Pregnant? Make Oral Health A Particular Priority!


Posted on Apr 23, 2019 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

With pregnancy, there seems to be a long list of do’s and don’ts for the mom-to-be. For instance, pregnant women are advised to avoid most drugs, alcohol, certain foods, and all smoking! Proper exercise, a balanced diet, and plenty of sleep help to keep both mother and baby healthy when it comes time for delivery.

Now, obstetricians are urging their pregnant patients (or those trying to become pregnant) to add a very important item to this list. They are advising particular devotion to achieving and maintaining good oral health.

The reason to keep a healthy mouth is based on decades of research and findings related to how infectious bacteria of periodontal (gum) disease can penetrate the bloodstream. Once bloodborne, the bacteria are able to activate inflammatory triggers elsewhere in the body.

A mother-to-be is especially vulnerable to gum disease due to hormonal changes during her pregnancy. Almost 50 percent develop pregnancy gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease that causes gums to become swollen, tender and bleed easily when brushing.

However, because of their susceptibility, the risk for full-blown gum disease is higher for pregnant females with nearly a third developing gum disease.

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 percent compared to nearly 29 percent for pregnant women with moderate to severe periodontal disease.

It has also been shown that gum disease increases the likelihood for late-term miscarriage and pre-eclampsia. When oral bacteria reach placental membranes via the bloodstream, inflammatory reactions were found to trigger pre-eclampsia or early labor.

One study showed that pregnant women with higher blood levels of antibodies to oral bacteria also had higher incidences 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.

When periodontal disease is present, however, successful treatment has shown to lower the risk of preterm births.

For all individuals, however, the bacteria of gum disease is coming to light as a major contributor to a number of serious health problems. 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.

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 important to know the signs and symptoms of gum disease. These include gums that bleed when brushing, frequent bad breath, swollen or tender gums, gums that pull away from the base of teeth, or gums that darken in color.

While any of these should prompt an individual to seek out periodontal treatment, pregnant women have a particular need to seek care. 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).

If you have any of the symptoms mentioned above (whether pregnant or not), you are urged to schedule an appointment at your earliest convenience. Call 828-274-9440 to arrange an examination to begin.

Oral Bacteria Research Shows Links To Pancreatic Cancer


Posted on Apr 15, 2019 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

According to a number of studies, the oral bacteria of periodontal (gum) disease has been linked to serious health problems, including some cancers. Apparently, the inflammation triggered by the infectious bacteria in the mouth are now suspected to be a contributing factor in the development of pancreatic cancer.

Because it is typically not diagnosed until at advanced stages, pancreatic cancer has a a long-standing reputation for its deadly track record. This year, over 50,000 people will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Less than 10 percent will survive past the five year mark.

For years, researchers have been able to show that the infectious bacteria of periodontal disease are able to enter the bloodstream through tears in weakened tissues. Once bloodborne, these bacteria have been a trigger for inflammatory reactions elsewhere in the body. In addition to some cancers, research to-date has linked oral bacteria to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, preterm babies, impotency and erectile dysfunction.

In a long-term study to track oral bacteria-pancreatic cancer links, the DNA from saliva samples was analyzed from over 360 adults who eventually developed pancreatic cancer. Researchers compared these samples to the DNA in saliva of a similar number of adults who remained healthy.

Adjustments were made in both groups for considerations of age, race, sex and body mass as well as alcohol use, smoking and being diabetic. The participants who developed pancreatic cancer within two years after the DNA samples were taken were omitted to eliminate pre-existing factors that could influence statistical outcomes.

With findings from prior research, this study allowed researchers to hone in on two specific types of periodontal disease pathogens. Researchers noted that one pathogen was more prevalent in the saliva of participants who developed pancreatic cancer, noting a 59 percent greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer. The second pathogen was shown to increase this risk by 50 percent.

In early stages, the symptoms of gum disease include tender gums that bleed easily when brushing and frequent bad breath. As it worsens, the gums become sore and swollen, darken in color to red, and cause gum tissues to loosen their grip around the base of teeth. Eventually, teeth will loosen and may require removal. Because over 47 percent of American adults have some level of periodontal disease, it is no wonder that gum disease is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss.

