How Menopause Can Put Oral Health At Risk


Posted on Aug 31, 2020 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Menopause is the time that marks the end of your menstrual cycles. It’s diagnosed after you’ve gone 12 months without a menstrual period. Menopause can happen in your 40s or 50s, but the average age is 51 in the United States.” (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menopause/symptoms-causes/syc-20353397)

Physical symptoms of menopause can include hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue and moodiness. Hot flashes typically last about two years, but for 15 – 20 percent of women, they never go away. Insomnia or sleep disturbances may can also continue unless the woman takes hormones or other medications.

Now, add to this findings of research that shows post-menopausal women are at high risk for tooth loss.

Studies have revealed that bone loss in postmenopausal women can be accompanied by a greater risk for periodontal (gum) disease. A study published by the National Institutes of Health cited that post-menopausal females with signs of osteoporosis had an increased risk of gum disease when compared to post-menopausal women with no signs of osteoporosis.

It has long been known that a reduction in estrogen levels contributes to bone loss. According to the web site of the American Academy of Periodontology, challenges may go further:

“Women who are menopausal or post-menopausal may experience changes in their mouths. They may notice discomfort in the mouth, including dry mouth, pain and burning sensations in the gum tissue and altered taste, especially salty, peppery or sour.

“In addition, Menopausal Gingivostomatitis affects a small percentage of women. Gums that look dry or shiny, bleed easily and range from abnormally pale to deep red mark this condition. Most women find that estrogen supplements help to relieve these symptoms.” (https://www.perio.org/consumer/gum-disease-and-women)

Decreases in estrogen due to menopause also increase the risk for heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. While hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can alleviate symptoms associated with estrogen deficiency, replacing estrogen may also prevent some of the chronic illnesses common to postmenopausal women.

At our Asheville periodontal office, we structure each patient’s care according to individual aspects of both oral and overall health. In addition to careful review of a new patient’s health history and medication list, we request any updates to the information at each visit. This allows us to customize your care so your treatment needs are minimized.

Periodontists receive extensive training in the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease and in dental implants, including three additional years of education beyond dental school. They are familiar with the latest techniques for diagnosing and treating periodontal disease, and are also highly-skilled in performing cosmetic periodontal procedures.

If you are post-menopausal, be particularly aware of the signs of gum disease. These include gums that bleed when brushing, sore or tender gums, receded gums that expose darker tooth root sections, gums that darken in color, persistent bad breath or pus pockets that form at the base of some teeth.

Call 828-274-9440 to schedule an examination at your earliest convenience. These symptoms will not improve without treatment. Delayed treatment may also result in more extensive treatment needs in the future.

Although a referral by a general dentist or another dental specialist is not required, we encourage patients to develop a relationship with a generalist in order to maintain a healthy smile on an ongoing basis.

If you have already experienced tooth loss, remember that a periodontist also specializes in the placement of dental implants. This dental specialist can help to restore the health of your smile as well as the look and function.

Gum Disease Connected To Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease


Posted on Aug 11, 2020 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

The statistics of periodontal (gum) disease are alarming. In the U.S., nearly half of the adult population has some level of gum disease.

There is a misconception among the general population when it comes to the serious nature of gum disease. Too often, people perceive “if it doesn’t hurt, then nothing is wrong” when it comes to their oral health. That’s far from the case. Although symptoms of gum disease may include tender gums that bleed when brushing, gum disease can begin without any obvious signs.

This shouldn’t be surprising. When cancer forms in the body, its initial presence isn’t obvious. The reason for screenings such as mammograms or colonoscopies are to catch mutant formations at their earliest stages.

Early treatment helps to resolve the problem with hopefully positive outcomes. This is why it is so important to have 6-month dental check-ups. These visits allow your dentist to catch gum disease early so treatment needs and expense can be minimal.

While gum disease forms in the mouth, that’s not necessarily where it remains without proper treatment. The bacteria of gum disease can enter the bloodstream. It has been found to trigger serious reactions elsewhere in the body. Some of these lead to the formation of cancer (oral, throat, pancreatic, lung) and some activate conditions such as diabetes and arthritis.

