Be In-The-Know To Avoid Cavities, Gum Disease
Posted on Apr 02, 2020 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
During this highly unusual time, people are relying on the internet for communication (work and social), information, and entertainment. Computers, tablets and smart phones are keeping us connected as we ‘shelter in place’ until this global pandemic is under control.
A lot of Americans are using their “stuck inside” time to expand their minds. Whether it’s to enjoy an audio book, watch PBS specials, or learn how to do something on YouTube, using the time positively is helping people avoid getting mired down in worry and anxiety.
As a periodontal specialist in Asheville, NC, I hope adults will use some of their time to become more aware of the hazards of gum disease. The damage that periodontal disease (‘perio’) can have far reaching consequences, affecting the health inside and mouth and overall health, as I’ll explain.
People are often surprised to hear that they have developed gum disease since it is often without obvious symptoms in early stages. Once it’s fully underway, however, many people ignore the warning signs or assume they’ll “go away”.
In my dental specialty, I believe that by keeping Americans informed of how the progression of gum disease occurs could help to greatly reduce the extent of this disease, which plaques over 47 percent of adults.
Let’s begin by looking at the process of gum disease:
• Oral Bacteria: The mouth is a warm, dark and moist environment — perfect for harboring bacteria. The mouth is the first point of contact for a large extent of the bacteria that enters the body. Bacteria is on food, utensils, lip gloss and even your tooth brush. All mouths have bacteria, some of it are beneficial. Although bacteria in the mouth are perfectly ‘normal’, the problem begins when too much bacteria accumulate.
• Plaque: Without proper brushing, flossing, saliva flow and diet, oral bacteria can reproduce rapidly. For an example of just how quickly these bacteria accumulate, run your tongue over your teeth after brushing in the morning. They should feel slick and clean. Then, before brushing at bedtime, run your tongue over your teeth again. The accumulation of oral bacteria over the mere course of a day has likely formed a sticky film on teeth. This is known as plaque. This film is actually a coating of bacteria.
• Tartar (or Calculus): In just 48 hours, unremoved plaque can harden into tartar. These ‘chunks’ are colonies of oral bacteria and typically attach to the base of teeth near the gum line. These cement-hard masses can no longer be brushed or flossed away. They must be removed by a dentist or hygienist with special tools. If allowed to remain, like plaque, tartar will continue to multiply as these bacterial colonies feed on tooth enamel and tender gum tissues.
• Gingivitis: This is the first stage of gum disease. At this level, gum tissues are under attack and become sore. They may bleed easily when brushing and you may experience an aching sensation in some areas. Breath odor is stronger, even soon after brushing. At this point, with proper measures, you can restore your gums to a healthy state. However, the window of opportunity to combat gingivitis is brief.
• Periodontal (Gum) Disease: At this stage, the gums are inflamed and tender. They begin to darken in color and the seal of gum tissues surrounding teeth begins to loosen. The breath is persistently bad. As this stage of gum disease worsens, it can lead to severe health risks elsewhere in the body.
• Periodontitis: This is the advanced stage of gum disease. The gums are so tender that eating becomes difficult. Breath odor is putrid, as it reflects the rotting state in your mouth. The gum tissues are highly inflamed. Pus pockets may form on the gums near the base of teeth. Eventually, teeth will loosen as the gum tissues and bone structures that support them are destroyed. Tooth removal at this stage is not uncommon.
To no surprise, gum disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss. Yet, it’s one of the most preventable diseases with simple measures.
An even more concerning aspect of gum disease is its ability to enter the bloodstream. Once bloodborne, these infectious bacteria can trigger inflammatory reactions elsewhere in the body. Gum disease bacteria has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, stoke, memory loss, preterm babies, impotency, some cancers and even Alzheimer’s disease.
This is why we want you to be aware of the importance of having a healthy mouth. We realize there are financial obstacles for some people. However, most dental and specialty offices offer payment plans, many are interest free with no down payment required.
Some people avoid dental visits because they have anxiety or fears. Dental fear is fairly common, even in America where dental care is so advanced (in most practices). If deep fear or anxiety has prevented you from regular dental visits or having much-need treatment, finding a dentist who is experienced in caring for fearful patients is easier today.
