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Chewing Gum: Fact and Fiction

August 25th, 2021

Remember all the things your parents would tell you when you were growing up to scare you away from doing something? Like how lying might make your nose grow, misbehaving meant you wouldn’t get money from the tooth fairy, and swallowed chewing gum would build up in your stomach and stay there for years?

Maybe that last one stayed with you well beyond your teens, and occurred to you every time you accidentally (or purposely) swallowed a piece of gum. We don’t blame you. It’s a scary thought.

But is it true?

We hate to take the fun out of parental discipline, but swallowing a piece of chewing gum is pretty much like swallowing any other piece of food. It will move right through your digestive system with no danger of getting stuck for months, let alone seven years.

This doesn’t mean you should start swallowing all your gum from now on, but if it happens accidentally now and then, there’s no need to panic.

Another common gum myth is that sugar-free gum can help you lose weight. Although it is preferable to choose sugar-free gum over the extra-sweet variety, no studies have show that sugar-free gum will help you lose weight.

If you pop a piece of gum in your mouth after dinner to avoid dessert, it could help you avoid eating a few extra calories every day. But the consumption of sugar-free gum without any other effort will not help you shed pounds.

 If you really enjoy chewing gum, we strongly encourage you to select sugarless gum, because it lowers your risk for cavities. Many brands of sugarless gum contain xylitol, a natural sweetener that can, in fact, help fight bacteria that cause cavities and rinse away plaque.

So if you can’t kick the gum habit altogether, sugar-free is definitely the way to go!

If you have any questions about chewing gum, feel free to contact Dr. Wilma Shen DDS at our Seattle, WA office.

Chewing Gum: Fact and Fiction

August 25th, 2021

Remember all the things your parents would tell you when you were growing up to scare you away from doing something? Like how lying might make your nose grow, misbehaving meant you wouldn’t get money from the tooth fairy, and swallowed chewing gum would build up in your stomach and stay there for years?

Maybe that last one stayed with you well beyond your teens, and occurred to you every time you accidentally (or purposely) swallowed a piece of gum. We don’t blame you. It’s a scary thought.

But is it true?

We hate to take the fun out of parental discipline, but swallowing a piece of chewing gum is pretty much like swallowing any other piece of food. It will move right through your digestive system with no danger of getting stuck for months, let alone seven years.

This doesn’t mean you should start swallowing all your gum from now on, but if it happens accidentally now and then, there’s no need to panic.

Another common gum myth is that sugar-free gum can help you lose weight. Although it is preferable to choose sugar-free gum over the extra-sweet variety, no studies have show that sugar-free gum will help you lose weight.

If you pop a piece of gum in your mouth after dinner to avoid dessert, it could help you avoid eating a few extra calories every day. But the consumption of sugar-free gum without any other effort will not help you shed pounds.

 If you really enjoy chewing gum, we strongly encourage you to select sugarless gum, because it lowers your risk for cavities. Many brands of sugarless gum contain xylitol, a natural sweetener that can, in fact, help fight bacteria that cause cavities and rinse away plaque.

So if you can’t kick the gum habit altogether, sugar-free is definitely the way to go!

If you have any questions about chewing gum, feel free to contact Dr. Wilma Shen DDS at our Seattle, WA office.

When to Begin Dental Care for Your Child

August 18th, 2021

Children’s oral health differs from that of adults in a variety of ways. Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team want you to understand how you can provide the best care for your son or daughter’s teeth. It’s essential to understand what your child will need from you when it comes to his or her oral health in those first few years.

In-home dental care begins when your baby starts to show signs of developing the first tooth. We recommend that you bring your child to our Seattle, WA office between the ages of one and two. Dr. Wilma Shen DDS will take a look at your child’s tooth development and gums during this first scheduled appointment.

The initial appointment with your little one is designed to get him or her accustomed to our office. We recommend allowing your child to be in the exam room alone with us during the first visit in order to become comfortable with our staff at an early age.

We will go over several general matters during your child’s first visit:

  • Look for signs of decay or other tooth or gum problems
  • Make sure your youngster doesn’t have gum disease or cavities
  • Examine your child’s bite, and check for misalignment that could lead to problems in the future
  • Clean the teeth, and apply fluoride if your son or daughter is old enough
  • Talk to you about proper oral health care for your
  • Give you some tips for brushing and flossing your child’s teeth
  • Answer any questions you may have about caring for your little one’s teeth

Once your child is old enough for his or her first visit to the dentist, you should begin to schedule regular cleanings every six months. If any problems arise before a scheduled appointment, call our Seattle, WA location and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Remember, creating healthy oral health habits with your child early on is crucial. We’re here to guide you through this process and make sure your child is healthy and happy.  

Building Blocks for a Healthy Grown-Up Smile

August 11th, 2021

Even before a baby is born, those tiny baby teeth are already forming. Expectant mothers can help ensure that their children’s baby teeth will be strong and healthy by getting the recommended amounts of proteins, vitamins, and minerals in their prenatal diets.

But a mother can’t “eat for two” to make sure her child’s adult teeth are healthy—children’s permanent teeth begin real growth and development only after birth. What can we do to encourage strong permanent teeth as our children grow and develop? Here are four important building blocks parents can use to lay a healthy foundation for their children’s grown-up smiles.

Serve a Tooth-Healthy Diet

The same vitamins and minerals that help create baby teeth are essential for creating healthy adult teeth. Tooth enamel, the hardest substance in the body, is almost completely made up of calcium phosphate minerals.  A diet which provides the recommended amounts of calcium and phosphorus helps your child’s body grow strong enamel. And don’t forget vitamin D, which our bodies need to absorb calcium and phosphorus.

A tooth-healthy diet should include several servings of foods which provide calcium, such as dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese), dark leafy vegetables, and fortified juices, cereals and tofu. Phosphorus can be found in proteins like meat, fish, and poultry, as well as beans, nuts, dairy, and whole grains. Egg yolks and fatty fish are natural sources of vitamin D, and it’s easily available in fortified foods such as cow’s milk, soy milk, cereals, and orange juice.

Use the Right Amount of Fluoride

Fluoride is called “Nature’s cavity fighter” for a reason. Fluoride reduces the risk of cavities and helps strengthen tooth enamel. Dr. Wilma Shen DDS can offer invaluable advice on when to start and how to use fluoride toothpaste to protect your child’s baby teeth and developing adult teeth.

Can there be too much of this good thing? While fluoride is a safe and effective way to protect teeth in normal, recommended amounts, too much fluoride can lead to fluorosis. This condition can cause cosmetic changes in the enamel of permanent teeth, from almost invisible lighter spots to darker spots and streaking.

How to make sure your child gets the right amount of fluoride?

For children under the age of three, use a dab of toothpaste no larger than a grain of rice. Ask Dr. Wilma Shen DDS if fluoride toothpaste is recommended.

Young children can’t always understand the idea of spitting and rinsing after brushing, so children between the ages of three and six should use only a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste, and need you there to make sure they spit and rinse afterward.

Ask us about local water fluoride levels if you have any concerns about using tap water for drinking or for mixing formula, keep fluoride toothpastes and other products out of the reach of children, monitor your children while they brush, and always check with us before giving your child a fluoride rinse or supplement.

Help Your Child Retire Harmful Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Habits

Your child might self-comfort with the help of a pacifier or thumb sucking, which can be a valuable soothing habit. But it’s important to talk to Dr. Wilma Shen DDS to see just how long this soothing habit should last. Around the age of four, aggressive thumb or pacifier sucking can lead to problems for permanent teeth.

Vigorous sucking can cause protruding upper front teeth. Aggressive sucking can lead to changes in the shape of your child’s palate and jaw. Open bite malocclusions, where the upper and lower teeth are unable to meet, and overbites, where the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth more than they should, can also be the result of lengthy and forceful thumb sucking.

Take Care of Baby Teeth

Baby teeth are important! They bite and chew food, and they work with the tongue to help your child learn to pronounce words properly. And there’s one more important reason to make sure primary teeth stay healthy: they serve as the place holders which guide permanent teeth into their proper spots.

When a baby tooth is lost too early, due to decay or injury, the teeth on either side can drift into the empty space, preventing a permanent tooth from erupting where it needs to. Any misalignment or crowding which results may require orthodontic treatment in the future.

Call our Seattle, WA office if your child unexpectedly loses a baby tooth. There may be no cause for concern, or, if there’s a potential problem, an appliance called a “space maintainer,” which keeps the baby teeth from shifting out of place, can be fabricated especially for your child.

Your child’s adult teeth are being formed now. Work with us to make sure the building blocks of present and future dental health are in place. You’re giving your child the foundation for a lifetime of beautiful, grown-up smiles!

Is sedation dentistry right for me?

August 4th, 2021

At Laurelhurst Family Dentistry, we are well-aware of the 25 million Americans who fear having to visit the dentist. Dental phobias are known to range anywhere from feeling mildly nervous to experiencing sweaty palms and even a racing heartbeat upon entering a dentist’s office. This anxiety can sometimes be so severe that it prevents people from visiting a dentist for years, postponing dental procedures that often result in costly problems down the road.

For those of our patients who have dental anxiety or dental phobia, it may be time to look into sedation dentistry, a safe and effective option for patients who are anxious or afraid, have a bad gag reflex, limited jaw opening, or for those who have a difficult time getting numb.

Sedation dentistry, a term that we use to refer to the use of anesthesia during treatment to put patients into a relaxed state, comes in many forms of sedation, from simply easing anxiety, to “conscious sedation,” which places patients in what we call a “twilight sleep.” Sedation dentistry at our Seattle, WA office allows our patients to drift through their appointments—including complex dental work—as well as feel completely relaxed throughout their visits, without any discomfort or pain. Sedation dentistry can turn a nerve-wracking visit into a comfortable and enjoyable one.

Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team will be more than happy to discuss any concerns, issues, or fears you may have before or during your visit, and will be able to tell you if you are a candidate for sedation dentistry.

By talking with Dr. Wilma Shen DDS about sedation dentistry, you can feel more comfortable and relaxed during your next visit to Laurelhurst Family Dentistry. Give us a call today!

What are Sealants?

July 28th, 2021

Sealants offer many benefits, but the best is their ability to protect your molars. Molars are full of small caverns that can be the perfect breeding ground for tooth decay and plaque buildup.

Use of protective sealants prevents this buildup from happening. Although children often receive sealants for routine preventive care, they aren’t the only ones who can benefit from this treatment. Sealants can also help adults who have deep canyons or grooves in their teeth.

They are commonly placed on the rear molars that tend to suffer the most decay. Because your molars are used substantially as grinding surfaces, food is more likely to be trapped among them.

Sealant solution consists a composite material that contains bonding agents that seal the top of your teeth. The process is quick and painless, which makes it a great solution for both children and adults who have had trouble with cavities and tooth decay. Sealants also last for several years, and repair is a simple process that can be completed by Dr. Wilma Shen DDS.

The process of putting sealants on teeth starts with the tooth getting cleaned. We clean it with a type of baking soda spray called sodium bicarbonate. Then acid is etched onto the teeth to rough up the surface.

We apply an alcohol-based liquid to dry the area where the sealant is supposed to go. After it completely covers the surface of the treated teeth, the sealant is cured with a light that makes it hard and long-lasting.

Getting sealants can prevent the possible restorative costs that come from cavities. Sealants help to protect your tooth’s enamel from harmful acids and prevent decay, which can be an investment in itself. The whole process is quick, so it should be easy to schedule an appointment at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry.

Feel free to call our Seattle, WA location and we can answer any questions you have about this service.

How to Choose the Best Mouthwash

July 21st, 2021

As we all know, or should by now, the key to maintaining great oral health is keeping up with a daily plan of flossing, brushing, and using mouthwash. These three practices in combination will help you avoid tooth decay and keep bacterial infections at bay.

At Laurelhurst Family Dentistry, we’ve noticed that it’s usually not the toothbrush or floss that people have trouble picking, but the mouthwash.

Depending on the ingredients, different mouthwashes will have different effects on your oral health. Here are some ideas to take under consideration when you’re trying to decide which type of mouthwash will best fit your needs.

  • If gum health is your concern, antiseptic mouthwashes are designed to reduce bacteria near the gum line.
  • If you drink a lot of bottled water, you may want to consider a fluoride rinse to make sure your teeth develop the level of strength they need.
  • Generally, any mouthwash will combat bad breath, but some are especially designed to do so.
  • Opt for products that are ADA approved, to ensure you aren’t exposing your teeth to harmful chemicals.
  • If you experience an uncomfortable, burning sensation when you use a wash, stop it and try another!

Still have questions about mouthwash? Feel free to ask Dr. Wilma Shen DDS during your next visit to our Seattle, WA office! We’re always happy to answer your questions. Happy rinsing!

Periodontal Disease Associated with Cardiovascular Risk

July 14th, 2021

We all know that brushing your teeth and flossing regularly keeps your smile sparkly and bright, but did you realize that cleaning your teeth can actually help your heart? Recent research suggests that people with periodontal disease also have a higher cardiovascular risk, which means they are more vulnerable to heart attacks or stroke. It’s probably not time to throw away those running shoes in favor of a new toothbrush, but this is an added incentive to maintain good oral hygiene.

Relationship between Periodontal Disease and Cardiovascular Health

In 2003, researchers from the University of Buffalo conducted analyses which suggested that patients with gum disease were also at elevated risk of cardiovascular problems. Furthermore, people with more severe cases of gum disease have even poorer heart health. Although the exact causes of this relationship remain unknown, scientists continue to explore the impact of oral hygiene on broader health.

One hypothesis is that poor oral hygiene leads to inflammation, which negatively affects the heart. Gum disease occurs when bacteria build up in the mouth, and feed off sugars found in food. These bacteria release compounds that contribute to inflammation and red, swollen gums. The same inflammatory compounds may affect the heart, increasing overall cardiovascular risk.

Protect Your Teeth, Protect Your Heart

Taking a few commonsense measures can go a long way to improving your oral health and your cardiovascular risk. Consider the following:

  • Brush twice daily, and floss at least once per day. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day cleans away the harmful bacteria that contribute to gum disease. Similarly, flossing your teeth ensures that dangerous bacteria that build up between each tooth get swept away. These simple steps are the easiest ways to reduce your risk of periodontal disease.
  • Eat healthy foods. Those sugary snacks that you love so much don’t help your teeth. Whenever possible, stick to a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods. For example, grab an apple or a few celery sticks for a mid-afternoon snack, rather than indulging in that candy bar.
  • Drink water. Staying hydrated doesn’t just help your body – it also swishes bad bacteria away from your tooth and gum surface. Drinking plenty of water improves your overall oral health. It’s particularly helpful after eating a sugary or sticky snack, because water can reduce plaque buildup.
  • Visit Laurelhurst Family Dentistry. Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our staff will monitor your mouth for signs of periodontal disease and can make specific recommendations to keep your mouth – and your heart – safer.

Tell us about your summer!

July 7th, 2021

The dog days of summer are upon us, and what better time for Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team to ask our patients about their summer!

Whether you visited our nation’s capital, went on a camping trip, or just stayed in Seattle, WA and relaxed, we want to know how you’re all spending your summer! Please feel free to share your summer plans and experiences with us below or on our Facebook page as summer rolls on!

Fun Facts for the Fourth

July 1st, 2021

The Fourth of July is a great time to get together with friends and family members for BBQ, games, fireworks, and other celebrations in honor of our country’s independence. While your fellow revelers eat hot dogs and wave flags, you can impress them by sharing these fascinating facts and historical tidbits about some of our country’s traditions and symbols from the team at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry.

The Statue of Liberty

With a torch in one hand and a tablet in the other, the Statue of Liberty is one of the most iconic and recognizable symbols of our country. However, as recognizable as certain parts of the statue are, not many people know that broken shackles, which represent oppression and tyranny, are lying at Lady Liberty’s feet. According to the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, the copper-plated lady weighs in at a whopping 450,000 tons and has been holding her torch up for more than 125 years, which must make for some impressive arm muscles.

Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest

Since 1916, people have been flocking to Coney Island on the Fourth of July to witness what some people call the “superbowl of competitive eating.” Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest challenges competitors to devour as many hot dogs as they can in just ten minutes, with the current record holder swallowing a whopping 68 hot dogs! If you’d like to witness this bizarre and frenzied eating competition but you won’t be anywhere near Coney Island on the fourth, don’t worry. ESPN has been broadcasting this popular event for several years, so you can watch from the comfort of your couch while you eat a reasonably portioned meal.

The History Behind Fireworks

Viewing the nighttime fireworks display is exciting way to finish off the fourth. Many people know that these brilliant displays probably originated with the Chinese. However, many historians also believe that fireworks were stumbled upon when the Chinese roasted bamboo sticks over fires and watched them explode. After many years of roasting the sticks, a group of alchemists created an early form of gunpowder, which they stuffed into the bamboo sticks to create an even more powerful explosion, paving the way for the today’s modern fireworks.

Whether you’re planning on visiting the Statue of Liberty, watching fireworks in Seattle, WA, or even participating in a hot dog eating contest, Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team hope you have a safe and fun-filled holiday. Happy Fourth of July!

Toothaches and Abscesses

June 23rd, 2021

With Dr. Wilma Shen DDS, emergency dental care is only a phone call away. Dental problems are uncomfortable and should always be treated as soon as possible to prevent them from getting worse.

Whether it’s an abscess or a toothache that you believe might be something more, it’s vital to pay attention to your body and give it the attention it needs. Below, you’ll find some more information about abscesses and toothaches that may clarify any doubts about the differences, whether you may be suffering from one of them … and what to do if you are.

Abscesses

What’s an abscess? It’s a bacterial infection: an accumulation of pus that can form inside a tooth or the gums and cause pain and swelling. It generally develops as a result of poor oral hygiene.

Bacteria lives in plaque so if plaque isn’t removed on a regular basis, it can build up and encourage bacteria to spread, which could ultimately result in an abscess. Antibiotics aren’t always needed for treatment, you should get this situation checked out as soon as possible. If left untreated, oral infections can lead to bigger complications.

Toothaches

Toothaches can happen for a number of reasons. The simplest, most common one is a piece of food that is stuck in your gum, which can cause a bit of swelling and discomfort.

To get rid of it, you can rinse your mouth with hot water and salt, every morning and evening. This helps kill bacteria and bring down the swelling. You can also gently floss the area to remove whatever is stuck there. If you experience bleeding while you’re flossing, and hot water with salt proves ineffective, it may be time to schedule an appointment.

If you’re especially sensitive to cold and heat, you may often experience toothaches. If this is the case, we can recommend a pain reliever to reduce the discomfort, but it’s worthwhile to come in for a check-up anyway to make sure the problem doesn’t get worse.

The last (and most obvious) reason for a toothache is a cavity. Depending on how bad it is, we might fill it or place a crown. The tricky thing with cavities is that sometimes you may not know you have one at all, especially when they’re just starting out. The best way to prevent them from getting worse and creating toothaches is by keeping up with your regular dental cleanings.

At Laurelhurst Family Dentistry, we’re here to assist you through any and all your dental emergencies! We encourage you to make an appointment at our Seattle, WA office if you notice any signs of discomfort, so we can provide the most efficient care for you.

Is there a connection between oral health and school performance?

June 16th, 2021

As a parent, you want the best for your children, and that includes doing their best in school. You can support them by taking an interest in their activities, being enthusiastic about attendance, and helping them with homework. There may also be one more way you can help your children succeed at school. Surprisingly, research suggests that children with better oral health are likely to do better in school.

