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Regular Exams and Cleanings - Santa Ana, CA
Regular exams are an important part of maintaining your oral health. During your regular exam we will:
- Check for any problems that you may not see or feel
- Look for cavities or any other signs of tooth decay
- Inspect your teeth and gums for gingivitis and signs of periodontal disease
- Perform a thorough teeth cleaning
Your regular exam will take about 45-60 minutes. Each regular exam includes a detailed teeth cleaning, during which we will clean, polish and rinse your teeth to remove any tartar and plaque that have built up on the tooth’s surface.
Visiting our office at least every six months gives you the chance to ask Dr. Lu any questions you may have about your oral health. Regular exams are offered by appointment only, so please contact our practice today to schedule your next dental exam and teeth cleaning.
Bonding is a conservative way to repair slightly chipped, discolored or crooked teeth. During dental bonding, a white filling is placed on your tooth to improve its appearance. The filling “bonds” with your tooth. Because it comes in a variety of tooth-colored shades, it closely matches the appearance of your natural teeth.
Tooth bonding can also be used for fillings instead of silver amalgam. Many patients prefer bonded fillings because the white color is much less noticeable than silver. Bonding fillings can be used on front or back teeth depending on the location and extent of tooth decay.
Bonding is less expensive than other cosmetic treatments and can usually be completed in one visit to our office. However, it can stain and is easier to break than other cosmetic treatments such as porcelain veneers. If it does break or chip let us know. The bonding can generally be easily patched or repaired in one visit.
A bridge may be used to replace missing teeth, help maintain the shape of your face or alleviate stress on your bite.
A bridge replaces missing teeth with artificial teeth, looks great and literally bridges the gap where one or more teeth may have been. Your bridge can be made from gold, alloys, porcelain or a combination of these materials and is bonded onto surrounding teeth for support.
The success of any bridge depends on its foundation — the other teeth, gums, or bone to which it is attached. Therefore, it’s very important to keep your existing teeth, gums and jaw healthy and strong.
Crowns are a restorative procedure used to improve your tooth’s shape or strengthen it. Crowns are most often used for teeth that are broken, worn or have portions destroyed by tooth decay.
A crown is a “cap” cemented onto an existing tooth that usually covers the portion of your tooth above the gum line. In effect, the crown becomes your tooth’s new outer surface. Crowns can be made of porcelain, metal or both. Porcelain crowns are preferred because they mimic the translucency of natural teeth and are very strong.
Crowns or onlays (partial crowns) are needed when there is insufficient tooth strength to hold a filling. Unlike fillings, which apply the restorative material directly into your mouth, a crown is fabricated away from your mouth.
Your crown is created in a lab from your unique tooth impression which allows a dental laboratory technician to examine all aspects of your bite and jaw movements. Your crown is then sculpted just for you so your bite and jaw movements function normally once the crown is placed. Each and every crown is truly custom made.
Dentures are natural-looking replacement teeth that are removable. There are two types of dentures: full and partial. Full dentures are given to patients when all the natural teeth have been removed. Partial dentures are attached to a plastic or metal frame connected to your natural teeth and are used to fill in where permanent teeth have been removed.
Just like natural teeth, dentures need to be properly cared for. Use a gentle cleanser to brush your dentures, always keep them moist when they’re not in use and be sure to keep your tongue and gums clean as well.
There are times when it is necessary to remove a tooth. Sometimes a baby tooth has misshapen or long roots that prevent it from falling out as it should and the tooth must be removed to make way for the permanent tooth to erupt.
At other times, a tooth may have so much decay that it puts the surrounding teeth at risk so Dr. Lu may recommend removal and replacement with a bridge or implant. Infection, orthodontic correction or problems with a wisdom tooth can also require removal of a tooth.
When it is determined that a tooth needs to be removed, a dentist may extract it during a regular checkup or request another visit for this procedure. The root of each tooth is encased within your jawbone in a “tooth socket” and your tooth is held in that socket by a ligament.
In order to extract a tooth, Dr. Lu must expand the socket and separate the tooth from the ligament holding it in place. While this procedure is typically very quick, it is important to share with us any concerns or preferences for sedation.
