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El Portal Dental Blog


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

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. 

Why Dental Implants May Be the Best Solution
Why Dental Implants May Be the Best Solution

From root canals and crowns to bridgework and dentures, there are many different solutions for damaged or missing teeth. Dental Implants are proving to be the best solution to restoring your smile and quality of life.

Unlike other traditional tooth replacement devices, dental implants use titanium anchors that are placed into the jawbone where teeth are missing. The bone then bonds with the titanium and a post is inserted into the anchor. Lastly, an artificial tooth is attached to the post. 

This tooth acts just like your regular teeth, allowing you to chew and eat the same foods you would with your natural teeth. While proper brushing, flossing and dental checkups twice a year are still required to keep your oral health in check, you don’t have to worry about the risk of cavities with dental implants.

Because of their durability and strength, dental implants are made to last. Traditional solutions for missing or damaged teeth like bridges, crowns, and dentures are not able to withstand a lifetime of use. With proper care, dental implants can last a lifetime with only a few adjustments from time to time. 

Missing teeth is not just a cosmetic issue but a health issue as well. If you leave empty spaces in your mouth long enough, it can cause the loss or deterioration of some of your jawbone. The jawbone’s job is to support teeth and when not being used in such a way, it will start to weaken. Dental implants are the only solution that helps to stimulate bone growth and prevent bone loss.

If you have ever had a bridge, you know that it is not just the bad or missing tooth that is impacted.  The good teeth on either side are also impacted.  It requires grinding those good teeth so that the bridge can be attached to them for support. With dental implants, only the missing tooth is impacted, leaving other healthy teeth intact.

Most importantly, you can feel confident knowing that when you are out in public you can eat what you want, talk, and laugh without the worry of your implant loosening or falling out. 

Are you a good candidate for dental implants?  Call (209) 385-1479 or request an appointment online today. Dr. Nguyen, Dr. Regalado, and Dr. Hunt are waiting to help restore your smile and your quality of life.

Dental Insurance – Use It or Lose It
Dental Insurance – Use It or Lose It

Do you have dental insurance for yourself or your family? Did you know that if you don’t use your benefits by the end of the year you will lose some of the money saving aspects, even if you stay on the same plan? Unlike data on cell phone plans, there is no “rollover” in the insurance industry when it comes to benefits – you use them or lose them at the end of the year. (And the same holds true for any type of health insurance, whether it be dental, vision, or general health insurance.)

Why would you spend your hard-earned money on insurance and not take full advantage of your benefits? Since the end of the year is quickly approaching, now is a great time to schedule a dental exam if you haven’t already exceeded the limit allowed on your dental policy.

It is important to get at least one dental exam per year for many reasons. Regular exams can help prevent cavities and catch early problems before the damage becomes irreversible. Exams and cleanings help to maintain good oral hygiene to prevent gum disease and other conditions, and they also help to detect oral cancers in the earlier stages.

Many other services are often covered under your dental plan in addition to your checkups and cleanings. Once you’ve reached your deductible, some services, such as a necessary root canal or crowns, may be covered at 100% so you don’t have any out-of-pocket costs. After your insurance lapses, however, you lose that 100% benefit, resetting your deductible.

Open enrollment for health and dental insurance begins November 1, 2016. If you don’t currently have dental insurance or are unhappy with your current plan, the open enrollment period is a great time to choose a new plan with benefits that suit your needs. After open enrollment ends, your insurance options are drastically limited, so don’t wait!

Take advantage of your coverage and get the most out of your healthcare dollar by scheduling an exam with one of our amazing dental health professionals. Call (209) 385-1479 or request an appointment online today. We’d love to help you improve your smile while maximizing your savings.

Are You Brushing Your Toddler’s Teeth Correctly?
Are You Brushing Your Toddler’s Teeth Correctly?

You may wonder if the energy and effort it takes to brush your toddler’s teeth is worth it; after all, they’re going to loose them anyway. However, brushing and flossing your child’s teeth is one of the most important things you can do to prevent tooth decay and cavities, both now and in the future.

Cavities can cause your toddler to loose teeth prematurely, and early loss of baby teeth can have big consequences. Temporary teeth are not just needed to chew food – they influence the way a child learns to talk. Also, baby teeth hold a place for the permanent teeth. When a tooth is lost too early, the permanent tooth under it can shift, causing spacing issues when the permanent teeth arrive. These issues could lead to more costly procedures for straightening and alignment.

