A “Lecture-Free” Look At Cigarettes & Your Smile
Posted on Oct 11, 2023 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
In this article, I’m going to address cigarette smoking as it affects oral health. This is not intended to lecture or chastise an adult for making a choice to smoke or those caught up in the addictive grip of nicotine. My goal is to relay factual information regarding oral health for smokers so they can better protect their smiles.
Because I’m a native North Carolinian, I’ll begin by sharing some information on our State, as provided by 2018 stats from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention).
In 2018, the percentage of adults in North Carolina who smoked was reported as 17.4% (of every 100 adults). The CDC shared findings of all states, with smoking ranged from nearly 9 of every 100 adults in Utah (9.0%) to 25 of every 100 adults in West Virginia (25.2%).
They also shared that cigarette smoking was lowest among those with a graduate degree (3.2%) and highest for those who had only achieved a GED certificate (30.7%). Those with a high school diploma showed a lower percentage of nearly half of the GED level adults at 17.1%.
As an Asheville periodontal dental specialist, smoking is a particular concern since many people are unaware of the oral health risks. While many smokers are familiar with the risks smoking poses related to cancer and other diseases, smoking is also terribly harmful to your smile.
For instance, smokers have a greater risk of periodontal (gum) disease. The drying effect that smoking has on the soft tissues in the mouth offers an ideal breeding ground for oral bacteria. This enables easier entry of oral bacteria into the structures that support tooth roots.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), a smoker has twice the risk for gum disease compared to that of a nonsmoker.
As oral bacteria thrive and reproduce in the mouth, gum tissues become tender and inflamed. These are signs of gingivitis, the beginning stage of gum disease.
Gum disease at this stage can cause persistent bad breath, swollen gums and gums that bleed easily when brushing. As it progresses, gum tissues turn red or purple from inflammation. Pus pockets may form at the base of some teeth. This advanced stage is known as periodontitis.
Eventually, the infectious bacteria penetrate below the gum line and attack supporting bone and the tissues surrounding tooth roots. This can cause teeth to loosen and eventually require removal. Gum disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss.
Losing teeth is detrimental to your overall health and not a normal part of the aging process. Studies have shown that people who wear dentures die an average of ten years earlier than those who keep their natural teeth.
Denture wearers also have higher incidences of pneumonia, and worse. A 2015 report by NBC News shared findings surrounding dentures and MRSA biofilm. The report included a dental specialist’s warning that, “Concern about biofilms on dentures is growing as researchers continue to identify links between oral bacteria and heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD, and respiratory diseases, including aspiration pneumonia.”
Many smokers are aware that they have stained teeth and more-frequent bad breath than non-smokers. They also have slower healing periods after procedures such as extractions, gum treatment and oral surgery.
Although a hygienist may go slowly and gently, dental cleanings are typically less comfortable for smokers. This is because smoking causes a greater buildup of plaque. With gum tissues already tender from the bacterial irritation of plaque, removing buildup from between and around the base of teeth adds to the discomfort of inflamed tissues.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), smoking increases the risks of oral cancer, lesions inside the mouth, enamel erosion and tooth loss in addition to periodontal (gum) disease.
If you vape, remember that nicotine in any form is a hazardous force in the mouth. And the vapor itself is not safe for oral health.
Vaping (using e-cigarettes) delivers nicotine through an inhaled mist. Although the vapor is generally not labeled as “dangerous,” one study of some e-cigarette products found the vapor contains known carcinogens and toxic chemicals, including, propylene or polyethylene glycol, glycerin, and additives. And, its nicotine is no less harmful to the user as that delivered via cigarette smoke.
Unfortunately, many cigarette users switch to vaping based on the perception that “e-cigs” are a safer alternative. For those hoping to wean themselves off cigarettes through this switch, very few achieve that goal as a result.
A 2018 report by the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine concluded there was “evidence that e-cigarette use increases the frequency and intensity of cigarette smoking in the future.”