Once a tooth has been removed, neighboring teeth may shift and cause problems with chewing or your jaw joint function. To avoid these complications, Dr. Lu may recommend you replace the extracted tooth.
Traditional dental restoratives, or fillings, may include gold, porcelain or composite. Newer dental fillings include ceramic and plastic compounds that mimic the appearance of natural teeth. These compounds, often called composite resins, are typically used on the front teeth where a natural appearance is important.
There are two different kinds of fillings: direct and indirect. Direct fillings are placed into a prepared cavity during a single visit. Indirect fillings generally require two or more visits. These fillings include inlays, and veneers fabricated with ceramics or composites.
Fluoride is effective in preventing cavities and tooth decay. It also prevents plaque from building up and hardening on the tooth’s surface. A fluoride treatment in our office takes just a few minutes.
After the treatment, you may be asked not to rinse, eat or drink for at least 30 minutes in order to allow the teeth to absorb the fluoride. Depending on your oral health or Dr. Lu’s recommendation, you may be required to have a fluoride treatment every 3, 6 or 12 months.
If you are missing teeth, it is crucial to replace them. Without all your teeth, chewing and eating can destabilize your bite and cause you discomfort. When teeth are missing, your mouth can shift and even cause your face to look older. Implants are a great way to replace your missing teeth. If properly maintained, they can last a lifetime!
An implant is a new tooth made of metal and porcelain that looks just like your natural tooth. It’s composed of two main parts: one is the titanium implant body that takes the place of the missing root and the other is the tooth-colored crown that is cemented on top of the implant. With implant treatment, you can smile confidently knowing no one will ever suspect you have a replacement tooth.
In addition to tooth replacement, implants may be used to anchor dentures, especially lower dentures that tend to shift when you talk or chew. For patients with removable partial dentures, implants can replace missing teeth so you have a more natural-looking smile.
Whether you wear braces or not, protecting your smile while playing sports is essential. Mouthguards help protect your teeth and gums from injury. If you participate in any kind of full-contact sport, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends you wear a mouthguard. Choosing the right mouthguard is essential.
There are three basic types of mouthguards: the pre-made mouthguard, the “boil-and-bite” fitted mouthguard and a custom-made mouthguard from a dentist. When you choose a mouthguard, be sure to pick one that is tear-resistant, comfortable and well-fitted for your mouth, easy to keep clean and does not prevent you from breathing properly. We can show you how to wear a mouthguard properly and how to choose the right mouthguard to protect your smile.
If you often wake up with jaw pain, earaches or headaches, or find yourself clenching or grinding your teeth, you may have a common condition called “bruxism.” Many people do not even know that they grind their teeth because it often occurs during sleep. If not corrected, bruxism can lead to broken teeth, cracked teeth or even tooth loss.
There is an easy, non-invasive treatment for bruxism: nightguards. Nightguards are an easy way to prevent the wear and damage that teeth-grinding causes over time. Custom-made by our office from soft material to fit your teeth, a nightguard is inserted over your top or bottom arch and prevents contact with the opposing teeth. Some patients require a nightguard made of a hard material by the lab due to the amount of grinding that has occurred. Dr. Lu and his staff will assess each situation and decide which is right for you.
In the past, if you had a tooth with a diseased nerve you’d probably lose that tooth. Today, with a special dental procedure called “root canal treatment” your tooth can be saved.
When a tooth is cracked or has a deep cavity, bacteria can enter the pulp tissue and germs can cause an infection inside the tooth. If left untreated, an abscess may form. If the infected tissue is not removed, pain and swelling can result. This can not only injure your jawbones but it is also detrimental to your overall health.
Root canal treatment involves one to two visits. During treatment, the dentist removes the affected tissue. Next, the interior of the tooth will be cleaned and sealed. Finally, the tooth is filled with a dental composite.
If your tooth has extensive decay, Dr. Lu may suggest placing a crown to strengthen and protect the tooth from breaking. As long as you continue to care for your teeth and gums with regular brushing, flossing and checkups, your restored tooth can last a lifetime.
Sometimes brushing is not enough, especially when it comes to those hard-to-reach spots in your mouth. It is difficult for your toothbrush to get between the small cracks and grooves on your teeth. If left alone, those tiny areas can develop tooth decay. Sealants give your teeth extra protection against decay and help prevent cavities.