Brushing your toddler’s teeth twice a day will help form a habit that your child will carry with them into adulthood. It is important to make sure their teeth are being brushed properly and that they learn how to brush them well.

Step 1: Use a Child-Sized Toothbrush.

It may not seem necessary, but smaller toothbrushes prevent discomfort and make it easier to reach the back teeth in your child’s mouth. The bristles should have a rounded edge and be varied in length. Don’t forget, toothbrushes should be changed once every three months or when the bristles start to spread (this can happen sooner with toddlers who like to bite the brush). We offer small toothbrushes to fit your child’s mouth perfectly and will send one home with them after each cleaning. 

Step 2: Add the Appropriate Amount of Toothpaste.

The amount of toothpaste you should use depends on the age of your child. Those younger than 3 should use an amount about the size of a grain of rice. Children 4 and up can use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.

Step 3: Brush Each Surface.

Hold the toothbrush at a 45° angle and brush the outer surfaces of the teeth by using short back and forth strokes. To brush the inside surface of the teeth, hold the toothbrush as vertically as possible and brush up and down. Don’t forget to brush the chewing surfaces of the teeth, as well as their tongue. Brushing the tongue helps to eliminate harmful bacteria that can lead to tooth decay.

Step 4: Rinse and Spit.

Try to avoid spitting while in the middle of brushing, since this can remove toothpaste before you have a chance to get it onto all of their teeth. Once you are finished with every surface, they can rinse and spit.

EXTRA TIP: Many parents find it easier to stand behind their child while brushing. This allows for more natural movement, as if you were brushing your own teeth.

Oral health is extremely important, and getting your children into the routine of brushing their teeth properly as well as regular dental exams sets them up for a lifetime of healthy habits. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your child see a dentist after their first tooth, or by their first birthday to help get a jumpstart on proper oral care. El Portal Dental Group offers state-of-the-art professional dental treatment for your child, as well as the rest of your family. Call us today at (209) 385-1479, or use our convenient online appointment scheduler.

Why You Need an Oral Cancer Screening
Why You Need an Oral Cancer Screening

Oral cancer is one of the lesser-known types of cancer, yet it is one of the most deadly types. Oral cancer is classified with head and neck cancers, but comprises 85% of all head and neck cancer occurrences. Twenty percent of patients diagnosed with oral cancer this year will die within their first year of diagnosis. Within five years, oral cancer will have claimed the lives of almost fifty percent of those diagnosed with oral cancer this year.

Oral cancer is so deadly because it’s very difficult to diagnose in the early stages. No pain or other symptoms are present in very early stages, so it’s typically only caught after it has developed into a more severe stage. For this reason, it is especially important to have an oral cancer screening as part of your regular dental care visit.

Why You Need to Have an Oral Cancer Screening

Oral cancer screenings are an important part of your regular 6-month dental checkup. Here’s why:

  • Dental exams are the best opportunity for early detection. Oral cancer typically starts with abnormal tissue in the mouth, and dental professionals can detect an abnormality far sooner than the patient can. By the time the patient experiences any symptoms, the cancer may have already spread or progressed to a dangerous level. Watching for early signs of oral cancer is the best way to save more lives.

  • The affected area may be difficult or impossible for you to see. Oral cancer can affect any part of the mouth, including your lips, gums, cheeks, tongue, roof of your mouth, and upper part of your throat. It’s nearly impossible for you to inspect all the surfaces of your mouth adequately for abnormalities.

  • A proper oral screening is both visual and tactile. We will feel areas of your cheeks, jaw, and neck to check for anything unusual. Our professional knowledge and training allows our dentists to identify any areas that don’t feel normal.

  • We use diagnostic tools to investigate anything abnormal to try to catch oral cancer as soon as possible. Specialized lights, mouth rinses, and ultrasound-guiding imaging can help provide a better picture of anything suspicious.

  • Oral cancer screenings are fast, painless, and don’t cost anything extra. Follow-up procedures for abnormalities may cost extra, but the actual screening is included in your standard exam.

If your dentist does not automatically perform an oral cancer screening, ask for one! If it’s been a long time since you’ve seen a dentist, or you’re not sure if your dentist did perform an oral cancer screening at your last appointment, come see one of our oral cancer and dental experts at El Portal Dental. Our knowledgeable, experienced, and compassionate staff will perform an oral cancer screening to put you back in control of your health. Call our Merced office at (209) 385-1479, or request an appointment online today.

