Flossing – A Valuable Step In Avoiding Gum Disease & Tooth Loss


Posted on Mar 17, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Adults who wish to stay healthy and active as they age often workout daily, walk at least 30 minutes per day, try to get 7 – 8 hours of sleep each night, and brush their teeth twice a day.

Tooth brushing helps to keep oral bacteria levels in the mouth to manageable levels. With the help of saliva, which is a rinsing agent for the mouth, these bacteria are generally kept under control. By preventing rampant growth, the ‘oral cavity’ (interior of the mouth) is able to avoid a destructive onslaught caused by these icky organisms.

A study shared by Dental Dental showed that about 70 percent of American adults brush their teeth twice a day. Unfortunately, this leaves more than a fourth of adults who do not.

Daily flossing is also recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA) as a preventative way to keep cavities and gum disease at bay. Still, an estimated 30 percent are committed to daily flossing – less than a third.

This means that a whopping 70 percent do not include flossing in their daily oral hygiene regimens. Too, about a third of Americans admit to never flossing, with 39 percent of men and 27 percent of women who do not.

Yet, the devotion of twice daily brushing and daily flossing requires only about 5 minutes of time – total. It is recommended to spend two minutes brushing teeth in the morning and before bed. A practiced flosser requires about a minute to floss. (Consider that five minutes is about the amount of time for a commercial break between TV programs.)

Yet, if you could see what I see…

As a periodontist, my specialty includes advanced training in the treatment of gum disease. I know the destructive nature of infectious oral bacteria. I have a bird’s eye view of what can occur without a committed oral hygiene routine at home. When an overload of bacteria accumulate in the mouth, cavities are able to form and gum tissues become food for living and breeding bacteria.

While brushing twice a day is important, the bristles of a toothbrush are typically unable to dislodge food particles caught between teeth. Left behind, these particles begin to rot rather quickly, leaving even more sustenance for bacterial growth and reproduction.

To see just how much your toothbrush misses, brush your teeth thoroughly for the recommended two minutes at the end of the day. Rinse and spit a couple of times. Then, using a strand of floss, move gently between teeth, easing up and down to reach the sides of all teeth. Move the floss just slightly beneath the gums at the base of each tooth. After all teeth are flossed, rinse and spit again. Most people are shocked at just how much their toothbrush failed to remove.

When oral bacteria amass past the point that is manageable by the immune system, these bacteria become infectious. This causes inflammation in the gum tissues, which can lead to the formation of periodontal (gum) disease. This begins with gingivitis, which has mild symptoms. Untreated, it worsens to periodontal disease and the advanced level of periodontitis.

It begins when oral bacteria accumulation creates a sticky film in the mouth known as plaque. When not removed thoroughly and frequently, plaque can form cement-hard bacteria colonies that attach to teeth. This hardened form of bacteria is known as tartar and, once formed, can no longer be brushed or flossed away.

As a Periodontist, I often see people who have developed periodontal disease who come (or have been referred) because they have obvious symptoms, such as red, swollen gums. However, I also see patients who are surprised to learn they have developed the disease. Yet, even without obvious symptoms, gum disease may exist and be fully underway.

Nearly half of American adults have some level of gum disease (over 47 percent in recent estimates). Periodontal (gum) disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss even though it’s one of the most preventable of all diseases with simple measures.

Losing natural teeth leaves an individual with having to make decisions for replacement – crown-&-bridge combination, partial denture, full denture or Dental Implant. These time-consuming procedures and expenses can be avoided. And, contrary to what many believe, losing teeth is not a natural part of the aging process. With proper care, you can easily enjoy a smile of natural teeth all your life.

It is often surprising to people to learn that oral health is an integral part of overall health. Inflammation in the mouth doesn’t simply remain in the mouth. Through tears in diseased gum tissues, the oral bacteria of gum disease are able to enter the bloodstream. As the bacteria travel throughout the body, their toxic nature can activate inflammatory effects elsewhere.

