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All Posts in Category: Dental Blog

How the iTero Scanner can Improve Your Dental Treatment

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If you’ve ever had a physical mold impression made for a dental procedure, such as an Invisalign orthodontic tray, dental crowns, or implants, you know it’s a messy and sometimes uncomfortable process. Then you have to wait a couple of weeks before a dental lab can craft the final item for your dentist to place. But Dr. Shervin Louie has revolutionary technology that makes all that unnecessary: the iTero advanced intraoral scanner.

Introduced in 2007 and constantly improved, the high-tech iTero is still not common among dental practices. What it produces is a highly-accurate 3-D image of the inside of your mouth that allows Dr. Louie to be able to plan treatment with much more knowledge than most other dentists have when they start.

A small scanning wand is gently moved around the patient’s mouth taking 6,000 frames a second for a few minutes. The images are projected onto a screen so that you and he can discuss your oral health needs and the best options. Areas of the mouth that are otherwise hard to see, like the back molars, can be easily scanned without discomfort.

This eliminates the need to sit in a dental chair to have a traditional dental impression, which makes many patients uncomfortable and some even gag on the goop. And instead of having to ship a physical mold back and forth between a dental lab, the iTero digital image of the area to be worked on  can be submitted immediately, greatly speeding up the process and improving the fit of the resulting dental appliance compared with physical impressions (which often are not well done, resulting in having to be redone).

In the case of Invisalign, its “outcome simulator” allows us to show you how your orthodontic process is expected to proceed even before your first aligner is made. This is because of the “open architecture” software of iTero, which also allows Invisalign to track your progress and adjust the aligners accordingly. After the Invisalign process is complete, your retainers can also be custom-made to wear for a period recommended by Dr. Louie to be sure the teeth do not begin to revert back to their original crooked positions.

Everyone needs to have a full dental exam at least twice a year, to be sure that oral health problems are caught before they develop into serious issues. This will also include a digital x-ray to check the health of the roots of your teeth and the underlying jawbone. Call us today and we can discuss the value of the iTero for whatever your needs are.

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When is a Tooth Extraction Needed?

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Patients often express surprise about how easy it is for daily activities to seriously injure their teeth, in many cases resulting in the need to extract those that are beyond saving.

Habits like using teeth to pry off bottle caps, pulling off clothing, just chewing on the end of a pen, eating hard foods or even biting on ice can cause them to be fractured or seriously chipped.

Playing non-contact sports with friends can seem safe enough to not wear a sports mouthguard, yet an elbow or a ball can knock out teeth. 

A quick trip to the store can result in a car accident that cracks a tooth.

It is easy to get busy and not brush for a full two minutes after breakfast and dinner and floss before bedtime every day. The tiny particles of food left on teeth turn into a sticky film called plaque that infects the gums and soon they pull away their support and one or more need to be extracted.

A simple cavity can become so bad that a filling is not enough to save the tooth.

Sometimes teeth affected by oral cancer, which weakens the immune system, or radiation, need to be removed.

But more commonly, tooth extraction is advised because some teeth are overcrowding the arch, making them hard to clean and causing others to move. This is especially true of so-called wisdom teeth, the back molars, which are commonly extracted when patients are in their teens because more often than not they cause misalignment and damage other teeth.

In other cases, taking out some teeth is the first step in preparing for straightening the overall bite.

The good news is that Dr. Louie is an expert at extracting problem teeth, whatever the reason. The procedure is painless, starting with a topical numbing solution, then a pinprick injection of anesthesia at the site. If you tend to feel anxious before even minor surgery, a mild oral sedation is available to help you relax, and for those who are very sensitive, a strong pain pill is available that will make you drowsy or even fall asleep. Even an IV drip is an option, which would put you in a deep state of relaxation during the procedure, but you would remain conscious. 

Afterwards, you will be given a prescription for pain medication, if ibuprofen is not enough.

The first step in deciding whether a tooth needs to be extracted is to have a full dental examination by Dr. Louie. Make an appointment today before a loose or cracked tooth becomes an emergency.

