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For the latest news about Dr. Nguyen and El Portal Dental Group, read our newsletter below. You’ll learn about:


Which Toothpastes Work Best in Between Dental Visits?
Which Toothpastes Work Best in Between Dental Visits?

Walking through the toothpaste aisle of the store, you may be overwhelmed with the variety of toothpastes available to you. You want something that is going to be effective, but also something that is specific to your particular dental needs.

So, how do you know what is the best toothpaste for you to use at home? To start, no matter what your dental needs, the toothpaste should have the American Dental Association’s seal of approval. This ensures that the product has effective ingredients and has been tested to verify and back up any claims that the company has made.

Secondly, it’s important to determine what it is you need out of your toothpaste. Are you prone to cavities and need more cavity fighting power? Do you have sensitivity to hot or cold? Do you have healthy teeth and gums but want a whiter smile? How you answer these questions can help determine what toothpaste is best for you.

Cavity Protection Toothpastes

Cavities form when bacteria (plaque) interacts with the food you eat, causing acid to erode your tooth enamel. The best way to prevent cavities is to prevent the bacteria from coating your teeth. The mineral fluoride is used in toothpastes to coat your teeth and help prevent acid from eating away at your enamel. Look for toothpastes with a fluoride content of 1000-1500 ppm (parts per million). In some cases, your dentist may suggest a prescription toothpaste that can contain up to 5000 ppm. 

Whitening Toothpastes

If your concerns about your teeth are more cosmetic rather than health, then a whitening toothpaste may be what you are looking for. Whitening toothpastes contain mild abrasives like silica that scrub the surface of your teeth, polishing them and helping to prevent future stains. Look for toothpastes that also contain bleaching agents like hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, which go beyond just the surface stains to help reveal a whiter smile. For longer-lasting and more effective teeth whitening in Merced, we offer both in-office and take home whitening trays.

Sensitivity Toothpastes

Is it painful for you to eat foods that are hot or cold? If your dentist has ruled out any dental issues like cavities or gum disease, then sensitivity toothpaste can help ease your pain. Exposed dentin is the typical cause of sensitive teeth, so look for toothpaste that contains arginine and calcium that protect nerve endings by plugging open pores in exposed dentin with calcium phosphate.

For further information on what type of toothpaste is best for you, we are happy to help at your next visit. Offering extended and weekend hours, we make your trip to the dentist as convenient as possible. To schedule your appointment today, call our office at (209) 385-1479 or make an appointment online.


5 Tips for the Best Oral Health You've Ever Had in 2017
5 Tips for the Best Oral Health You've Ever Had in 2017

With 2017 quickly approaching, you may be writing a list of New Year’s resolutions. Starting on a healthier path always seems to top the list. While diet and exercise are great ways to improve your health, why not make a resolution to improve your oral health as well?

Here are 5 tips for having the best oral health in 2017.

1. Monitor fluoride use. It is important to use enough – but not too much – fluoride. It’s biggest role in protecting your teeth is to strengthen enamel, making your teeth less likely to decay. A large majority of American drinking water is fluoridated. However, if your water does not contain fluoride, talk to your dentist about prescription-strength fluoride toothpaste and rinses or special fluoride applications.

2. Chew gum if you can’t brush. While it is best to brush your teeth after every meal, sometimes it just isn’t convenient to do so. In these instances, chewing sugar-free gum can help increase the amount of saliva in your mouth, which helps to neutralize acid and wash away harmful tooth decay-causing bacteria.

3. Change your tooth brush every 3 months and after illnesses. After just a few months of use, the bristles can become worn and dull, leaving your toothbrush unable to effectively clean your teeth the way it did when you first started using it. Additionally, studies show that toothbrushes can contain up to 10 million bacteria at any given time, and even more when you are sick. Remember to replace your toothbrush regularly, especially after each bout of illness to prevent reinfection.  

4. Clean your tongue. Due to the rough surface of your tongue, bacteria thrives and abounds on it.  Using a professional tongue cleaner helps rid the tongue of bacteria, which in turn leads to fresher breath and a healthier mouth.