Obviously, the health of your mouth is an important part of supporting a healthy body, especially in disease prevention. To illustrate the extent of gum disease’s damaging impact to health, research is tracking its correlation to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

In a recent study that included over 8,200 adults, an increased risk for developing dementia was found in those having severe gum disease and missing teeth. Participants in the study had an average age of 63 at the study’s onset.

In a follow-up after 18 years, those who had severe gingivitis in addition to tooth loss had a 22 percent higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Having no natural teeth was associated with a 26 percent increased risk.

Broken down, 14 percent of individuals with healthy gums and all their teeth at the start of the study developed dementia by the end of the study. For those with mild gum disease, 18 percent (623 out of 3,470) developed dementia. Twenty-two percent of participants with severe gum disease developed dementia. For those who had no remaining teeth, 23 percent developed dementia – nearly 17 cases for every 1,000 persons.

They found the bacteria present in periodontal disease can travel through the mucous membranes of the mouth to the brain, potentially causing brain damage.

In the study, participants were carefully assessed based on age, gender, education, cholesterol, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, smoking and body weight. Psych Central.com (https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/07/30/gum-disease-may-be-linked-to-later-dementia/158497.html?MvBriefArticleId=25473)

Prior studies have led researchers to continue tracking oral tissue related factors that may contribute to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, which is affecting a growing percentage of American adults (as well as those globally). Currently, 10 percent of adults age 65 and over have Alzheimer’s disease. For people ages 85 and older, this increases to 32 percent.

In the U.S., it is the 6th leading cause of death. (https://www.alzheimers.net/resources/alzheimers-statistics/) By the year 2025, the number of people 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to reach 7.1 million people, a 27 percent increase from the 5.6 million age 65 and older in 2019.

Maintaining a healthy smile – good gum health and healthy teeth – is important and achievable for every adult. If you suspect you have gum disease (gums that bleed when brushing, tender or swollen gums, gums that have reddened or receded from teeth), it is important to be seen by a periodontist. This dental specialist can restore your gums to a healthy state.

A periodontist is also a specialist in the diagnosis and placement of all types of dental implants. For adults who are missing natural teeth, dental implants are the closest thing to providing the look, feel and function of ‘real’ teeth. They restore the ability to bite and chew comfortably and dependably. Dental implants are also designed to last a lifetime, making them a wise investment.

Take charge of your health by overseeing your oral health as carefully as you do to other needs. For a consultation to discuss how a periodontist can help you, call 828-274-9440.

If dental fear has kept you from having regular dental care, we will be happy to discuss our many comfort options in our comfortable Asheville office, including Oral and I.V. sedation (“twilight sleep”).

Afraid Of The Dentist? Let’s Help You Get Past That For A Healthy Smile!


Posted on Jul 22, 2020 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

By some estimates, having a fear of dental visits affects over 70 percent of American adults. When people are afraid of going to the dentist, many often do not receive the regular care necessary to maintain a healthy smile.

As an Asheville Periodontist, I find that the origin of many who develop periodontal (gum) disease is from fear associated with dental visits. It is not unusual for a fearful dental patient to avoid going to the dentist for years, only ‘giving in’ when something becomes so painful they can no longer delay treatment.

We know that when it comes to dental fear, different people have different levels. Some patients are very relaxed in our office from the moment they walk in and throughout treatment. Others are fine until they are seated in the treatment chair. Still, others are anxious throughout their visit.

A study published by the Dental Research Journal revealed nearly 59 percent of 473 adult participants had dental fears. The study included males and females of varying ages and education levels. Although females presented a higher likelihood for dental fear, there was very little difference elsewhere. What did stand out, however, was how many had experienced traumatic dental episodes.

Unfortunately, a traumatic experience in a dental chair with a too-rough dentist tends to remain in the subconscious forever. Many fears are the result of a frightful experience as a child, feeling helpless and afraid. Such an experience tends to make an indelible mark on the subconscious and resurface whenever a dentist or dental office comes to mind.

