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

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Posts for: October, 2013

By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
October 29, 2013
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants  
CleaningDentalImplantsHowtoProtectYourInvestment

If you have a dental implant, you have already discovered how lifelike and comfortable this type of tooth-replacement option can be. In fact, you may not even really be aware of your implant anymore; to you, it's simply a tooth like any other. Still, it's important to keep in mind a few things about implant care so the investment you have made in your smile will last as long as possible.

Once an implant is functioning properly in a person's mouth, the biggest enemy is infection — in particular a bacterial infection known as peri-implantitis (“peri” – around; implant “itis” – inflammation). This infection can cause the supporting bone around your implant to deteriorate, which will eventually cause loss of the implant. The good news is this infection is pretty easy to avoid.

Working as a team, you and our dental hygienist can make sure your mouth stays healthy and your implant retains its attachment to the bone for a lifetime. The key is to prevent biofilm (plaque) from building up in your mouth. Your job is to maintain a good oral hygiene routine at home with daily brushing and flossing, and to come in to our office regularly for professional cleanings. The hygienist's job is to remove any buildup of plaque and tartar (hardened deposits) beyond the reach of your brush and floss.

To do this, she will use special instruments that won't scratch the crown on top of the implant or the abutment (connector) between implant and crown. This is important because a scratched surface can harbor bacteria. The metal instruments used to clean natural teeth are not appropriate for the highly polished surfaces of the crown and abutment. Power instruments can be used on implants with nylon or plastic sheaths on the tip and lots of water irrigation to clean and flush debris.

In spite of these cleaning challenges, implants are highly successful and, in fact, the best option for replacing teeth today. Studies have shown the success rate of dental implants to be over 95% — far greater than any other tooth-replacement method.

If you would like more information about dental implants, please call us or schedule an appointment. You can also read more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implant Maintenance.”


By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
October 21, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
ProtectYourEnamelFromtheDamagingEffectsofAcid

One of your teeth's best defenses against tooth decay is its hard, outer layer made of a mineral-rich substance known as enamel. This great protector, however, has an enemy — acid — from the foods and drinks we consume as well as the acid byproducts from bacterial plaque. A high acidic level in the mouth could lead to the complete erosion of enamel, leaving teeth more susceptible to decay.

When the acid level in the mouth rises, calcium and other minerals in enamel become soft and begin to slough off, a process called de-mineralization. But the body can reverse this process with the help of saliva, which can neutralize acid. Saliva also contains calcium that can bind to the tooth surface and help replace what was lost during de-mineralization — a process known as re-mineralization. Saliva can normally accomplish this in thirty minutes to an hour after eating.

Unfortunately, saliva's neutralizing power can be overwhelmed when there is too much acid present. This occurs when we ingest substances like sodas or sports drinks that are high in citric acid. Many of these same beverages also have a high buffering capacity that slows the neutralizing effect of saliva. Ironically, we can also interrupt re-mineralization if we brush our teeth too quickly after eating or drinking something acidic. The enamel has been softened by the acid and when we brush before re-mineralization we can actually brush away some of the enamel.

There are some steps you can take to help this natural process for maintaining a healthy pH balance in the mouth. First, limit your intake of acidic foods and beverages. Drink water for rehydration, or at least acidic beverages enriched with calcium. If you do drink an acidic beverage use a straw to reduce acid contact with teeth, try not to swish it around in your mouth, and try to drink it during mealtime. Finally, wait 30 to 60 minutes before brushing your teeth after eating or drinking something acidic.

Tooth enamel is a key component in maintaining healthy teeth. Protecting this prime defense against decay will pay you dividends for many years to come.

If you would like more information on enamel erosion, 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 “Dental Erosion.”


By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
October 18, 2013
Category: Oral Health
KeepYourGumsinthePink

Being “in the pink” is a good thing; it means you're healthy. Being “in the red” is not so good; it means your health is questionable (financially, anyway). Though they weren't coined for dentistry per se, these colorful expressions are helpful reminders when it comes to taking care of your gums: Pink is their natural, healthy color; that's what you want to see every time you look in the mirror. Red is generally a warning that something's amiss.

If your gums, or “gingiva,” appear slightly swollen and reddened at the margins and/or they bleed when lightly prodded by brushing or flossing, it's likely that you have gingivitis. This is an immune response to the buildup of bacterial plaque (biofilm) at your gum line. It is also an early red flag for periodontal disease (peri – around, odont – tooth), a degenerative process that affects not only the gums, but the periodontal ligament that attaches each tooth in its bony socket, and the underlying supporting bone.

Attentive home dental hygiene practices prevent most plaque buildup from occurring. Brushing correctly at the gum line is a good start. But even a deftly handled brush can't reach everywhere, so it's important to use dental floss or specially designed mini-brushes to get in between teeth and other hard-to-reach areas. Our office can instruct you on optimal home care techniques. We also encourage you to visit at regular intervals for professional cleanings so you are assured of addressing anything home care might miss.

