Understanding Dental Implants & Their Benefits


Posted on Nov 03, 2020 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

When you lose a natural tooth, even one that isn’t visible when you smile, its absence causes a reaction that takes place below the gum line. Many people are unaware of what occurs – at first. When it becomes obvious, it leads to problems that are not only bothersome, they are detrimental to your overall health.

The absence of a tooth root in the upper or lower jaw bone is a loss of stimulation the bone mass where it was once positioned. These roots provide stimulation and nourishment that enables the bone to maintain a healthy mass. Without the presence of tooth roots, the bone begins to “melt away.” The term for this process is known as resorption.

Resorption begins shortly after the tooth root is removed. Once it begins, it continues at an ever-increasing pace. For example, the first year after a tooth root is missing, the loss of bone may be minimal. With each passing year, the rate of loss accelerates.

As the bone shrinks in height, the natural tooth roots adjacent to the area of missing teeth are vulnerable to movement and root damage. On average, the teeth most likely to be lost are the ones next to areas of tooth loss.

For the support of remaining natural teeth, it’s important to replace missing teeth as soon as possible so adjacent teeth can retain their proper positions. It is even more important to replace missing teeth before bone loss begins. And, it’s HOW you replace them that’s most important.

Because dental implants replace the tooth above the gum line AND the root portion below it, the bone is able to retain its mass. Dental implants are designed to restore the look, feel and chewing stability like that of natural teeth.

As the advantages of dental implants become more familiar for natural tooth replacement, there are still some misconceptions among the general population. The following will hopefully clear up some of the confusion.

First, Dental Implants are a term that describes 3 components. The “implanted” portion is placed in your jaw bone where a tooth root was once held. The “implant” is not what holds the tooth. It serves to anchor an attached tooth (or bridge of two or more teeth).

Made from titanium, this metal bonds to living bone successfully. As a matter of fact, dental implants have one of the highest success rates of any implant-in-bone procedures.

The implanted portion becomes anchored in the jaw bone through a process known as ‘osseo-integration.’ Once the implant has been secured by the bone, a post is inserted into the center of the implant. This post is known as an abutment.

The replacement tooth (or teeth) is usually made of porcelain. This is the portion that you see and looks just like a natural tooth. This is known as a restoration or crown. It is attached securely to this post.

Porcelain is commonly used to create the restorations because they provide the most durable material possible and have the look and feel of a natural tooth. Porcelain has a luminosity of natural teeth and even reflects light as a natural tooth would. Porcelain is also very resistant to staining.

When missing more than one tooth in one area, an implant is not always necessary to replace each one. As mentioned prior, one implant can often hold two or a bridge of teeth. Several strategically-placed implants may also be used support a full arch of teeth.

When people can chew properly and eat a healthy diet, their overall health is better. And, without the fear of embarrassing slips or clicks (often associated with denture wear), being socially active can continue to be a positive part of a happy life.

Dental implants restore the ability to eat with stability, chew comfortably, laugh and speak with confidence. Dental implants do not decay and will never need root canals. And, with proper care, they’ll last your lifetime.

There are many types of implants, each designed to accommodate specific needs. Many dental implants are chosen and placed by a Periodontist. This is a dental specialist who has extensive and specialized training in the diagnosis and placement of all types of dental implants. He or she can select the one that will work best for you.

Proper placement and support in caring for implants is an important part of a successful outcome. Dental Implants CAN fail. This is why a periodontal specialist can be an asset to your investment.

If infection sets in and reaches the implanted portion, the implant may need to be removed so treatment can resolve the problem. Your periodontist can assess gum health prior to placement and monitor your healing process to help minimize this risk.

There are other threats to dental implant success. Clenching or grinding teeth can also contribute to implant failure. Smoking complicates and delays the healing process and is also a known contributor to implant failure. Again, a periodontist can oversee your care to optimize your ability to enjoy a lifetime of confident smiles.

Call 828-274-9440 to arrange a consultation. During this time, we can discuss treatment that can achieve your needs and goals as well as the process and anticipated costs. If dental fear is a concern, I’ll also explain sedation options. We offer both oral sedation and IV sedation, if a “twilight sleep” state is preferred. Here, you’ll find your comfort is always a priority.

Pregnancy & Your Gum Health


Posted on Jul 09, 2020 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Today’s American female has a long list of guidelines that enhance the potential to have a healthy, full-term baby. Even so, pre-term births in this country occur at a rather high rate for the advanced health care available to most.

According to data released in 2017 by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the U.S. preterm birth rate actually rose from 2015 -2016, from 9.6 percent of births to 9.8 percent.

There seems to be a rather close connection between gum disease and preterm babies, as unrelated as the two may seem. First, consider the risks cited by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). As far back as the year 2000, the Surgeon General warned that pregnant females who had gum disease had a far greater risk of a pre-term, low birth weight baby.

