Boost Immune System By Investing In Gum Health
Posted on Nov 17, 2022 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
There is no argument that the price of about everything has gone up and up over the past couple of years. The challenges that most individuals face at this time have been significant for some people but felt by about all.
Yet, there are still reasons to “spend less now so we’re not spending more later.” This is true with things such as auto maintenance, home repairs and taking good care of our health. A signifiant part of maintaining good overall health is having good oral health. The key, however, is to make the investment while the costs are still low, and avoid the big expenses later to pay for repairs and more extensive treatment.
I’d like to point out the need to bolster our immunity system, brought front-&-center during the pandemic, is actually supported by your oral health. Although the Covid virus continues to be a threat, the experience has made populations more aware of the benefits of vaccines and healthy habits such as hand-washing. Still, it is in our immune system that makes people more or less vulnerable.
By investing in having healthy gums, the immune system is actually supported more than is largely known. I’ll explain.
The bacteria in the mouth, or “oral cavity,” is intricately connected to your overall health; so much so that “bad” oral bacteria can disrupt the healthy balance in the digestive system. This bacteria comes from oral plaque, which is a cesspool of sorts formed from bacteria accumulation.
As a layer of biofilm, plaque coats teeth and gums. It is the sticky coating you feel in your mouth when you wake up, during which time the bacteria has had an opportunity to amass during sleep. Plaque, mot removed, becomes tartar. This hardened mass of oral bacteria continues to grow, doing damage in the mouth and far beyond.
Researchers have tracked oral bacteria as it enters the bloodstream. This occurs through weakened gum tissues, allowing the bacteria to travel throughout the body. Studies have shown that the bacteria are able to activate or worsen the development of a number of serious health problems.
These include heart disease, stroke, arthritis, diabetes, preterm babies, some cancers, erectile dysfunction and dementia. Research is currently being conducted to further the connections suspected between periodontitis to Alzheimer’s disease.
How does oral bacteria become destructive? Gingivitis is the initial stage of gum disease. Symptoms typically include gums that are tender in spots and some bleeding when you brush. These are warning signs that signal an immediate need for attention.
Periodontal (gum) disease and (often) its subsequent tooth loss are, simply put, products of bacterial overload in the mouth. The mouth is constantly being supplied with sustenance for these organisms. Bacteria are able to thrive through food that enters, especially sugars, and other bacteria-laden items put into the mouth.
The bacteria that cause cavities that feeds on sugar from the foods and drinks you consume. This weakens tooth enamel due as bacteria convert sugar into acids. As bacteria thrive, they are able to reproduce very rapidly.
When bacteria levels become more than the immune system can tackle, infection can set in. Accumulation of bacteria can evolve into gum disease, which is an inflammation that attacks teeth, oral tissues and the bone structures that support tooth roots.
Gum disease symptoms are those more prominent than gingivitis. These include sore gums that bleed when brushing, persistent bad breath, gums that pull away from the base around teeth, gums that darken in color.
As it worsens to the stage known as periodontitis, pus pockets may form on the gums at the base of some teeth. In advanced stages, gum disease causes teeth to loosen and eventually require removal.
The reason that 6-month dental check-ups and dental cleanings is to remove tartar buildup before damage can occur. Your hygienist and dentist can look for signs of gum disease so measures can be taken before the disease explodes into the need for more costly treatment to resolve the problem. Since gum disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss, the associated expenses of replacing teeth can also be avoided by maintaining good oral health.
Prevention begins at home: Begin by twice daily brushing with a soft bristle tooth brush and use a fluoridated tooth paste. Brush for at least two minutes each time. Floss daily. Be sure not to pop the floss between teeth to avoid damaging tender gums. Move the floss in a back-&-forth motion between teeth to ease it down so you can scrape the sides of each tooth.
You can remove a tremendous amount of oral bacteria by using a tongue scrapper daily. Or, brush your tongue with your tooth brush at the end of each brushing. This helps to dislodge bacteria that is embedded in the grooves of the tongue.