Although the focus in this article is meant to be on oral health, allow me to reiterate some of the benefits of “kicking the habit” …
• Smokers have a decreased life expectancy of an average of 10–15 years compared to non-smokers.
• Smoking is linked to nearly a third of all cancer diseases and deaths.
• Pregnant women who smoke have a higher risk for first-trimester spontaneous abortion, preterm births, low birth weight babies and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
• Women who smoke are at risk for early menopause while men who smoke are more at risk for impotency.
• People who breathe in your “second hand” smoke (what you exhale) are subjected to over 50 known carcinogens and other harmful chemicals.
For those who are able to give up smoking, the effort is well worth it. The positive effects can be felt almost immediately. In about 48 hours, damaged nerve endings begin to restore. The sense of smell and taste begin to return to normal.
“Quitters” also notice their breathing is easier in about 3 days and they have fuller air intake. Oral health improves within 2 weeks as blood circulation in the gums and teeth returns to nearly that of non-smokers. Heart attack risk also declines with blood flow greatly improving. Activities are easier and the constant smokers cough is gone.
In our Asheville periodontal office, our goal – for every patient – is to help each achieve optimal oral health and a smile he or she is proud to share. For those who smoke, we make individualized recommendations so the potential for achieving this is favorable.
If tooth loss has already occurred, we are specialists in the treatment of all stages of gum disease and in the diagnosis and placement of dental implants. We will be happy to discuss the dental implant system that may be best for your needs.
Or, if dental fear or anxiety have kept you from receiving regular dental care, ask us about oral or IV sedation (“twilight sleep”). These sedatives are delivered by an MD of anesthesia for your optimal safety and comfort. And, in all procedures, we make patient comfort a high priority.
Call 828-274-9440 to schedule an examination.
How the “Bad” Bacteria in the Mouth Can Lead To Serious Health Problems
Posted on Aug 08, 2023 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
The human body is a fascinating structure. It seems every year there are new findings that show just how complex and amazing it is.
Recently, one of the biggest areas of interest has been the study of microbiome in the body. Once thought to be icky little cesspools, these colonies of microorganisms are now seen as having an important role in our health. For example, the microbiome in the gut has been shown to aid in digestion and it’s now seen that skin microbiome may potentially help people overcome conditions like acne and eczema.
As a periodontist, I’ve followed research in how microbiome is being recognized for having a positive role in oral health. While bacteria that convert sugar to acid are the driving force behind tooth decay, this means that those critters in our mouths are not always bad guys.
There are about 700 different species of bacteria in your mouth. Some can be “bad,” yet the good bacteria are able to give our overall health a “leg up” in certain regards.
Certainly, having a clean, healthy mouth helps to prevent cavities and periodontal (gum) disease. However, read on to learn how the health of your mouth can contribute to your overall health to a rather significant extent.
Over the years, numerous studies have been able to pinpoint how diseases – such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and more – might be triggered. The “trigger” seems to consistently link back to internal inflammation.
Inflammation in the body has been shown to set actions into play that cause the onset or worsening of a wide variety of health problems. Periodontal (gum) disease is a chronic inflammatory disease. This means the bacteria attacking gum tissues are in a consistently active state.
When the bacteria of gum disease enter the bloodstream (through tears in weakened gum tissues), it can create inflammatory triggers far beyond the mouth. This bloodborne inflammation, in turn, results in higher risks for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, preterm babies, arthritis, respiratory diseases and even impotency.
How can this occur?
In chronic inflammation, the body’s defense mechanism becomes stuck in the ‘on’ position. This sets off a chain of reactions that alter the helpful response of the immune to a harmful one. When an area in the body stays in an inflammatory setting, damaging reactions can occur.
Once in the bloodstream, several species of harmful gum disease bacteria can add to existing inflammation, including that in the arteries, where it can lead to heart attack and stroke.