What the Research Says

One study in North Carolina looked at risk factors for poor school performance among school-aged children. As expected, the study found poor school performance linked to low socioeconomic status, low levels of parental education, and poor overall health. However, it also found a strong link between poor oral health and poor school performance, with children classified as having poor oral health 40 percent more likely struggle in school.

These findings are generalizable to the rest of the country. For example, attendance is an important factor in academic achievement, but dental conditions are responsible for a loss 51 million school hours among schoolchildren each year. Dental pain and infection are linked to poorer performance.

School-Based Programs to Promote Oral Health

In light of the apparent benefits of good oral health for school performance, some schools are taking steps to promote better oral care and health. In Maine, for instance, schools in need can apply for grants through School Oral Health Program (SOHP). The SOHP consists of four components:

  1. Oral health education for all children to support healthy behaviors
  2. A weekly fluoride mouth rinse to strengthen teeth
  3. Dental screenings to identify children who may need dental care
  4. Dental sealants, or plastic coatings, on back teeth to guard against decay

The State of Maine also supports an “Annual Sugar Out Day” to raise awareness of the effects of sugar on dental health and to help students choose low-sugar alternatives.

Oral Health Habits to Adopt

You can help your child improve oral health and do better in school by encouraging good oral hygiene. This includes brushing at least twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, and reminding your child to drink water after eating. Also, regular trips to our Seattle, WA office can help prevent serious tooth problems.

Tooth-Colored Fillings

June 9th, 2021

Once upon a time, silver fillings ruled in dental offices everywhere. For a long time, they were the only option dentists used to close off the spaces on teeth where bacteria could easily enter.

Most patients did not regard a pearly white and silver smile as something to be super excited about. Luckily, we have a range of more aesthetically pleasing options today. The most common material used for fillings now is composite, also known as tooth-colored fillings.

Composite fillings are made to match the shade of your teeth, so they offer a seamless addition to your smile. They even let light travel through them the same way that natural enamel does. Composite fillings are great because they erase imperfections and can even reshape your teeth by minimizing excessive spacing. If you have a gap between your two front teeth, for example, a composite filling is an easy, non-invasive, and most important, cost-effective way to give you the instant fix you desire.

Overall, tooth-colored fillings make an easy choice all around. Easily placed, readily repaired, and well disguised. In a world where a perfect smile seems to have become standard for everybody, why not get composite fillings for yourself?

You can smile with the confidence of knowing that nobody will spot a shiny silver thing in your mouth. Visit our Seattle, WA office to get a consult or give us a call! We’re always happy to answer your questions.

Getting Ready for Summer Sports

June 2nd, 2021

With the warmer and longer days here, we know many of our patients at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry will be much more active in the summer. Though most of our patients are probably already ready to hit the field for some summer fun, we thought we would discuss a few precautions to take when it comes to keeping your teeth safe as you enjoy playing your favorite sports.

Use a Mouthguard

Are your kids participating in contact sports this summer? If the answer is yes, we strongly encourage you to have them fitted for a mouthguard at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry before the season starts. Athletes can avoid serious mouth and jaw injuries by using a mouthguard.

Be Mindful of Sports Drinks

While sports drinks can be refreshing after a game, they unfortunately contain high levels of sugar and citric acid, which are known to erode the teeth and reduce the minerals in the outer tooth enamel. The simplest way to prevent sports drinks from damaging your teeth? Avoid them completely and drink water instead. Water is a great option to keep you hydrated before, during, or after a game.

Floss, Floss, Floss

While we always tell our patients about the importance of flossing, it is especially important on the day of the game. Athletes are likely to consume more sugar; from energy bars and chews to gum, you are not doing your teeth any favors. All that sugar may give you that extra bounce in your step when out on the field, but we want you to remember to floss when you get home, or else contend with an increased risk of cavities down the road.

If you have any questions about keeping your teeth and mouth healthy while participating in summer sports, please give us a call at our Seattle, WA office! Have fun!

Memorial Day and Getting Ready for Summer

May 26th, 2021

Memorial Day didn't become an official holiday until 1971, but Americans started gathering annually in the spring to remember those who lost their lives in war during the 1860s, right after the Civil War. Celebrated on the last Monday in May, people still decorate the grave sites of war veterans and hold memorial services, but Memorial Day has also evolved into a day that signifies the beginning of summer.

During the summer months, many people take road trips to visit family members. Some head off to the airport to enjoy a long-awaited vacation far away, while others look forward to spending time with friends and family at home. However you spend Memorial Day and the subsequent summer months, there are a few things you can take care of to ensure your summertime is enjoyable.

Checklist for an Enjoyable Summer

  • Have the AC Checked. During the hottest days of summer, many families find themselves sweating it out due to a broken air conditioning system. Be proactive so you can avoid waiting for hours or days because the HVAC repair person is booked solid. Have your air conditioning system checked before or around Memorial Day each year.
  • Ensure Security While You're Away. When you leave for vacation, the last thing you should have to worry about is the security of your home. Install a home security system, if possible, and put a timer on your lights so they go on and off at normal hours. You can also alert your local police department that you'll be gone, and ask them to drive by your house once in a while to make sure everything is okay.
  • Visit Dr. Wilma Shen DDS Before Vacation. Many people put off exams until after summer vacation. Avoid the crowds and make sure your physical and oral health are in top shape prior to vacation time so there are no unpleasant surprises.

Our team at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry wants you to look forward to Memorial Day and the days of summer by preparing to spend the time safely and comfortably. As you plan ahead, take care of your health and secure your home, you can place your focus on creating memories with family members and friends while enjoying your favorite Memorial Day traditions.

How can parents help prevent tooth decay?

May 19th, 2021

Children are born with a set of primary teeth – 20 to be exact – that help them learn to chew and speak, and develop enough space in the jaw for the permanent teeth that will appear several years later. Kids are especially susceptible to decay, which can cause pain and tooth loss – a problem that could interfere with oral development. As a parent, it is important that you take proactive steps to keep your child’s teeth as healthy as possible.

Bottles and “Sippie Cups”

One of the biggest culprits of childhood tooth decay is poor diet. This begins as early as a few months old, when children are often allowed to go to bed with bottles and “sippie cups” of milk or juice. The sugars in these beverages – even natural sugars – can steadily decay the teeth.

Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our staff suggest serving children milk and juice only at meal times, and limiting juice intake to just a few ounces per day. If your child becomes thirsty between meals or likes to go to bed with a bottle, serve water during these times.

Hygiene

As a parent, you can establish healthy dental habits long before your child’s first tooth erupts. Start by gently wiping your baby’s gums with a clean wash cloth during the first months of life. By age one, graduate to an appropriately sized toothbrush with fluoridated toothpaste, and brush at least twice a day.

Dental Visits

Dental visits should start young and continue on a regular basis throughout your child's life. Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our staff recommend parents bring their children to Laurelhurst Family Dentistry for the first time no later than the child’s first birthday. Initial visits concentrate on parental education, while later visits may include thorough cleanings and fluoride treatments as your child grows.

For more information about keeping your child’s teeth cavity-free, contact our Seattle, WA office to schedule a dental consultation and checkup.

Fewer Adults are Visiting the Dentist

May 12th, 2021

Our team at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry recently learned that in the decade between 2000 and 2010, the amount of adults who regularly visited their dentist declined, according to research released by the American Dental Association's Health Policy Resources Center (HPRC). In fact, the HPRC found that the percentage of adults who had regular checkups every six months declined from 41 percent in 2003 to 37 percent in 2010. The largest decline in dental care occurred in the 35- to 49-year-old age group. That’s down from 43 percent in 2003 to just 38 percent in 2010.

There is some good news, however. While adult visits may have decreased, children's visits were on the rise, particularly among low-income families. More low-income children are visiting the dentist now than they were ten years ago. And the HPRC notes that between 2000 and 2010, dental visits among low-income children increased in 47 states.

Have you ever wondered why the American Dental Association and Dr. Wilma Shen DDS recommend that you come in for a dental checkup and cleaning every six months? While daily oral hygiene habits are essential to good oral health, professional dental cleanings at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry ensure your and your child’s teeth are treated to a deeper level of cleaning. In addition to a thorough cleaning and teeth polishing, regular visits at our Seattle, WA office help us detect and prevent the onset of tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease. During your visit, we’ll check the health of your mouth, teeth, gums, cheeks, and tongue for symptoms of any oral disease. We will also check old fillings and restorations, as these can wear away over time from constant chewing, clenching, or grinding at night.

If you are predisposed to oral diseases due to age, pregnancy, tobacco use, or medical conditions such as diabetes or dry mouth, Dr. Wilma Shen DDS may recommend you visit our office more often than every six months.

If you are overdue for your next checkup and cleaning, please give us a call to schedule an appointment!

Summer is Almost Here: Tips for a bright, white smile!

May 5th, 2021

Summer is almost here, which means a season full of vacations, adventures and great memories is just around the corner for our patients at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry.

Everyone wants a glowing and radiant white smile when the sun comes around and we have a few reminders to keep your pearly whites healthy and beautiful over the summer! Try to stay away from drinks that will stain your teeth like coffee, soft drinks, or dark colored juices. Not only will drinks like this weaken your enamel but they will also darken that fabulous smile you're working on! Another tip is to try and focus on brushing your teeth; everyone knows that when busy schedules start picking up, getting a good brushing session in tends to take the backseat! A good tip for keeping your mouth safe from staining and other possible pitfalls is to rinse your mouth with water after any meal you can’t fully brush your teeth after. Your teeth, inside and out, will benefit!

And remember, whether you are headed to a barbecue, a camping trip, or just having fun in the backyard this summer, we want to hear all about it! Make sure to let us know what you’re up to below or on our Facebook page! We also encourage you to post any photos from your adventures!