5. Make and keep your bi-annual dental cleanings. This one should really go without saying, but the importance of visiting your dentist regularly cannot be emphasized enough. In addition to the obvious benefits of a good dental cleaning, routine exams can also be good for your overall health. Early signs of oral cancer and diabetes can be detected during a routine dental exam. We’ll also check for any issues that may cause decay in the future: gingivitis, teeth grinding, and dry mouth.  Early detection and intervention can help save your teeth from these damaging effects.

Whether you haven’t been to the dentist in years, or just want more information on keeping your teeth and mouth healthy, El Portal Dental Group in Merced is available to help. Offering general, cosmetic, orthodontic, and emergency dentistry, we are dedicated to helping you to achieve a sense of well-being by enhancing your oral health and appearance. For more information or to make an appointment, call the office today at (209) 385-1479 or schedule your dental exam online.



Tooth Pain: When is it an Emergency?
Tooth Pain: When is it an Emergency?

It’s no secret why babies are often cranky while going through the teething phase. Tooth pain is quite miserable, no matter how old (or young) you are! 

If you’ve ever experienced tooth pain, whether suddenly from an accident or something gradual, you may have questioned whether or not your tooth pain was severe enough to be considered an emergency.

Some dental issues are purely cosmetic, such as a chipped tooth. If there is minimal pain and no other symptoms of trauma (bleeding gums, fractured facial bone), then your chipped tooth would not qualify as an emergency (It is, however, important to contact us for an appointment so that action can be taken to preserve the look of your smile). With that said, if your tooth is broken more than a small chip and you are experiencing severe pain, that’s an emergency.

In contrast, tooth pain requiring emergency dentistry would include any tooth pain caused by an abscessed tooth, or an infected tooth. A dental abscess often results from cavities that were left untreated. Only a dentist can treat an abscess by draining the pus and treating the infected tooth. If left untreated, the bacteria can spread to other areas of the body and can cause vomiting, fever, and a general feeling of being unwell. In rare but serious cases, the swelling caused by the infection can be so severe it can block the airway, making it difficult to breathe.

Another instance that requires emergency dentistry is when you experience trauma to the mouth, in which a tooth or multiple teeth have been knocked out or severely loosened. In order to try and preserve the tooth, it is important to see a dentist immediately.  

Any time your tooth causes sudden, extreme and severe pain, emergency dentistry is needed. According to a study by the American Dental Association, severe tooth pain contributed to 2.2 million emergency room visits in 2012. Going straight to a dentist who provides emergency dentistry can not only save you time, but money as well.

In general, if you have the following symptoms along with tooth pain, you should call to see if you need emergency care:

  • Bleeding
  • Bulges (abscesses) in your gums
  • Fever
  • Swelling in your mouth or facial area

Whether or not your pain is an emergency, an oral exam will help determine how to best treat your tooth pain, as well as address health concerns that could cause pain in the future. At our preventive dentistry practice here in Merced, we believe the best way to avoid tooth pain is through regular dental checkups and cleanings.

Need an emergency dentist in Merced? Please give us a call at (209) 385-1479 or request an appointment online for a comprehensive oral exam and tooth pain treatment.


Choosing an Orthodontist in Merced
Choosing an Orthodontist in Merced

Does your child have perfectly straight teeth? Then there’s no need for an orthodontist, right? Well actually, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends everyone schedule an orthodontic appointment by the age of 7 to check for issues with the jaw such as overbites. Most people, however, will visit an orthodontist to correct the misalignment of teeth.

Whether braces are needed for a cosmetic or functional purpose, investing in braces for yourself or for your child is an important decision. The success of your orthodontic treatment is dependent upon your commitment to your orthodontic treatment plan. Finding an orthodontist who you can trust and with whom you are comfortable is important to keeping you committed and on track.