Using advanced technology, such as laser dentistry, cone beam imaging, and other features, we are able to diagnose problems more precisely, which helps to minimize treatment. Many options enhance patient comfort and speed healing time.
For many fearful patients, we also offer oral or IV sedation (“twilight sleep”). We are fully equipped for the safety and comfort of administering sedatives for our patients for treatment in our office. Here, patients know us for our gentle touch and respectful, attentive care for each individual.
Occasionally, I hear a patient relay their impression of tooth loss being “just part of growing older.” That is far from the truth. The human body does ‘break down’ here and there but keeping your teeth for a lifetime is a reasonable expectation with proper measures.
Having healthy gums that support teeth can be achieved with an involved relationship with a dentist and a committed oral hygiene routine at home. With proper care, you can easily enjoy a smile of natural teeth all your life.
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. At this time, any tartar that has accumulated can be removed and signs of early gum disease can be noted.
Losing teeth due to gum disease leads to expensive and lifelong upkeep with crown-&-bridge, partials, full denture or dental implants. These tooth replacement needs can be avoided.
If you are experiencing symptoms of gum disease, call 828-274-9440. If fear is an obstacle to having a healthy, confident smile, begin with a consultation to discuss your needs.
Could Poor Gum Health Increase Stroke Risk?
Posted on Mar 12, 2020 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
The human body is a complex structure on the inside and out. Each body is built for movement and action, its parts governed by a central control system – the brain.
Like any complex machine with its many intricate parts, there is a delicate balance. Working together, the body stays interconnected and functioning properly.
When any part malfunctions, the problem seldom stays within its own realm. Other areas are typically affected, which is what research is finding when it comes to the health inside your mouth, or your oral health.
For decades, it has been shown that the bacteria of periodontal (gum) disease can enter the bloodstream through tears in weakened gum tissues. Research has found that this bacteria can trigger harmful reactions.
For example, the bacteria can trigger inflammation that sets into motion risks factors connected to arthritis and diabetes. Some cancers have also been correlated to this bacteria. Heart disease and high blood pressure been as well.
Stroke, too, is among the long list of serious health problems associated with the potent bacteria of gum disease. While there is no clear pathway to verify gum disease bacteria are the “cause” of these serious conditions, research has continually shown they are linked, which can greatly increase one’s potential for having these problems develop (or worsen).
Say the word “stroke” and people immediately think of a deadly or debilitating, disfiguring episode that may never be recoverable. Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States.
There are several types of strokes. Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in your brain leaks or ruptures. These cause death in about 50 percent of cases.
However, most strokes are Ischemic strokes, caused by an abrupt blockage of arteries leading to the brain. These occur when the brain’s blood vessels become narrowed or blocked, severely reducing blood flow.
Blocked or narrowed blood vessels are caused by fatty deposits that build up in blood vessels or by blood clots or other debris that travel through your bloodstream and lodge in the blood vessels in your brain.
In one study, 265 patients who experienced a stroke between 2015 and 2017 were followed. Researchers noted that large artery strokes – those located inside the brain – were twice as common in patients with gum disease as in those without gum disease.
What connection could gum disease bacteria have with arteries in the brain?
Let’s step back and look at the makeup of bacteria found within gum disease.
It all begins when plaque, the sticky film that builds up around teeth, is allowed to remain and multiply. In the meantime, the plaque found in blood can accumulate inside arteries. Known as atherosclerosis, this fatty plaque is the hallmark of coronary artery disease.
People with gum disease have 2 – 3 times the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular event. Still, finding a direct connection has yet to be determined. Although researchers have taken into consideration factors like smoking or a poor diet, there is an emerging concern that gum disease may be a factor – on its own – when it comes to heart disease.
Gum disease is an inflammatory disease that starts as gingivitis, the initial stage of periodontal disease. This causes gum tissues to turn red, swell and bleed sometimes when brushing. Untreated, gingivitis will progress to periodontitis, advanced gum disease.
The inflammation of periodontitis can destroy tissue and bone in the mouth, causing gums to separate from the teeth. This separation allows bacteria to infect the gums, and, over time, can lead to tooth loss.