Three Must-Have Dental Treatments

April 28th, 2021

In dentistry, there are a wide variety of treatments, everything from elective procedures to those that are necessary and potentially lifesaving. So given the slew of treatment options, how do you choose what’s right for you? Our experts at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry have handpicked the three must-have procedures that we believe can benefit nearly every patient.

The first: A complete periodontal exam. If you are going to the dentist for scheduled cleanings, this exam should happen at least once a year. A periodontal exam is quick and relatively painless. The dentist or hygienist will carefully probe around each tooth to take measurements that show the health of the bone and its supporting tissue, all while looking for signs of any active infection. It has been suggested that there is a link between periodontal (gum) disease and the increased risk of some potentially fatal diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Signs of some diseases show up in the mouth sometimes before the patient is aware of changes in the body. Diabetes is one of these silent diseases. Many Americans are unaware that they have the disease until sudden and severe changes in the periodontal health of the teeth lead to a trip to the patient’s physician. And did you know that more adults lose teeth to periodontal disease than to cavities? A simple screening once a year can lead to saving your teeth.

The second treatment our team at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry recommends is a dental sealant; it’s not just for kids! Dental sealants provide a protective barrier from bacteria deep in the pits and grooves of the teeth where cavities often start. Sealants placed in childhood will often wear away in adulthood. Replacing a sealant as an adult can also help prevent decay in adulthood. This is a great cost-effective procedure for adults. Dental insurance will likely not cover sealants as an adult, but the cost of a sealant for prevention versus the cost of a filling is much less.

Our third must-have dental treatment is often the most fun: in-office whitening. Who doesn’t want an instantly dazzling smile? In-office whitening is one of the most dramatic and quick ways to brighten a smile. It will take a few years off your age in a two-hour period of time. Whitening is very safe and can give a patient newfound confidence to smile.

Every Day is Earth Day

April 21st, 2021

During the early days of the environmental awareness movement, those who demonstrated against pollution, toxic chemicals, and the general public health were known as hippies. The early 1970s were a time of change, and assertions that we needed to pay more attention to the Earth's atmosphere were generally dismissed. But within a couple decades, it had become clear that the previous generation was right; the citizens of the world needed to become more environmentally conscious.

Many people feel that they can't make a difference if they don't do something big. But caring for the environment doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing concept. In fact, the little things you do can add up to make a great impact, especially in our community. Here are a few ways you can help the environment on Earth Day, April 22nd and all year around.

Four Small Ways to be Environmentally Friendly

  • Recycle Your Textiles. Nearly 21 million tons of textiles are added to American landfills each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Donating your unwanted clothing to a secondhand store or an organization that repurposes fabric helps cut down on solid waste and conserves natural resources.
  • Reduce Usage of Disposables. Plastic bottles and bags, disposable diapers and other things we can use and toss out are convenient, but they're not necessary. Simply choosing to replace one of type of disposable with a reusable product can help you cut down on waste that has a large negative impact on our environment.
  • Conserve Water. If everyone in the United States turned off the water while brushing their teeth, more than 1.5 million gallons of water could be conserved. Turn the water on long enough to wet your toothbrush for brushing and rinsing, and then immediately turn the water off again.
  • Turn Off the Lights. Flip the light switch to "Off" if you're going to leave a particular room for 15 minutes or more. This will conserve energy on incandescent light bulbs and cut down on cooling costs.

It's not necessary to be an activist or install solar panels all over your home to help the environment. Although you can do these things, the little everyday measures make a big difference in helping to conserve energy and the environment, while reducing your carbon footprint. Our team at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry wants to remind you to celebrate Earth Day and help the environment, knowing that it will benefit your and your children's generation.

Tooth Sensitivity

April 14th, 2021

Most of us know that unpleasant feeling. You’re happily enjoying an icy milkshake with lunch or having a piping hot cappuccino break, and suddenly an innocent binge turns to cringe—your tooth sensitivity has crossed another item off the menu. If heat, cold, even the act of brushing cause you tooth discomfort, we have solutions for you. Let’s look at some of the common reasons for tooth sensitivity and how to prevent it.

  • Bad Brushing Habits

There can be too much of a good thing! Aggressive brushing, especially with firm toothbrushes, can damage enamel. When the dentin underneath is exposed, heat and cold can reach the sensitive inner tooth and trigger discomfort.

Go easy on yourself: Switch to a soft bristled or electric toothbrush and brush thoroughly but gently. It’s often suggested that we massage rather than scrub. We can also recommend toothpastes that can help reduce sensitivity.

  • Gum Disease

As gum disease progresses, the gums start to pull away from the teeth and expose their roots. Even though the roots are protected by cementum, a covering a lot like enamel, they are more sensitive to heat and cold. And if you are an aggressive brusher, the cementum is more easily damaged than enamel, leaving the sensitive roots even less protected.

Prevention is the answer: Brushing and flossing help prevent gum disease, as do your regular exams and cleanings. If you are suffering from more advanced gum disease (periodontitis), Dr. Wilma Shen DDS can suggest advanced treatment to protect your roots, such as deep cleanings and gum grafts. Don’t let periodontitis go untreated, as it can lead to infection and even tooth loss.

  • Your Diet

If your enamel is already compromised, sugary foods and acidic foods can cause tooth discomfort.

Be patient: Until your sensitivity problem is under control, avoiding these types of foods will help. On the other hand, sugary and acidic foods aren’t the ideal dental diet, so cutting back is not a bad idea.

  • Your Dental Products

Mouthwash, whitening toothpastes and home whitening products contain substances such as alcohol or bleaching agents that can cause sensitivity in some users.

Make some changes to your shopping list: Choose products without alcohol or whiteners. Talk to us about gentler alternatives for mouthwashes and whitening.

  • Tooth Injuries

If you have a cavity, a broken filling, a cracked tooth, or some other injury to the tooth, sensitivity can be a warning sign.

Take care of yourself: Call our Seattle, WA office immediately if you have prolonged sensitivity or any other painful symptom. Repairing and restoring your damaged tooth should eliminate this discomfort. And, while it is often common to experience some degree of sensitivity after dental work, if this doesn’t clear up within a short time, let us know.

  • Teeth Grinding

Because grinding also wears away enamel, tooth grinders often suffer from sensitive teeth.

Protect yourself: We can fit you for a custom nightguard that will eliminate the nightly stress on your enamel. It can also help the tooth and jaw pain caused by grinding.

Talk to us about any sensitivity you have been experiencing, especially if it has been going on for a while or is causing you real discomfort. We will explore the possible reasons for your tooth sensitivity and help you find solutions. After all, you should feel free to enjoy any item on the menu, in the very best of dental health.

This April, Let’s Celebrate National Facial Protection Month!

April 7th, 2021

Poor April. While other months celebrate romance, or giving thanks, or costumes and candy, April has—April Fool’s Day and a tax deadline. We might be forgiven for thinking these two dates seem more like warnings than celebrations.

So here’s a new topic for the April calendar: National Facial Protection Month! Take the opportunity this month to review your safety practices while you’re enjoying your favorite activities.

  • Mouthguards

If you have a mouthguard for sports or athletic activities, wear it! In any activity or sport where humans come into contact with solid objects (including other humans) tooth injury is possible. A mouthguard will help protect you from dental injuries caused by falls, physical contact, or other accidents that might happen in your active life. And it’s not just your teeth—mouthguards protect your lips, tongue, and jaw as well.

You can buy mouthguards in stock sizes or shape-to-fit options, or you can have a guard custom made especially for you at our Seattle, WA office. Custom mouthguards fit perfectly and are designed to make breathing and speaking easy and comfortable. And if you wear braces or have fixed dental work such as a bridge, a custom mouthguard can protect your smile and your appliances. Talk to Dr. Wilma Shen DDS about mouthguards for some great advice on how to protect your teeth and mouth.

As long as we’re discussing facial protection, let’s look at some other ways to keep safe as you keep active.

  • Helmets

If there’s a helmet available for your sport, use it! Helmets are especially important for protecting athletes from brain injury and concussion, and they help protect the face and jaw as well.

  • Face Guards

If you’ve experienced a puck speeding toward you, or a defensive tackle hurtling your way, or a fast ball coming in at 90 miles an hour, you know the importance of wearing a face guard. These guards can help protect your eyes, face, teeth, and jaws. Many sports now recommend using face guards—it’s worth checking to see if your sport is one of them.

  • Eye Protection

And let’s not forget eye protection. Whether it’s safety glasses or a visor, protecting your eyes and the bones around them is extremely important. You can even get sports goggles or protective sports glasses with prescription lenses to keep you safe and seeing clearly.

We have the training and experience to help treat and restore injured teeth. But we will be the first to tell you, the very best treatment is prevention!

So here are a few suggestions for your calendar this month:

  • If you haven’t gotten a mouthguard yet, now’s the time. Tooth and mouth injuries occur in sports beyond hockey and football. If you play basketball, ski, skateboard, ride a bike—in fact, almost any sport where you can fall or make contact with a person or object—a mouthguard is a must.
  • If you need to replace an ill-fitting or damaged helmet and face guard, do it before your next game. And do replace a bike helmet if you’ve been in a crash—most likely it won’t be as protective, even if damage isn’t visible.
  • Talk to your eye doctor about protective eyewear if off-the-rack products don’t work for you.
  • If you are a parent or caregiver, make sure your child athlete has the proper facial protection—and uses it.
  • If you are a coach, make sure your athletes have the right protective gear—and wear it.
  • It’s also a great time to commit to using your protective gear every single time you’re active.

But, wait—these reminders are helpful and important, but weren’t we promised something to celebrate this April? Good catch! The great news is, using facial protection for sports and athletic activities gives you rewards you can celebrate all year: fewer injuries, fewer visits to the emergency room, and a beautiful, healthy, intact smile. Suit up!

I have sensitive teeth. What are my options?

