Dentist Blog
By Dr. Karst
October 20, 2016
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tmj disorders   jaw pain  

Chronic jaw pain can make eating, speaking or even smiling difficult. What's more, finding the right treatment approach can be just as difficult.

This is because TMD (Temporomandibular Disorder: named for the joints on either side of the lower jaw) actually describes a wide range of possible problems with the joints and connecting muscles. Any of them can result in impaired jaw function, radiating pain or even headaches.

We'll need to conduct a full dental and facial exam to accurately diagnose your jaw pain's cause. Even then, the way may still not be clear: there's considerable debate among dentists about the best treatment approach. Two basic schools of thought prevail, one conservative and non-invasive and the other more aggressive and interventional.

The conservative approach seeks to alleviate symptoms in a variety of ways, including recommending softer foods to give muscles and joints time to relax, applying cold and heat to ease soreness, massage of the jaw joint muscles, gentle stretching and jaw exercises. We may also prescribe medications like ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for pain and swelling relief, and sometimes muscle relaxers to reduce spasms. If your pain stems from clenching or grinding habits, we could fit you with a custom bite guard you wear while you sleep to reduce the forces on your teeth.

The more aggressive approach is much more invasive. These methods include altering the bite or teeth position with orthodontics or dental work or surgically altering the joints themselves or the shape of the jaw. If you're recommended one of these more aggressive treatments, you should know they're not commonly used to treat TMD and they're irreversible. There's also no guarantee you'll gain relief from your symptoms, so by all means get a second opinion before undergoing any procedures.

For most people the best course of treatment is to start with the least invasive techniques, which are usually very successful. If they don't relieve your pain and limited function, we may then consider escalating treatment to more irreversible procedures to help you find relief from this unwelcome condition.

If you would like more information on jaw joint pain and how to treat it, 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 “Seeking Relief from TMD.”

By Dr. Karst
October 12, 2016
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   dentures  

There's no doubt about it — dentures have changed your life. Now you can eat and speak normally, and smile again with confidence. But if you're going to continue to benefit from your dentures, you'll need to take care of them. One of the best things you can do is not sleep with them in.

There are a couple of important reasons why you should take your dentures out when you go to bed. First, dentures tend to compress the bony ridges of the gums that support them. This contributes to the loss of the underlying bone, an occurrence common with missing teeth. Wearing dentures around the clock can accelerate this bone loss, which eventually loosens your denture fit.

Constant denture wearing also contributes to mouth conditions conducive to dental disease. You're more likely to develop tongue and denture plaque (a thin film of bacteria and food particles) that can cause gum inflammation or yeast development. The presence of the latter could also trigger a chronic response from your immune system that might make you more susceptible to other diseases.

Good oral hygiene is just as important with dentures as with natural teeth. Besides removing them at night, you should also take them out and rinse them after eating and brush them at least once a day with a soft tooth brush. And be sure to use regular dish or hand soap (especially antibacterial) or denture cleanser — toothpaste is too abrasive for denture surfaces.

It's also a good habit to store your dentures in water or, better, an alkaline peroxide solution. This will help deter plaque and yeast development. And don't forget the rest of your mouth: brush your tongue and gums with a very soft toothbrush (different from your denture brush) or clean them off with a damp cloth.

Taking care of your dentures will ensure two things. You'll lower your risk for disease — and you'll also help extend your dentures' life and fit.

If you would like more information on caring for your dentures, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By Dr. Karst
October 10, 2016
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: dental implants  

Wondering about implant dentistry? You'll find great information here!

If you look around online for tooth replacement options, you're bound to stumble across dental implants at some point. Implant dentistry dental implantsis an excellent way to replace missing teeth, but it's still new enough that patients wonder if it's right for them. The following information from Dr. Emery Karst, your cosmetic dentist in Salem, OR, helps his patients understand why implant dentistry is one of the best choices they can make for their dental health.

Why should I replace my missing teeth?

Any time you have a missing permanent tooth, you're putting your remaining teeth at risk for problems. That's because teeth function properly when there's a full set; each tooth relies on the ones next to it for support, and the jawbone requires the subtle movement that happens each time we chew to stay strong and viable. When teeth are missing, the ones nearby begin "searching" for them and, over time, will shift out of place. While other dental restorations can slow this damaging process, only dental implants from your Salem dentist will stop the shifting and deterioration in its tracks.

