the bloodstream; those that are designed to help the body repair inflamed tissues. However, when inflammation becomes chronic, blood chemistry never returns to normal, and trouble ensues. Researchers have noted this significantly in its increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Think of chronic inflammation as a pan of water that is boiling on the stove. When the body is in proper control, the boiling process ceases when the stove is turned to “off.” In chronic inflammation, however, the water continues to boil even after the pan is removed from the stove top.

Chronic inflammation can exist in the mouth, set at a constant “boiling point” due to advanced gum disease (known as periodontitis). Common symptoms are puffy gums that turn red in color; inflamed, swollen, or bleeding gums; gums that loosen from the base of teeth; persistent bad breath; gums that become spongy and bleed easily; and, pus pockets that form on the gums at the base of teeth.

In addition to creating higher risks of heart disease and stroke, advanced gum disease has been shown to increase the risks for diabetes, arthritis, preterm babies, some cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure and erectile dysfunction (ED). Yes, even ED.

Below are findings of several recent studies showing that periodontitis to be a significant risk factor for erectile dysfunction. Rather telling is as gum disease worsens, so does erection impairment.

• Turkish investigators studied 162 men, age 30 to 40. Eighty-two of the participants had normal erection function and 80 who complained of ED. Some men in both groups had chronic periodontitis, but the condition was more than twice as prevalent in the ED group. Men with periodontitis who also presented with decayed or missing teeth showed the greatest level of ED.

• Chinese scientists examined data of several studies involving a total of 213,076 men. Compared with those who had good erection function, those with ED had three times the risk of periodontal disease.

• The University of Granada School of Dentistry found that men with severe gum disease are more than twice as likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction. This was true even after careful adjustments were made for other health issues that could distort the findings, including socioeconomic data. In the study, 80 men with clear indications of erectile dysfunction were given a periodontal examination. According to the researchers, 74 percent of the participants with ED also presented with chronic periodontitis. The researchers concluded that patients with chronic periodontitis were more likely to have erectile dysfunction independent of other confounders.

• Israeli researchers surveyed the erection function of 305 men, average age 40, and then examined their gums. Those with chronic periodontitis had the greatest risk of ED.

The connection is actually logical. Periodontal disease has emerged as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and cardiovascular disease raises risk for ED. These studies show that everything that raises the risk for cardiovascular disease (such as smoking, obesity, chronic stress, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and chronic sleep apnea) also raises the risk of ED.

This finding also makes biochemical sense. 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.

Health risks such as our propensity for cancer or a decline in eyesight can occur regardless of lifestyle choices. However, it makes perfect sense to eliminate or greatly minimize risk factors, including periodontal disease. Research findings on ED’s association with infectious oral bacteria of gum disease will hopefully spurn more men to devote a higher level of commitment to care for their gums.

It takes mere minutes a day to maintain a healthy mouth and reduce the risks for developing gum disease.

These include brushing teeth for at least two minutes twice a day. Daily flossing will remove bacteria in the gums that may elude brushing. And, keeping the mouth moist will support saliva flow, the mouth’s natural rinsing agent.

If you feel your erections are worth the effort, then these measures will become higher priorities in your daily hygiene upkeep. It is also important to see a dentist regularly. If you don’t feel anything is wrong because “nothing hurts,” you are only cheating yourself.

Gum disease can exist without obvious symptoms. Catching it early and before it begins to “boil” will help you avoid costly and time-consuming treatment later. And, these steps may keep your sex life active.

If you are experiencing any of the signs of gum disease (as mentioned prior), please know that gum disease will only worsen without treatment. It is also the leading cause of adult tooth loss.

A periodontist is a dental specialist who treats all stages of gum disease. If it is found to exist, this periodontal specialist can help to resolve the problem and restore your smile to a healthy state in the most conservative way possible. He or she can then help you maintain good oral health, which will support your overall health.

For an examination, or to begin with a consultation, call 828-274-9440.



HPV – How The Virus Relates To Oral & Throat Cancers

Posted on Feb 17, 2022 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Every April, a number of oral health and cancer organizations come together to recognize Oral Cancer Awareness Month on a national basis. This is meant to expand awareness of this cancer, which takes a victim every hour of every day. Of those individuals, 43 percent will not survive longer than five years. Those who do survive may suffer from problems, such as severe facial disfigurement or difficulties with eating and speaking.