Infectious gum disease bacteria have been the focus of a numerous amount of research over the years. Studies have found that the bacteria of gum disease can trigger or worsen heart disease, stroke, preterm babies, arthritis, diabetes, some cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, erectile dysfunction (ED) and impotency. As research continues, even more serious (and deadly) connections are being made.

They key is to keep oral bacteria levels to a minimum, which is why brushing and flossing are an important part of your daily care routine. Neither step should be taken for granted. Yet, as a periodontal specialist, I understand how it can be difficult to get into the habit of daily flossing.

For some, the tight floss around fingers is uncomfortable. For others who have large fingers or problems with manual dexterity, the act of flossing is awkward or challenging. However, for those who floss on a daily basis, it becomes a maneuver that is as simple as brushing teeth.

For individuals who are challenged by manual flossing, there are some excellent water flossers on the market. These are affordable and can be just as effective as ‘string’ flossing when used properly – and daily.

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. During these visits, tartar that may have formed can be removed and signs of early gum disease can be addressed.

If you are experiencing symptoms of gum disease, call 828-274-9440. In our state-of-the-art Asheville periodontal dental office, our patients are treated with respect, compassion and a gentle touch. Here, you’ll never be lectured. Our goal is to restore your smile to a healthy state and develop a program to help you keep it at its best.

New patients are always welcome. A referral is not needed to become a patient.

Bad Breath – The “Body Odor” of the Mouth.


Posted on Mar 09, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

“Whoa!!!”

That may be our unspoken reaction when we encounter someone who’s breath odor reeks. And, we’ve all encountered it. It tends to leave a rather negative impression of the individual; one that ‘sticks’ with us every time we see him or her in the future.

Occasionally, I like to address the causes of bad breath since, at one time or another, it’s an issue for us all. Bad breath, like body odor, leaves an undesirable imprint.

Although some health conditions can be the source of bad breath, it most commonly occurs due to an overload of oral bacteria. Too many bacteria in the mouth create an odor — a sulfuric, putrid odor.

Bacteria are living organisms that eat, reproduce and emit waste. Their ability to reproduce is astounding, resulting in a consistently growing number of waste-producing creatures.

Poor oral hygiene is the most common cause for bad breath. Not brushing and flossing or doing so adequately allows oral bacteria to reproduce, which leads to plaque.

Plaque is the sticky film you feel on teeth when you’ve missed brushing or when you wake up. When not removed thoroughly on a daily basis, plaque turns into a cement-hard substance known as tartar. This mass is actually a solid colony of oral bacteria that attaches to teeth. In this form, it cannot be brushed or flossed away.

Tartar attacks enamel and gum tissues. As bacteria multiplies, it causes the gum tissues to become inflamed. This inflammation can quickly develop into gingivitis, an early form of gum disease. If not resolved fully, however, gingivitis can lead to full-blown periodontal (gum) disease.

Occasional bad breath is a nuisance but can generally be controlled with good oral hygiene, keeping our mouth moist and limiting sugar. Things like drinking sugary colas and a diet of high carbohydrate foods rev up bacteria reproduction even more, boosting their ability to grow and thrive.

However, frequent bad breath is not only embarrassing, it is a warning sign.

As one of the symptoms of periodontal (gum) disease, persistent bad breath may be accompanied by tender gums that bleed easily when brushing or tender, swollen areas around some teeth.

As gum disease advances, symptoms include gums that turn red in color and become sore, swollen and bleed easily when brushing. As it worsens, bad breath becomes persistent. Pus-filled pockets may develop near the base of some teeth. Eventually, teeth may loosen and require removal.

While what we consume can greatly contribute to the ability of these icky organisms’ ability to reproduce, a common one is having a dry mouth. This condition is known as xerostomia (zeer-o-STOE-me-uh).

Good saliva flow helps to keep bacteria moving out of the mouth. However, when brushing is infrequent or the mouth becomes dry, saliva is less able to manage the bacteria levels in the mouth.

