Keep The Mouth Moist To Minimize Bacterial Growth
Posted on Jul 22, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
When you think of an environment of a warm, dark, moist space, it would seem to be a perfect breeding ground for bacteria growth. For homeowners, the worry over this is often how easily mold forms in such places.
According to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), molds are microscopic organisms that thrive anywhere there is a moist environment. Growth can start on a damp surface within 24 to 48 hours.
Molds digest organic material, eventually destroying the material they grow on, and then spread to destroy adjacent organic material. (https://www.fema.gov/pdf/rebuild/recover/fema_mold_brochure_english.pdf)
As an Asheville periodontist, I can’t help but think of the similarities to the mouth. Bacteria in the mouth, when not removed, can multiply and form the sticky film that coats teeth and gums. This is known as plaque.
Like molds, plaque must to be removed to prevent its spread and destructive nature. This is what your twice-daily brushing and flossing regimen is intended to do. When plaque remains in the mouth for roughly 48 hours, it hardens onto teeth. This is tartar and typically forms between teeth or in chunks at the base of teeth.
Essentially, tartar is a hardened mass of bacteria. Like mold, tartar continues to grow if not removed. And, like mold, tartar can cause damage to what it is growing on and spread to surrounding structures.
In addition to a brushing and flossing routine, the mouth has a particular advantage in its ability to control bacteria growth. Saliva is a continual rinsing agent that moves bacteria out of the mouth before the reproductive ability begins or accumulation runs rampant.
However, a dry mouth, which can be the result of a number of factors, means saliva is operating at quite a disadvantage to oral health.
Oral dryness is a natural part of the aging process. It affects about one in five older adults. A dry mouth can also occur from:
• As a side effect of many medications (including prescription and OTC)
• Radiation therapy, especially for head and neck cancer
• Mouth-breathing, which may be due to nasal congestion or snoring
• Medical conditions, such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and Sjogren’s syndrome
Mold has an odor. So does oral dryness, which reveals itself through bad breath.
Just as mold can destroy things like drywall, carpets and insulation, an overload of bacteria in the mouth can be destructive to teeth and gums. These living and breeding organisms thrive on gum tissues.
Although saliva is an aid in bacteria control, there is a limit to what the flow is able to manage. When oral bacteria reach a certain level, they cause inflammation in oral tissues. The early stage of this, known as gingivitis, causes the gum to become tender and swollen. When brushing, blood may be present in the sink when rinsing.
Gingivitis, at this stage, can be contained and resolved if quickly addressed. If not, the bacteria will continue to multiply. This creates inflammation in the gums. This means the inflammation has progressed to periodontal disease, which requires treatment since it is now below the gum line.
Beneath the gum line, the bacteria continue their attack on the structures that support natural teeth. This includes the bone structures surrounding tooth roots. At this point, the gums bleed easily and breath odor is persistently bad. The gums become red and swollen and may pull away from the base of some teeth (gum recession).
Resolving gum disease at this point requires a procedure known as scaling & root planing. This allows the dental professional to reach below the gum’s surface to remove the bacteria. More extensive than a dental cleaning, the gum tissues are numbed and the process may require more than one visit to complete.
If the disease is not treated, it will reach the stage of periodontitis. This is an advanced stage of gum disease that is highly infectious and destructive. Because it leaves the gum tissues in such a weakened state, the infection can easily penetrate beyond the gums and enter the bloodstream.
Symptoms of periodontitis are very uncomfortable. Gums turn spongy and breath odor is putrid. Pus pockets appear on the gums and it may become painful to eat. Some teeth may loosen and eventually need removal.
This is where the damage of periodontal disease bacteria becomes even more destructive. As bad as tooth loss is, hold onto your hat…
Because these bacteria can trigger inflammatory reactions elsewhere in the body, researchers have linked them to a wide range of serious health problems.
The bacteria of gum disease have been correlated to heart disease, stroke, some cancers, diabetes, arthritis, and preterm babies. This is rather telling as to the potency of this harmful bacteria and the destructive nature.
When mold in a house that began in one spot is ignored, the destruction spreads. That’s a pretty good reason to tend to the problem before it gets out of hand, right? Proper care for oral health is worth the minor investment of time and money to avoid the destruction that can occur, including keeping the mouth moist to support sufficient saliva flow.
Here are a few pointers to help you maintain oral moisture:
• Keep the mouth moist by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. Watch your limit of caffeine, including coffee, tea and colas.
• If you take medications that have a side effect of oral dryness, ask your doctor about options that may be less drying to the mouth. Or, increase your water intake and use a daily rinse to replenish oral moisture.
• If you snore or breath through your mouth during sleep, talk to your doctor about ways to resolve these problems. It may be as easy as adjusting your sleeping position or adding a side pillow. Or, an oral appliance may be advised.
