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

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Posts for: November, 2013

By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
November 26, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   oral cancer  
ReducingYourRiskofOralCancer

Oral cancer is not as uncommon as people think. In 2008 an estimated 34,000 cancers of the mouth and throat were diagnosed. In order to minimize your risk of developing oral cancer, be aware of habits that increase your risk.

Risk Factors for Oral Cancer include:

  • Use of smoking or chewing tobacco: Tobacco smokers have 5-9 times greater risk of developing this cancer than non-users; snuff and chewing tobacco users have a four times greater risk than non-users.
  • Excessive use of alcohol: Moderate to heavy drinkers at are 3-9 times greater risk than non-drinkers.
  • Exposure to sun: Chronic sun exposure is associated with development of lip cancers.
  • Certain viral infections such as the human papilloma virus that can cause cervical cancer in women can also cause oral cancer.
  • Compromised immune (resistance) systems that are not functioning properly can be associated with cancers.
  • Poor nutrition including diets low in fruits and vegetables can increase risk for all cancers including oral cancer.
  • Family history: People carry a predisposition in their DNA (the genetic material they inherited from their parents) for developing cancer.

Oral Cancers Can Mimic Harmless Sores

Early signs of oral cancer can mimic harmless sores that occur in the mouth such as canker sores, minor infections, or irritations that occur from biting or eating certain foods. Cancers in the lip area can easily be mistaken for harmless sores.

Early Detection is Key

It is important to have regular oral examinations to detect signs of oral cancer. Although 90 percent of oral cancers occur in people who are over 40, it is becoming more prevalent in younger people, particularly those who adopt risky behaviors: smoking, drinking and oral sex.

  • If you notice any unusual lesions (sores or ulcers), or color changes (white or red patches), anywhere in your mouth that do not heal within two to three weeks, come and see us and have it examined immediately.
  • Definitive diagnosis may require a small biopsy, the microscopic examination of a piece of tissue from the affected area.

It is important not to let a suspicious sore go unchecked. If detected and treated early, while a lesion or growth is small, survival rates can exceed 80 percent. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about oral cancer. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer.”


By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
November 18, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: gummy smile  
TreatingaGummySmileDependsonitsCause

Something about your smile isn’t quite right. It’s too “gummy” — too much of the upper gum line is visible and it looks out of proportion to your teeth and lips. Most dentists identify a smile as too gummy if four millimeters or more (approximately an eighth of an inch) of the gum tissue is visible at a full smile.

Fortunately, there are ways to minimize this effect. It’s important, though, to first determine the true cause before we embark on any treatment plan.

Your teeth may be the actual cause. As we mature, teeth “erupt” through the gums and the supporting bone and appear in the mouth. They continue to erupt until meeting their “antagonists,” the opposing teeth from the opposite jaw. In addition, the gums go to the proper position where the root meets the enamel of the teeth around late adolescence. The normal result is a length of the crown (the visible portion of the tooth) of approximately 10 mm.

If the teeth don’t erupt fully or the gums don’t go to their proper position, the teeth appear shorter and the gums more prominent. Using a surgical technique called crown lengthening, we remove excess gum tissue and, if necessary, reshape the underlying bone to reveal the proper amount of tooth length. Teeth also shorten due to excessive wear; the teeth continue to erupt to compensate for the wear that occurs over time. The attached gum tissue follows with the tooth. This can be corrected with orthodontic treatment (for bite correction) and porcelain veneers.

Two more causes of a gummy smile are when a person has a hyper-mobile upper lip — the upper lip can raise too much lift when smiling — and an upper jaw length that appears too long for the face. If lips rise higher than the normal 6-8 mm when we smile, too much of the gum line appears. This can be treated temporarily with Botox injections to reduce the mobility of the muscles, or there is a surgical procedure that reduces the mobility of the upper lip. For an elongated upper jaw, orthognathic (“to straighten the jaw”) surgery relocates the jaw to a more upward position that diminishes the amount of gum tissue that shows during smiling.