In one study of 265 stroke patients, researchers found that patients with gum disease had twice as many strokes (due to thickening and hardening of brain arteries) as patients without. Additionally, patients with gum disease were three times as likely to have a stroke involving blood vessels in the back of the brain, which controls vision, coordination and other functions.
In a separate study of over 1,100 patients who had not experienced a stroke, researchers noted that 10% had severely blocked brain arteries. They also found that patients with gum inflammation were twice as likely to have moderately severe narrowing of brain arteries.
Another example is in the similarities between tissues of gum disease and those taken from arthritic joints. Studies show that gum disease is not only a risk factor for arthritis (both are inflammatory diseases), one can contribute to the other. Thus, gum disease is a risk factor for developing RA and arthritic patients have a greater risk for gum disease.
Additionally, people with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease than people without it, likely because they’re more susceptible to contracting infections overall, according to the American Academy of Periodontology.
Studies also show that pregnant women with periodontal disease have a greater risk of having pre-term and low birth weight babies. These indications have been found in amniotic fluid and in fetal cord blood samples of infants.
Findings show, too, that the bacteria of periodontal disease may contribute to a higher risk of pancreatic cancer. For years, researchers at the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society have conducted cancer prevention and screening studies.
By studying oral samples, notably higher levels of two types of oral bacteria were measured in study participants with pancreatic cancer. One oral bacteria was found to create a 50% increased risk for pancreatic cancer and the second oral bacteria led to a 59% greater likelihood.
Chronic inflammation, in any area of the body, is a health risk that poses severe health challenges now highly recognized in the medical field. Not surprisingly, we occasionally see patients who have been advised by their surgeons to have their gum health checked prior to surgery. This proactive measure is to reduce risk factors that could complicate surgical outcome.
Your body’s natural defenses along with good oral hygiene — such as daily brushing and flossing — helps to keep bacteria under control. Also, people should readily recognize the signs and symptoms of periodontal disease.
Healthy gums fit snugly around the base of teeth and be a light pink color. Although the initial stage of gum disease (gingivitis) may exist without obvious symptoms, common signs of gum disease include:
• Swollen or puffy gums
• Bright red or purplish gums
• Gums that feel tender or bleed easily
• Spitting out blood when brushing or flossing
• Frequent or persistent bad breath
• Pus pockets between some teeth and gums
• Loose teeth or a change in the way teeth fit
• Painful chewing
• Gums that pull away from teeth or are sensitive to heat and/or cold
Maintaining good at-home oral hygiene is easy and takes just minutes a day. Brush twice a day (two minutes each time) and floss daily. Drink plenty of plain water throughout the day and limit sugar. Have dental cleanings every six months and follow your dental hygienist’s recommendations to keep oral bacteria at minimal levels between visits.
If you suspect you have gum disease or have delayed (or avoided) having regular dental care, call our Asheville periodontal dental office to schedule an examination. Or, ask to begin with a consultation appointment. During this time, we can discuss any concerns and I’ll answer your questions. Call 828-274-9440.
Let’s help you achieve a healthy, confident smile that adds to the well-being of your overall health!
Get Dental Fear Out Of The Way and Enjoy A Healthy Confident Smile
Posted on Jan 18, 2023 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
It’s a new year. Hopefully, this new beginning has given you renewed determination to conquer challenges that have held you back from living the life you want.
While some people want to lose weight and others wish to learn something new, I tend to see many people at the first of each year who wish to achieve a healthy, confident smile. A large number of these people have been less-than-successful in the past because of having dental fear.
Dental fear and high anxiety associated with dental visits is not uncommon. These fears are often borne from a traumatic incident in the patient’s past. Or, in some cases, it exists for unknown reasons. Too, certain smells, sounds or sights can trigger reactions that evoke fear at even mere thoughts of dental visits.