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Teeth Whitening Trends and Professional Treatment

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No one in Greater Los Angeles can ignore the fact that there are a lot of gleaming Hollywood-quality smiles around. You see them in the mall, at restaurants, and on the street. You might even feel a little shy about flashing a full smile if yours is not quite up to this local glamorous standard.

But most of those who are so proud of their grins were not born with that level of whiteness. You probably know why your teeth have been gradually getting darker, aside from the natural effects of aging: too much coffee, tea, and red wine or smoking (anything). But you may be surprised that colored sodas can do the same, as well as blueberries, beets, and tomatoes. 

You probably are aware of the rising trend of using over-the-counter whitening kits, but if you’ve tried them, you’ve probably been disappointed. Whether they use strips, gels, pens, or trays, they not only aren’t very good at making your teeth noticeably whiter, despite the hassle of using them, they can even irritate your gums and make your teeth sensitive.

Then there is the sudden popularity of toothpastes claiming that the activated charcoal or baking soda they have will make teeth whiter. True, but these also can also damage the outer enamel that protects your teeth from decay.

On the other hand, the recent claim that swishing coconut oil in your mouth can whiten teeth has no evidence to support it.

Thanks to advances in cosmetic dentistry, however, anyone can achieve a smile that will make them want to smile about it, especially when it can come at an affordable cost from one of Southern California’s most respected cosmetic dentists. Dr. Shervin Louie offers a professional method of whitening that is far more effective, faster, and safer than the alternatives.

A special whitening bleach is carefully placed on the teeth, while the gums are protected, and then a special light activates the agent. After an hour, patients find that, depending on depth of the discoloration, up to eight shades will have been removed.

Friends, colleagues, customers, and even strangers will start smiling back as your friendliness is made obvious by your vibrant new look.

Many patients like to touch-up their new smile by returning to Dr. Louie’s office once or twice a year after the initial treatment. We also offer a professional-grade whitening kit to take home, for those who like to do this themselves.

Don’t bother with ineffective, difficult, and risky trends when relaxing in our office for an hour can make all the difference in your personal and business life with professional whitening.

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How to Maintain Care of Your Teeth Following Invisalign Treatment

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After having to wear Invisalign trays for many months to straighten your teeth, you are no doubt looking forward to not having to take them out when you eat and cleaning them. But to maintain your newly perfect smile, you need to start wearing special retainers to keep the teeth from going back to their original positions for a time Dr. Louie will recommend for your case.

It has been proven that once your basic orthodontic goals are achieved, the bones will still need time to harden around the teeth (especially for teens, whose jaws are still developing). Fortunately, the retainers are similar to the trays in being clear and fitting over the teeth, but with even less pressure, since they are just maintaining the teeth in place. Dr. Louie will do a final scan to be sure those he creates for the upper and lower arches will fit perfectly. Some patients have made the mistaken assumption that they can just keep using the last Invisalign trays to save time or money, but the fit won’t be right and they will become discolored.

There are some important tips to having a successful Invisalign aftercare experience:

Remove the retainers before eating to avoid having food particles get stuck in them. When finished, brush your teeth, rinse the retainers, and put them back in your mouth.

Beverages and Retainers

Avoid drinking hot beverages when wearing retainers, since they may slightly melt the plastic and no longer fit properly, requiring new ones to be made.

At night, scrub them with soapy water (not toothpaste, which is abrasive), or soak them for 20 minutes in water in which a tablet for cleaning retainers has been dissolved.

Wear the retainers at night, since this will protect them from any unconscious grinding of the teeth, due to tension, which can be damaging.

Candy and Sticky Foods

Avoid eating sticky candy or chewing gum, which can get stuck on the retainers.

If you smoke, try to stop, otherwise reduce it to the minimum possible and ask for retainers that are not clear (since they will turn yellow from the smoke).

You should continue to brush and floss as you have been doing. If the teeth or gums feel sensitive (which is often the case after any orthodontic treatment), use a salt water rinse and toothpaste for teeth sensitivity during the transition.

And be sure to visit Dr. Louie every six months or on the schedule he recommends to have a digital x-ray and a professional cleaning, to be sure not only your Invisalign goals continue to be met, but that you maintain good overall oral health.