Research has shown that gum disease increases the risk for pre-term delivery (prior to 37 weeks) and low birth weight babies (less than 5.5 lbs.).

“Studies have found that expectant mothers with periodontal disease are up to seven times more likely to deliver premature, low birth weight babies.” (https://www.adha.org/resources-docs/7228_Oral_Health_Total.pdf)

One study showed the preterm birth rate for pregnant women with moderate to severe periodontal disease to be nearly 29%.

Estimates are that over half of pregnant women have some form of gingivitis (gum inflammation, an early stage of gum disease) or periodontitis (infectious, advanced gum disease). Nearly a third of pregnant females will acquire gum disease because of their higher vulnerability to inflammation.

Infections in the mother have been identified as increasing the risk for pregnancy complications. Due to varying hormone levels, nearly all females will develop gingivitis during their pregnancy.

Referred to as pregnancy gingivitis, symptoms include swollen, tender gums that bleed easily when brushing. The goal is to halt the inflammation before it progresses to a more infectious stage.

Most obstetricians now urge their pregnant patients (or those trying to conceive) to have a thorough periodontal examination. Even with no obvious signs, gum disease can still exist. It lies beneath the surface of the gum tissues and should be resolved before it worsens and is able to seep into the bloodstream.

Symptoms of gum disease include gums that bleed when brushing, swollen or tender gums, receded gums or gums that darken in color.

When periodontal disease is present, successful treatment has shown to lower the risk of preterm births. A periodontal specialist is trained to treat all levels of disease in a way that is safe for pregnant women (as well as all patients).

Pregnancy is not the sole risk factor for developing gum disease, of course. Most adults of both genders have at least one factor that heightens susceptibility to this oral infection. Among these are stress, poor diet with high sugar intake, smoking, obesity, age, and poor dental hygiene can all contribute to an increased potential for developing periodontal disease.

Other risk factors include clinching or grinding teeth, predisposition due to genetics, diseases such as diabetes or cancer, some medications, and changes in female estrogen levels (puberty, pregnancy, menopause).

Gum disease bacteria is obviously a potent threat to any individual. As the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss, oral bacteria of this disease have been linked to heart disease, stroke, some cancers, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure and impotency.

If you have symptoms associated with gum disease, schedule an appointment at your earliest convenience by calling 828-274-9440. Gum disease will only worsen without treatment.

Use Your ‘Sheltering In’ Time To Expand Dental Knowledge


Posted on Mar 25, 2020 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Whether by requirement or feeling the need to reduce susceptibility to COVID-19, many people in the U.S. are “sheltering in.” I think of how this is likened to the term “hunker down” when hurricanes or tornadoes are present. However, “sheltering in” is requiring lengthy periods of being housebound.

Although that may seem depressing, people all over the world are getting rather creative at how they’re managing. With the internet, we are able to stay connected, share jokes and encouragement, and relay tips and important info to one another.

You may have seen music being performed on the balconies of homes in Italy and by policemen in the streets of Germany. People who are close to hospitals are applauding the caregivers as they enter and leave.

There are many uplifting things occurring in the midst of this trying time. I hope you are using your time positively and keeping your mind and body active. These will help you get through this time with greater resilience and a ready-to-go attitude once our country is getting back to normal.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share some terms used in dentistry you may find helpful once dental offices are back up and operating on a normal schedule. Some include:

• Perio – This is actually a shortened version of ‘periodontal,’ which describes the pink, soft tissues in the mouth. Your periodontal health relates to your gum tissues, primarily.

• Buccal – This is dental lingo that refers to the front sides of teeth or gum tissues on the side of the cheeks.

• Lingual – This term describes the sides of teeth facing the tongue. A way to remember this is to think of the tongue “lingering” in the mouth and the sides of teeth and tissues surrounding it.

• Prophy – A prophy is actually a dental cleaning, which is meant to support the gum tissues by removing plaque and tartar that has accumulated on teeth since your last cleaning. A prophy is recommended every six months to help manage this buildup. When too much tartar (or calculus) accumulate on teeth, it can cause inflammation that goes deeper into gum tissues. Once this inflammation is active, a prophy likely won’t remove the extent of the damage nor halt its progress. When this occurs, the typical recommendation is a…

• Scaling & Root Planing – This procedure is a deep cleaning that goes beneath the surface of gum tissues and teeth. This is typically performed while the gums are numbed. Because some areas are time-consuming to clean, scaling and root planing is often performed in…

• Quadrants – A ‘quad,’ if you remember your high school math lessons, is a fourth of something. In the mouth, your quadrants are the top right side of the mouth, top left, lower right and lower left. If you use one of the newer electronic toothbrushes, you may get a ‘beep’ when it’s time to move from one quadrant to another. This allows you to give sufficient attention to each quadrant in the mouth so you’re doing a thorough job at each brushing.