March 31st, 2021

At Laurelhurst Family Dentistry, we have patients coming in asking us why a taste of ice cream or a sip of coffee becomes a painful experience, or why brushing or flossing makes them wince or cringe. The answer, usually, is sensitive teeth. Tooth sensitivity typically occurs when the underlying dentin layer of the tooth is exposed in the oral cavity, and most people experience tooth sensitivity at some point in their lives.

So, why do people experience sensitivity and how do you know if tooth sensitivity is something to be worried about? The most common cause of the sensitivity is exposure of the dentin, which is the layer surrounding the tooth’s nerve. Contributors to tooth sensitivity include teeth whitening and dental work such as fillings, periodontal treatment, and the placement or adjustment of braces. These are temporary and should be of no concern.

Permanent hypersensitivity, however, may require treatment at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry. The first step is to determine the cause, and that begins with a visit to our Seattle, WA office.

The reasons your teeth may become sensitive vary, but possible causes include:

  • Tooth decay (cavities) near the gum line
  • Cracked or fractured teeth
  • Fillings that are worn
  • Gum (periodontal) disease, or recession of the gums
  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Brushing too hard
  • Consuming acidic foods

Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry want you to know that sensitive teeth can be treated, and the type of treatment will depend on what is causing the sensitivity. Dr. Wilma Shen DDS may suggest one the following treatments:

  • Desensitizing toothpaste, which contains ingredients that seal off the microtubules inside the exposed dentin to reduce tooth sensitivity
  • Fluoride gel, which strengthens compromised tooth enamel, helps prevent tooth decay, and decreases hypersensitivity of the teeth
  • A crown, inlay, or bonding, which is used to treat tooth decay and prevents sensitivity
  • A surgical gum graft. If gum tissue has been lost from the root, this procedure will protect the root and reduce sensitivity.
  • Root canal: If you are experiencing severe and persistent sensitivity which cannot be treated by other means, Dr. Wilma Shen DDS may recommend you undergo a root canal to eliminate the problem.

If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, give us a call today so that Dr. Wilma Shen DDS can provide you with some much-needed relief!

Is a Crown Necessary for My Child’s Baby Tooth?

March 24th, 2021

Part of the charm of your child’s smile is those delicate, diminutive baby teeth. We enjoy those smiles while we can, because soon enough, primary teeth make way for the adult teeth that will last your child a lifetime. So you might be surprised if Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team recommend a crown for your child’s baby tooth. Is this procedure necessary when the tooth is going to fall out eventually anyway?

Yes, it really is. If a primary tooth is lost before its normal lifespan, several problems can arise.

  • Biting and chewing—a full set of baby teeth is best for proper chewing and digestion. And chewing also helps develop face and jaw muscles.
  • Speech development—primary teeth help guide speech production and pronunciation.
  • Spacing—a baby tooth serves as a place holder for the adult tooth waiting to replace it. If a primary tooth is lost too early, teeth may drift from their correct location and cause overcrowding or misalignment.

When is a Crown Necessary?

The enamel in a baby tooth is thinner than the enamel found in adult teeth, and a cavity can spread quickly throughout a tooth. Within a short period, the tooth’s structure might be too weak for a regular filling. Sometimes the pulp inside the tooth becomes injured or infected and an endodontic treatment is necessary to remove pulp tissue from inside the tooth. The interior will be filled, but the delicate enamel surrounding it will be fragile. Or an accident can leave a tooth fractured or broken, but still vital.

In each of these cases, a crown will protect the tooth from further decay or damage, and will allow the tooth to function normally until an adult tooth is ready to replace it.

What Types of Crowns are Available?

By far the most common choice for a primary tooth is a stainless steel crown. These crowns are prefabricated and can be fitted snugly to your child’s individual tooth. They are easy to place, less expensive than other crown alternatives, and will last until the tooth is ready to fall out in its proper time. If your child suffers from a metal allergy, or a more natural looking crown is necessary, talk to us about other possible options during your appointment at our Seattle, WA office.

Sure, preserving a baby tooth that was never designed to be permanent seems contradictory. But saving a tooth that helps your child develop proper eating habits, speech production, and correct adult tooth alignment? Those are benefits that will last a lifetime.

Going Green for St. Patrick’s Day?

March 17th, 2021

Happily for all of us who like to celebrate with friends and family, there’s no need to be Irish to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day. Every March 17th, many of us take the opportunity to display a bit of Gaelic spirit.

  • Green Clothing (it’s tradition!)
  • Green Hat (for a jaunty look)
  • Green Shamrock (always the perfect accessory)
  • Green Hair (for the adventurous among us)
  • Green Grins?

Here’s where we draw the line. Emerald Isle? Delightful! Emerald smile? Not so beguiling.

That traditional St. Patrick’s party fare—green-frosted sweet treats and green-colored pastries and green-foamed beers—is full of green-tinted food dyes, which can leave us with teeth in subtle shamrock shades. Luckily, most of us will have only a very temporary tinge to remind us of our dietary shenanigans, and there are simple ways to rid yourself of the green sheen:

  • Indulge sparingly in colorful cuisine, and drink water afterwards to rinse away green-dyed foods and beverages.
  • Use a straw for green drinks.
  • Brush your teeth. (Not only will you brush away the green, but you’ll brush away the sugars from sweet green desserts and the acids from sour green brews.)
  • Try a whitening toothpaste.

One special note: if you’ve just whitened your smile, best to eliminate strong food dyes from your diet for a few days. Teeth are more sensitive to staining after whitening, because the whitening process temporarily makes them more porous. Give yourself a few days, and your enamel will be back to (stain)fighting strength.

So, celebrate on the 17th and feel secure that on the 18th, your smile won’t be “wearing the green” any longer. But if you find that you’re not happy with the appearance of your smile anytime during the year, if you have more permanent staining caused by natural darkening over time, or workdays fueled by black coffee, or a diet filled with tomato sauce, dark berries, red wine, and other tasty (but discoloring) food, you’re still in luck.

Ask Dr. Wilma Shen DDS about professional whitening procedures at our Seattle, WA office for a brighter, more confident smile. And with a bright, confident smile, every day’s a reason to celebrate!

The Perks of Dairy

March 10th, 2021

We all remember hearing this: “Finish your milk, it’s good for your bones!” If you have kids of your own now, you may catch yourself repeating many of the things you were told growing up.

Though parents occasionally exaggerate to get their kids to do certain things (such as eat veggies or behave), they’re spot-on about milk. Consuming enough dairy every day is crucial for growing children, because this can set them up to have strong and healthy teeth for the rest of their lives.

To understand the effects of dairy on your child’s teeth, take a look at tooth structure. Think of it in terms of layers: the innermost layer is the living tissue, the second layer is dentine (a calcified tissue), and the final one is the enamel, aka the white part of the tooth. Keep in mind that 96 percent of your enamel is made up of minerals like calcium.

Now, milk and other dairy products are excellent sources of calcium, so when you consider the need to build strong enamel for the first line of defense, it’s easy to see the connection between dairy and good dental health. When your son or daughter consumes dairy products, the body sends the incoming calcium to growing bones, which includes teeth.

This makes children’s teeth and bones stronger all around. Growing youngsters who do not get enough dairy in their diet are at risk for improper tooth development, as well as other dental problems.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, children under the age of eight should be receiving at least two and a half cups of dairy per day. Children older than eight require three full cups, which is the same amount recommended for male and female adults.

If you’re looking for easy ways to incorporate dairy into your children’s diet, try snacks like cottage cheese, a milk-based smoothie, yogurt, cheese sticks, non-fat milk, and fruit parfaits, to name a few. Once you get a feel for what they like most, furnishing the ideal amount of dairy to their diet should be no problem!

If you’re concerned about your child’s teeth or have questions about a healthy diet, don’t hesitate to contact our Seattle, WA office and ask a member of our team.

Heart Disease and Oral Health

February 24th, 2021

Is there a link between oral health and heart health? This is a question that has been receiving a lot of attention in recent studies. While as yet there is no definitive study that proves oral health has an effect on overall heart health, there is also no definitive proof that oral health doesn’t affect heart health. So, what do we know, and, just as important, what should we do?

What do we know? One clear connection exists between gum disease and endocarditis, a rare, but potentially very serious, infection. When we neglect our gums, they bleed more easily. When gum disease advances, the gums pull away from the teeth. This creates pockets which can harbor more bacteria and plaque, leading to infection and even tooth and bone loss. And this bleeding and infection can be serious not only as a matter of dental health, but for your heart as well.

Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart and the heart valves. When bacteria from other parts of the body, including your mouth, make their way into the blood stream, they can attach themselves to damaged areas of the heart. The resulting infection can become very serious, very quickly. If you have damaged heart valves or artificial valves, have an artificial heart, or have any type of heart defect, it is especially important to prevent gum disease from developing. Regular dental care will help prevent bleeding gums and infections, and reduce the danger of oral bacteria entering the bloodstream. Always let us know if you have any issues with heart health, and we will tailor our treatment for all of your procedures accordingly.

What else might link oral health and heart disease? Because an increased risk of heart disease has been found in patients with moderate or severe gum disease, there has been much speculation as to a possible cause-and-effect connection. For example, the plaque inside arteries which leads to heart attacks has been found to contain certain strains of periodontal bacteria. Other studies have searched for a causal relationship between inflammation resulting from gum disease and inflammation leading to heart disease.  The body’s immune response to periodontitis and its potential consequences for heart health have also been examined. So far, there has been no clear evidence that treating gum disease prevents the occurrence or recurrence of heart disease.

So what should we do? This is the easy part. Keeping your gums and teeth healthy will increase your quality of life in immeasurable ways. And it’s not difficult! Regular brushing, flossing, and dental exams and cleanings at our Seattle, WA office are the key to lasting oral health. If this also keeps your heart healthy, that’s the best possible side effect.