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A Missing Tooth Should Be Treated Sooner than You Think

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It’s all too easy to lose a tooth. A car or sports accident can knock one out. No one is born with a perfect set of teeth, so brushing and flossing them is challenging. Periodontal or gum infection does not initially cause pain, so you might not realize how serious it is until the gums bleed.

If you’re fortunate enough to have just one or two teeth missing (or in need of extraction), you should not put off considering a replacement. The mouth responds to a gap in the teeth alignment by having those on either side lean towards the space, resulting in the loosening of their own roots and making them in danger of falling out, as well. A domino effect results, as other teeth become misaligned and loose. If the initial loss of teeth is not quickly addressed, you might find yourself among the quarter of Americans 74 or older who no longer have any left.

A Missing Tooth Should Be Treated Sooner than You Think

Fortunately, a potentially permanent solution, with proper care, is a dental implant for each lost tooth. Los Angeles dentist, Dr. Shervin Louie is one of the most highly-regarded implant specialists in Southern California. The first step is a thorough exam that includes a low-radiation digital x-ray to check the underlying jawbone to be sure it is strong enough to hold the implants in place (if it is inadequate, bone grafts can build it up).

Other risks need to be considered, such as whether there is sufficient gum around the empty socket and whether the patient has diabetes or osteoporosis, heart disease, or autoimmune disorders. If some teeth have been ground down during sleep (due to an unconscious tension called bruxism), you will be provided with a custom night guard to wear to prevent this and protect the implants. 

If conditions are positive for dental implants, the first step is to insert the implant, a titanium screw, into each empty socket. An impression is taken to send to a top dental lab, which will work with our practice to create the tooth-like dental crowns in the precise shade to match the neighboring teeth. After the bone integrates around the implants for a few months, they will be attached to the crowns, which will be adjusted for a comfortable fit.

In addition to restoring the ability to chew and speak properly, dental implants will help support full lips (which otherwise will appear too thin) and the cheeks (so they don’t look hollow).

If you have lost even one tooth, you should have a full consultation with Dr. Louie as soon as possible about the best options for keeping your appearance and oral health in their optimum condition.

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Is there Pain When Getting Dental Implants Placed?

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You may realize that you can’t go long without replacing lost teeth before the others naturally lean towards that gap and your entire arch gets misaligned, causing other teeth to become loose. You probably know that dental implants are the best solution, lasting much longer than dental bridges and dentures, enabling you to chew and speak as if you had all your natural teeth.

If you hesitate because you are concerned about the pain of having an implant inserted into the tooth socket, you needn’t be. Even if you need a bone graft to build up the area of the jawbone where an implant will be placed, you have a variety of options to be sure you only feel some normal discomfort.

An implant starts with a biocompatible metal screw being inserted into the empty tooth socket and then is allowed to heal for a few months (when a customized dental crown that looks like the original tooth will be attached).

Before an initial implant procedure is done, a topical numbing solution is first swabbed on the area before an injection of anesthesia is administered (which only feels like a pin prick). If you want to minimize anxiety, mild oral sedation (benzodiazepine) is available in pill form. A stronger version will cause you to feel drowsy or even sleep through surgery. Many prefer to have an intravenous (IV) drip, which will put you in a deep state of relaxation, yet you will remain conscious (though you may not recall much in the way of detail and be surprised when it is done).

Many patients find that ibuprofen or acetaminophen are adequate for pain control 4-6 hours afterwards, when the sedation wears off, but you will always be given a prescription for medication in case it is needed. 

It is important to maintain good oral hygiene afterwards to avoid infection. For the first few days, avoid chewing and eat only soft or pureed foods. You should brush softly around the implant, normally everywhere else, and use salt water rinses to keep the area clean for 24 hours.

The success of having a dental implant depends in large part on the experience of the dentist and Dr. Louie is one of the most highly-regarded specialists in the Los Angeles area. The complexity of your individual case and your overall oral health are other factors.

Remember that not having a tooth replaced as soon as possible can lead to much more pain, as periodontal disease spreads, due to the misalignment, and other teeth are lost. Properly done and with good long-term oral care, dental implants can be a permanent and painless solution.

