What’s Keeping You From Dental Visits?

Posted on Jan 10, 2018 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

You know how stressful it can be to go to the Ophthalmologist and have that puff of air shot into each eye. While it’s a necessary part of an annual eye exam, it tends to be the most dreaded part of the appointment, even moreso than having our eyes dilated.

Although a puff of air in our eye is not going to cause pain, going to the dentist, for some, creates an anticipation of pain. Even for visits that do not require numbing, some patients perceive pain to the extent that they actually feel it.

We see these patients all the time. In my office, we provide the specialized dental services of periodontal therapy (for treating all stages of gum disease) and dental implant diagnosis and placement. And, we stay pretty busy.

It is estimated that over 47 percent of American adults have some level of gum disease. (https://www.perio.org/consumer/cdc-study.htm) Because gum disease is the leading cause of adult tooth loss, our day involves a full schedule of treating gum disease and replacing teeth.

There are a number of reasons that people avoid dental visits, ranging from not understanding the importance of these visits (assuming “if it doesn’t hurt, then nothing is wrong”) to having limited funds. While it may seem that most adults avoid regular dental care because of dental fear, that’s just one of the reasons.

In a 2014 survey of 965 respondents (published by the American Dental Association: https://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Science%20and%20Research/HPI/Files/HPIBrief_1114_1.ashx), the top three reasons for not seeing a dentist on a regular basis were cost, not feeling a visit was needed, and not having the time.

For me, this shows a nonchalant attitude among our adult population when it comes to the importance of oral health. Research has already linked the bacteria of gum disease to serious health issues. These include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, preterm babies, erectile dysfunction and some cancers. Research is now delving into the connection between this bacteria and Alzheimer’s Disease. Why is oral health still a low priority with so many?

Although Americans love the look of a bright, white smile, the health of your gums is far more important than the shade of your teeth. Just because “nothing hurts” doesn’t mean an individual has a healthy mouth.

I believe the misconception of the value of healthy gums is partly due to the silent development of gum disease. For example, an early warning sign is seeing blood in the sink when brushing, yet many people assume that’s normal or even a sign they’re doing a good job.

One of the reasons that pancreatic cancer is so deadly is that, by the time symptoms become obvious, the disease is so far along that treatment is rarely effective. The same is true for oral cancer, which has one of the worst survival rates of all cancers. While regular screenings are advised for colon, breast, uterine, prostrate and skin cancers, the simple and inexpensive path to maintaining a healthy smile hasn’t been given nearly enough publicity.

Losing teeth is no small issue. When natural tooth roots are no longer present in the jaw bone, the bone begins to shrink, or resorb. This thinning jaw bone leads to a number of problems, including changes in facial appearance as well as a compromised ability to properly bite and chew.

If the eyes are the ‘windows to the soul,’ the mouth is the door to the body. Taking good care of your gums will help you keep your natural teeth and avoid the risks associated with the potent bacteria of gum disease.

This year, be determined to improve your overall health by being committed to good oral health. See your dentist twice this year and discuss an at-home oral hygiene routine that will help you maintain a healthy smile between visits.

If you are experiencing any of the following signs of gum disease, call 828-274-9440 for an examination as soon as possible. Gum disease only worsens without treatment. Watch for: sore gums that bleed when brushing, swollen gums, gums that pull away from teeth and expose tender tooth root areas, persistent bad breath, and gums that darken to a red color.






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