Over the course of orthodontic treatment, usually around 2 years, you will need to visit your orthodontist about every 6 weeks. For this reason, it is important to find a Merced orthodontist with a convenient location, as well as one that can work within your schedule. Orthodontists with early and late hours, as well as Saturday appointments offer the most flexibility for their patients. This allows for less missed visits and less time away from school or work.

Whether you’re considering adult braces or braces for your child, your investment into your beautiful new smile should be a wise one. Look for a board-certified orthodontist to ensure they are highly qualified for the best possible treatment outcome. Board certification by the American Board of Orthodontics means that your doctor has graduated from dental school, as well as completed an advanced orthodontic and dentofacial orthopedic residency. After completing advanced educational training, the orthodontist must then demonstrate their skill and knowledge to obtain certification.

Orthodontic emergencies can and do happen, whether it’s loose brackets or protruding wires. Many such emergencies are due to sports-related traumas to the face or mouth. Be sure to find an orthodontist who offers an on-call service for emergencies, as it’s very important to see your orthodontist immediately after an emergency to prevent further injury and pain.

Just because you have braces does not mean that your normal dental check-ups stop. Regular 6-month exams should continue throughout your treatment. To save you time, find an orthodontist who is part of a dental group where general dentistry is offered at the same location. Being able to go directly from your dentist to your orthodontist in one visit can save you valuable time while ensuring you are taking care of all your oral health needs.

Our Merced dental office offers extended weeknight and Saturday hours, emergency dental care, and the convenience of a one-stop shop with general dentistry housed in the same location as orthodontics. Initial orthodontic consultations are provided free of charge. Call us for an orthodontic consultation today at (209) 385-1479 or make an appointment online. 


Top 3 Dental Recommendations to Get the Smile You’ve Always Wanted
Top 3 Dental Recommendations to Get the Smile You’ve Always Wanted

Are you doing everything you ought to, and find that you’re still dissatisfied with your smile? You brush twice a day, you floss, you gargle with mouthwash, and yet your pearly whites just don’t seem to shine like they should.

So what should you do? Take it from our dental hygienists and cosmetic dentists in Merced that these top three recommendations will have you grinning from ear to ear, proudly showing off your gorgeous smile.

  1. Teeth whitening is a safe and super easy way to literally brighten your smile – several shades whiter. We offer both in-office procedures with our experienced and highly educated dentists, Dr. Nguyen and Dr. Regalado, as well as simple and convenient take home kits. Our in-office Sapphire teeth whitening system uses a bleaching technique with professional-grade teeth whitening gel along with a very powerful light to bleach stained teeth for a whiter smile in minutes. Our at-home Contrast PM teeth whitening gel kit conveniently comes with custom-fit trays that perfectly fit around your teeth to hold a mild whitening gel in place. This process takes just 7 to 10 days for a noticeably whiter smile.
  2. Porcelain veneers are a great option for improving the look and strength of damaged, chipped, or misaligned teeth. Veneers are thin artificial coverings that are applied to the outside of your teeth. They look and feel natural and can also greatly improve the resistance of your natural teeth to further damage and decay. During a simple office procedure, the veneers are adhered to your teeth using a light beam to harden the bonding agent. When you leave our dental office, you can immediately feel confident in your improved smile.
  3. ClearCorrect is a great alternative to adult braces for crooked teeth. ClearCorrect aligners apply pressure to misaligned teeth to push them into their appropriate positions. Since you must wear your aligners for at least 22 hours every day until the treatment is completed, they are made to be very comfortable to wear. Our Merced orthodontist, conveniently located within the same building as our family dentists, will take impressions of your teeth. Once they are sent off to ClearCorrect labs, they will be used as the model for the construction of your new invisible aligners. Due to inevitable and welcomed changes to the positioning of your teeth after wear, they will need to be changed out every two or so weeks with new ones using your latest impressions.

Our expert in the field of orthodontics and ClearCorrect treatment, Dr. Khang Nguyen, actively researches the latest technology on the market in progressive orthodontics to continue providing you with the best techniques available. Even if you are not comfortable smiling in public right now, see how you feel after watching the transformation of your teeth into beautiful pearly whites with these three recommended procedures.