In the absence of good oral hygiene, dental plaque can build and become increasingly difficult to remove as it calcifies, becoming tartar. It becomes a breeding ground for disease-causing microbes that normally wouldn't have the chance to gain a foothold. When caught early, gingivitis can be treated before any harm is done. Sometimes a thorough professional cleaning is sufficient. If the problem is ignored, however, the disease will most certainly progress to destruction of the surrounding, supporting tissues — the periodontal ligament and the underlying bone. If this happens, tooth loss could eventually result.

That said, there can be other causes for bleeding gums. These include:

  • Brushing too rigorously or using a toothbrush with bristles that are too firm
  • Side effect of a medication
  • In women, elevated hormone levels (e.g., birth control pills or pregnancy)
  • A systemic (bodily) disease

Whatever the reason, red is not normal when it comes to your gums. The sooner you discover the underlying reason(s) for inflammation or bleeding and take appropriate action, you and your smile will be back in the pink and you'll have no reason to be blue!

If you would like more information about preventing or treating bleeding gums, 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 “Bleeding Gums.”


By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
October 11, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   brushing   flossing  
BrushingandFlossing-TwoKeyElementstoAvoidingDentalDisease

We humans have been cleaning our teeth for millennia. While the tools and substances have changed (we don't use twigs or pumice anymore), the reasons haven't: we want a nice, fresh smile and a clean-feeling mouth.

Objectively, though, oral hygiene has one primary purpose — to remove dental plaque, the whitish film of bacteria that grows on unclean tooth surfaces and at the gum line. Removing this decay-causing film can drastically reduce your risk of dental disease.

Effective oral hygiene depends on two primary tasks: brushing and flossing. You should perform these tasks at least once (flossing) or twice (brushing) in a 24-hour period. Brushing involves a simple technique. You hold your toothbrush (a well-designed, multi-tufted brush) in your fingertips with the same pressure as you would a pen or pencil. You then gently scrub all of the tooth surfaces starting at the gum line, holding the brush at a 45-degree. “Gently” is the key word here: it's possible to damage your tooth and gum surfaces by brushing too vigorously.

While brushing seems easier for people to fit into their daily routine, flossing seems to be harder. It's just as important, though, because over half of plaque accumulation occurs between teeth, in areas where brushing can miss. Like brushing, flossing isn't difficult to do. Holding a strip of floss taut by your fingers between both hands, and gently slipping the floss between your teeth you form a “C” shape around each tooth surface as you apply pressure onto the one surface you are cleaning. Gently move the floss up and down for three or four strokes or until you hear a squeaky clean sound (that's when you know the surface is clean). Then you go to the other tooth surface by lifting the floss above the gum line so that you don't damage the gum tissue in between the teeth.

You should also schedule regular checkups and cleanings with our office to supplement your daily routine. Professional cleanings remove any hidden plaque that brushing and flossing may have missed. A checkup also gives us a chance to evaluate how well your hygiene program is progressing. Our partnership in proper oral hygiene can make all the difference in you avoiding tooth decay and other dental diseases.

If you would like more information on proper oral hygiene, 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 “Oral Hygiene Behavior.”


By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
October 03, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
HealthRisksofOralPiercings

If you have to ask why anybody would voluntarily endure the pain of receiving a tongue piercing — then maybe you're just too old to understand. But seriously: no matter where you stand on the aesthetics of the issue, you shouldn't ignore the real health risks that go along with the installation of oral piercings.

According to the Journal of the American Dental Association, the most common sites for intraoral piercing are the tongue and the lip. In the case of the so-called “tongue bolt,” several significant short-term and long-term risks have been identified; most also apply to other types of oral piercings as well.

The tongue is primarily composed of muscle tissue, along with a rich supply of associated blood vessels and nerves. This explains why accidentally biting your tongue can be so painful — and bloody. Installing a tongue bolt involves piercing a small hole through the tongue, and attaching the ornament through the hole.

In rare instances — such as the case of a teenager who experienced severe pain and the sensation of electrical shocks — nerve irritation and damage may occur soon after a tongue bolt is installed. (Fortunately, her symptoms cleared up shortly after the bolt was removed.) More often, the symptoms are less severe, but the health issues are chronic.

Tongue bolts are known to cause problems with the teeth, including increased sensitivity and pain. Teeth are also prone to chipping due to contact with the ornament. These are among the reasons why you are likely to need more frequent dental checkups if you have an oral piercing.

Additionally, periodontal (gum) problems can develop in individuals with oral piercings. These frequently appear as gum recession, inflammation and infection. Eventually, bone loss may occur as well.

The good news: removing an oral piercing is generally easy, and the area is quick to heal. If it doesn't seal up by itself, the hole left behind can be closed with only minor surgery. And removing the piercing immediately reduces your health risk — thus instantly improving your overall oral health.

Thinking of getting — or removing — an oral piercing? Talk to us. No matter what you decide to do, you owe it to your health to become informed about the issues surrounding these body ornaments.

If you would like more information about oral piercings, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “How Oral Piercings Affect Your Oral Health,” and “Body Piercings and Teeth.”