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Why You Should Choose Invisalign as Your Teeth Straightening Solution

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You may have been embarrassed by a crooked smile all your life, but never had orthodontic braces when you were younger. Maybe they were too expensive, you didn’t like the idea of being a “metal mouth” and have severe dietary restrictions for two or three years, or you heard how so uncomfortable and even painful they were.

But it’s never too late to have a more beautiful smile, thanks to the Invisalign revolution in orthodontic technology, which is suitable for both adults and children. Los Angeles dentist, Dr. Louie is an experienced expert and preferred provider in customizing the Invisalign clear trays (called aligners) to gently move your teeth to their ideal positions in just six months to two years.

First, he would do an examination to determine if your oral health is in the right condition to go ahead with Invisalign and the complexity of your case. If appropriate to move ahead, an image of your mouth will be scanned to provide the first set of transparent personalized aligners for both your lower and upper arches. You could be advised about a schedule to receive the next set and return to the office periodically to check the fitting.

For Invisalign to produce the desired effects as fast as possible, it is critical that you wear the aligners all the time, except when you eat, even when you sleep. Unlike traditional braces, which cannot be removed, of course, the trays can easily be lifted out and put back in before you have a meal or a snack. With metal braces, patients are advised not to eat popcorn, nuts, hard candy, peanut butter, caramel, or bite into ice or chew gum.

It is important to care for the aligners properly. Wash them with cool water before putting them back in (after dinner, wash with dish soap first, then brush and floss normally before reinserting the trays). You can keep them on if you drink plain water, but take them out before you drink coffee, tea, red wine, or sodas (even clear ones), then wash them in water and, ideally, brush your teeth before putting them back on (this helps to avoid staining them). You don’t even need to remove them before playing contact sports (with braces, one has to wear a special mouthguard). 

Unless you tell people, they won’t even know you are wearing Invisalign trays. This can provide self-confidence as a more beautiful smile is secretly being created. This is especially appealing to teens, who don’t want to be teased about wearing braces as they are building their self-confidence. It’s no wonder then that there are over six million happy patients whose lives have been changed by Invisalign.

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Dental implants Help Prevent Long-Term Effects of Tooth Loss

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The lack of understanding most American adults have about the importance of dentistry is illustrated by the fact that many first think of their experiences with cavities as children.  Yes, dental caries, as they are technically called, remain common: according to the National Center for Health Statistics, among those aged 20-64, 91% had tooth decay. But that is easily treated and should not be the primary concern for adults: losing teeth and not replacing them should be paramount.

Why? More than two-thirds of Americans 35-44 already have at least one missing tooth. Sometimes this is due to trauma, but mostly it is due to poor oral care habits. Few of us are taught how to do this properly, brushing twice a day for two minutes and flossing before you go to bed (have our hygienist show you the proper way to be most effective).

Teeth can Loosen Over Time

This problem gets worse over time: bones consist of living tissue and new cell growth is stimulated by chewing. A lost tooth loses this effect and, worse, if you don’t replace a missing tooth, the nearby ones lean in to fill the gap, causing them to loosen. By the time people are 74 or older, 26% have lost all their teeth. 

If you have already lost many, you probably have been wearing dentures and we don’t need to tell you that they are hard to maintain, not always comfortable, and often make it difficult to chew effectively or speak clearly. But you may not be aware that the reason dentures need to be refitted every few years is that they do not prevent the continued erosion of the underlying jawbone, which starts when a tooth is lost.

Dental Implants are a Long-Term Solution

The permanent solution (with proper care) is that no matter how many teeth are missing, they should be replaced with dental implants. These consist of a screw made of biocompatible material, which is implanted into the jaw, stopping that erosion. After this heals for several months, it is attached at the top to a dental crown, which looks exactly like one of your natural teeth, including the same shade of white, so no one will know you have one or more artificial teeth. Implants also provide better support for the facial muscles than dentures, as well as a better ability to eat and speak.

But you need an experienced expert to achieve the overall 95% success rate that dental implants can have. Dr. Sherwin Louie is one of the most highly-regarded specialists in Southern California. Make an appointment with him today for an assessment of your unique dental health situation and whether implants might be right for you.