Although we recommend that people react promptly to signs of gum disease, we also felt it beneficial to provide the signs and symptoms of stroke (for you or someone else). These include:
• Trouble speaking and understanding what others are saying. This may include confusion, slurring or having difficulty understanding speech.
• Paralysis or numbness of the face, arm or leg, typically on one side of the body.
• Vision problems in one or both eyes. This may cause blurred or blackened vision in one or both eyes, or seeing double.
• Headache, which may be sudden and severe. This may cause vomiting and/or dizziness.
• Trouble walking, sudden dizziness or loss of coordination.
Some studies indicate that treating gum disease (with other stroke risk factors) could reduce your risk for stroke.
While the direct path of gum disease to stroke may not be known at this time, research has clearly shown that the bacteria of periodontitis is harmful far beyond the mouth.
If you would like a periodontal evaluation, call our Asheville periodontal dental office at 828-274-9440. As a periodontist, my specialty is the treatment of all stages of gum disease. Through our advanced skills and technology, we can restore your smile to a healthy state and give your overall health a leg up!
Osteoporosis Meds May Cause Permanent Damage To Jaw Bone
Posted on Jan 18, 2020 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
Many physicians who prescribe bisphosphonates for osteoporosis have relied on the drug makers’ stance of low risk for side effects. This has often left patients unfamiliar with the risks when they are scheduled for dental procedures.
Bisphosphonates include Fosamax, Actonel, Boniva, Reclast, Binosto, Prolia, Zometa and Xgeva. The most prescribed is Fosomax and ranks as one of the top 25 most prescribed drugs on the market.
The complication with bisphosphonates is a risk for jaw osteonecrosis. In simple terms, this is death of the jaw bone.
Jaw osteonecrosis occurs when the bone fails to heal after a surgery, even a minor procedure such as a tooth extraction. It results from obstruction of blood supply, which is caused by the drug’s potential interference with the bone’s ability to repair itself.
Common symptoms of jaw osteonecrosis are pain, swelling or infection of the gums and jaw, gums that don’t heal, and loose teeth. However, its onset can also occur without obvious symptoms.
In addition to treating osteoporosis, bisphosphonates are used to treat cancer that has spread to the bone. In these cases, bisphosphonates are given intravenously and in higher doses. This creates an even greater risk of osteonecrosis of the jaw than for individuals on oral doses.
Jaw osteonecrosis risk seems to increase with the amount of time biphosphonates are taken. However, researchers have determined that bisphosphonates can create a risk for necrosis with even short-term use of the oral medications for osteoporosis.
The most commonly prescribed bisphosphonate, Fosamax, was approved by the FDA in 1995. By 2003, reports began surfacing that linked bisphosphonates with jaw osteonecrosis.
In a study of over 200 participants who took Fosamax for varying durations, 4 percent acquired osteonecrosis. This finding was in contrast to the drug makers’ claims that bisphosphonate use only posed a noticeable risk for those who took the medication intravenously, such as cancer patients.
Not only did the study show that short-term usage can place the patient at risk, the drug can maintain a 10-year half-life in bone tissue. The risk for jaw necrosis is highest with procedures that directly expose the jaw bone, such as tooth extractions and dental implant placement.
Many people are often surprised by the wide range of medications that affect their oral health. For example, Coumadin, a commonly prescribed blood thinner, can cause more bleeding during certain procedures.
Antidepressants and high blood pressure medications can cause elevated levels of plaque and signs of gingivitis. Too, gingival enlargement, a condition that causes the gums to swell and grow over teeth, can lead to severe periodontal infection. Calcium channel blockers used to control high blood pressure can also contribute to this gum tissue overgrowth.
Many cough drops, medications in syrup form and antacids contain sugars that often leave a sticky residue on teeth, making them more susceptible to decay. Certain antibiotics and ibuprofen can cause lesions or ulcers in the mouth.
Oral contraceptives and blood pressure medications have been linked to mouth sores and inflammation. Tetracycline, typically used for treating acne, can discolor teeth as well as supporting bone.
While you may assume that herbal supplements don’t apply, they can actually have serious side effects for some dental patients. For example, Ginkgo Biloba and Vitamin E can act as blood thinners. When combined with aspirin, the combination may cause difficulties in blood clotting. For patients undergoing surgical procedures, this can be a serious problem.