What are the benefits of implant dentistry?

The most obvious benefit of implant dentistry from your Salem cosmetic dentist is the improvement in your appearance. A full, healthy smile makes a great impression. However, dental implants have many more assets. Eating and talking becomes easier once your dental implants are in place. As mentioned above, your remaining teeth have the support they need and your jawbone has balanced stability. Implant dentistry is especially attractive because it's the longest-lasting restorative option and requires the least amount of maintenance.

If you'd like to consult further with Dr. Karst about implant dentistry, we'd love to hear from you. Contact the Salem, Oregon Center of Cosmetic Dentistry to schedule an appointment!


Dental implants are widely considered the most durable tooth replacement option, thanks in part to how they attach to the jaw. But durable doesn't mean indestructible — you must take care of them.

Implants have a unique relationship to the jawbone compared to other restorations. We imbed a slender titanium post into the bone as a substitute for a natural tooth root. Because bone has a special affinity with the metal, it grows to and adheres to the implant to create a secure anchor. This unique attachment gives implants quite an advantage over other restorations.

It isn't superior, however, to the natural attachment of real teeth, especially in one respect: it can't match a natural attachment's infection-fighting ability. A connective tissue attachment made up of collagen fibers are attached to the tooth root protecting the underlying bone. An elastic gum tissue called the periodontal ligament lies between the tooth root and the bone and attaches to both with tiny collagen fibers. These attachments create a network of blood vessels that supply nutrients and infection-fighting agents to the bone and surrounding gum tissue.

Implants don't have this connective tissue or ligament attachment or its benefits. Of course, the implants are made of inorganic material that can't be damaged by bacterial infection. However, the gums and bone that surround them are: and because these natural tissues don't have these same biologic barriers to infection and perhaps access to the same degree of antibodies as those around natural teeth, an infection known as peri-implantitis specific to implants can develop and progress.

It's therefore just as important for you to continue brushing and flossing to remove bacterial plaque that causes infection to protect the gums and bone around your implants. You should also keep up regular office cleanings and checkups. In fact, we take special care with implants when cleaning them by using instruments that won't scratch their highly polished surfaces. Such a scratch, even a microscopic one, could attract and harbor bacteria.

There's no doubt dental implants are an excellent long-term solution for restoring your smile and mouth function. You can help extend that longevity by caring for them just as if they're your natural teeth.

If you would like more information on caring for 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 Implant Maintenance.”

By Dr. Karst
September 26, 2016
Category: Uncategorized
Tags: gum recession  

Your teeth are meant to last a lifetime. Even with wear and tear from years of eating and biting they can continue to function properly and look attractive well into your senior years.

Teeth are resilient thanks in part to enamel, the hardest substance in the human body. But the gums also contribute to this resilience: besides attractively framing the teeth, they protect the dentin and roots below the enamel covering.

Unfortunately, the gums can shrink back or “recede” from their normal place. Not only does this look unattractive, the recession can also expose teeth to disease and cause tooth sensitivity to temperature changes or biting pressure.

There are a number of causes for gum recession, some of which you may have little control over. If, for example, your teeth come in off center from their bony housing, the gum tissues may not develop around them properly. You might also have inherited a thinner type of gum tissue from your parents: thinner tissues are more delicate and susceptible to recession.

But there are other causes for which you have more control. Over-aggressive brushing (too hard for too long), ironically, does more harm than good as it can injure your gums and cause them to recede. More likely, though, your recession is a direct result of neglecting proper hygiene for your teeth and gums.

When teeth aren't properly cleaned through daily brushing and flossing, a thin film of bacteria and food remnant called plaque builds up on tooth surfaces. This can trigger periodontal (gum) disease, which subsequently causes the gum tissues to detach from the teeth and often recede.

To reduce your risk of gum disease, you should gently but thoroughly brush and floss daily, and visit us for cleanings and checkups at least twice a year. If you have a poor bite (malocclusion), consider orthodontic treatment: malocclusions make it easier for plaque to accumulate and harder to remove.

Above all, if you begin to see signs of gum problems — swelling, bleeding or pain — see us promptly for an examination and treatment. Dealing with these issues early is the best way to ensure your gums continue to do their jobs for the long-term.

If you would like more information on the treatment and prevention of gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

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