A dry mouth may seem less likely to be a breeding ground for bacteria since they typically thrive in environments that are warm, moist, and dark. However, when saliva flow is unable to efficiently cleanse bacteria buildup from the mouth, they are easily able to reproduce.

Having ‘dry mouth’ is rather common today. In addition to a part of the aging process, a number of common medications (including anti-depressants, decongestants, and anti-histamines) have a side effect of oral dryness.

Too, many beverages contribute to having a dry mouth. These include colas, coffee, tea, and those containing alcohol. (Please note that colas are acidic and most contain caffeine. These are anything but ‘refreshing’, doing very little to hydrate the body. Stick to plain water to quench your thirst and add moisture to the body.)

Another way that oral bacteria can run rampant has to do with our oral hygiene routines. To be truly thorough in cleaning tooth surfaces, it is recommended to spend two minutes per brushing, twice a day (whether manual or electronic).

It is estimated that nearly a third of American adults brush their teeth for an insufficient amount of time. Even worse, about that same amount fail to brush twice a day. This means that an alarming amount of bacteria remain to grow and thrive in the mouth.

Proper brushing and flossing is necessary. Brush for at least two minutes twice daily and swish thoroughly. Use a circular motion rather than scrub teeth back and forth to avoid damaging tender gum tissues. Never use a hard bristle tooth brush or brush with harsh substances such as baking soda! These can wear down tooth enamel and wear away precious gum tissue.

You may be surprised to learn that brushing only tackles about half the amount of bacteria in the mouth, leaving a tremendous amount that continue to grow and thrive. The tongue actually harbors 58 – 65 percent of the bacteria in the ‘oral cavity’.

Oral bacteria love to take up housing in the tiny bumps and grooves of the tongue since they are not easily dislodged. Thus, it’s necessary that tongue cleaning be a part of your oral hygiene regimen at home to keep bacteria levels under control.

Some toothbrushes have a “tongue scraper” on the reverse side of the bristles that’s an effective option. Or, you can brush your tongue with the bristles after your teeth are brushed. Be sure to reach towards the back of the tongue where the majority of bacteria exist.

An advantage of achieving and maintaining a clean, healthy mouth is being confident when close to others. Plus, you’ll be contributing to the health and well-being of your entire body. Research has shown that a healthy mouth is a supportive component of a healthy you!

If you are experiencing symptoms of gum disease or concerned your breath is frequently bad, call 828-274-9440. We’ll arrange a periodontal exam in our comfortable Asheville periodontal office.

Here, we are committed to the comfort of each patient as well as those who have avoided dental care in the past due to fear. Dental fear is common, and we have a reputation for a gentle touch and respectful care. We also make oral and IV sedation (twilight sleep) available.

Let’s help you establish a healthy smile and feel confident in closeness!

Smokers CAN Lower Oral Health Risks With Proper Measures


Posted on Feb 04, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

If you smoke, you may be tempted to quit as one of your New Year’s resolutions. By now, you may be “over the hump” and feel success in this challenge (and breathing much easier!). Good for you!

However, if you’ve stumbled and faltered (and perhaps even thrown up your hands in defeat), you are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), over 55 percent of smokers in the U.S. had made a quit attempt in 2018, with only 7.5 percent succeeding. (https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/cessation/smoking-cessation-fast-facts/index.html)

Yet, less than 7 percent of adult smokers reported (in 2015) that they had sought counseling or medications in their attempts to quit. Yet, the need for support is clear. For most people who are trying to quit, it is a long, tough journey. The CDC also reports that:

“more people in the United States are addicted to nicotine than to any other drug. Research suggests that nicotine may be as addictive as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol.”

As the need to maintain healthy immune systems has never been more urgent, smokers will hopefully reach out to every source in order to kick the habit, for good. Data assembled by a team at the University of California (San Francisco) found that smoking nearly doubles the rate of COVID progression.