It’s time for you to get the smile you’ve always wanted. Contact the El Portal Dental Group office by calling (209) 385-1479, or request an appointment online today.


Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?
Why Do We Have Wisdom Teeth?

Wisdom teeth are a third set of molars that typically start coming in during your late teens to early 20’s.  Sometimes they grow sideways impacted in the jawbone, or sometimes they come up into the gums and become impacted, causing pain and pushing the surrounding teeth sideways. When they only partially come up through the gums, they can cause infections from causing food to become stuck in your teeth. So if wisdom teeth can cause all of these issues, why do we have them?

The answer is found in human evolution. A very long time ago, our ancestors used to eat a diet of coarse foods, such as roots, leaves, nuts, and tough meat, that required very powerful molars. Over the course of evolution our jaws have become much smaller as we have developed techniques for cutting and breaking down our coarse foods and changing our diet to consist of many softer foods. The need for the third set of molars has diminished but they are still in the process of being phased out from non-use.

Aside from the pain that comes with impacted or developing wisdom teeth, they can also become a problem if they begin pushing on your other teeth to make room to grow. Cysts and tumors can also develop from impactions, besides infection.

Our dentists frequently perform wisdom teeth extractions, as these teeth should be removed as soon as possible when you start to feel the pain in the back of your mouth/jaw. However, treatment is not necessary if your wisdom teeth grow in properly aligned and do not cause irritation.

During your wisdom tooth extraction, we will numb the affected area before distributing a topical pain reliever and injecting pain reliever into the gums. After that, the procedure to remove your affected teeth is performed with little to no feeling in the area while you are under the medication.

Recovery consists of taking an antibiotic to prevent infection in the excavated area, and pain medication if necessary. Our El Portal dental team will provide you with aftercare instructions on how to care for your healing jaw, such as applying ice packs to reduce any swelling, as well as modifying your diet to consist mainly of soft foods.

Having regularly scheduled dental cleanings and checkups with the El Portal team allows us to monitor the progressive growth of your wisdom teeth. Through X-ray imaging, we can track and predict the pattern of your wisdom teeth before impactions become worse.

Have you seen your dentist yet this year?  Are you experiencing pain in your molars? Call (209) 385-1479 or request an appointment at our dental office in Merced online today.

Have you had your wisdom teeth removed due to pain or crowding? What was your favorite post-op food to eat?



Can Earplugs Help You to Stop Grinding Your Teeth?
Can Earplugs Help You to Stop Grinding Your Teeth?

Do you ever wake up in the morning with terrible soreness in your jaw or neck? Do you suffer from regular earaches or tension-type headaches? If you said yes to these questions you might be suffering from a condition called bruxism.

The word bruxism is medical terminology for grinding of the teeth, and it can be caused by a number of things – feelings of anxiety or anger, misalignment of the upper and lower teeth, stomach acid reflux, as a side effect of certain medications or diseases, or just as a habitual coping method.

Finding relief from the symptoms that come with constantly grinding your teeth can be difficult since splints can be irritating to wear and prevent you from sleeping naturally. Luckily, we now have alternatives available such as the Cerezen earplug.

A special type of earplug, each set is specially molded to perfectly fit the wearer’s ear canal. The concept behind these earplugs is to fit right behind the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) in order to create pressure on the joint whenever you attempt to clench or grind your teeth together. This pressure then causes your ear canal to contract, pushing down on the earplug and causing mild discomfort. This causes your jaw to subconsciously correct itself, basically training your mouth not to participate in this behavior any more.

Grinding your teeth can cause a whole lot of health problems, especially for your mouth. When you bite down, your jaw is able to produce approximately 120 pounds of pressure. Think of all the damage that kind of pressure can do to your teeth!

Over time, your teeth will wear down and you may end up needing crown replacements or other restorative surgery. More immediate symptoms of this condition include pain-causing tension in the muscles of the face, neck and back.