Hopefully, the general public will learn of extensive research results that show that periodontal disease bacteria is destructive and deadly. As findings from further studies continue to be revealed, it is important to be proactive when it comes to the symptoms of periodontal disease. Remember, gum disease will only worsen without treatment.

Call 828-274-9440 to begin with a thorough periodontal examination. As a periodontist, our Asheville periodontal office offers specialized treatment for all levels of gum disease. Through this, I will explain how we will determine the state of your current oral health and subsequent recommendations that will restore you to excellent oral wellness.

Don’t Let Misaligned Teeth Lead To Tooth Loss.


Posted on Feb 25, 2019 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

As a periodontist, I have specialized skills in treating all stages of gum disease (known as periodontal disease, or simply “perio” by some). I also have advanced training in the diagnosis and placement of dental implants.

Although my specialty does not cover the advanced training an orthodontist has in bite alignment, my dental education absolutely covered the benefits of having proper “occlusion.” It also covered the repercussions of NOT having a bite that is properly balanced.

Just as an orthodontist can spot telltale signs of gum inflammation, I (along with general dentists and most dental specialists) can see indications of teeth that are not working in unison — even at times when these teeth appear to be “straight.”

While the nation’s number one cause of adult tooth loss is gum disease, having a misaligned bite function (or “malocclusion”) can lead to tooth loss in ways you may not have realized.

For example, during chewing, the upper teeth and lower teeth are designed to work harmoniously together to grind food down for swallowing and digesting. When an upper tooth does not interact smoothly with one below it (or vice versa), a tooth can become chipped, broken or fractured.

When damage to a tooth occurs, it must be quickly repaired before oral bacteria can penetrate tooth structures. Without the protection of enamel, oral bacteria can cause tooth decay and gum disease.

A fracture in a tooth can expand over time, leading to a crack that loosens an entire segment of a tooth. These areas must also be repaired before the tooth is subjected to oral bacteria. This typically requires a crown (or “cap”) that is placed over the top portion of the tooth.

However, a crack in a tooth that extends into the gum tissues typically means the tooth must be removed. If a portion of the tooth breaks “just below” the gum tissue, the tooth can sometimes be saved by a procedure we do called a “crown lengthening.” This is often known as a gingivectomy and is performed to remove excess gum tissues.

A gingivectomy procedure exposes more of the natural tooth so a crown can be placed over the tooth to preserve its remaining structure. (For people who have a “gummy smile,” this is performed, also, to reduce the amount of gum tissue that arches over teeth most visible in a smile.)

Another hazard of bite misalignment relates to dental implants. The overall success rate of dental implants is very high, nearly 98 percent by some estimates (when properly selected, placed and maintained). However, when a newly-placed implant is subjected to the grinding forces of TMJ disorders, its risks for success are much lower.

People are often surprised to learn that they clench and/or grind their teeth at night – primarily due to bite misalignment. When a bite is “off,” the jaw joints can become strained and inflamed. During sleep, the upper and lower jaws go on a subconscious quest of sorts, searching to find a comfortable position that eliminates the strain.

The forces behind some clenching are enough to crack open a walnut. Imagine a newly placed implant that is dependent upon the jaw bones to “heal” it into this firm foundation. When the area of bone around an implant is subjected to night after night of disruption, the implant is against the odds of becoming fully embedded in supporting bone.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you use a screwdriver to firmly anchor a screw into a solid block of wood. However, every day, you use a pair of pliers to grasp the screw head and wriggle it back and forth. Obviously, it wouldn’t take long for the wood surrounding the length of the screw to wear down from the friction of the screw’s motion, even slight as it may seem. Eventually, the screw could be easily moved back and forth and would no longer serve as a dependable base of support.

It’s not unusual for more than one dental specialist to work with another to provide a patient with the combined skills needed in particular cases. I frequently work with other dental specialists and general dentists in a “team treatment” capacity in order to give patients optimal outcomes.

When we place an implant, our goal is for each patient to enjoy its benefits for the remainder of their life. Bite misalignment can jeopardize this. And, if you have all your natural teeth now, be sure to protect them by keeping your gums healthy and ensuring your bite is as well.

After all, every dental professional is on your team when it comes to enjoying confident smiles for a lifetime!

If you’ve noticed indications of gum disease (tender gums that bleed when brushing, for example) or have experienced tooth loss (or fear you are facing it), take charge of your smile now. Call 828-274-9440 to schedule a thorough examination.