Treatments for a gummy smile range from simple techniques to more complex surgical procedures. Only a thorough dental exam will reveal the best treatment path to follow.

If you would like more information on treatments for “gummy” smiles, 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 “Gummy Smiles.”


By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
November 15, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Top5TipsforTeethingTots

If your infant is extra cranky and seems to want to chew everything in sight, it's a good bet that the first tooth is on the way! For parents, this is cause for both celebration and concern. After all, no parent wants to see a child suffer even a little bit. Decades ago, when a teething infant showed signs of discomfort, a parent might have rubbed some whisky or other strong liquor on the child's gums — a misguided and dangerous practice. There are far safer, more effective ways to help your child through this exciting yet sometimes uncomfortable phase of development. Here are our top five teething remedies:

Chilled rubber teething rings or pacifiers. Cold can be very soothing, but be careful not to freeze teething rings or pacifiers; ice can actually burn the sensitive tissues of the mouth if left in place too long.

Cold, wet washcloths. These are great for gnawing on. Make sure the washcloth is clean and that you leave part of it dry to make it more comfortable to hold.

Cold foods. When your child is old enough, cold foods such as popsicles may soothe sore gums. However, make sure you confine them to mealtimes because sugars can cause tooth decay — even in very young children.

Gum massage. Massaging inflamed gums with your clean finger can help counteract the pressure from an erupting tooth.

Over-the-counter medicine. If teething pain persists, you can give your baby acetaminophen or ibuprofen, but check with a pharmacist or this office for the correct dosage. The medicine should be swallowed and not massaged into the sore areas, as this, too, can burn.

So when does it all begin? Some babies start teething as early as three months or as late as twelve months, but the typical time frame is between six and nine months. Usually the two lower front teeth erupt first, followed by the two upper front teeth. The first molars come in next, followed by the canines (eyeteeth). Most children have all 20 of their baby teeth by age 3.

If you have any questions about teething or the development of your child's teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Teething Troubles.”


By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
November 06, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: gum disease   loose teeth  
TreatingLooseTeethandtheUnderlyingCauses

Adult teeth aren’t meant to be loose — it’s a sign that something is wrong. And while there are treatments, time is of the essence before permanent tooth or bone loss occurs.

Loose teeth can occur for many different reasons. Bite-related problems are fairly common, referred to as occlusal trauma (“occlusal” – bite; “trauma” – injury). This could be the result of excessive force placed on otherwise normal teeth and jaws — chronic clenching or grinding habits, for example. On the other hand, even normal biting or chewing can cause teeth to loosen if bone loss from gum disease has become excessive, reducing the remaining attachment to bone to inadequate levels. In some cases it can be a result of both excessive force and weakened bone levels.

Of these reasons, the most common cause is the weakened attachment of the teeth to the bone due to gum disease. If this is the case, it’s important first to treat the gum disease by an appropriate strategy for the disease present and then implement an effective dental hygiene program to inhibit reoccurrence.

As for the problem of loose teeth, there are measures to address it. Occlusal bite adjustment reduces the degree of force when biting or chewing by reshaping the biting surfaces through selective grinding. Splinting is another technique in which the teeth are joined together to make them more rigid and to redistribute the biting force among several teeth. This can be done with material bonded across the outside of several teeth or with a metal splint affixed within a pre-cut channel across the teeth. A more permanent option is to create a series of crowns to affix to the teeth and then fuse them together.

Although more complex, orthodontics to correct misaligned teeth is another option. Not only will it improve the bite and potentially reduce bite forces, it may also improve the health of the supporting periodontal attachment.

Before undertaking any treatment, you should first undergo a thorough exam to determine the true cause of your loose teeth and any underlying conditions. From there we can recommend the best approach for treating and preserving your teeth.

If you would like more information on treatments for loose teeth, 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 “Treatment for Loose Teeth.”