The analysis took into account over 11,500 COVID patients. The findings showed by current and former smokers were twice as likely to have conditions that require hospitalization and higher death rates. (https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2020/05/417411/smoking-nearly-doubles-rate-covid-19-progression)

The authors of the study warned that both cigarettes and e-cigs were involved in this higher risk rate.

Smoking increases mucus production and inflammation, which injures the lungs’ defense system. This is why people who smoke are more likely to have serious respiratory infections and illnesses.

However, my role as an Asheville periodontist is not to lecture our patients. We believe our patients deserve to be informed about the risks to their oral health, in particular, and provide encouragement. Too, we want patients to understand the best ways to avoid developing periodontal (gum) disease and the subsequent repercussions (such as tooth loss) as a result.

So, let’s focus on your periodontal health if you smoke (including cigarette smoking or vaping).

Smokers are often unaware of what occurs in the mouth from smoking. To begin, smokers have a greater risk of periodontal (gum) disease due to its drying effect on the soft tissues in the mouth. When saliva flow is depleted, its ability to rinse away oral bacteria enables the mouth to a bacterial breeding ground.

As oral bacteria reproduce and accumulate in the mouth, gum tissues become inflamed. In the early stages of gum disease, symptoms may include frequent bad breath, tender and swollen gums, and gums that bleed easily when brushing teeth.

As gum disease progresses, the gums change in color from a healthy pink hue to red. The gums loosen their grip around the base of teeth and seem more spongy. Breath odor is consistently bad. Pus pockets may form at the base of some teeth.

Eventually, the bone and the tissue structures that support natural teeth are under attack. The infectious bacteria ramp up their onslaught of attack, tooth roots no longer have the firm support they need. Some teeth begin to loosen and may require removal.

Advanced periodontal disease, known as periodontitis, is a health risk that goes far beyond the mouth. For years, research has shown an intricate connection between the “good” bacteria in the mouth, especially beneficial in gut health. It has also been known that the “bad” and infectious bacteria of advanced gum disease can alter the roles of certain factors in the body that help to prevent the formation of disease.

For example, certain cancers can be activated or progressed through the inflammatory bacteria of gum disease. These bacteria are able to become blood borne and activate “pathogens” that create a domino effect of disease development.

When you factor in the vulnerability to the lungs from inhaling the toxic smoke of cigarettes, you have a perfect storm. Consider that the gum tissues are the first contact with these inhaled chemicals. Because oral tissues are absorbent in nature, they are at the front line of smoking’s effect.

If you do smoke, we want to help you minimize the risks it poses to your oral health. In addition to maintaining regular dental check-ups and cleanings (at least every 6 months), below are some tips for your at-home oral hygiene regimen.

Brush twice a day (at least) for two minutes each time. Use a fluoridated toothpaste and a soft to medium bristle toothbrush.
Floss your teeth every day and floss before your brush. You would be surprised at how many particles can be lodged between teeth that brushing won’t rid. If flossing is an awkward maneuver, try one of the water flossers, which are affordable and as effective as manual flossing.
Brush your tongue after your teeth to unroot embedded bacteria, especially reaching the back area of the tongue (where most bacteria are embedded). This also helps to give you fresh breath.
• Use an oral rinse that replenishes moisture (and is alcohol-free) twice a day (or as directed). These are available OTC at most drug stores.
• Chew sugarless gum, preferably a brand that contains Xylitol. Xylitol looks and tastes like sugar, yet has 40 percent fewer calories.
• Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Be aware that beverages such as most coffee, tea and colas contain caffeine are drying to the mouth. Many medications also have the side effect of oral dryness – another good reason to stay hydrated.
• Limit your intake of sugar and carbohydrates. These are oral bacteria super boosters.

In our Asheville periodontal dental office, please know that we are here for you regardless of your needs or goals. Although we prefer you give up smoking, we want to give you the very best care possible so you can enjoy a healthy mouth and confident smile.