Cancer Risk And Gum Health


Posted on Feb 05, 2019 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

I know of no one who hasn’t lost someone dear to them – family member or close friend – to cancer. The disease, although now more survivable than ever thanks to advancements in early detection and treatment – remains a dreaded diagnosis.

Still, a cancer diagnosis often drags entire families through the battle. Treatment can be lengthy and time-consuming as well as financially and emotionally draining. Some diagnoses are considered ‘death sentences,’ with terribly low survival rates. For instance, pancreatic cancer’s 5-year survival rate, depending on the type, ranges between 3 – 9 percent. (https://www.pancan.org/facing-pancreatic-cancer/about-pancreatic-cancer/survival-rate/)

Decades of research has resulted in improved measures, and many cancers once thought dooming are now very treatable. Success rates are improving with most survivors going on to live normal, healthy, active lives.

Preventing cancer isn’t a simple matter. We know that a healthy lifestyle can help but isn’t a guarantee for avoiding it. Cancer can result from a number of triggers. For example, smoking is a known contributor to oral and lung cancer. The toxic chemicals delivered through cigarette smoke are proven activators in some cancer development.

As research has been able to go deeper into the cause-&-effect of various cancers, the health of periodontal tissues are coming to light as having an intricate role in your overall health, including your risk for developing some cancers.

Periodontal disease, often referred to as gum disease, runs rampant in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), over 47 percent of adults over the age of 30 have some level of gum disease. For adults over the age of 65, this figure increases to 70 percent.

This is a frightening statistic considering the devastation that infectious bacteria of periodontal disease can cause. While it is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss, research has also revealed links to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, arthritis, diabetes, preterm babies, high blood pressure, and erectile dysfunction (ED).

Yet, much progress is being made in tracking down activators of cancer in the body. For instance, research shared in a January 2018 article in Medical News Today revealed exciting progress along these lines. (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320634.php)

Researchers found that some gastrointestinal cancers, such as pancreatic cancer, share an enzyme. This enzyme, typically found in the mouth, serves as the “boosting” agent in the development of gum disease. They noted that the enzyme was also present in certain cancerous tumors.

In additional research shared by the AACR (American Association For Cancer Research), cited that previous research has revealed gum disease as a risk factor for breast, oral, and esophageal cancers. (https://www.aacrfoundation.org/Science/Pages/assessing-gum-disease-cancer-risk.aspx). The warn that women, especially, should be urged to maintain good periodontal disease to lower their risk of additional types of cancer.

One study showed that post-menopausal females were more susceptible to several cancers.

Between 1999 – 2003, researchers monitored cancer outcomes of female participants ages 54 to 86 through self-reported questionnaires onn periodontal disease. The study showed that: “a history of gum disease was associated with a 14 percent higher risk of developing any cancer”.

The greatest association was for cancer of the esophagus, which was more than 3 times more likely in women with periodontal disease than women who did not list having periodontal disease. Lung cancer, gallbladder cancer, melanoma, and breast cancer were also associated with higher risk.

Although women who smoked had higher risks for breast cancer, lung cancer, and gallbladder cancer, non-smokers with gum disease also had increased risks of these cancers.

Still not fully understood, it is suspected that gum disease bacteria are able to enter the bloodstream through diseased gum tissues. This allows them to reach other body sites and contribute to “carcinogenesis”, the process where normal cells are transformed into cancer cells, leading to the formation of cancer.

Because the study consisted of self-reported data, the study’s authors suspect the prevalence of periodontal disease may have been under-reported. This would make the percentages even higher. While further research is needed through more precise assessments of periodontal disease, these statistics are helpful in confirming the link between periodontal disease and cancer.

This study also reinforces previous findings that show our oral health is more closely related to our overall health than most are aware. As a periodontal specialist, I urge you to be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with all stages of gum disease. These include tender gums that bleed easily when brushing, gums that turn red in color, frequent bad breath, and gums that loosen their grip around teeth.

For more, you may find it helpful to visit the web site of the American Academy of Periodontology: www.perio.org.

A periodontist is a dental specialist with advanced training in the diagnosis and treatment of all stages of gum disease. This advanced care is your wisest choice for tackling gum disease and having good oral health at any age. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 828-274-9440 or tap here to begin.

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