Three Signs You May Have Gingivitis

February 17th, 2021

Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, is an early stage of gum disease. If you have gingivitis, it’s important to visit Dr. Wilma Shen DDS to get proper treatment, since home care isn’t enough to get rid of the plaque that leads to tartar and eventually to gum disease. Monitor yourself to see if you have these signs of gingivitis, and get help as soon as you can to prevent the progression to periodontitis. Your vigilance could save your teeth.

1. You have one or more risk factors.

Having risk factors for gingivitis doesn’t mean that you have or will get the disease, but it does mean that you should be especially watchful. You’re more likely to get gum disease if you have the following risk factors:

  • You are a smoker.
  • You are a female going through puberty, pregnancy, or menopause.
  • You have diabetes.
  • You have a compromised immune system, as is the case if you have HIV/AIDS.
  • You have a family history of gum disease.

2. You have inflammation in your gums.

Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums, and that is a tell-tale sign of the condition. Gingivitis or periodontitis can involve a bacterial infection, and inflammation is your body’s response to an injury or infection. The four standard signs of inflammation are pain, redness, swelling, and a higher temperature than normal.

If you have inflammation around your teeth, your gum disease may have progressed to the more serious condition of periodontitis. Dr. Wilma Shen DDS can evaluate your case using a scope, or small ruler. The ruler is used to measure the pockets around your teeth, with a depth of one to three millimeters being normal.

3. Your teeth seem to be moving around.

Loose teeth are a classic sign of periodontitis. You may also have them if you have gingivitis. They can occur when your gum line recedes, or as the result of having soft bone in your jaw.

You might also notice other signs of your teeth moving around. For example, they may seem to be oddly spaced, or they could be separating from each other. You might also notice that your partial dentures don’t fit properly anymore, even if they’re not that old.

Gingivitis is a very treatable condition, but you need the help of Dr. Wilma Shen DDS to keep it in check. Contact our Seattle, WA office to schedule an exam today!

Valentine's Day History

February 10th, 2021

Valentine’s Day is best known as a celebration of love in all its forms. Pink hearts, red roses, and cute greeting cards adorn every surface you see. What many people don’t realize is that the modern Valentine’s Day celebration arose from a religious holiday.

St. Valentine’s Day was originally celebrated as a religious feast day in honor of early Christian martyrs. Three martyrs named Valentine were honored: a priest in Rome, the persecuted bishop of Interamna (a town in central Italy), and a saint martyred in Africa. This saint’s day was celebrated throughout Christendom, although it was removed from the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints in 1969.

The origin of Valentine’s Day as a holiday for lovers began with Geoffrey Chaucer in his 1382 poem “Parlement of Foules.” Chaucer wrote, “For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate,” and the modern romantic holiday was born. William Shakespeare and other writers mentioned Valentine’s Day as a day of love.

Valentine’s Day as we know it came about in the early 19th century. In Victorian England, printers began manufacturing small numbers of cards with romantic verses, lace, ribbons, and other frills. Anonymous Valentine’s Day card were a popular way for young lovers to exchange romantic sentiments in an otherwise prudish time. As the 19th century progressed, printers began mass manufacturing Valentine’s Day cards. People in the United States give an estimated 190 million valentines every year, and up to one billion if you count children exchanging cards at school! With the rise of the Internet, Valentine’s Day e-cards have become a popular mode of communication, with millions of e-cards sent each year.

The other items associated with Valentine’s Day include chocolate and flowers. The tradition of giving chocolates has been around for decades, and Richard Cadbury created the first box of Valentine’s Day chocolates nearly 150 years ago. Today, purchases of chocolate total over $1 billion in the United States alone, with 35 million heart-shaped boxes sold each year. Loved ones also exchange flowers, with red roses being associated with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. On Valentine’s Day itself, florists sell nearly 200 million stems of roses.

Although many people dismiss Valentine’s Day as a commercialized “Hallmark holiday,” it is beloved to couples and romantics across the United States and other countries. The team at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry wants to remind all patients that no matter what your celebratory plans, February 14th can be a wonderful day to celebrate the loved ones in your life. Happy Valentine’s Day!

What are the benefits of visiting a dentist regularly?

February 3rd, 2021

Your regularly scheduled dental checkups with Dr. Wilma Shen DDS are not just meant to make your smile prettier and healthier. Your mouth’s health has an important impact on your overall physical health as well!

While you may brush your teeth twice a day and even floss, we would like to remind you that dental checkups with Dr. Wilma Shen DDS every six months aren’t just about addressing problems and reacting, they are about cavity and gum disease prevention.

In addition to a twice yearly thorough teeth cleaning and polishing at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry, these regular visits help us detect and prevent the onset of tooth decay and gum disease. During your visit, we’ll check the health of your mouth, teeth, gums, cheeks, and tongue. We’ll also check old fillings and restorations, as these can wear away over time from constant chewing, grinding, or clenching.

It’s important to know that the majority of dental problems do not become visible or painful until they are highly advanced. And, unfortunately, serious oral issues are painful and expensive to treat.

While Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team always strive to provide unmatched dental care for you and your family, we are also committed to your overall wellness as well! A deep cleaning twice a year is the best way to prevent any problems that may have gone unseen. If you are overdue for your next cleaning, please give us a call to schedule an appointment at our Seattle, WA office!

What is an Impacted Tooth?

January 27th, 2021

You may have heard this term the first time you or a friend got your wisdom teeth. That makes sense, as wisdom teeth are the teeth most often impacted in teenagers and young adults. But other permanent teeth can be impacted as well. What exactly do we mean by “impacted teeth,” and what can we do to treat them?

The term “impacted” means that somehow a tooth has been blocked from erupting properly. A tooth may be completely blocked by another tooth, erupt in the wrong space, or even come in from the wrong direction. Depending on the teeth involved, there are several different options for treatment.

From Baby Teeth to Permanent Teeth

Normally, when children lose a baby tooth, a permanent tooth is right there, ready to take its place. But teeth don’t always behave according to plan. Occasionally, that baby tooth just won’t budge, and the permanent tooth starts to erupt behind it. When this happens, a simple baby tooth extraction will often let the permanent tooth move into its proper position on schedule.

A more complicated situation develops when upper teeth are impacted because there isn’t enough space in the mouth for them. In this case, a device called a palatal expander might be used to gradually widen the upper jaw to allow the permanent teeth to erupt without crowding.

In other rare cases, a tooth (often the canine) fails to erupt and may require oral surgery to uncover it, followed by orthodontic treatment to guide it into position.

Impacted teeth can result from other causes as well, and every impacted tooth should be treated as quickly as possible. Left untreated, the teeth can fail to erupt at all or erupt in the wrong place, crowd other permanent teeth, damage the roots of the teeth near them, and lead to difficulties eating and dental pain.

Wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth are often a problem because there is simply not enough room in the jaw for them.

Wisdom teeth that are completely impacted (still in the jawbone) can sometimes be left alone if they aren’t causing other problems. But if impacted wisdom teeth develop cysts, affect the teeth around them, or lead to other dental complications, they should be extracted.

Partially erupted teeth, those that have begun to emerge through the gums but don’t erupt fully, can be the source of different gum and tooth problems. Because the gum tissue overlaps the tooth, food particles and bacteria can become trapped, leading to rapid tooth decay and even infection. In this case, extraction is probably the best option.

Be Proactive

The term “impacted” actually comes from the Latin root meaning “pushed against.” But teeth that don’t erupt at the right time, in the right place, can have a different kind of impact on dental health and appearance. And the earlier we can catch these problems, the easier it is to treat them.

Regular exams and X-rays with Dr. Wilma Shen DDS at our Seattle, WA office will show the progress of the teeth even before they erupt, and if there will be the space for them to fit in the mouth properly. We may recommend a visit to the orthodontist by the age of seven to see if there are any signs of potential orthodontic problems.

Intervention at an early stage can prevent potential problems from becoming major ones. That is why it’s so important to be proactive when teeth are erupting in children and young adults. After all, a healthy, confident smile makes a real impact!

Warning Signs of Impacted Wisdom Teeth

January 20th, 2021

When your wisdom teeth start to emerge it can definitely be painful, but it can be even worse if your wisdom teeth become impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth are trying to erupt but are unable to do so because there is not sufficient room for them to emerge. This usually means that your wisdom teeth are painfully lodged in your jawbone.

While you may not see any real signs of the emerging wisdom teeth when they are impacted, what you can’t see can still definitely hurt you. Some of the indicators of impacted wisdom teeth are listed below.

  • Jaw Pain: Pain in the back of your jaw is a common indicator of impacted wisdom teeth. The pain often concentrates in the area around your gums.
  • Changes in the Mouth: You may notice some changes in your mouth when you have impacted wisdom teeth. Reddish gums, swelling in the jaw, bleeding gums, and bad breath can all be indicators that you are dealing with impacted wisdom teeth.
  • Headaches: If you suddenly start having headaches, especially at the same time as some of the other issues mentioned above, they may indicate impacted wisdom teeth.
  • Chewing Issues: Problems with chewing normally can indicate impacted wisdom teeth. If you are having trouble making the chewing motions because your mouth won’t quite open and close as easily as it used to, impacted wisdom teeth may be the culprit.

The Solution

If you are suffering from impacted wisdom teeth, the best solution is usually going to be removal. This is not a problem that will resolve naturally, and in fact, your pain and other symptoms may worsen as your wisdom teeth become increasingly impacted. At Laurelhurst Family Dentistry, Dr. Wilma Shen DDS can review the details of wisdom teeth removal surgery with you and help you determine if this is the best solution for your situation.

Osteoporosis and Oral Health

January 13th, 2021

Today, Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry thought we would examine the relationship between osteoporosis and oral health, since 40 million Americans have osteoporosis or are at high risk. Osteoporosis entails less density in bones, so they become easier to fracture. Research suggests a link between osteoporosis and bone loss in the jaw, which supports and anchors the teeth. Tooth loss affects one third of adults 65 and older.