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How to Prepare Your Smile for a Healthy New Year

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TMJ Treatments

After an especially challenging year for maintaining our health, we are all eager to fulfill our resolutions to commit to improving our health in every way in this new year. As one of our valued patients, you know that dentistry plays a very important role in this goal and these are a few important points you may wish to share with family and friends.

The Importance of a Regular Dental Checkup

Few of us grew up knowing that oral bacteria can travel throughout the body, significantly raising the risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, dementia, and cancer. Seeing a dentist twice a year for a checkup is vital to catch any infection in the teeth and gums. This may include a low-radiation digital x-ray to examine the health of the underlying jawbone. A third of Americans do not even see a dentist once a year, which allows the bacteria to grow out of control, causing unnecessary pain and expense to stop. Many fear that treatment will cause pain, unaware that a variety of anesthetics can make any of our procedures pain-free.

A checkup with the dentist is also an opportunity to find out if you might have the symptoms of other serious oral-facial problems we can treat, such as sleep apnea (often indicated by frequent snoring and being tired during the day) and TMJ Disorder (common signs are a clicking sound when you open and close your mouth and soreness in your jaw). 

The Importance of a Professional Cleaning

Brushing after breakfast and dinner for a full two minutes can be boring and hard to do exactly right. Flossing can also be challenging. Next time you come in, have our dental hygienist show you how to brush and floss to be sure you get all the bacteria and hardened tartar completely off. She also has the tools, training, and solutions that can do a much better job of rooting out bacteria than any patient can. To avoid emergency cases, you might need this done once or up to four times a year and will be amazed at how quickly your oral health improves.

The Importance of a Beautiful Smile

As obvious as the benefits of physical health are, a wonderful smile is just as important. People often make quick judgments just on appearance when they first meet someone, whether introduced by a friend in a store, at a business conference, a social event, or on a first date arranged by someone else or online. You want to radiate self-confidence with a welcoming smile and we can help you enhance nature through our variety of cosmetic dental treatments, including Invisalign for straightening teeth, veneers to cover imperfections, and porcelain implants for teeth that need to be replaced. Check out our gallery of before-and-after photos of patients who left our office with a special smile because of the new smile we created together.

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How Does Botox Help TMJ Treatments?

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TMJ Treatments

BOTOX is well-known as the purified toxin solution that is injected into the face to stop it from creating wrinkles. You might be surprised to know that dentists are better trained than most other medical professionals to provide such injections. It also helps that we have had extensive experience with everything to do with the face and mouth, including administering anesthesia.

But BOTOX is more than a way to have a youthful-looking face. Among its 20 medical uses is its ability to relieve the pain of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. These joints are the hinges connecting the lower jaw to the skull, which you can feel by putting your finger in front of your lower ears and opening and closing your mouth.

A variety of things can cause the joint to dysfunction, typically indicated by clicking sounds when opening or closing the mouth or difficulty in doing this at all. About 40% of cases last more than five years. Other symptoms can be tooth sensitivity, soreness or swelling on the side of the face, pain or discomfort around the neck or shoulders, dizziness, tingling or numbness in the ends of fingers, migraine headaches, and ringing, congestion, or pain in the ears.

An estimated 20-30% of American adults are affected at one time or another, usually ages 20 to 40, and predominantly female. TMJ disorder in many cases is due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies because of menstruation, which affects the bones of joints. It can also occur in women because of their use of oral contraceptives or because they are undergoing hormone replacement therapy. A range of other causes includes missing teeth that throw off the jaw alignment, excessive gum chewing, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and a blow to the head.

BOTOX can be injected into the muscles surrounding these joints to decrease spasms and restore TMJ function. It can block pain signals from muscles and nerves to the brain and relieve muscle tension in the jaw, which leads to a reduction in the amount of teeth grinding at night.

There can be some unexpected positive side-effect for patients who have received BOTOX treatments for TMJ. They sometimes report that they sleep better, feel less anxious, have fewer and less intense headaches, even for migraines, and have less tooth sensitivity.

There are also other ways we can alleviate TMJ disorder, including creating an oral appliance to gradually reset the jaw and teaching you neuromuscular exercises to relax it. 

If you think you may be suffering from TMJ disorder, call us today to set an appointment for a consultation.

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