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.
Our Asheville Periodontal Dental Office Offers Some Unique Services
Posted on Jun 13, 2022 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
As a Periodontist in Asheville, I’ve helped hundreds of patients overcome periodontal (gum) disease and the many repercussions that come with tooth loss. Helping to save teeth that were on the verge of requiring removal has also been a victory for the patient as well as me.
I take great pride in being a part of the transformations of patients who achieve healthy, confident smiles. This is why I’ve created an environment that affords every patient with the most advanced options available for restoring oral health and replacing lost teeth with dental implants.
Let me begin by clarifying the benefits our periodontal office brings…
• A periodontist has advanced training to properly diagnose and treat all stages of gum disease.
• We are known for never over-treating or under-treating with a commitment to provide the most successful treatment for each patient’s specific needs.
• Our periodontal office is specially equipped for the diagnosis and treatment of all stages of gum disease as well as placement of dental implants.
• Diagnosis and treatment planning is backed by an immense array of advanced technology, including:
- LANAP (Laser-Assisted New Attachment Procedure) with PerioLase MVP 7 – an advanced protocol that efficiently and effectively treats advanced gum disease with the added advantages of a dental laser. This offers a non-surgical alternative for patients with moderate to severe periodontal disease and has even been found to stimulate bone regrowth in damaged areas.
- 3-D Cone Beam Imaging – is ideal for diagnoses and treatment planning through images that provide a clear view of the upper and lower jaw (including nerve canals), with rotations that show sagittal, axial, and coronal planes in a process that is quick, painless and at minimal radiation levels.
- CareStream Cone Beam Computer Tomography Imaging – is enhanced tomography that works with 3D imaging for exceptional detail and range.
- CS 3600 Intraoral Scanner – quickly and comfortably captures digital impressions to accurately and easily create precision models or appliances (crowns, inlays, onlays, bridges, orthodontic appliances, aligners, custom abutments) without the need for bulky, goopy trays.
- Computerized Dental Implant Placement – an advanced system for pre-surgical positioning of dental implants using a 3D model of the patient’s jaw. Once the implant type is selected, a template is developed for optimal treatment success.
• A commitment to comfort including I.V. sedation (twilight sleep) as well as oral sedation for total relaxation. On our team is a Board Certified Anesthesiologist to provide sedation and anesthesia for optimal comfort and safety.
Treatment options in our specialty dental office also include reshaping gum tissues for esthetic enhancement (crown lengthening, gingivectomy for ‘gummy smiles’, repairing areas of gum recession); diagnosis and placement of dental implants; and treatment of lesions or cysts in oral tissues.
With specialized skills, a periodontist is especially respectful to oral tissues as tender layers that significantly affect the appearance of a smile and the health of teeth. Utilizing special skills to minimize incisions while effectively treating each area in the mouth, a periodontist is your expert.
Call 828-274-9440 to learn more or to schedule a consultation appointment. New patients are always welcome and a referral is not required.
How Periodontal Health Affects Your Overall Health
Posted on Apr 28, 2022 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
There are many benefits to having a clean, healthy mouth… fresh breath, bright teeth, avoiding cavities and preventing periodontal (gum) disease. However, much research shows that the health of your mouth can also affect your overall health to a rather significant extent.
Over the years, numerous studies have been able to pinpoint how certain diseases, such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, arthritis, etc. can be triggered. While there is still much to learn with some of these, the origins often point to internal (or “systemic”) 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 disease is a chronic inflammatory disease. This means the bacteria that attack tooth enamel and 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.
To clarify, inflammation is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s the body reacting to an overload of bacteria. For example, the redness or slight swelling you see as a cut heals is a sign that the body’s defense system is fighting off bacteria that could create infection.
In chronic inflammation, however, the body’s defense mechanism becomes stuck in the ‘on’ position. This sets into motion a chain of reactions that transform a beneficial response into a harmful one. When an area in the body that stays in an inflammatory setting, there is a risk for damaging reactions.
One of the first correlations between oral bacteria and other serious health problems was found in heart disease. According to information published by the Harvard Medical School:
“In people with periodontitis (erosion of tissue and bone that support the teeth), chewing and toothbrushing release bacteria into the bloodstream. Several species of bacteria that cause periodontitis have been found in the atherosclerotic plaque in arteries in the heart and elsewhere. This plaque can lead to heart attack.
“Oral bacteria could also harm blood vessels or cause blood clots by releasing toxins that resemble proteins found in artery walls or the bloodstream. The immune system’s response to these toxins could harm vessel walls or make blood clot more easily. It is also possible that inflammation in the mouth revs up inflammation throughout the body, including in the arteries, where it can lead to heart attack and stroke.”
Another good example is in the similarities between the tissues of gum disease and those taken from arthritic joints (another inflammatory disease). 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, continued studies showed that gum disease is actually a risk factor for arthritis.
And, it was found that one can contribute to the other. Gum disease is a risk factor for developing RA and having arthritis patients have a greater risk for gum disease.
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 and the list of damaging outreach of oral bacteria seems to get longer and longer.
Studies have shown 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.
Also alarming is research that revealed 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 a cancer prevention and screening study.
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 percent increased risk for pancreatic cancer and the second oral bacteria led to a 59 percent greater likelihood.
Chronic inflammation, in any area of the body, is a health risk that poses severe challenges. 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.
If you have symptoms of gum disease, please be seen by a periodontist promptly. Symptoms include tender gums that bleed easily when brushing, frequent bad breath, swollen and tender gums and gums that redden in color from a healthy pink. Remember, gum disease will only worsen without treatment and is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss.
Maintaining good at-home care of your oral health is easy and takes just minutes a day. Follow a thorough oral hygiene regimen by brushing 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 gladly answer any questions. Call 828-274-9440.