Drink lots of water during the day. This will help keep saliva flow at ample levels. Saliva is designed to move oral bacteria from the mouth on a consistent basis. Oral dryness is the enemy. Avoid foods and beverages that are drying to oral tissues such as caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods. Also, try to minimize the amount of sugar and carbohydrates you consume. These foods amplify the reproduction of oral bacteria.
Oral dryness gives bacteria a favorable environment for reproduction. The chemicals in cigarette smoke are very drying to oral tissues. If you smoke, consider using an oral rinse that replenishes moisture in the mouth. Some oral rinses are specifically designed for moisture.
Lowering treatment costs begins with early care: If you have delayed or avoided regular dental care, it is recommended that you begin by having a periodontal examination. A periodontist is a dental specialist who can determine your precise level of gum disease and the most appropriate treatment to restore good oral health. We can detect all stages of gum disease and provide comfortable, thorough treatment to restore your gums to a health state.
If you have lost teeth due to periodontal disease, a periodontist also specializes in the diagnosis and placement of dental implants. This ideal method to replace teeth provides a lifetime solution, making them an excellent investment.
Call 828-274-9440 if you have questions about your gums or if you are experiencing any symptoms associated with gum disease. Also, visit our web site to learn more about our sedation options (including “twilight sleep”) and advanced technology, which often reduces treatment time while enhancing comfort.
Challenges of Aging to Oral Health
Posted on Oct 28, 2022 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
Hopefully, the phrase “older and wiser” is one of truth. In all honesty, many adults “of a certain age” worry about being more forgetful, being less energetic and having less stamina. True or not, the aging process forges on for us all!
Aging, of course, comes with certain health challenges. However, these may bring seniors more determination to “age gracefully.” Today’s older adult seems to be more active and health-conscious than that of our ancestors. Aging adults now have greater knowledge of contributors to poor health. Most try to eat healthier, have periodic physicals and screenings, and include physical activity in daily regimens.
Over the years, all ages have had access to the findings of research reporting on how the health of the mouth plays a significant role in overall health. For example, the bacteria of periodontal (gum) disease are shown to potentially activate or worsen the development of a number of serious health problems.
For seniors, these health problems are especially challenging since a major one affected is that of the immune system. This is of high concern for seniors since their immune systems are typically operating at less-than-peak levels (often complicated by other health problems, such as arthritis or high blood pressure).
Over 70% of our immune response comes from the cells within the gut. The “good” bacteria in the gut is crucial to efficient digestion. Yet, it can be compromised due to the presence of gum disease bacteria.
We now know that the inflammatory nature of infectious oral bacteria can interfere with the healthy bacteria in the gut. This causes the gut (and well as other systems in the body) to function less efficiently. Research has correlated gum disease bacteria to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, some cancers, erectile dysfunction and even Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the Centers of Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), over 47% of American adults over age 30 have gum disease. It is estimated that 64% of adults ages 65 and older have either moderate or severe periodontitis.
Gum disease, an inflammatory disease, which can trigger inflammation elsewhere in the body. Studies have shown that by reducing the level of these bacteria, however, can improve other inflammation-based health conditions (such as arthritis, prostatitis, and psoriasis).
For instance, diabetes has a clear relationship with periodontal disease. Studies show that treating one condition positively impacts the other. By the same token, uncontrolled inflammation levels of one can worsen inflammation levels in the other.
Therefore, treating inflammation may help manage periodontal diseases and also help manage other chronic inflammatory conditions.
For seniors, oral dryness is one of the biggest influences in developing gum disease. Like the skin and joints, the body’s moisture and lubrication wanes with age. Although poor oral hygiene is a key factor when it comes to bacteria in the mouth, a dry mouth is a common contributor to bacterial growth.