Oral health is an integral part of your overall health. For decades, studies have proven a direct contact between poor oral health and disease related to other organs. By neglecting dental hygiene, people are at greater risk of developing (or the worsening of) serious diseases and conditions. To avoid these risks, good dental care at home and having regular dental check-ups help empower adults in improving oral health and wellness.
As a periodontist in Asheville, I have a firsthand view of just what dental fear can do to oral health. Certainly, avoiding regular dental care is a sure recipe for cavities, periodontal (gum) disease, and eventual tooth loss. However, the repercussions of poor oral health can wreak havoc on one’s overall health.
It’s not uncommon for adults who avoid dental visits to feel they are doing a “good enough job” at maintaining their oral wellness at home. In some minds, “I brush twice a day,” can be the justification to bypass regular dental cleanings and exams. Yet, even the best of at-home dental hygiene can be insufficient.
Even people who feel they are dong a good job at the sink can easily miss areas of bacteria accumulation. Grooves in the tops of teeth and the tight nooks formed by crooked teeth become ideal hiding spots for bacteria growth.
Oral bacteria reproduce rapidly and, when at a certain point, can trigger inflammatory reactions. In addition to being the origin of cavities and periodontal (gum) disease, these reactions can extend far beyond the mouth (some of which are listed below).
Gum disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss. The same infectious bacteria that destroy gums and structures that support natural teeth aren’t confined to the oral proximity. Through tears in diseased gum tissues, these infectious bacteria can enter the bloodstream.
Research has correlated oral bacteria to an extensive list of serious health problems. Some can be activated by the bacteria of periodontitis, some are worsened. For those who avoid dental care due to anxiety or fear, knowing this is not necessarily going to quell their anxiety. However, allowing dental fear to prevent you from achieving a healthy smile can increase health risks you may not realize.
Just how bad are the risks?
Dementia & Alzheimer’s disease: Gum disease occurs when infection of the oral tissues develops. It causes bleeding gums, putrid breath odor, loose teeth, and tooth loss. Oral bacteria and the inflammatory molecules that develop can enter the bloodstream, making their way to the brain. Previous lab studies have suggested that this is a potential risk factor in the sequence of events that lead to dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia that destroys memory, shrinks the brain, and affects the brain cells to die. It degenerates the functioning of mental health, which leads to memory loss and confusion. During Alzheimer’s, loss of appetite may worsen, eventually giving rise to oral health problems. The bacterium P. gingivalis appears to migrate from the mouth to the brain of some individuals as they age with a significant proportion of subjects developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Cardiovascular disease: A potential association exists between atherosclerosis (i.e. plaque deposition in blood vessels) and periodontal pathogens. There is a broad base of common genetic variants which increase both the risk of cardiovascular disease and the risk of periodontitis.
Endocarditis: Bacteremia (defined as the entry of bacteria into the blood stream) is a precondition for endocarditis. The vast majority of bacteremia do not cause endocarditis, even in patients at high risk. However, in high-risk patients, the more frequently and the more intensely bacteremia occurs, the greater the likelihood of endocarditis. Periodontal therapy has been shown to have a protective effect in people at risk of endocarditis.
Erectile Dysfunction: In the U.S., an estimated 18% of males have erectile dysfunction (ED). Men over the age of 70 are more likely to have ED compared to 5% between ages 20 – 40. Studies have shown an association between gum disease and pancreatic cancer. From analyzed data of five studies between 2009 – 2014, studies followed 213,000 participants aged 20 – 80.
Each study found erectile dysfunction was more common among men with chronic periodontitis, particularly for those younger than 40 and older than 59. After accounting for other health factors, erectile dysfunction was found to be 2.28 times more common for men who had advanced gum disease than for men without it.
Stroke: In one study of 265 stroke patients, researchers found that patients with gum disease had twice as many strokes due to thickening and hardening of brain arteries as patients without. Additionally, patients with gum disease were three times as likely to have a stroke involving blood vessels in the back of the brain, which controls vision, coordination and other functions.