Are you interested in using a splint or earplug to treat bruxism? Our Merced dentists, including, Dr. Alois Regalado, will certainly thank you for your dedication and diligence in protecting your teeth from harm!  For more information about treatments for teeth grinding, or to schedule an appointment, call us today at (209) 385-1479.

Would you ever consider wearing a set of Cerezen earplugs to stop teeth grinding? Why or why not?



Great American Smokeout Day is Coming – Are You Ready to Quit Smoking?
Great American Smokeout Day is Coming – Are You Ready to Quit Smoking?

November 17, 2016 - this is THE DAY. It will be a big day for smokers across the nation this year, as it is designated as the date that hundreds of smokers will make the decision to quit. Will you be one of them? The American Cancer Society has deemed it National Smokeout Day, a day for your community to come together and support one another in making the difficult decision to stop harming their bodies with tobacco once and for all.

El Portal Dental Group respects those who are strong enough to commit to the cause, because they show respect for their bodies and overall health by doing so. The moment that you stop smoking, it’s only a matter of time before your overall health improves, including your mouth, teeth, and gums.

Smoking tobacco, no matter the delivery system (cigarette, cigar, hookah, or chewing tobacco), puts you at high risk of developing gum (periodontal) disease, the most common cause of tooth loss in adults.  When plaque, a sticky film created by a mixture of naturally occurring bacteria in your mouth as well as sugary or starchy foods, hardens onto the teeth it becomes what is known as tartar. 

Tartar bonds bad bacteria to your teeth, making it very difficult to get rid of plaque. While bacteria are held fast to your teeth, they burrow down into your gums, slowly digging and effectively loosening the tooth from the gums. This ultimately results in decay and many other dental health issues.

When you smoke, you allow less oxygen into the bloodstream, which unfortunately means that your body cannot repair or protect itself from oral health concerns as effectively as it normally could. Yet just 1 to 3 months after quitting tobacco, your body’s circulation improves significantly.

Dangers of Oral Cancer From Tobacco

Oral cancer can affect your lips, tongue, cheeks, and throat. Your risk for oral cancer increases significantly with regular use of tobacco, and it takes 5 years after quitting for that risk to lessen even just halfway.

Some of the early telling signs of oral cancer include: 

  • A red or white patch or irritation on the gums, the tongue, or the lining of the mouth
  • Unusual bleeding in the mouth
  • Swelling of the jaw

Oral cancer kills thousands every year and can only be treated with surgery, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy. The earlier it is caught, the better your chances are of recovery. However, it can be very difficult to catch in its early stages if you do not regularly visit your dentist, because early oral cancer isn’t always painful and therefore may not be noticed.

When you make the decision to smoke, you must also be prepared to take extra precautions to ensure relative healthiness. It’s important to see your dentist on a regular basis – at least twice every year – so that we can perform a thorough inspection of your mouth to keep an eye out for any early signs of diseases or cancer. Smoking can also cause undesirable cosmetic issues, like bad breath and yellow or brown stained teeth.

For a thorough cleaning and comprehensive oral cancer exam, call us today at (209) 385-1479 or request an appointment online. Our Merced dental experts can help further educate you about the dangers of smoking and support you in your quitting journey.

Do you plan on quitting on National Smokeout Day? Do you need support? Let us know and we’ll be happy to help guide you to the proper resources you need to quit smoking successfully.


It’s Not JUST a Cleaning - It’s About Prevention
It’s Not JUST a Cleaning - It’s About Prevention

You may think that when you schedule your semi-annual cleanings with us that you should simply expect a brief inspection, a quick brushing and flossing, and maybe some X-rays. However, if you’ve never been to see the El Portal Dental team, then you might just be missing out on some really important preventive measures. Most dental insurance fully covers a cleaning and check-up every 6 months, so get the most out of of your benefits and maintain a healthy smile!