In addition to aging, dry mouth is particularly challenging for seniors because it has many causes, including:
• A side effect of many medications (including prescription and OTC)
• Radiation therapy, especially for head and neck cancer
• Mouth-breathing, which may be due to nasal congestion or snoring
• Medical conditions, such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and Sjogren’s syndrome
While important for all ages, older adults should be especially committed to their oral hygiene, including twice daily brushing and daily flossing. In addition, you can support saliva flow by:
• Drinking plenty of plain water throughout the day
• Avoiding (or limiting) caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea and colas
• Using an oral rinse designed to replenish moisture in the mouth (available OTC)
• Being aware of medications that have an oral dryness side effect (increase your water intake and use a daily rinse to replenish oral moisture)
• Taking steps if you snore or breath through the mouth during sleep (ask your physician for suggestions)
• During a cold or sinus condition that increases mouth-breathing, be especially committed to your oral hygiene routine at home (brushing and flossing) and increase water intake
• Following each alcoholic drink (including beer and wine) with gulps of water as these are very drying to oral tissues
• Taking all steps mentioned above if you smoke cigarettes, “chew”, or vape
It is also important to know the signs and symptoms of periodontal (gum) disease. It begins with gingivitis, which causes the gums to become tender and swollen. When brushing, blood may be present in the sink when rinsing. Bad breath becomes persistent and the gums may turn red in color.
As an Asheville periodontist, I believe that the first step for adults who want to improve their oral health is by being informed patients. This generally leads to an individual who is committed to achieving and maintaining a healthy smile.
A good resource on maintaining good oral health is the web site of the American Academy of Periodontology: www.perio.org (go to Patient Resources). If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with gum disease as mentioned above, call our Asheville periodontal dental office at 828-274-9440. Gum disease will only worsen without treatment. (A referral is not necessary.)
Does Obesity Lead To Gum Disease?
Posted on Sep 21, 2022 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
What are the two most common diseases in the U.S. today? Obesity and gum (periodontal) disease. Studies are now showing that these two conditions may be related.
However, tracking down “cause and effect” have not been achieved as yet. What is known, however, is that changes in body chemistry affect metabolism, which, causes inflammation, a common element they share. People who have periodontal disease are more susceptible to inflammation, which in turn makes them more susceptible to obesity.
One new study analyzed data from population subsets at one point in time in order to explore potential connection of pathways between obesity and gum disease. Researchers noted an increased risk to develop gum disease for those with higher body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and percentage of body fat.
Certainly, there are a number of risk factors for developing periodontal disease. These include:
• Smoking or chewing tobacco
• Poor oral hygiene and lack of dental care
• Consumption of sugar and other foods that increase oral acid levels
• Being diabetic
• Many medications (including steroids, antidepressants, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers and oral contraceptives)
• Improper fitting of dental appliances (dentures or partials)
Common signs and symptoms of gum disease are:
Gums that bleed easily
Red, swollen, tender gums
Persistent bad breath
Gums that pull away from the teeth (recede)
Changes in the way teeth fit together when biting
Changes in the fit of partial dentures
Permanent teeth that loosen or separate
Initially, gum disease begins with plaque accumulation. Plaque is the sticky film that coats teeth and gums that is usually most obvious when first waking in the morning. The film consists of bacteria, which can penetrate below the gum line. If not removed on a regular basis (preferably daily), plaque will harden into a bacterial mass known as tartar.
Plaque and tartar bacteria cause the gums to become inflamed. The tight grip around the base of teeth (which helps to seal out bacteria) will loosen. Thus, “pockets” of bacteria are able to form between the teeth and gums that become infected. As the disease worsens, these pockets deepen and gum tissues and the structures that support teeth are destroyed. Teeth can become loose and may have to be removed.
Gum disease is the nation’s leading cause of tooth loss. Research has also found links between the infectious bacteria of gum disease to other diseases affecting overall health. These include an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease and preterm babies.
The prevalence of gum disease in the U.S. is at an alarming rate – affecting up to 50% of the adult population (ages 30-70) and 90% of adults over the age of 70. Yet, the obesity rates in America are at concerning rates as well.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, U.S. obesity prevalence increased from 30.5% to 41.9% from 2000 – 2020. The highest percentage was among adults aged 40 to 59 years – 44.3%. (North Carolina ranks at 33.6%.) A healthy BMI is 18.5 – 24.9.
But, back to the gum disease-obesity connection…
A 2009 study showed that individuals with excess weight had twice the rate of periodontitis (advanced gum disease) and triple the rate for individuals with severe obesity. This was shown even after adjustments for other risk factors such as smoking, age and other medical conditions.
