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

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Posts for: August, 2014

CompositeResinsareaViableRestorationOptionforMildlyDefectiveTeeth

No matter how damaged or decayed your teeth may have become, there’s a restorative solution for it. From porcelain veneers that cover unattractive teeth to dental implants that permanently replace missing teeth, we have the means to give you back a beautiful, life-like smile.

But what if the problems with your teeth are relatively mild — a chipped tooth or a cavity in a highly visible place? Porcelain veneers and bridgework involve extensive tooth preparation that permanently alters the tooth. Is there a less intrusive option that still results in a life-like restoration?

The answer is yes. Composite resins are tooth-colored materials that are bonded directly to tooth surfaces. Made of a plastic-based material matrix with inorganic glass-like filler, composite resins require very little tooth preparation and are often applied in a single visit.

They’re an excellent way to address imperfections or defects with an otherwise healthy tooth, while still preserving the majority of its remaining structure. In the hands of a skilled dentist, composite resins can be used to fill, repair and reshape teeth. They’re also an ideal choice for younger patients whose dental arches are still in development — restorations that require extensive tooth preparation might compromise the tooth’s long-term health. A composite resin treatment could serve as a transitional bridge until a more extensive restoration can be performed after the patient’s mouth structure has fully matured.

Composite resins do have some disadvantages. Because the resin material isn’t as strong as the tooth structure it replaces (although there have been great improvements in the last few years in resin strength), it may not stand up to biting pressures over time if there isn’t enough remaining tooth structure available to support it. They material can also dull and stain with use.

Still, for moderate imperfections or as an interim solution until another restoration can be undertaken, composite resins are a good choice.

If you would like more information on restorations with composite resin, 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 “Artistic Repair of Front Teeth with Composite Resin.”


By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
August 20, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants  
MajorBenefitsforToothReplacementWithDentalImplants

Perhaps you’ve heard a lot about dental implants, an increasingly popular tooth replacement system. Although they can be expensive (depending on the exact application) they have a number of important benefits that add value to your investment.

Here are four of those benefits that make dental implants one of the best tooth replacement options available:

Life-like Appearance. Like an automobile, an implant’s “engine” — the titanium post inserted into the jawbone — is covered by a stylish “body” — the visible crown, custom-made to look just like the natural tooth. Composed of porcelain ceramic or a similar translucent material, the implant crown is the key to not only restoring natural function in the mouth but also rejuvenating your smile.

Long-term Durability. Implants have been in use for over three decades (over 3 million placed since their introduction) and have built an impressive track record for durability. If properly cared for, it’s possible for dental implants to last for many years or even a lifetime. Compared with other restorations that may not last as long and lead to additional dental cost, the implant’s “return on investment” can be quite high.

Contribution to Bone Health. Most implants are made of surgical titanium, which has a strong affinity with bone. In time, bone cells will grow and fuse with the titanium. The result is not only a solid anchoring of the implant into the jaw, but also the preservation and possible re-growth of bone mass where it may have been lost.

Versatility. Although implants are often used as a single tooth replacement, they’re increasingly used in multiple-tooth replacements. A few strategically placed implants can permanently support a bridge (two or more teeth linked together), an arch (an entire set of upper or lower teeth), or as a foundational support for a removable denture, particularly the lower arch.

If you’ve experienced tooth loss, a preliminary dental examination will determine if you’re a potential candidate for dental implant replacement. If so, dental implants could be a way for you to not only restore lost function but also regain your smile.

If you would like more information on dental implants, 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 Implants 101.”


By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
August 15, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: crown lengthening  
CrownLengtheningcanIncreaseYourRestorationOptions

A crown is an effective way to save a tooth and restore its form and function. These life-like “caps” that fit over and are permanently attached to teeth have been used for decades with good results.

For this type of restoration to be effective, though, there must be enough of the natural tooth remaining above the gum line for the crown to “grab on to.” This poses a problem if the tooth has broken or decayed too close to the gum tissue.

Fortunately, there is a way to expose more of the remaining tooth for applying a crown. Known as crown lengthening, this surgical procedure is also used for “gummy” smiles, where normal tooth length is obscured by excess gum tissue that makes the teeth appear shorter.

We begin the procedure by first numbing the tooth and gum area with a local anesthetic. We then make tiny incisions inside the gum line on both the tongue and cheek side of the tooth to create a small flap. With this area below the gum line now open to view, we then determine whether we need to remove excess gum tissue or a small amount of bone around the tooth to expose more of the tooth itself. We then position the opened gum tissue against the bone and tooth at the appropriate height to create an aesthetic result.

You shouldn’t experience any discomfort during the procedure, which usually takes about sixty minutes for a single tooth area (which needs to involve at least three teeth for proper blending of the tissues). The pressures and vibrations from equipment, as well as any post-procedure discomfort, are similar to what you would encounter with a tooth filling. After the gum tissue has healed (about six to eight weeks), we are then able to fit and attach a crown onto the extended area.