• Pits and Fissures – Natural teeth may seem smooth. From a dentist’s view, each tooth has a distinct surface. This is especially true for teeth with larger “tops.” The grooves in these teeth are ideal hiding spots for bacteria since a toothbrush has a more difficult time sweeping them away. This is why some people have sealants applied, especially children who are still learning good brushing techniques.

• Bruxing – Simply, bruxing is the grinding or clenching of teeth, typically during sleep. Although tooth grinding is often blamed on stress or anxiety, it can also occur when teeth are misaligned (crooked).

Although we try not to use terminology that is unfamiliar to patients, we occasionally slip. Hopefully, you will speak up and question these so you stay fully informed as you make decisions that are best for your smile.

While your schedule may be anything but ‘normal’ during this period, we hope you’ll stay committed to your routine of twice daily brushing, flossing daily, limiting sugar and snacking, and drinking plenty of water to keep the mouth moist.

We look forward to “life as we know it” soon! Let’s pray this is short-lived and our nation is restored to a healthy, active country – with even greater appreciation for these gifts!

Don’t Let Misaligned Teeth Lead To Tooth Loss.


Posted on Feb 25, 2019 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

As a periodontist, I have specialized skills in treating all stages of gum disease (known as periodontal disease, or simply “perio” by some). I also have advanced training in the diagnosis and placement of dental implants.

Although my specialty does not cover the advanced training an orthodontist has in bite alignment, my dental education absolutely covered the benefits of having proper “occlusion.” It also covered the repercussions of NOT having a bite that is properly balanced.

Just as an orthodontist can spot telltale signs of gum inflammation, I (along with general dentists and most dental specialists) can see indications of teeth that are not working in unison — even at times when these teeth appear to be “straight.”

While the nation’s number one cause of adult tooth loss is gum disease, having a misaligned bite function (or “malocclusion”) can lead to tooth loss in ways you may not have realized.

For example, during chewing, the upper teeth and lower teeth are designed to work harmoniously together to grind food down for swallowing and digesting. When an upper tooth does not interact smoothly with one below it (or vice versa), a tooth can become chipped, broken or fractured.

When damage to a tooth occurs, it must be quickly repaired before oral bacteria can penetrate tooth structures. Without the protection of enamel, oral bacteria can cause tooth decay and gum disease.

A fracture in a tooth can expand over time, leading to a crack that loosens an entire segment of a tooth. These areas must also be repaired before the tooth is subjected to oral bacteria. This typically requires a crown (or “cap”) that is placed over the top portion of the tooth.

However, a crack in a tooth that extends into the gum tissues typically means the tooth must be removed. If a portion of the tooth breaks “just below” the gum tissue, the tooth can sometimes be saved by a procedure we do called a “crown lengthening.” This is often known as a gingivectomy and is performed to remove excess gum tissues.

A gingivectomy procedure exposes more of the natural tooth so a crown can be placed over the tooth to preserve its remaining structure. (For people who have a “gummy smile,” this is performed, also, to reduce the amount of gum tissue that arches over teeth most visible in a smile.)

Another hazard of bite misalignment relates to dental implants. The overall success rate of dental implants is very high, nearly 98 percent by some estimates (when properly selected, placed and maintained). However, when a newly-placed implant is subjected to the grinding forces of TMJ disorders, its risks for success are much lower.

People are often surprised to learn that they clench and/or grind their teeth at night – primarily due to bite misalignment. When a bite is “off,” the jaw joints can become strained and inflamed. During sleep, the upper and lower jaws go on a subconscious quest of sorts, searching to find a comfortable position that eliminates the strain.

The forces behind some clenching are enough to crack open a walnut. Imagine a newly placed implant that is dependent upon the jaw bones to “heal” it into this firm foundation. When the area of bone around an implant is subjected to night after night of disruption, the implant is against the odds of becoming fully embedded in supporting bone.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you use a screwdriver to firmly anchor a screw into a solid block of wood. However, every day, you use a pair of pliers to grasp the screw head and wriggle it back and forth. Obviously, it wouldn’t take long for the wood surrounding the length of the screw to wear down from the friction of the screw’s motion, even slight as it may seem. Eventually, the screw could be easily moved back and forth and would no longer serve as a dependable base of support.

It’s not unusual for more than one dental specialist to work with another to provide a patient with the combined skills needed in particular cases. I frequently work with other dental specialists and general dentists in a “team treatment” capacity in order to give patients optimal outcomes.

When we place an implant, our goal is for each patient to enjoy its benefits for the remainder of their life. Bite misalignment can jeopardize this. And, if you have all your natural teeth now, be sure to protect them by keeping your gums healthy and ensuring your bite is as well.

After all, every dental professional is on your team when it comes to enjoying confident smiles for a lifetime!

If you’ve noticed indications of gum disease (tender gums that bleed when brushing, for example) or have experienced tooth loss (or fear you are facing it), take charge of your smile now. Call 828-274-9440 to schedule a thorough examination.

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