Oral cancer includes cancer of the mouth and upper throat, known as oropharyngeal cancer. The death rate associated with oral and oropharyngeal cancers is particularly high largely because detection typically occurs late in its development. However, when oral cancer is detected and treated early, treatment-related problems are reduced and with improved survival rates.

Annual oral cancer examinations during regular dental check-ups are the best method for detecting oral cancer in its early stages. It is also important to respond immediately to signs and symptoms of oral cancer, which include:

• A sore or ulceration that does not heal within 14 days;
• A red, white, or black discoloration of the soft tissues of the mouth;
• An abnormality that bleeds easily;
• A lump or hard spot in the tissue, usually border of the tongue;
• Raised tissue or a newly emerged growth;
• A sore beneath a denture or partial that does not heal;
• A lump or thickening that develops in the mouth; and
• A painless, firm, fixated lump on the outside of the neck that does not go away within two weeks.

Historically, factors that can contribute to having a higher risk of oral and oropharyngeal cancers have been heavy drinkers and smokers older than age 50. However, in recent years the cancer is occurring more often in nonsmoking people due to HPV 16, the virus most commonly associated with cervical cancer.

The human papilloma virus 16 (HPV) is sexually transmitted, although it is a different virus than HIV or (HSV) herpes. HPV is now the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States.

Exposure can occur by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus. It most commonly spreads during anal or vaginal sex. It can also spread through close skin-to-skin touching during sex. HPV can spread even when a person with the infection has no signs or symptoms.

There are many different types of HPV; most do not cause any health problems. Most individuals who get HPV never have symptoms and the virus goes away by itself. But, if HPV does not go away, it can cause genital warts or certain kinds of cancer. Symptoms can appear years after having sex with someone who has the infection.

Approximately 99 percent of people who develop HPV will clear the virus on their own. In approximately 1 percent of individuals, the immune system will not clear the virus and it can lay dormant for decades before potentially causing a cancer.

HPV itself isn’t a cancer but it can cause changes in the body that lead to cancer. Because of the growing rate of HPV, the increasing incidence of oropharyngeal cancer have been particularly concerning for younger age groups. Within the age range of 15 to 59, 40 percent will have HPV. This is an alarming rate for people with no other risk factors.

HPV-related oral cancer most commonly involves lymphoid tissue in the tonsils or the base of the tongue. Signs and symptoms of HPV-caused oropharyngeal cancer may include one or more of the following:

• Hoarseness or sore throat that does not resolve within a few weeks;
• A swollen tonsil on one side (usually painless);
• A painless, firm, fixated lump felt on the outside of the neck, which has been present for two weeks or more;
• A persistent cough that does not resolve after many days;
• Difficulty swallowing or feeling something is caught in your throat; and/or
• An earache on one side that persists for more than a few days.



Cervical cancer is the most common HPV-associated cancer among women (48 percent), and oropharyngeal cancers (82 percent) are the most common among men. The diagnosis may not be until years, or even decades, after a person gets HPV. Currently, there is no way to know who will get cancer after getting HPV.


HPV vaccines can prevent some of the health effects HPV causes. Once acquired, however, there is no specific treatment for HPV although there are treatments for health problems that develop from HPV, such as genital warts. Your healthcare provider can treat genital warts with prescription medication.

Because cancers from HPV are more treatable when found and treated early, it is important for those who acquire the virus to be especially diligent in having oral cancer screenings and promptly responding to any signs or symptoms (as mentioned above).

The HPV vaccine is safe and shown to be effective at preventing the virus. Like any vaccine, side effects can occur, which are typically short-lived and mild, such as headache, fatigue, fever or nausea. Most people have no side effects at all.

You are also urged to be committed to your 6-month dental exams. This provides your dentist an opportunity to note any suspicious areas in the mouth or on the lips. If you have not had regular dental check-ups, you may need to begin by seeing a periodontal specialist.

A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease (a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth also known as gum disease), and in the placement of dental implants. Periodontists receive extensive training in both of these areas and more, including three additional years of education beyond dental school.

As a periodontal specialist in Asheville for over 25 years, I take great pride in making our patients feel comfortable and understanding of their particular oral health status. If oral problems exist, we are able to resolve many with conservative treatment measures. Our Western NC periodontal dental office features some of the most advanced technology available to minimize treatment needs, treatment time, and speed healing with comfort always a priority. Oral and IV sedation are available.

To schedule an appointment, call 828-274-9440. New patients are always welcome and a referral is not required.

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