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

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Posts for: December, 2014

By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
December 30, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: wisdom teeth  
IsItWiseToHaveYourWisdomTeethRemoved

The third molars, called “wisdom teeth” because they usually become visible when a person is 17 to 25 — supposedly the time we achieve wisdom, may have adverse effects on adjacent teeth. Most adults have four wisdom teeth, although some people have more; and some, none at all. The wisest thing to do about wisdom teeth may be to have them removed if they are poorly positioned.

What is an impacted wisdom tooth?

If a wisdom tooth is pushing against gums, other soft tissues, or adjacent teeth at an awkward angle, it is referred to as “impacted.” Usually this occurs when there is not have enough room in the jaws for these last molars to fit next to their adjacent teeth. They can disrupt the gum tissue attachment of their neighboring teeth and the surrounding bone leading to periodontal disease and, ultimately, their loss.

In many cases, impacted teeth are painless, and those who have them have no warning of the problem. Thus it is important to have routine dental exams during the time when the third molars are coming in.

When should wisdom teeth be removed?

It is better to remove wisdom teeth early rather than waiting until periodontal (gum) disease has set in. As individuals age, keeping their wisdom teeth may lead to more serious problems. Periodontal defects tend to get worse in the presence of retained third molars. Furthermore, there is a higher incidence of postoperative symptoms in people over 25.

What are the pros and cons?

Removing impacted third molars can have a negative influence on the periodontal tissues of adjacent second molars. A number of techniques, such as scaling, root planing, and bacterial plaque control, can be used to minimize periodontal problems and promote healthy healing.

Surgical removal of wisdom teeth will involve some mild to moderate post-operative discomfort. Use of aspirin or ibuprofen for a few days after surgery will provide pain relief and control most swelling and symptoms. Antibiotics may be prescribed to ensure infection-free healing. It is important to keep the socket area clean by washing and rinsing with saline or antibacterial rinses. Careful surgery will promote good healing with minimal periodontal consequences to adjacent second molar teeth.

To decide whether your wisdom teeth should be removed, you will need an evaluation to assess the clinical health of the wisdom teeth, the neighboring teeth, and other vital structures. X-ray and digital imaging techniques play an important role in determining the exact position of the wisdom teeth in the jaw. A full assessment and consultation will include all the risks, benefits, likely consequences, and alternative treatment options. This will provide you with the wisdom you need to determine what is best for your wisdom teeth.

To learn more about wisdom teeth, read “To Be or Not to Be: What are the consequences of an impacted wisdom tooth?” Or contact us today to discuss your questions or to schedule an appointment.


By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
December 22, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   oral hygiene  
CananAppHelpYouBrushYourTeeth

If you’re the kind of person who can’t do without a smart phone, you’ve probably heard the expression “There’s an app for that!” These nifty little programs let you get directions, check the weather, watch stock prices… even optimize your sleep patterns and make high-pitched dog whistles. And shortly, you’ll be able to check how well you’ve been brushing your teeth.

News reports have mentioned a soon-to-be-available toothbrush that will interface with an app on your smart phone. The brush has sensors that record how much time you spend brushing, whether you reach all parts of your mouth, and whether you brush correctly (with up and down motions, not just side to side). It charts your oral hygiene habits, scores your brushing technique — and, if you allow it, shares information about how well (or poorly) you’re doing with your family, friends… even your dentist.

So do you need to run out and buy one of these gizmos as soon as they’re available? Of course not! However, anything that encourages you to take better care of your oral hygiene can’t hurt. A wise dentist once said: The important thing is not the brush, but the hand that holds it.

If you’re a “gadget person,” you may be intrigued by the device’s high-tech design, and the fact that it interfaces with your phone. Plus, maybe the idea of compiling (and sharing) your brushing record has a certain appeal. On the other hand, you might prefer a sleek, light electric brush that doesn’t keep track of your movements. Or maybe the simplest brush of all — a manual one, with soft bristles and a comfortable handle — works best for you.

The most important thing is that you regularly practice good oral hygiene: Brush twice a day, for two minutes each time, and floss once a day. Use whichever brush is best for you, and be sure to change it every three months, or when the bristles get stiff. Stay away from sugary snacks between meals (they contribute to decay by keeping your teeth bathed in acidic byproducts). Don’t use tobacco in any form, or chew on things that don’t belong in your mouth. And remember to come in for regular exams and professional cleanings. If an app helps you do these things — we're all for it.

If you would like to learn more about maintaining good oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. For more information, see the Dear Doctor magazine article “Top 10 Oral Health Tips For Children.”


By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
December 19, 2014
Category: Oral Health
KnowWhattoExpectDuringYourChildsBabyTeethPhase

At no other time in a person’s life will their teeth and mouth change as rapidly as it will between infancy and adolescence. In this short span an entire set of teeth will emerge and then gradually disappear as a second permanent set takes its place.

While the process may seem chaotic, there is a natural order to it. Knowing what to expect will help ease any undue concerns you may have about your child's experience.

The first primary teeth begin to appear (erupt) in sequence depending on their type. The first are usually the lower central incisors in the very front that erupt around 6-10 months, followed then by the rest of the incisors, first molars and canines (the “eye” teeth). The last to erupt are the primary second molars in the very back of the mouth just before age 3. A similar sequence occurs when they’re lost — the central incisors loosen and fall out around 6-7 years; the second molars are the last to go at 10-12 years.