We don’t just stop with your typical cleaning and X-rays, though – we go the full mile to ensure that your teeth and gums are healthy. It’s important to know how to properly take care of your teeth and gums, and the best advice always comes directly from your dentist. During your appointment, we’ll also take the time to educate you on how to take care of these essential assets for years to come, as well as answer any questions and address any concerns you might have. 

Our dental team is made up of a great group of experienced, educated and passionate individuals who will gladly provide a thorough cleaning and polishing of your teeth, removing all of the nasty built-up plaque your mouth has been harboring over the last six months. This thorough cleaning also offers the team an opportunity to really get a close-up look at all the nooks and crannies, inspecting your mouth for any signs of disease or decay.

While you’re here, Dr. Nguyen or one of our other compassionate dentists will follow-up with you, after your cleaning with one of our experienced hygienists. They will review the hygienist’s report and also inspect for any abnormalities.

Your dentist will then screen for any issue big or small, from potential cavities to signs of oral cancer.  Semi-annual screenings with the dentists can prevent some really big problems later on which may require fillings, crowns, or even root canal treatment.

Your health is important to us, so it’s important that we have plenty of time dedicated to your care and dental maintenance. That’s why when you book your cleaning appointment, we ask that you prepare to be available for at least a one-hour block. This way, you receive more than just a cleaning. You get a thorough check-up by both a dental hygienist and a dentist.

Our goal during your cleaning is to catch and correct oral issues early on so that they don’t turn into something ugly, dangerous, and potentially costly. Are you ready to schedule your next cleaning and screening? For more information, or to schedule by phone, call (209) 385-1479 today.



Is Dental Insurance Worth the Cost?
Is Dental Insurance Worth the Cost?

It can be difficult to remember just how important it is to take good care of your teeth. You constantly use them every day, for both eating and talking, so it’s important to prepare for the worst should something happen to them. Dental insurance is a great plan to have in place, and the premiums are often affordable enough. When compared to the high costs of dental procedures, the logic that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” rings true.

With open enrollment beginning next Tuesday, November 1st, it’s time to take a look at your current plan and weigh the benefits of having dental insurance. Typically, dental insurance is worth the cost when it comes to larger surgical procedures such as crowns, bridges, inlays, dentures, or root canals.

Just like with medical or vision insurance, you buy dental insurance to prepare for accidents or illnesses that might have become financially detrimental if you hadn’t prepared in advance.

Approximately 64% of Americans have dental insurance, and nearly all of them are provided through workplaces or group plans. Going through your workplace or a group plan is a great way to keep the cost of insurance down, whether medical, vision, or dental.

If you have a set of strong, healthy teeth, maybe you only ever see Dr. Nguyen, Dr. Regalado, or Dr. Hunt once annually for a checkup and cleaning. In that case, you may not need to worry about preparing for the worst. However, some teeth are more prone to disease and other issues. In these cases, it is better to have more frequent checkups so your dentist is likely to catch issues in their early stages. By having dental insurance, you'll be prepared for costly procedures by having insurance. 

Typically, the most advertised feature of a dental insurance plan is its focus on providing free preventative and diagnostic care. Most often, it provides recipients with one or two free annual exams and cleanings and will also cover the cost of X-rays.

Aside from these free benefits, your insurance will usually cover 70 to 80% of the cost of basic procedures, such as fillings, extractions, office visits, and periodontal treatments. Major procedures, such as dentures or implants, are usually covered up to 50%. Similar to medical insurance, however, your dental insurance will not cover cosmetic procedures or surgeries.

Basically, you will most likely save money having insurance as long as you remember to take advantage of the savings offered. So don’t forget to schedule your two annual cleanings with our amazing team of dentists and hygienists!

Open enrollment is just a few days away. Now is the time to review your current plan if you have one and choose a new dental insurance plan before January 31st. 

Remember, your dental benefits do not roll over, so if you haven’t yet taken advantage of your plan’s preventative care, make sure you schedule your next cleaning as soon as possible. Request an appointment online, or call (209) 385-1479 to schedule today.