Taking high dosages of vitamins before undergoing anesthesia can also put you at risk. For instance, high doses of Vitamin C can weaken the efficiency of anesthesia. On the flip side, supplements such as Kava Kava or St. John’s Wort can accentuate anesthesia’s effectiveness.
This is why it is important to make us aware of all the drugs you take, including over-the-counter supplements. The goal is to provide a successful outcome for each periodontal procedure or dental implant placement. Being familiar with your overall health enhances the potential for positive oral health.
If you have questions regarding the medications you are taking in regard to oral risks, call our Asheville periodontal office at 828-274-9440 prior to your appointment. And, at each visit, keep us updated on your medications.
A Periodontal Specialist Explained
Posted on Dec 13, 2019 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
Occasionally, I meet someone new who is unfamiliar with my specialty. Although a periodontist may seems to be a “behind the scenes” specialist, our focus actually has an upfront role in your oral health, and beyond.
A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of periodontal disease, and in the placement of dental implants. Periodontists are also experts in the treatment of oral inflammation. Periodontists receive extensive training in these areas, including three additional years of education beyond dental school.
In addition to having advanced training in the latest techniques for diagnosing and treating periodontal disease, a periodontal specialist is also trained in performing cosmetic procedures that involve gum tissues, such as correcting a “gummy smile”.
Periodontists often treat more problematic periodontal cases, such as people with severe gum disease or have a complex medical history. A periodontist offers a wide range of treatments, such as scaling and root planing (cleaning the infected surface of the root) or root surface debridement (removing damaged gum tissue).
Periodontal specialists can also treat patients with severe gum problems using a range of surgical procedures.
In addition, periodontists are specially trained in the placement, maintenance, and repair of dental implants.
During the initial appointment in our Asheville periodontal office, we typically begin with a review of the patient’s medical and dental histories. This information is important so we are aware of medications being taken or if the patient is being treated for any condition that can affect periodontal care, such as heart disease, diabetes, or pregnancy.
During the examination, we check the patient’s gums to look for gum line recession. We will also assess how the teeth fit together when biting, and check for any loose teeth. An important part of this exam is in the measuring of spaces between gum tissues at the base of teeth.
Using an instrument called a probe that is gently positioned between specific points surrounding each tooth, we determine the depth of periodontal “pockets”. These measurements help us assess the health of your gums. Images (x-rays) may also be taken to revealsthe health of the bone below the gum line.
Periodontal disease, also referred to as “gum disease,” often exists without an individual being aware of its presence. In its early stage, gingivitis, some people even assume that symptoms, such as seeing blood in the sink when brushing, are normal.
Obvious symptoms, such as pain, may not appear until the disease has reached an advanced stage. This is why it is important to be familiar with the signs and symptoms, which include:
• Red, swollen or tender gums or other pain in your mouth
• Bleeding while brushing, flossing, or when eating certain foods
• Gums that are receding (pulling away from the teeth) or make the appear teeth longer than normal
• Loose or separating teeth
• Pus between your gums and teeth
• Sores in your mouth
• Persistent bad breath
• A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
• A change in the fit of partial dentures
If you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to contact your dentist or periodontist without delay. Gum disease will only worsen without treatment.
Who Should See a Periodontist?
Some patients’ periodontal needs can be managed by their general dentist. However, patients who are experiencing signs and symptoms of moderate or severe levels of gum disease or have more complex cases receive the most efficient and effective care through team treatment between a general dentist and periodontist.
Restoring your gums to a healthy state is important! As research continually shows, gum health is intricately connected to overall health. Oral bacteria of periodontal disease has been linked as a trigger for more and more chronic diseases, including heart disease, some cancers, stroke, memory loss, diabetes, and arthritis. Having prompt periodontal treatment by a trained periodontal specialist may lower the risk for more serious, and even deadly, diseases and health conditions.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with periodontal disease, a referral is not required. Call 828-274-9440 and we will be happy to assist you.
If you do not have a general dentist, we can also refer some who are near to you and we know to provide gentle, thorough and appropriate care for their patients’ needs.