A little “chaos” is normal — but only a little. Because of the tremendous changes in the mouth, primary teeth may appear to be going in every direction with noticeable spaces between front teeth. While this is usually not a great concern, it’s still possible future malocclusions (bad bites) may be developing. To monitor this effectively you should begin regular checkups around the child’s first birthday — our trained professional eye can determine if an issue has arisen that should be treated.

Protecting primary teeth from tooth decay is another high priority. There’s a temptation to discount the damage decay may do to these teeth because “they’re going to be lost anyway.” But besides their functional role, primary teeth also help guide the developing permanent teeth to erupt in the right position. Losing a primary tooth prematurely might then cause the permanent one to come in misaligned. Preventing tooth decay with daily oral hygiene and regular office visits and cleanings (with possible sealant protection) is a priority. And should decay occur, it’s equally important to preserve the tooth for as long as possible for the sake of the succeeding tooth.

Your child’s rapid dental development is part of their journey into adulthood. Keeping a watchful eye on the process and practicing good dental care will ensure this part of the journey is uneventful.

If you would like more information on the process of dental development in children, 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 “Dentistry & Oral Health for Children.”


By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
December 11, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: gum disease   genetics  
GeneticsandyourGums

It is sometimes hard to believe all of the features and characteristics that we inherit from our parents. Whether you're tall, short, blue-eyed or blonde, you can usually attribute some of these features to your mother and father. Of course, the downside of genetics is that diseases and disorders are also linked to genes.

Well, you can add gum tissue to that list as well! Genetics actually determines whether you have what we call “thin” or “thick” gum tissue. How does this work? Well, the type of gum tissue you have relies heavily on the shape of your tooth, which indeed is genetically-coded. If you have a triangular tooth shape, you'll likely have thin gums. If you have a squarer tooth shape, you'll usually have thick gums.

So, what can you expect from each tissue type?

If you have a thin gum tissue type, you are more likely to have gum recession. Watch out for the following signs of gum recession:

  • Sensitivity to hot or cold, even without the presence of dental decay
  • If you have crowns on your teeth, you may see a dark gray line at the gum line from the metal casting beneath the crown
  • Small dark triangular spaces between teeth

On the other hand, if you have a thicker tissue type, your gums are more vulnerable to dental disease through a condition called “pocketing.” This happens when bacterial plaque causes your tissue to become inflamed, lose its attachment to the teeth and develop a pocket. Pocketing can result in bone loss, and, in worst-case scenarios, tooth loss.

It's important to note that while we use these terms to categorize different tissue types for treatment decisions, your tissue may also fall somewhere in between the two varieties.

So, how can you prevent gum disease? Daily oral hygiene is the best way to ensure proper care of your gums, no matter what type you have. Be sure to brush twice daily (use a soft toothbrush) and floss regularly at night. Floss gently until you hear a squeak, but watch out for your gum line. And of course, continue to visit us two times a year, so that we can assess whether you are in danger of developing gum disease.

If you would like more information about genetics and gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Genetics and Gum Tissue Types.”


By Craig S. Karriker, DMD, PA
December 01, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: snoring   sleep apnea  
FrequentlyAskedQuestionsAboutObstructiveSleepApnea

Q: What is sleep apnea, and how common is it?
A: Obstructive sleep apnea is a type of sleep-related breathing disorder (SRBD) in which the airflow to the lungs is restricted — or even cut off completely — during sleep. This condition is usually caused by the collapse of soft tissues in the back of the throat, and is potentially deadly. Sleep disorders, including SRBD, are thought to affect tens of millions of people in the United States. They have been blamed for several catastrophic accidents, including the 2014 Metro-North train crash in New York, and the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska.

Q: How can I tell if I might have sleep apnea?
A: Everyone has trouble sleeping sometimes. But if you constantly snore, wake up feeling irritable, and experience sleepiness and diminished performance during the day, it may mean you suffer from this condition. After a while, SRBDs can trigger depression, confusion, memory loss, and other personality changes. Medical professionals note that a person with SRBD tends to be obese; to show enlargement of the tongue, tonsils, or uvula; to have nasal polyps or congestion; and possibly, to exhibit other signs.

Q: How is sleep apnea treated?
A: There are various treatments for sleep apnea, depending on the severity of the problem and its likely cause. These include oral appliance therapy (wearing a retainer-like device in the mouth at night); orthodontic treatment and/or oral surgery; and using a CPAP (constant positive airway pressure) machine to help facilitate breathing at night. Each has advantages and disadvantages that should be discussed with a healthcare provider who has experience in the area of sleep disorders.

Q: What does all this have to do with dentistry?
A: Dentists are, of course, extremely familiar with the anatomy of the mouth. We sometimes notice signs of potential sleep problems before they become life-threatening. What’s more, we may be able to successfully treat the problem with oral appliance therapy. We can properly fabricate, fit and adjust an oral device that helps keep your airway open at night. Because it is inexpensive, removable, and relatively comfortable, an oral appliance may be a good remedy to try before moving on to more complex treatments, such as a CPAP machine or surgery. So if you think you might have SRBD, maybe it’s time to make an appointment and talk to us about it.