• When medical conditions (acid reflux, sinus infections, diabetes, bronchitis) contribute to a dry mouth, be especially committed to your oral hygiene routine at home (brushing and flossing) and up your water intake.
• Know that alcohol (including beer and wine) are drying to oral tissues. Try to swish with water between drinks or have a glass of water nearby to periodically dilute the drying impact.
• Smoking (cigarettes, cigars, vaping) delivers toxic chemicals into the mouth, with the gums taking the first brunt. Be aware of this added risk to the drying effects and take added measures to keep your mouth clean and moist.
I hope you never need the specialty care of a periodontist. However, should you find yourself in need of our care, we place a priority on comfort and ensure a respectful, compassionate approach to each individual.
In our Asheville periodontal office, we provide sedation (“twilight sleep”) for patients during many procedures, if desired. Our office also features some of the most advanced technology available in dentistry, including cone beam imaging, laser dentistry, and computerized guidance for dental implants and other procedures.
Begin with a consultation appointment by calling (828) 274-9440. New patients are always welcome and a referral is not always needed.
Arthritis? Recommit Yourself To Having Good Oral Health.
Posted on Jun 20, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
According to the Centers For Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), over 47 percent of American adults are living with some level of gum disease. For those age 65 and older, this figure jumps to 70 percent.
These concerning statistics are nothing to ignore. Although gum disease is so common, it increases risks that go far beyond the mouth. Over the years, research has tracked many diseases and conditions that correlate with gum disease bacteria. The inflammatory reactions triggered by these infectious bacteria have been linked to heart disease, stroke, some cancers, diabetes, preterm babies, and impotency.
Research has also shown a notably close relationship between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). These studies have been ongoing for many years, and the findings should be concerning to all adults.
RA is a debilitating, painful disease that destroys joints. RA often emerges gradually, initially causing morning stiffness and weak, sore muscles. As inflammation from RA worsens, joints become swollen. Joints become achy and stiff most often in the fingers, wrists, elbows, hips, knees, ankles, toes and neck. Unfortunately, there is no cure for RA.
On a positive note, studies have shown that treating RA patients who have periodontal disease helps to improve RA symptoms. It is felt that this occurs because of a lighter burden of oral inflammation to the body’s immune system.
Below are some of the findings you may want to review. First, however, it’s important to understand how gum disease begins and some signs and symptoms.
In the initial stage of periodontal (gum) disease, known as gingivitis, the gums may bleed when brushing. Bad breath is more frequent and the gums may be tender or swollen. As the disease progresses, the gums turn red and may pull away from the base of some teeth.
Bad breath becomes persistent and pus pockets may form at the base of some teeth. As the infectious bacteria attack the bone structures that support tooth roots, teeth will begin to loosen and may need removal. Gum disease is the leading cause of adult tooth loss in the U.S.
In addition to the devastating damage in the mouth, the infectious bacteria of gum disease can enter the bloodstream through diseased gum tissues, causing the inflammatory triggers that activate serious health problems, such as RA.
Years ago, researchers noticed an RA-perio trait among people with rheumatoid arthritis. While RA sufferers had gum disease more often, they observed that people with gum disease tended to have RA more often.
As researchers delved deeper into the connection, it appeared that the association is much more complicated than previously thought. Findings now suggest that oral bacteria could actually be a cause of rheumatoid arthritis.
In the past, doctors felt that periodontal disease was a result of RA itself since stiff, painful hands make it challenging to maintain good oral hygiene. They also suspected that medications prescribed to treat RA could be a factor since the drugs, which suppress the immune system, inhibited the body’s ability to fight harmful oral bacteria.
Both conditions cause chronic inflammation in tissues that connect to bone with both diseases having a similar inflammatory trigger. Even more similar is the particular species of bacteria found in periodontally-diseased tissues when compared with tissues around arthritic joints. In one study, a particular pathogen associated with periodontal disease was found to activate the same destructive process of rheumatoid arthritis.
In 2017, study findings were released by Johns Hopkins University Division of Rheumatology, which noted evidence that the tissues in the mouth of a periodontally-compromised individual and the tissues of the joint in RA have a number of likenesses. Research has also shown a genetic link between the two.
Above all, these findings reinforce how oral health correlates closely to our overall health. When you consider how the presence of gum disease can significantly increase your risk for serious health conditions, having good oral health should be a priority for every American.
What can you do to lower your risks for tooth loss and contributing to (or worsening) serious health problems? Recommit yourself to thorough oral hygiene at home and having twice-a-year exams and cleanings.
If you have signs of gum disease, have treatment at your earliest convenience. Gum disease will only worsen and requires more treatment time and expense as it progresses.