Bone density and dental concerns

  • Women with osteoporosis are three times more likely to experience tooth loss than those without it.
  • Low bone density results in other dental issues.
  • Osteoporosis is linked to less positive outcomes from oral surgery.

Ill-fitting dentures in post-menopausal women

Studies indicate that women over 50 with osteoporosis need new dentures up to three times more often than women who don’t have the disease. It can be so severe that it becomes impossible to fit dentures correctly, leading to nutritive losses.

Role of dental X-rays in osteoporosis

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) released research that suggest dental X-rays may be used as a screening tool for osteoporosis. Researchers found that dental X-rays could separate people with osteoporosis from those with normal bone density. As dental professionals, our team at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry are in a unique position to screen people and refer them to the appropriate doctor for specialized care.

Effects of osteoporosis medications on oral health

A recent study showed that a rare disease, osteonecrosis, is caused by biophosphenates, a drug taken by people for treatment of osteoporosis. In most cases, the cause was linked to those who take IV biophosphenates for treatment of cancer, but in six percent of cases, the cause was oral biophosphenates. If you are taking a biophosphenate drug, let Dr. Wilma Shen DDS know.

Symptoms of osteonecrosis

Some symptoms you may see are pain, swelling, or infection of the gums or jaw. Additionally, injured or recently treated gums may not heal: teeth will be loose, jaws may feel heavy and numb, or there may be exposed bone. Some of the steps you can take for healthy bones are to eat a healthy diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, regular physical exercise with weight-bearing activities, no smoking and limited use of alcohol, and report problems with teeth to our office, such as teeth that are loose, receding gums or detached gums, and dentures that don’t fit properly.

For more information about the connection between osteoporosis and oral health, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Wilma Shen DDS, please give us a call at our convenient Seattle, WA office!

Tooth Protection and Winter Sports

January 6th, 2021

Just because it’s cold out there doesn’t mean you’ll give up keeping fit and active! Winter is the season for some of our favorite team sporting activities, and when you’re donning your protective gear, don’t forget to protect your teeth as well.

  • Basketball

This sport actually tallies one of the highest counts of dental injuries. Running, jumping, and diving for the ball on an unforgiving court can lead to tooth and jaw injuries.  And for every ten men on the floor, it seems like there at least 50 flailing elbows in the paint.

  • Hockey

Notorious for the toll it takes on teeth, hockey is a game of sticks, ice, and whizzing pucks. And when your sport’s penalties include the terms hooking, slashing, and tripping, the more protection, the better.

  • Skiing

When you are flying down the slopes, combining powdery snow and speed, mouth protection is a good idea. This also applies to snowboarding and other snow sports.

  • Wrestling

Grappling and pinning in close quarters can lead to unintended injuries after accidental contact with the mat or your opponent.

Different uniforms, different equipment, and different playing fields, but all these sports have one thing in common—the easiest way to protect your teeth while playing them is with a mouth guard.

Mouthguards generally come in three forms:

  • Over the counter, ready-made appliances. These are available in drugstores and sporting goods stores, but might not be a comfortable fit as they are pre-formed sizes.
  • The “boil-and-bite” option is a mouthguard form placed in hot water. You then bite down to shape it to your mouth and teeth.
  • Custom mouthguards can be fabricated just for you through our Seattle, WA office. These appliances are designed to fit your individual mouth and teeth, so provide a better fit and better protection. They are also usually more durable and more comfortable. If you wear braces, you definitely need a custom mouthguard to prevent an injury to your mouth or braces caused by an ill-fitting appliance.

Whether you play on a team or pursue individual athletic activities, keeping safe as you keep fit is your first priority. We would be happy to discuss your mouthguard options for any sport, any time of year.

Smile, the New Year is Almost Here!

December 30th, 2020

We’ve been celebrating the new year for a really, really long time. It goes way back, but it started formally in 1582, when Pope George XIII made January 1st the official holiday for ushering in the new year. The idea was to yell, cheer, and blow horns to scare away all the evil spirits of the previous year with the hope that the new one would be filled with happiness and opportunity.

While scaring away evil spirits isn’t what’s on our mind these days, we still ring in the New Year by cheering and hollering with friends and family. It’s a time to set new goals, refocus on old ones, and look forward to all the surprises the coming year will bring.

Whether you’re saying hello to the New Year snuggled up at home on your couch in the Seattle, WA area or by gathering your friends for a social celebration, here are some tips to help ensure you welcome this new chapter with a smile.

Tips for a great New Year’s Eve celebration from Laurelhurst Family Dentistry

  • Stay safe. This one’s vital, because nothing puts a damper on your party like an emergency trip to the hospital. Stay responsible and try to plan ahead, whether that means taking a taxi, staying with a friend, or recruiting a designated driver. Do what you have to do to keep yourself and everyone around you safe.
  • Spend time with the people you love most. The way we see it, the whole point of the holiday season is to cherish your family and friends. Regardless of what you’re doing, make sure there’s something for everyone. It’s essential to do something the whole group will enjoy!
  • Smile! Whether you get all dressed to go out or have a quiet gathering with family and friends, make sure you accessorize with a smile. There’s always something to smile about!

We can all agree that change can be scary sometimes, but ringing in the New Year is an observance we all welcome with open arms. We hope you’ll enjoy this transitional holiday in a fun, healthy, and safe way. You have endless possibilities ahead of you!

From Dr. Wilma Shen DDS, have a fantastic New Year!

How do I avoid bad breath?

December 23rd, 2020

At Laurelhurst Family Dentistry, we see a lot of patients who are concerned about their bad breath, also known as halitosis. So today we thought we would educate our patients about what you can do to keep your pearly whites clean and your breath minty fresh!

Naturally, good oral hygiene on your part is the first step. With proper brushing and flossing you can keep halitosis in check. Even though you may have done an excellent job of brushing and flossing your teeth, if you fail to brush your tongue, you may still have bad breath. Bad breath is caused by odor-producing bacteria that grow in your mouth. Certain foods, medications, smoking, sinus issues, or even gum disease can cause bad breath.

Besides proper brushing and flossing, bad breath can be prevented if you:

Stop smoking/chewing tobacco-based products: Ask Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team for tips on kicking the habit.

Keep your mouth hydrated: Because a dry mouth typically leads to bad breath, drinking water or eating oranges or celery may help.

Visit our Seattle, WA office for regular dental checkups: By visiting Laurelhurst Family Dentistry at least twice a year, you will keep bad breath at bay. Dr. Wilma Shen DDS will conduct an oral exam and will be able detect and treat periodontal disease, dry mouth, or other problems that may be the cause of bad mouth odor.

How many times a day should I floss?

December 16th, 2020

Flossing is one of the most important parts of your oral care routine. Many patients know they need to do it but find it difficult to fit into their busy lives. Well, here's the good news: flossing once a day is enough if you're doing a good job!

Some patients like to brush before they floss and others like to floss before they brush. Some like to floss in the morning when they have more energy, others like to floss at night so they can go to bed with a clean mouth. Don't get hung up on any of this, the important thing is that you floss and floss effectively no matter when you do it.

Effective flossing contributes to oral health in these ways:

  • It reduces the chance of cavities between teeth, since cavities can only form on teeth covered with dental plaque and you're scraping that plaque away when you floss.
  • Along with brushing, it reduces the amount of time the plaque is left on your teeth, allowing them to be in a state of healing and remineralization for longer.
  • It removes plaque that accumulates at or below the gum line, aiding in the prevention of gum disease.

As you can see, flossing offers many benefits for such a simple and inexpensive technique. So if you're still wondering how much to floss, don't worry about it. Don't mistake the frequency of your flossing with the effectiveness of it. Choose a dental floss that you like and one time during the day when you can floss thoroughly and just do it! If you need more tips on how to floss correctly, ask Dr. Wilma Shen DDS or any member of our Seattle, WA team—we'd be glad to help you pick up this healthy habit!

Planning Your Vegetarian Diet with Your Oral Health in Mind

December 9th, 2020

If you’ve been following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you know that there’s much more to living a healthy life than simply avoiding meat products. Making sure your diet includes enough protein, as well as any nutrients that are primarily available in animal products, takes planning, and there’s no one-menu-fits-all solution.

Why? Because there’s no one menu that will suit all vegetarians. Specific vegetarian diets can allow for many different options:

  • Vegan—a plant-based diet which excludes meat, fish, dairy, and egg products
  • Ovo-vegetarian—includes eggs as a dietary option, but no dairy
  • Lacto-vegetarian— includes dairy as a dietary option, but no eggs
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian—a meat-free diet which allows both dairy products and eggs

If you are a pescatarian, who eats fish on occasion, or a flexitarian, who sometimes includes meat in a meal, your menu options are even broader.

So let’s look at the big picture—a healthy vegetarian diet is really more concerned with the foods you do eat for nutrition rather than the foods you don’t. You can create a meal plan rich in all your essential nutrients with a little research, no matter which type of vegetarian diet is your go-to choice.

And while you’re constructing your ideal menu guidelines, don’t forget about your dental nutrition!

In terms of keeping your teeth and gums their healthiest, what important vitamins and minerals are often missing from vegetarian and vegan diets? Let’s look at three of them.

  • Calcium

Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and tooth enamel. Without enough calcium, a weakened jawbone leads to loose, and even lost, teeth. The acids in our food and the acids created by oral bacteria also weaken the minerals in enamel, including calcium. These weak spots can eventually become cavities. A diet rich in calcium not only supports the bones holding our teeth, but can even help repair, or remineralize, enamel which has been weakened by acidic erosion.

For vegetarians who include dairy in their diets, dairy products are a great way to include calcium. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are traditional and rich sources of this mineral.

For vegans, it’s a bit more challenging, but still doable! Non-dairy foods providing calcium include dark green vegetables (kale, broccoli, spinach), certain types of tofu, and fortified cereals, juices, and non-dairy milks.

