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What is nitrous oxide and is it safe?

August 12th, 2020

Our team at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry understands that the sights, sounds and sensations at a dental office can be unsettling for some patients. One effective technique that we use to comfort you is to offer the gas nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide is a common anesthetic used during many dental procedures.

What is nitrous oxide?

Nitrous oxide is an oxide of nitrogen which has a slight sweet odor and taste. During medical or dental procedures, the gas is mixed with oxygen then inhaled through a mask that covers your nose. Within minutes, you should feel calm and experience an overall sense relaxation. You will be able to breathe on your own, move your limbs, and be conscious enough to hear and respond to our dentist's questions. The effects of nitrous oxide disappear shortly after the mask is removed and the drug is quickly eliminated from your body.

Is nitrous oxide safe?

Recreational use of nitrous oxide for its euphoric effects can be dangerous, however, the drug is combined with oxygen at dental offices. This ensures oxygen reaches the brain and prevents dangerous side effects or hypoxia. Nitrous oxide inhalation is a safe and effective technique to reduce anxiety, produce analgesia, and enhance effective communication.

Nitrous oxide is non-addictive and non-allergic, however, it may cause nausea in up to ten percent of patients. The drug is not recommended for people with some medical conditions such as chronic pulmonary disease. We recognize that all patients are different and encourage you to talk with Dr. Wilma Shen DDS about whether nitrous oxide would be a good option for you.

Our team wants to help all patients in Seattle, WA to overcome dental anxiety, so please, give us a call at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry.

Oral Cancer

August 5th, 2020

Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team want you to have the healthiest possible smile in the healthiest possible body. Oral cancer can affect the mouth, tongue, throat and jaw. Early detection is vital for the best possible outcome when treating this disease. That is why we check for symptoms of oral cancer at every dental examination.

What can you do to reduce the chance of oral cancer?  Reduce your risk factors. You can help prevent oral cancer by adopting these healthy habits:

  • Don’t smoke. Don’t chew tobacco. Don’t use a pipe. If you use any tobacco products, quit. Tobacco use is the single largest risk factor for head and neck cancers. Talk to us—we have suggestions for helping you break the habit.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. Heavy drinkers have a higher rate of oral cancer. More than one to two drinks per day can be considered heavy drinking, depending on factors such as weight, age, and even gender. Check with your doctor to find your personal definition of moderation.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables are a great addition to any menu.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. Help prevent sun-related lip cancers by always wearing a UVA/UVB blocking sun screen or lip balm whenever you are working or playing outside—and reapply frequently.
  • Some forms of the HPV virus have been linked to oral cancer, and those affected are generally younger and less likely to be smokers. Research indicates that the HPV vaccine, known for preventing several types of cancer, might also help prevent HPV-related oral cancers.
  • Schedule regular dental exams. We are trained to recognize oral cancer and precancerous conditions that you might miss.

Of course, cancer can occur even with the healthiest habits. Do come see us if you detect any of these symptoms:

  • A sore or ulcer that doesn’t heal, or persistent tenderness and pain in the mouth
  • Lingering sore throat, hoarseness, or vocal changes
  • Pain in the neck or ear that doesn’t go away
  • A lump, a rough or thickened area, or eroded tissue in the skin lining the mouth
  • Red or white patches in the lining of the mouth or on the tongue
  • Difficulties chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving the tongue or jaw
  • Numbness in the tongue or mouth
  • Changes in the way your natural teeth or your dentures fit together.

Not every symptom is caused by cancer, but it is important to rule out the possibility. We are trained to recognize early signs of oral cancer, and can recommend further tests if needed. Call our Seattle, WA office immediately if you have any concerns. Early detection and treatment lead to the most successful outcomes.  

How Computers Help Dental Implants Look Natural

July 29th, 2020

Never before have dental implants looked as natural and aesthetically pleasing as they do today. With the help of computer-aided design and computer aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM), Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team are able to create implants with impeccable fit and finish. Although these technologies have been in use since the 1980s, it's only recently that they became efficient and cost-effective enough to be useful.

