Craig S. Karriker, DMD, P.A.- 400 South Granard Street, Gaffney, SC 29341, (864) 487-0710

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Posts for: August, 2013

By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
August 29, 2013
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: orthodontics   braces  
StraighteningYourChildsTeethWhenisthebesttimetostart

All parents want their child to have an attractive smile and good strong healthy teeth; but it may be difficult for parents to know if their young children's teeth are coming in the way they should. Parents may not know that it is also important that the upper and lower jaws need to be in proper alignment for a properly functioning bite.

As a child's permanent teeth come in, the teeth may be too crowded, or they may have spaces between them that are too large. They can have protruding teeth, extra or missing teeth, or problems with jaw growth. Sometimes children have malocclusions (“mal” – bad; “occlusion” – bite) that were caused by thumb sucking or other problems. If you wait to seek treatment until all of the child's permanent teeth have come in, and facial and jaw growth are nearly complete, correction of problems will be more difficult and the potential to encourage jaw growth in a positive direction may be lost.

When a little can go a long way

Whether a malocclusion is obvious or not it is important to have an orthodontic evaluation at an early age. Experts advise having an orthodontic evaluation some time before the age of 7. At 7, a child's permanent (adult) teeth have begun to come in but they still have some primary (baby) teeth left. If necessary, it's a good time to intercept and make a big difference for a little treatment.

Treatment that begins while a child's teeth are erupting or coming in, is called “interceptive orthodontics.” It provides an opportunity for the best results in orthodontic treatment. It can also include working with the child's facial growth and jaw development to assure that the upper and lower jaws align together effectively. It can often be done with simple removable appliances rather than full braces.

Orthodontics (“ortho” – straight; “odont” – tooth) is a sub-specialty of dentistry that is devoted to the study and treatment of malocclusions. Your general or pediatric dentist may recommend that our child consult with an orthodontist. Orthodontists are dentists who specialize in the growth and development of the teeth and jaws, as well as directing proper growth by moving the teeth into correct position.

Come to see us early for an orthodontic evaluation, while it's still easy to make a big improvement in your child's future smile.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss your questions about orthodontia in children. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Early Orthodontic Evaluation.” Or the article “The Magic of Orthodontics.”


By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
August 22, 2013
Category: Oral Health
GumDiseaseASilentProblemYouShouldntIgnore

Because its symptoms can be easy to overlook, gum disease is sometimes called a “silent” malady. But don't underestimate this problem! Untreated periodontal disease can progress into a serious condition, possibly leading to tooth loss and even systemic (whole-body) health issues. With proper preventive measures and appropriate treatment, however, the disease can be controlled.

The root cause of periodontal disease — actually, a group of related diseases, all of which affect the tissues surrounding the teeth — is the buildup of bacterial plaque (also referred to as biofilm) around the gums. While hundreds of types of bacteria live in the mouth, only a comparatively few are thought to be harmful. But when oral hygiene (namely, brushing and flossing) is inadequate, the environment in the mouth becomes favorable to those harmful types.

The disease often begins with inflammation of the gums called gingivitis. It symptoms include bad breath, bleeding gums, and soreness, redness, or tenderness of the gum tissue. However, in some people these early warning signs are ignored, or masked by the effects of harmful habits like smoking.

Gum disease is chronic; that means, if left alone, it will worsen over time. Periodontitis, as it progresses, causes damage to the ligament that helps hold the tooth in place, as well as bone loss. This may become increasingly severe, and ultimately result in the loss of the tooth. Severe periodontitis is also associated with whole-body (systemic) inflammation, which has been linked to an increased incidence of cardiovascular diseases, like stroke and heart attack.

But there's no reason to allow gum disease to progress to this stage! Prevention — that is, regular daily brushing and flossing as well as regular dental cleanings — is a primary means of keeping this problem at bay. Plus, every time you have a regular dental checkup, your gums are examined for early signs of trouble. Of course, if you notice the symptoms of gum disease, you should come in for a check-up as soon as you can.