In a separate study of over 1,100 patients who had not experienced a stroke, researchers noted that 10% had severely blocked brain arteries. They also found that patients with gum inflammation were twice as likely to have moderately severe narrowing of brain arteries.
Arthritis: For decades, it was perceived that RA (rheumatoid arthritis) patients had such a high risk of gum disease due to poor oral hygiene because of dexterity problems with using a toothbrush. However, more recent studies now show that gum disease is actually a risk factor for arthritis.
While genetic factors certainly contribute to greater RA susceptibility, the true source has been determined to be inflammatory reactions. This inflammation is triggered primarily by bacterial infections, with oral bacteria being a significant contributor to inflammatory arthritis.
Researchers found that people with severe periodontal disease also had severe rheumatoid arthritis. Patients with the most plaque, bleeding and gum tissue breakdown had worse RA by all measures, including disease activity and inflammatory markers. Other studies have found that even with treatment, RA patients with periodontitis continue to have worse arthritis symptoms and are 50% less likely to be in remission.
The relationship between gum disease and arthritis isn’t just seen in adults. Kids with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) have inflammatory mouth bacteria not found in their healthy peers. Different types of bacteria seem to correspond to specific aspects of JIA.
Some are associated with higher disease activity and others with a greater number of affected joints.
Diabetes: It has been known that acute inflammation may lead to poor glycemic control. This is due to the fact that infections reduce the uptake of glucose into cells, and endotoxins and inflammatory mediators reduce the efficiency of insulin. Due to these pathways, periodontitis (advanced gum disease) has long been regarded as a risk factor for poor blood glucose control in diabetes patients.
Pre-Term Babies: The elevated hormone levels during pregnancy create a higher vulnerability to gum disease; the reason about half of pregnant females experience swollen, red and tender gums that bleed while brushing. Known as Pregnancy Gingivitis, the gums are more susceptible to inflammation, thus more sensitive to the bacteria of gum disease.
Studies have shown that gum disease increases the risk for preterm delivery (before 37 weeks) and low birth weight babies. Gum disease also increases the risk for poor obstetrical outcomes, late miscarriage and pre-eclampsia. For example, the preterm birth rate for women without periodontal disease is approximately 11% compared to nearly 29% for females with moderate to severe gum disease.
Through tears in gum tissues, oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream. Once this bacteria reaches placental membranes, it can trigger inflammation that can cause preeclampsia or labor.
While these health concerns are all reasons to renew your commitment to achieving and maintaining a healthy smile, the image of having a terrific smile you want to share often is an added perk of having good oral health. As a periodontist, I have advanced skills in the treatment of all stages of gum disease as well as the placement of all types of dental implants.
If dental fear is holding you back, let us help your 2023 be the year you take your smile back! Begin by understanding that having discomfort or pain is NOT a part of today’s dentistry. In our Asheville periodontal dental office, we have advanced skills and technology that enhance comfort and minimize treatment time.
Here, we make patient comfort a priority at every visit. We have even designed our reception area to pamper you from the moment you enter.
We offer a private consultation room for patients as well. In this room, we can discuss your treatment and answer your 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 entire staff provide a unified team, each bringing a sincere level of compassion and commitment to excellent care. While the doctors involved in your care are 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 in TOTAL comfort, they relax. When they experience this, they relax even more. When they experience this more than once, a sense of trust is born. When patients trust us, they feel they no longer need to avoid dental care. Like everyone, fearful patients desire a healthy, confident smile. Once the obstacle of fear is removed, their ability to achieve that is greatly heightened.
If you or someone you know has fear that has prevented needed or desired dental care, schedule a consultation appointment. This will take place in our private consultation room. Here, we can discuss your needs and concerns and have your questions answered thoroughly. From there, you can determine what pace is best for you.
Call 828-274-9440 to learn more. Our friendly phone staff will make you feel good from the very beginning!
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.