Dr. Wilma Shen DDS can also take digital scans of your teeth, providing a much more in-depth and accurate representation of them when compared to traditional X-rays. This scan can be used to create a physical model of your teeth through the use of 3D printing technology, allowing for the utmost in accuracy when planning your implant treatment.

Since each of our patients are unique, these CAD/CAM technologies offer a highly customized approach to implant dentistry that helps avoid the "one-size-fits-all" ways of the past. The goal is to have an implant look and function as closely as it can to the tooth it's replacing. That’s why these implants are typically milled using ceramic or composite resin — materials chosen due to their durability and resemblance to teeth.

Even the planning of your surgery can be aided and guided by computers. 3D CT scans create a digital representation of your mouth including all significant anatomical markers. This data is imported into planning software which, coupled with CAD/CAM implant technology, is able to 3D print surgical guides that snap into place over a patient's teeth. This means less risk for surgical error and much more accurately placed dental implants.

The main benefits of CAD/CAM dental implants are that they:

  • Are extremely accurate for every patient, down to 50 micrometers
  • Have better long-term results and more natural-looking implants
  • Can be manufactured quickly, the same day in many cases

Of course this is just a quick summary of the benefits, and a computer-modeled implant may not always be the best option. If you have questions about the dental implants or the technologies we use to make them look as natural as possible, feel free to contact our Seattle, WA office.

Dermal Fillers

July 22nd, 2020

We want you to be happy with your smile, and we’ve worked with you to make sure your teeth are their healthiest and brightest. But there is more to your smile than teeth alone! If you are concerned about smile lines, lip lines, thinner lips, or other signs of aging, talk to us. Dermal fillers might be just the solution you are looking for to provide the ideal frame for your beautiful smile.

  • What can dermal fillers do for you?

As we age, we start losing the substances in our skin that keep it firm and wrinkle-free. Collagen is the protein that gives our skin structure and the ability to both stretch and snap back. Hyaluronic acid, while we don’t hear as much about it, is actually one of the most important keys to youthful skin. This compound not only attracts water, but binds it to our cells, leaving the skin plump and smooth. But over time, collagen starts to break down and lose its elasticity, and our bodies produce less hyaluronic acid.

These biological changes have noticeable effects on our faces. Permanent lines are visible between the corners of our noses and lips, small wrinkles develop above the mouth, and our lips may appear both wrinkled and thinner. A face-lift can tighten the skin and facial muscles, and neurotoxins such as Botox can prevent facial muscles from wrinkling. But these procedures can’t replace lost volume. A filler, on the other hand, actually provides the fullness the face and lips may have lost for a more youthful and natural appearance.

  • How do dermal fillers work?

There are a variety of fillers available, both natural and synthetic. Dermal fillers are minimally invasive and injected under the skin’s surface. They plump lines and wrinkles, restore volume to the lips, and can reduce acne scarring or other scars by filling depressed spots in the skin. Most fillers are temporary, and designed to be safely absorbed by your body over time.

What are some common concerns about dermal fillers?

  • Are they safe?

We only use approved dermal fillers, and are trained in the safe use and application of this treatment. We will describe the procedure in detail, so you will know what to expect and how to care for yourself afterward, and explain any possible side effects (although these are rare). If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have any allergies or other health conditions, or have dental work scheduled in the near future, let Dr. Wilma Shen DDS know.

  • Are they effective?

We can discuss any concerns you have about specific facial conditions and what you would like to accomplish. We tell you if you are a good candidate for dermal fillers, and how they can provide you with a more youthful—and natural—appearance. Because dermal fillers are generally absorbable and temporary, the results usually last from six months to a year.

If you want your smile to look more youthful, if you’d like fuller lips, if you’d like to reduce wrinkling around the face and mouth—give our Seattle, WA office a call! Because working together, we can make the most of your beautiful smile.

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