There are a number of effective treatments for gum disease. One of the most conservative, routine ways are those regular dental cleanings we referred to earlier, usually called scaling and root planning. Using hand-held and ultrasonic instruments, the buildup of plaque (tartar) is carefully removed, sometimes under local anesthesia. A follow-up evaluation may show that this treatment, carried out on a regular schedule, is all that's needed. Or, it may be time for a more comprehensive therapy.

If you have concerns about gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Understanding Gum (Periodontal) Disease” and “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”


By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
August 14, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: gum disease  
AdvancedPeriodontalDiseaseRequiresanAggressiveTreatmentStrategy

Periodontics is a branch of dentistry that specializes in the supporting structures around the teeth, including the gums and bone, as well as the ligaments that join these structures to the tooth roots. From the Latin peri (“around”) and the Greek odont (“tooth”), periodontics serves one purpose: to keep these supporting structures healthy.

This specialty is critical when it comes to periodontal disease. The term actually refers to a category of inflammatory diseases that affect the periodontal tissues. The inflammation arises from the body's response to bacterial plaque that has collected at the gum line because of poor oral hygiene. It begins as gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), but if left untreated can develop into periodontitis, which results in bone loss. If left to continue, eventual tooth loss occurs.

Proper oral hygiene and regular cleanings are your best defense against developing periodontal disease in the first place. Once the disease gains a foothold in the area below the gum line, routine brushing and flossing will not be enough. To defeat the disease will require more aggressive treatment.

This usually begins in our office with oral hygiene instruction, scaling and root planing or debridement to rid the root surfaces of plaque and calcified deposits, also referred to as tartar or calculus. This may be followed up with a surgical procedure to remove any remaining pockets that were too deep to resolve with conservative treatment.

Another option we may add to your oral hygiene routine is the use of an anti-microbial mouthrinse, usually containing a 0.12% solution of chlorhexidine. We may also prescribe the use of a topically-applied antibiotic such as tetracycline to stop the infection and promote tissue healing.

Once the disease is arrested, it's important that you continue good oral hygiene practices. Vigilance and prevention are critical to keeping these all important structures around your teeth healthy and functioning.

If you would like more information on the diagnosis and treatment of periodontal disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Treating Difficult Areas of Periodontal Disease.”


By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
August 06, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   oral cancer  
FiveFactsAboutOralHealthDuringCancerTreatment

According to a recent study from the National Cancer Institute, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, the incidence of cancer is dropping and the survival rate is increasing. In general, the outlook for patients undergoing treatment for the disease is getting better and better. Unfortunately, it's possible that some essential lifesaving treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation, can adversely affect your oral health. If you (or a loved one) need cancer treatment, however, there are some things you should know that can help minimize the possible complications and side effects.

  1. Chemotherapy and radiation are effective cancer treatments, but they may cause oral health problems. These therapies work by attacking cancer cells, but they can also damage healthy cells, including those in the salivary glands and the lining of the mouth. Common symptoms may include a dry mouth or uncomfortable mouth sores. Cancer patients may also be at higher risk for dental disease, especially tooth decay.
  2. Prevention is the best way to minimize these problems. It's important to have a complete dental evaluation before cancer treatment begins. Side effects often result when the mouth isn't healthy prior to the start of therapy — so if there's time for necessary dental treatment beforehand, it can be beneficial in the long run.
  3. Taking good care of the mouth is crucial at this time. During cancer treatment, proper brushing is more important than ever. A fluoride gel or antibacterial rinse may be prescribed to help prevent tooth decay. Prescription medications are sometimes recommended to alleviate dry mouth, but drinking plenty of water, chewing xylitol-containing gum, or using a soothing rinse of salt, water and baking soda can help too.
  4. A team approach is essential for the best care. This includes coordination between dentists and oncologists (cancer specialists), and sharing information about prescription and non-prescription drugs, medical histories and treatment plans.
  5. It's vital to understand and follow medical recommendations. This means not only getting the necessary treatments and taking prescribed medications, but also learning to recognize the warning signs of potential problems. With the support of our office, your oncologist, and caring family and friends, we can make cancer treatment as comfortable as possible and help obtain the best outcome.

If you would like more information about cancer treatment and oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment to discuss your treatment options. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Health During Cancer Treatment.”