Open Enrollment for Dental Insurance is November 1
Open Enrollment for Dental Insurance is November 1

Considering dental insurance to help ease the strain on your wallet? Great news – open enrollment for most health insurance plans begins on November 1. While some dental insurance plans only cover basic cleanings, other dental plans can drastically reduce your out-of-pocket expenses, saving you a ton of money on necessary dental work for oral health.

Here’s what you need to know before you buy a dental insurance plan:

  • There may be a waiting period. Purchasing a plan for coverage on procedures you need immediately? There is likely to be a specified amount of time that must pass after your policy begins before you have coverage for certain treatments, so be sure to read the fine print.
  • Orthodontic coverage may require a special policy rider. Braces and other corrective services are not typically covered, so if you need treatment to straighten and align your teeth make sure you add it to your policy or choose a plan that covers it.
  • Some plans have a maximum allowance. This limits the amount of your coverage to a specific dollar amount per calendar year. For instance, if your maximum allowance is $1000, after you have received that amount in paid benefits, you will be responsible for further expenses.
  • Some “insurances” are simply discount programs. While they can offer great discounts for teeth cleaning and other basic preventive services, they don’t save much (if anything) on emergency or corrective dental work.
  • Annual checkups are typically covered 100%, meaning you won’t have to satisfy a deductible first. Preventive coverage is important, since it can help avoid costly procedures such as fillings, root canals, and extractions down the road.
  • Pick a plan that allows you to choose one of our amazing dentists, or guarantees coverage at our practice. Freedom to choose your dentist is important, especially if you are a patient of El Portal Dental Group.

Always remember to read any policy thoroughly before you sign a contract to ensure it will suit your needs for total oral wellness. If you come in for regular check-ups and have healthy teeth and gums, a simple, low-cost plan may be best for you, while others may need plans with extra coverage.

Need help choosing a dental plan? Talk to one of our friendly front desk associates at El Portal Dental Group in Merced, California to learn more about dental plans that offer great benefits. Call (209) 385-1479 today!

Healthy Snack Ideas for Oral Wellness
Healthy Snack Ideas for Oral Wellness

It’s mid-afternoon when it strikes – the snack craving. You may be feeling that afternoon slump at work, or maybe the kids have just come home from school and immediately set upon finding something good to eat. Whether you tend to reach for something salty, crunchy, savory, or sweet ­– do you know if your go-to snacks are good or bad for your oral health?

Packaged snack foods might hit the spot, but tend to be loaded with excess calories from fat, sodium, sugar, and a whole host of chemical additives that we usually try not to think about. In addition, processed foods are by and large devoid of nutrients. What if, by following a few simple guidelines, your snack choices could actually provide a healthful boost to your teeth and gums?

Here are our top recommendations for making the most out of snack time:

Eat Mineral-Rich Foods

Tooth enamel is made of minerals, most prominently in enamel are calcium and phosphorus. Great snacks that give a healthy dose of calcium and phosphorus are cheese, yogurt, almonds, eggs, tofu, and pumpkin seeds.

Eat Vitamin-Rich Foods

Vitamins are key to keeping calcium in the teeth and for keeping gums healthy. Did you know that the body needs vitamin D to maximize calcium absorption? Hard-boiled eggs and cheese are all great snack sources of vitamin D.

Vitamin C is key to reducing inflammation in the gums by strengthening blood vessels and preventing oxidative stress. Try reaching for citrus fruits, berries, dark leafy greens, broccoli, tomatoes, or peas to up your vitamin C intake.

Eat Foods with a High Water Content

Hydration is especially important to oral health. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day and consuming foods that contain water help flush excess bacteria away and keep the tongue, cheeks, throat, and gums comfortably moist. Many foods that have a high water content make great snacks, including watermelon, oranges, grapes, celery, cucumbers, bell peppers, and carrots.

Eats Food That Crunch

Raw, crisp fruits and vegetables not only satisfy a crunch craving, but gently polish the surface of the teeth, helping to remove plaque and tartar buildup. Keep reaching for those apples and celery sticks to get extra help fighting plaque.

Avoid Refined Sugars

White sugar is bad for your teeth because the sugar molecules adhere to the tiny bumps and ridges on the surface of the teeth, where bacteria can feed and proliferate when left unchecked. The harmful bacteria give off byproducts that create an acidic environment and wear down all the surfaces in the mouth. This can lead to all kinds of dental health issues such as cavities, weak enamel, increased sensitivity, abscesses, mouth sores, gingivitis, periodontal disease, and tooth decay.