Crown lengthening a small area may result in an uneven appearance if you’re dealing within the aesthetic zone. One option in this case is to consider undergoing orthodontic treatment first to correct the potential discrepancy that may result from surgery. After orthodontics, we can perform crown lengthening on just the affected tooth and still achieve an even smile.

Crown lengthening is just one of many tools we have to achieve tooth restorations for difficult situations. Using this technique, we can increase your chances of achieving both renewed tooth function and a more beautiful smile.

If you would like more information on crown lengthening, 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 “Saving Broken Teeth.”


By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
August 04, 2014
Category: Oral Health
MinimizingX-RayExposureRisksinChildrentoMaximizeBenefits

X-ray diagnostics have revolutionized our ability to detect early or hidden cavities, paving the way for better dental care. But x-ray exposure also increases health risks and requires careful usage, especially with children.

A form of invisible radiation, x-rays penetrate and pass through organic tissue at varying rates depending on the density of the tissue. Denser tissues such as teeth or bone allow less x-rays to pass through, resulting in a lighter image on exposed film; less dense tissues allow more, resulting in a darker image. This differentiation enables us to identify cavities between the teeth — which appear as dark areas on the lighter tooth image — more readily than sight observation or clinical examination at times.

But excessive exposure of living tissue to x-ray radiation can increase the risk of certain kinds of cancer. Children in particular are more sensitive than adults to radiation exposure because of their size and stage of development. Children also have more of their lifespan in which radiation exposure can manifest as cancer.

Because of these risks, we follow an operational principle known as ALARA, an acronym for “As Low As Reasonably Achievable.” In other words, we limit both the amount and frequency of x-ray exposure to just what we need to obtain the information necessary for effective dental care. It’s common, for example, for us to use bitewing radiographs, so named for the tab that attaches the exposable film to a stem the patient bites down on while being x-rayed. Because we only take between two and four per session, we greatly limit the patient’s exposure to x-rays.

Recent advances in high-speed film and digital equipment have also significantly reduced x-ray exposure levels. The average child today is exposed to just 2-4 microsieverts during an x-ray session — much less than the 10 microsieverts of background radiation we all are exposed to in the natural environment every day.

Regardless of the relative safety of modern radiography, we do understand your concerns for your child’s health. We’re more than happy to discuss these risks and how they can be minimized while achieving maximum benefits for optimum dental health. Our aim is to provide your child with the highest care possible at the lowest risk to their health.

If you would like more information on the use of x-rays in dentistry, 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 “X-Ray Safety for Children.”


By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
August 01, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: bonding  
FrequentlyAskedQuestionsaboutCosmeticBonding

Q: What exactly is cosmetic tooth bonding?
A: Cosmetic bonding is a process in which your dentist uses specially formulated tooth-colored material to repair minor defects on the surface of your teeth. The bonding material itself is a type of composite resin — a tough, translucent mixture of plastic and glass components that mimics the pearly-white appearance of your teeth to a high degree. The material also bonds (links up) so well with the natural tooth structure that this relatively simple and inexpensive treatment can last for a number of years.

Q: What types of defects can tooth bonding repair?
A: Bonding can be used to remedy several different kinds of flaws in your smile. Small chips, cracks and areas of discoloration can be easily treated via cosmetic bonding. It can even be used to fix minor spacing irregularities. Best of all, because composite resin is available in various shades to match the natural color of your teeth, it’s almost impossible to tell which tooth has been treated.

Q: What are the pluses and minuses of cosmetic bonding?
A: Bonding is a procedure that can be done right in the dental office, without involving a laboratory — that’s why it is typically an easy, cost-effective treatment that can be accomplished in a single visit. It’s a great solution for restoring minor flaws that don’t extend very far into the tooth’s structure. It’s also ideal for teenagers, who may have to wait until they stop growing before getting a more permanent restoration. But bonding normally isn’t as long-lasting as some other restoration techniques, such as veneers or crowns. However, with proper care, a bonded tooth can keep looking good for years.

Q: What is the bonding procedure like?
A: Bonding is a minimally invasive, reversible treatment that normally causes little or no discomfort. The tooth being treated is first thoroughly cleaned, and then “etched” with a gel that microscopically roughens its surface. Next, the gel is rinsed off, and liquid composite resin (in a shade chosen to match the tooth) is painted on with a brush. Then, the bonding material is cured (hardened) using a special light. After it has cured, another layer may be applied; this process can be repeated several times to build up a thicker coating. Finally, a dental instrument is used to shape the built-up material into its final, pleasing form.

Q: Do bonded teeth require special care?
A: Not really… but like all teeth, they should be brushed and flossed daily, and professionally cleaned at the dental office twice a year. Bonded teeth can also become stained from tobacco use, red wine and coffee — but unlike regular teeth, bonded teeth can’t be lightened. So if you’re considering tooth-whitening treatments, have them done before your teeth are bonded.

If you have questions about whether cosmetic bonding could help your smile look its best, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Repairing Chipped Teeth” and “Artistic Repair Of Front Teeth With Composite Resin.”