A leading factor lies in the fat cells, which were previously thought of as storage for energy. Now science has determined that fat cells produce a number of chemical signals and hormones, substances that lead to higher inflammation in the body. This, in turn, hampers the ability of immune system effectiveness. The inflammation add to the likelihood of periodontal disease.
As a periodontist in Asheville NC, I utilize some of the most advanced technology in the region to detect all stages of gum disease and restore the gums to a healthy state. This is true for all stages of gum disease, even the advanced level of periodontitis.
Depending on the level of disease, we can restore the tooth supporting structures (bone, gum tissue and ligaments) through thorough cleaning, tartar and plaque removal, and treating the deep pockets of infected tissue. Treatment is performed safely and comfortably, with oral and I.V. sedation (twilight sleep) available as needed.
When the severity of the disease requires surgical measures, we are fully skilled and equipped to restore oral health. We also assist restored patients with maintenance of proper oral hygiene for long-term success.
Understanding the relationship between obesity and risk factors that lead to periodontal disease is very important. If you have signs or symptoms of gum disease, please know that this condition will only worsen without treatment. The earlier your treatment, the less complex the treatment will be.
Call 828-274-9440 or visit: https://www.biltmoreperiodontics.com/services/periodontal-gum-treatment/
Pregnancy Gingivitis Can Affect More Than The Mother’s Health
Posted on Jul 14, 2022 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
Is there any other time in a female’s life when they must be as health conscious as during pregnancy?
Pregnant women, it seems, are given a long list of guidelines to follow… What they should not eat or drink, what medications to avoid, and even down to what beauty products to give up. Yet, the 9 months of discipline is well worth the greater potential to bring a healthy baby into the world.
Along with the other health guidelines, obstetricians are now urging pregnant women to pay particular attention to their oral health. For decades, research has tracked a correlation between inflammatory bacteria in the mouth to a number of serious health problems, including many far beyond the mouth.
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 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.
However, because of their susceptibility, the risk for full-blown gum disease is higher for pregnant females with nearly a third developing gum disease. Yet, it’s not just the oral (and overall) health of the mother that can be affected.
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% compared to nearly 29% for pregnant women with moderate to severe periodontal disease.
One study showed that pregnant women with gum disease were 4 – 7 times more likely to deliver prematurely (before week 37) and underweight babies than mothers with healthy gums. Too, the women with the most severe periodontal (gum) disease delivered most prematurely, at 32 weeks.
Other findings show that gum disease increases the risks of late-term miscarriage and pre-eclampsia. When oral bacteria reach placental membranes via the bloodstream, inflammatory reactions can trigger pre-eclampsia or early labor.
In one study, for example, pregnant females with higher blood levels of antibodies to oral bacteria also had higher rates 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.
Oral problems in pregnant females can begin even when the mother-to-be is following the same oral hygiene routine as they have previously. The greater susceptibility can be blamed on fluctuating hormone levels during pregnancy. These changes increase the risk for gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontal disease.
This is why approximately 40% of women develop gingivitis during pregnancy, known as pregnancy gingivitis. Pregnancy gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that causes gums to become swollen, tender and bleed easily when brushing.
This is the result of an increased level of progesterone in pregnancy, which makes oral bacterial growth easier. Progesterone also makes gum tissues more sensitive to plaque. For those who have significant gum disease prior to pregnancy, being pregnant can make the condition worse.
Gum inflammation typically appears between months 2 and 8 of pregnancy. Signs of pregnancy gingivitis range from gums that are red rather than a healthy pink. Gums will often bleed when brushing teeth and be swollen and tender in spots.
The goal is to prevent pregnancy gingivitis before it occurs. Be committed to a thorough oral hygiene regimen at home, which includes brushing twice a day, flossing daily and swishing with an antimicrobial mouth rinse. Be sure to keep your 6-month cleanings and exams. These will remove any plaque buildup that has occurred between visits.
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). Signs and symptoms of gum disease include gums that bleed when brushing, frequent bad breath, swollen or tender gums, gums that loosen or pull away from the base of teeth, or gums that darken in color.
If you have any of these symptoms (whether pregnant or not), you are urged to schedule an appointment at your earliest convenience. Call our Asheville periodontal dental office at 828-274-9440 to arrange an examination to begin.