Too much bacteria also means bad breath! When you do indulge in sweets like candy, cake, or cookies, make sure to brush as soon as possible to prevent the sugar from clinging to the surface of the teeth.

Even when you're eating foods that are great for your teeth, it is still important to drink plenty of water to help neutralize acidity, brush morning and night, floss every day, and use either toothpaste or mouthwash that contains fluoride to help protect and strengthen enamel.

Professional dental cleanings and check ups twice per year will help guarantee good dental (and overall) health. Regular dentist visits are key to maintaining healthy teeth and gums, as well as catching any issues before they get too serious.

Has it been a long time since your last dental visit? Call El Portal Dental Group at (209) 385-1479, or request an appointment online with one of our fantastic oral health specialists in El Portal, today.

Have a Dental Emergency? Tips for What to Do
Have a Dental Emergency? Tips for What to Do

Dental emergencies can occur at any time, yet many people feel unprepared to handle such situations. In dental emergencies, it can be hard to determine whether you need immediate dental care or you can wait until we open for normal business hours. Here are our tips for what to do in the most common dental emergency situations:

When a tooth is chipped:

The severity of the chip determines the urgency of treatment needed. Minor chips are usually not treated as emergencies, while more severe chipping that exposes dentin, pulp, or roots will need emergency treatment. If a large piece of the tooth is chipped, and you’re able to recover the missing piece, keep it moist in milk or saline solution on your way to our office.

When a tooth is cracked:

Again, small cracks, especially if they’re painless don’t necessarily need to be treated as emergencies; a regular dental visit the next day we are open is fine. More severe cracks, particularly if the pulp or roots are exposed, ought to be treated right away. Also be wary of excessive pain or bleeding.

When a tooth is moved out of position or almost knocked out:

First, attempt to reposition the tooth by using light pressure with your fingers. It’s important to not force the tooth. If you are able to reposition the tooth, the next available dentist appointment will do, unless there is extreme pain or bleeding. If you are unable to reposition the tooth, seek treatment right away to increase your chance of proper healing.

When a tooth is knocked out:

Recover the tooth, if possible. Gently rinse the tooth with warm water to remove dirt or debris, and rinse the mouth and socket as well. Apply gauze or a used tea bag to stop the bleeding and seek urgent dental care. Keep the tooth moist by placing it in milk or saline solution.

When a cut or accidental bite causes bleeding:

If the soft tissues (lips, tongue, cheeks) are bleeding due to an accidental cut or bite, usually they are able to heal by themselves relatively quickly. If the bleeding doesn’t stop or is very severe, seek medical treatment for the wound.

When you notice a gum abscess:

A gum abscess looks like a boil or pimple on the gum, and it is a serious infection. Left untreated, abscesses can spread to other areas in the body through the bloodstream. Swish and rinse with warm water and a pinch of salt to help with swelling and tenderness, but do not attempt to drain the infection site. Emergency dental treatment outside of normal business hours is usually not necessary unless you’re in severe pain, but you should make an appointment as soon as possible.

When there is severe toothache:

There are many causes of toothache: food particles stuck between teeth, gum disease, tooth abscess, or even tension from grinding. Try flossing to dislodge any stuck food particles. This may alleviate the pain immediately. If your tooth looks discolored or gray, it may be an abscess, or infection. See us as soon as possible if pain persists or if you have an infection.

When there is bleeding:

If your gums bleed during brushing, it could be a sign of gingivitis. Schedule an appointment with one of our dentists as soon as possible to address this issue.

In dental emergencies, use your best judgment; either the pain can be managed until the next available dentist appointment, or the situation is serious enough to warrant immediate, emergency treatment. Bear in mind though that time is of the essence in many dental emergencies, so err on the side of caution and at least talk with one of our dentists right away. Delaying treatment can result in permanent damage, complications, and loss of the affected tooth.

El Portal Dental Group has emergency appointments available every day, with extended office hours and a dentist on call 24/7 for your peace of mind. If you or someone you care about is experiencing a dental emergency, don’t wait! Our dental professionals are always ready to help.

Khang Nguyen, DDS has been at the top of the field since graduating from New York University College of Dentistry, one of the most prestigious dental schools in the nation. Dr. Nguyen brings over a decade of experience to dental emergency situations. Call (209) 385-1479 today for an appointment with Dr. Nguyen or one of our other amazing dentists.