If you haven’t had regular dental exams or have any of the symptoms associated with gum disease (mentioned above), call our dental office to schedule a thorough periodontal exam at 828-274-9440.

 

Erectile Dysfunction (ED) Risks Increase With Presence of Gum Disease


Posted on Jan 07, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

Men have a long way to go when it comes to taking good care of their teeth and gums, according to several surveys.

One from the Academy of General Dentistry stated that men in the U.S. are less likely to have regular dental check-ups and cleanings than women. Another survey shared by the Journal of Periodontology said men are less likely to brush regularly, and more likely to lose teeth as they age as well as develop oral cancer and gum disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, over 56 percent of men have gum disease, compared to just over 38 percent of women. Men, in particular, should be aware of the increased health risks associated with periodontal (gum) disease.

Researchers have given closer assessment to recent studies and found that erectile dysfunction (ED) is more common in men with gum disease.

In addition to higher ED risks, research has found that men with a history of gum disease are 14 percent more likely to develop cancer than men with healthy gums – 49 percent more likely to develop kidney cancer, 59 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer and 30 percent more likely to develop a blood cancer.

If concerns about heart disease and cancers aren’t enough to get men thinking more seriously about their oral health, ED may be a condition that does.

Gum disease has emerged as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and cardiovascular disease raises the risk for ED. For men, there are a number of factors that contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. These include smoking, obesity, chronic stress, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and chronic sleep apnea.

One study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine revealed that men in their thirties with severe gum disease are 3 times more likely to have erection problems. As cardiovascular health issues develop, erection ability suffers, and as health problems increase in number and severity, so does the severity of ED.

The association between periodontal disease, heart disease, and erectile dysfunction relates to inflammation brought on by gum disease bacteria. This process actually comes down to a biochemical reaction. 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.

In the U.S., an estimated 18 percent of males have erectile dysfunction. Although men who are over age 70 are more likely to have ED, males most affected by ED are getting younger. One outpatient clinic showed that 1 in 4 men who sought help for erectile dysfunction were under the age of 40.

Could maintaining a healthy mouth lower the risk of ED? In a 2013 study, it was found that treating periodontal disease improves ED symptoms. Thus, a growing number of physicians are advising male patients who have both ED and periodontitis to seek periodontal treatment as a way to reduce its risk.

In data analyzed from five studies published between 2009 – 2014 (which included 213,000 male participants between ages 20 – 80), men who had chronic periodontitis (advanced gum disease) were more likely to have erectile dysfunction.

In another study, nearly half of the men with ED also had diabetes, another chronic inflammatory disease with links to periodontal disease. Chronic inflammation in the body can be lowered when gum health is kept in good condition.

Men can help to protect their overall health by keeping their oral health at an excellent level. It is especially important to watch for signs of gum disease. Symptoms include: puffy, red gums; inflamed, swollen, or bleeding gums; gums that recede from the base of teeth; and persistent bad breath.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, call our Asheville periodontal dental office for an examination as soon as possible. Gum disease does not improve without treatment.

Although many serious health problems are linked to the potent bacteria of gum disease, it is one of the most preventable of all diseases. Twice daily brushing, daily flossing, a diet limited in sugar and carbohydrates and drinking plenty of water are simple guidelines to follow.

Even with these easy steps that take mere minutes per day, it is estimated that over 47 percent of American adults have some level of gum disease.

For the good of your overall health and well-being, renew your commitment to a healthy smile for the new year. Begin with a thorough examination. (A referral is not required.) We’ll discuss how to get your oral health in good shape and ways to maintain it between dental check-ups.

Call 828-274-9440 to schedule or ask to begin with a consultation. If dental anxiety or fear has kept you from regular dental care, mention this during your appointment. This is a common problem for both men and women. If desired, we offer a number of comfort options, including Oral Sedation or I.V. Sedation (twilight sleep).

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