Call 828-274-9440 to schedule an examination, or begin with a consultation to discuss your needs.
Don’t Smoke? Living Or Working With A Smoker Creates Higher Risks Than Once Thought.
Posted on May 14, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
I doubt there is anyone in the U.S. who smokes tobacco who is unaware of the fact that it’s an unhealthy habit. Although the heart and lungs are more widely associated with the health risks of smoking, many people miss the fact that it is also damaging to the tissues in the mouth.
Consider the devastating statistics of COVID-19 related deaths in the U.S., nearing the 600,000 mark. Yet, when it comes to your oral health, cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States. For people who don’t smoke but live or work with a smoker, secondhand smoke exposure accounts for over 41,000 of these.
For nonsmokers who are victims of secondhand smoke, that’s a tough statistic to accept.
Just how harmful is secondhand smoke? British researchers recently released some interesting findings along these lines. Their studies included several major countries and tracked nearly 7,000 adults, with nearly half being exposed to secondhand smoke. The findings showed that breathing in the smoke of another person’s cigarette can increase the risk of oral cancer by more than 50 percent. These cancers include lip, mouth and throat cancers.
On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers. For every person who dies because of smoking, at least 30 people live with a serious illness related to smoking. Smoking leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ of the body.
When considering the mouth, smoking can create costly problems in addition to a higher risk of tooth loss.
Twenty years of research shows that cigarette smoking is a risk factor for periodontitis. A smoker is 2 – 3 times as likely to develop periodontitis, which is an advanced stage of gum disease. In addition to increased prevalence, smokers also experience greater severity of gum disease.
Nicotine (in any form) has been shown to reduce blood flow in the gum tissues in the mouth. Pipe smoking can be worse than cigarettes due to the higher temperatures generated in the upper jaw. When it comes to dental implants, smoking is a risk factor for failure. It is also detrimental for conventional bridgework.
Cigarette smoking has long been associated with serious oral conditions, including periodontal (gum) disease, bone loss, tissue loss, and tooth loss. For smokers who opt for dental implants to replace missing teeth, they have a higher risk of peri-implantitis, which is inflammation of the soft and hard gum tissues surrounding a dental implant. To no surprise, smokers have a higher incidence of dental implant failure.
In an article published by the Journal of International’s Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry as far back as 2012, it warned that smoking can impact the rate of dental implant success, accounting for up to 20 percent of failures.
“Clinical trials of endosseous implants consistently rate smoking as a primary patient-centered risk factor for implant loss.”
It is common knowledge that the nicotine in cigarettes, e-cigs and ‘chew’ is an addictive drug. Some concerning quotes shared by the Oral Cancer Foundation are:
“Scientists have found that nicotine is as addictive as heroin, cocaine or amphetamines, and for most people, more addictive than alcohol,” states the article “Nicotine, Harder to Kick than Heroin,” published in the New York Times Magazine.
“Nicotine is similar in all critical measures to prototypic drugs of abuse such as cocaine, morphine and heroin.”
“Nicotine is a poison used as an insecticide.”
Now, knowing the effects of secondhand smoke are likened to the non-smoking “victim” as inhaling half as many cigarettes as the user they live or work with, smokers should consider their habit in a different light.
While our Asheville periodontal dental office does not lecture or “guilt” our patients in any way, we feel they deserve to know the hazards of any risk factor related to the well being of their oral health. Without a doubt, smoking (whether cigarettes or vaping) is harmful to oral tissues and the potential to keep natural teeth.
In a report shared by Delta Dental, smokers are about twice as likely to lose their teeth than non-smokers, according to two 30-year studies at Tufts University in Boston. Their findings showed that men who smoke lose about 3 teeth for every 10 years of smoking, with women losing an average of 1.5 teeth per decade.
Every year, about half of smokers make some attempt at kicking the habit. Yet, only 6 or so percent are fully successful. All the while, the tobacco industry spends BILLIONS of dollars each year on cigarette and smokeless tobacco advertising and promotions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), in 2018 “$9.06 billion was spent on advertising and promotion of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco combined—about $25 million every day.” That’s more than $1 million dollars spent every hour of every day.
While nicotine addiction means big money to the tobacco industry, it is enormously costly to our population. Now, knowing that secondhand smoke is so harmful to others, I hope our smoker patients will welcome our respectful support in their efforts to quit as we help them to maintain good oral health and keep their teeth (or dental implants) healthy for a lifetime of confident smiles.
If you’ve considered dental implants to replace missing teeth and smoke, please consult with us to discuss ways we can help you minimize the potential for dental implant failure. We want you to reap the benefits of a smile you’ll want to share proudly.
Call 828-274-9440 to schedule.