If you experience these feelings associated with dental visits, there is nothing ‘wrong’ with you. However, delays in care can allow small problems to become more complex, requiring more involved treatment.

Many high-fear patients only force themselves into a dental chair when they are in such pain that they have no choice. It is far easier for adults to find a way to have regular exams and cleanings to prevent emergency needs. This begins by finding the right dental office.

Until then, regular dental check-ups are something that can’t be duplicated at home. Even a thorough, daily brushing and flossing routine misses bacteria on occasion. Within the course of just 48 hours, oral bacteria can form a cement-hard colony attached to tooth surfaces. This accumulation of bacteria eats away at tooth enamel and gum tissues.

As oral bacteria consume gum tissues, inflammation begins. This is gingivitis, the initial stage of gum disease. In this, the gums are tender and occasionally bleed when brushing. As gingivitis progresses to periodontal disease, symptoms include persistent bad breath and gums that turn red versus a healthy pink color. Gum tissues may begin to recede, exposing sensitive areas of tooth roots.

Eventually, the infectious bacteria will attack further beneath the gum line. This inflammation leads to damage to the bone structures that support tooth roots. Pus pockets may form on gums and teeth may loosen. To no surprise, periodontal disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss.

This infectious bacteria doesn’t just remain in the mouth. Through tears in weakened gum tissues, it can enter the bloodstream. It’s presence can trigger inflammatory reactions that have been linked to heart disease, stroke, some cancers, preterm babies, arthritis, diabetes, erectile dysfunction (ED), and impotency. Some studies are showing a correlation to Alzheimer’s disease.

What we often find with high-fear patients is their assumption that good at-home care can take the place of their regular care visits. However, even a diligent home-care routine leaves them susceptible to oral bacteria. A number of factors heighten vulnerability to bacterial accumulation, including dry mouth and diet.

Dry mouth occurs due to a wide range of factors. Some medications have a drying affect on the mouth. Certain foods and beverages contribute to dry mouth, especially those containing caffeine and alcohol. Smoking is very drying to oral tissues. And, the aging process leaves us with drier mouths.

Eating sugary foods and many carbohydrates are just as detrimental to oral health. Many Americans snack during the day, often on chips, crackers and candy bars – which are then washed down with sugary sodas. All this converts into a sugar based super-food in the mouth that provides oral bacteria with sustenance that super charges their reproduction.

How does a fearful adult overcome the problem so they can have the dental care they need?

In our office, patient comfort is a priority at every visit. We have even designed our reception area to pamper you from the moment you enter. Patients in this area can enjoy a selection of gourmet coffees, cable television and WIFI connection. The seating is comfortable and our front office staff are attentive to your needs.

We offer a private consultation room for patients as well. In this room, we can discuss treatment and answer questions in a comfortable setting. This allows patients to become better informed about their treatment needs and options versus communicating while they are seated in a treatment chair.

Our surgical suite offers a rather unique setting for a periodontal office. A large window provides beautiful mountain views, very soothing to our patients. In addition, we offer oral sedation as well as I.V. sedation (twilight sleep) for most procedures, if desired.

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 sedative state, also erasing memory of the procedure. It is administered by a doctor of anesthesiology for optimal comfort and safety. With both, patients are monitored with advanced safety equipment throughout treatment.

Our patients also find our entire staff is a unified team who reflect sincere compassion and commitment to exceptional, comfortable care. While the doctors involved in your care are all top-notch, I must admit that our staff are the pros at making our patients feel truly pampered.

When patients realize that our goal is to provide exceptional care and comfort, most relax. This creates a sense of trust that causes many to no longer perceive dental care as dreaded, frightening events. Once the obstacle of fear is replaced with feelings of trust, the process to achieve a healthy, confident smile becomes a much easier one.

If you or someone you know has fear that has prevented dental care, the possibility of gum disease is pretty high. We suggest beginning with a consultation appointment, which occurs in our private consultation room. This is removed from the clinical area and provides a relaxed setting where patients can share their unique needs and concerns.

Call 828-274-9440 to schedule or learn more. I’m sure you’ll find our friendly telephone staff is welcoming and reassuring from the very first conversation.

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.

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