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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:

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.