Dental sealants are plastic resins that bond and harden in the deep grooves on your tooth’s surface. When a tooth is sealed, the tiny grooves become smooth and are less likely to harbor plaque. With sealants, brushing your teeth becomes easier and more effective against tooth decay.
Sealants are typically applied to children’s teeth as a preventive measure against tooth decay after the permanent teeth have erupted. It is more common to seal “permanent” teeth rather than “baby” teeth but every patient has unique needs, and Dr. Lu will recommend sealants on a case-by-case basis.
Sealants last from three to five years, but it is fairly common to see adults with sealants still intact from their childhood. A dental sealant only provides protection when it is fully intact so if your sealants come off, let us know and schedule an appointment for your teeth to be re-sealed.
You no longer need to hide your smile because of gaps, chips, stains or misshapen teeth. With veneers, you can easily correct your teeth’s imperfections to help you have a more confident, beautiful smile. Veneers are natural in appearance, and a perfect option for patients who want to make minor adjustments to the look and feel of their smile.
Veneers are thin, custom-made shells made from tooth-colored materials, such as porcelain. They are designed to cover the front side of your teeth. To prepare for veneers, Dr. Lu will create a unique model of your teeth. This model is sent to the dental technician to create your veneers.
Before placing your new veneer, Dr. Lu may need to contour your tooth conservatively to achieve the desired aesthetic result.
When your veneers are placed, you’ll be pleased to see that they look like your natural teeth.
Wisdom teeth are molars found in the very back of your mouth. They usually appear in the late teens or early twenties but may become impacted (fail to erupt) due to lack of room in the jaw or angle of entry.
When a wisdom tooth is impacted, it may need to be removed. If it is not removed, you may develop gum tenderness, swelling or even severe pain. Impacted wisdom teeth that are partially or fully erupted tend to be quite difficult to clean and are susceptible to tooth decay, recurring infections and even gum disease.
Wisdom teeth are typically removed during the late teens or early twenties because there is a greater chance that the roots have not fully formed and the bone surrounding the teeth is less dense. These two factors can make extraction easier as well as shorten the recovery time.
In order to remove a wisdom tooth, Dr. Lu first needs to numb the area around the tooth with a local anesthetic. Since the impacted tooth may still be under the gums and embedded in your jaw bone, he may need to remove a portion of the covering bone to extract the tooth.
In order to minimize the amount of bone that is removed with the tooth, a dentist will often “section” your wisdom tooth so that each piece can be removed through a small opening in the bone. Once your wisdom teeth have been extracted, the healing process begins.
Depending on the degree of difficulty related to the extraction, healing time varies. Our office will share with you what to expect and provide instructions for a comfortable, efficient healing process.
Scaling and Root Planing
Scaling and root planing is one of the most effective, non-surgical ways to treat gum disease before it becomes severe. Scaling and root planing cleans between the gums and the teeth down to the roots.
Scaling is basically the process of removing dental tartar from the surfaces of the teeth. Root planing is the process of smoothing out the root surfaces and removing any infected tooth structure. If you have gum disease or gum pocketing, the gum pockets around the teeth will have deepened thereby allowing tartar deposits to form under the gum line. A careful cleaning of the root surfaces to remove plaque and calculus (tartar) from deep periodontal pockets and smoothing the tooth root to remove bacterial toxins will help ensure that your gum disease is controlled.
Helpful Hints to Keep in Mind
- Scaling and root planing does not usually cause much discomfort but you might experience some soreness afterwards since deeper regions under the gums have been cleaned.
- Your teeth themselves may become a bit more sensitive to temperature and bleeding might occur for a little while after your procedure.
- Over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen, work very well to alleviate discomfort, as do ice packs applied to the outside of the face around the treated area.
- Brushing and flossing will have to be done more gently to avoid aggravating any bruised or tender gum areas. We'll show you the best methods for keeping your teeth clean during this time.
Scaling and root planing is a simple procedure that can work very well to stop gum disease. If you maintain good dental care after the procedure, the progression of your gum disease should stop and your gums will heal and become firm and pink again in no time!