  • Vitamin D

Now you’re ready to put that calcium to work by making sure you have enough vitamin D in your diet. Vitamin D not only helps keep our bones healthy, it also enables our bodies to absorb calcium. Bonus—it’s been linked to better gum health in several studies.

So how to get more vitamin D? If you eat dairy, most dairy products have been fortified with vitamin D. If eggs are a part of your diet, egg yolks are a great source. Pescatarians can enjoy the benefits of vitamin D from fatty fish such as tuna and salmon.

Because we get most of our vitamin D from sun exposure or foods derived from animals, plant-based foods are not a practical way to obtain the vitamin D you need. But, just as non-vegetarians can get plentiful vitamin D from fortified dairy products, vegans also have options. Try adding cereals, juices, and non-dairy milks fortified with this essential nutrient to your diet, or take a vegan vitamin D supplement.

  • Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy red blood cells, nerve cell development, brain function, and DNA production. (This is why it’s especially important for pregnant and nursing women.) Vitamin B12 can also impact your oral health. A B12 deficiency can cause a swollen, sore, or inflamed tongue, loss of taste, and gum, tongue, and mouth ulcers.

Unfortunately, vitamin B12 is reliably found only in animal foods and nutritional yeasts. If you would prefer an egg-free and dairy-free diet, look to B12 supplements or B12-fortified cereals, plant-based milks, energy bars, and other vegan options. This is a good subject to discuss with your physician, because even supplements and fortified foods might not provide enough B12.

In fact, Dr. Wilma Shen DDS can be vital resources when you’re planning your healthiest vegetarian diet. The next time you visit our Seattle, WA office, ask for recommendations for supplements if you’re concerned that diet alone can’t provide for all of your nutrition essentials. Finally, care should be taken to ensure that, even with supplements, you get the proper amount of the vitamins and minerals you need.

As a vegetarian, you are used to the concept of care. Whether it was concern for nutrition, the planet, the animal world, or another reason that drew you to a vegetarian diet, be sure to care for your body as well as your dietary choices. Careful planning can ensure a diet which supports not only your general health, but your oral health, for a lifetime of nourishing—and well-nourished—smiles.

‘Tis the Season—for Healthy Dental Choices!

December 2nd, 2020

It might be the most wonderful time of the year, but if you’re dashing through the snow to an emergency dental appointment, you’re not feeling very jolly. And post-holiday, no one wants to start off their New Year’s Resolutions with “Get Cavities Filled.” How to survive the sweetest of seasons with enamel and fillings intact?

Candies and sweets would normally be on the naughty list, but we’re not Scrooges! Indulging in a treat or two is part of the holiday fun, and we have some advice for how to enjoy them guilt-free. But first, some treats are definitely more naughty than nice. Which are the ones that are better as decorations than desserts?

  • Candy Canes

If you’ve ever suffered a chipped or cracked tooth after an innocently biting down on a much-harder-than-expected piece of candy, you know that caution is in order. That’s why we tend to take our time with candy canes, letting them dissolve slowly in the mouth. Of course, the drawback to this strategy is that now we’re slowly bathing our teeth in sugar, encouraging the growth of plaque and cavity-causing bacteria.

Candy canes, peppermints, and other hard candies are potentially bad for your teeth when you crunch away, and definitely bad for your teeth if you let them dissolve slowly.

  • Gumdrops

Glistening, colorful gumdrops. Roofing your gingerbread house, trimming a gumdrop tree, or simply sitting in a bowl, they are one of the sweetest ways to decorate for the holidays. And when we say “sweet,” we mean that literally. Most gumdrops are basically made of corn syrup and sugar—and then rolled in more sugar.

But their sugar content isn’t the only problem. This is sugar in an extra-gummy form that sticks between our teeth and around our gums.

  • Toffees, Caramels, Taffy

They might come in lovely ribboned boxes, but these extremely sticky foods are not a gift to your teeth.

Not only do chewy candies stick to enamel, they stick to fillings, crowns (especially temporary crowns), and orthodontic wires and brackets. No one wants an unexpected trip to the dentist or orthodontist because dental work has been damaged or dislodged!

  • Gingerbread Houses

Nothing says the holidays like a gingerbread house—chewy, sticky gingerbread covered with hard sugar icing, gumdrops, and peppermints. Great for your décor; not so great for your dental health. Eat one gingerbread man if you’re in a spicy mood and leave your architectural masterpiece intact.

  • Fruitcake

If you need an excuse to turn down fruitcake, here’s a perfect one: most fruitcake is not great for your teeth. Candied fruit is, well, candied, and dried fruit is sugary, sticky, and chewy. There are delicious exceptions, of course, but even a delicious fruitcake is very high in sugar.

Well, this list wasn’t very jolly. So as a little holiday gift for you, here are some suggestions to help you enjoy your desserts in the healthiest way possible.

  • Be choosy.

Just like you search for the perfect presents for your family and friends, take the time to choose the perfect holiday treats for yourself. If you are worried about cavities, or have a temporary crown, or wear braces, or have cracked a tooth before, or are just generally concerned with your oral health, stay away from sticky, hard, and excessively sugary desserts.

What can you accept from your holiday hosts with a grateful (and relieved) smile? The occasional soft chocolate should be nothing to stress about—and if you make it dark chocolate, you’ll actually get nutritional bonuses like magnesium and antioxidants. Cakes, cupcakes, cookies, pies—yes, they are made with lots of sugar, but it is the holidays after all. Just be sure to follow our next suggestions to make that slice of cheesecake guilt-free.

  • Eat sweets with a meal.

Saliva does more than keep our mouths from getting dry. It also helps prevent cavities by washing away food particles and neutralizing the acids from food and bacteria, which damage enamel.

Eat dessert with a meal, and you benefit from increased mealtime saliva production. When you snack throughout the day, this acid-neutralizing ability is greatly reduced.

  • Rinse after eating.

Rinsing your mouth with water after a meal or a snack, especially a sugary one, also helps wash away the sticky sugars and carbs, which oral bacteria convert into acids.

  • Brush immediately. (Maybe.)

It’s always a good idea to brush right after eating—well, almost always. If you’ve been eating acidic foods like citrus or colas, the acids in the food can weaken your enamel just enough to cause some potential enamel damage if you scour your teeth immediately after eating. We often recommend waiting about 30 minutes to brush to give your enamel a chance to recover.

But every mouth is different. If you wear braces, or tend to get food stuck in your teeth or dental work, or have any other concerns, ask Dr. Wilma Shen DDS for the best times and methods for holiday brushing.

You don’t want to ho-ho-hope that we can fit you in at our Seattle, WA office to treat a cavity or a cracked tooth. Make your holiday dessert list and check it twice, and make sure you’re brushing and flossing more often if you’re indulging in seasonal treats—give yourself these two gifts, and you’ll be ringing in the New Year with a beautiful, healthy smile. Sweet!

Thanksgiving Trivia

November 25th, 2020

At Laurelhurst Family Dentistry we love learning trivia and interesting facts about Thanksgiving! This year, Dr. Wilma Shen DDS wanted to share some trivia that might help you feel a bit smarter at the holiday dinner table and help create some great conversation with friends and family.

The Turkey

There is no historical evidence that turkey was eaten at the first Thanksgiving dinner. It was a three-day party shared by the Wamponoag Indians and the pilgrims in 1621. Historians say they likely ate venison and seafood.

According to National Geographic, the dinner at the Plymouth colony was in October and included about 50 English colonists and 90 American Indian men. The first Thanksgiving dinner could have included corn, geese, and pumpkin.

Today, turkey is the meat of choice. According to the National Turkey Association, about 690 million pounds of turkey are consumed during Thanksgiving, or about 46 million turkeys.

The Side Dishes

The green bean casserole became popular about 50 years ago. Created by the Campbell Soup Company, it remains a popular side dish. According to Campbell’s, it was developed when the company was creating an annual holiday cookbook. The company now sells about $20 million worth of cream of mushroom soup each year, which is a major part of the recipe.

While there were likely plenty of cranberries for the pilgrims and Indians to enjoy, sugar was a luxury. What we know today as cranberry sauce was not around in those early Thanksgiving days. About 750 million pounds of cranberries are produced each year in the US, with about 30 percent consumed on Thanksgiving.

The Parade

Since Thanksgiving did not become a national holiday until Lincoln declared it in 1863, the annual parades were not yearly events until much later. The biggest parade that continues to draw crowds is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Beginning in 1924 with about 400 employees, they marched from Convent Avenue to 145th Street in New York City. Famous for the huge hot-air balloons today, it was actually live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo that were the stars of the show then.

However you choose to spend your Thanksgiving holiday, we wish you a safe, happy and healthy holiday with those you love.

What happens if I don’t have my wisdom teeth removed?

November 18th, 2020

One of the things Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry monitor during your dental appointments is the growth of your wisdom teeth, or third molars. Third molars generally begin to erupt between the ages of 17 and 25. Wisdom teeth may require removal for many reasons, including pain, infection, or growth issues. While not all patients need their wisdom tooth removed, problems can develop if removal is not performed.

Overcrowding

Many patients have smaller mouths and jaws, which do not allow room for the third molars to grow in properly. If these teeth do erupt, overcrowding can occur. Your teeth will begin to shift or overlap each other. Wisdom teeth that erupt after orthodontic care is completed can cause the teeth to shift and negate the work performed.

Impacted Wisdom Teeth

When wisdom teeth are impacted, they are trapped below your gum line. Impacted wisdom teeth can be very painful and may be prone to abscess and infection. The impaction can lead to decay and resorption of healthy teeth.

On occasion, if wisdom teeth are not monitored properly, their growth can shift parallel to the jaw line. They can also shift backward and eventually interfere with the opening and closing of your jaw.

Greater Potential for Decay

Even when wisdom teeth grow in properly, the location can make the teeth harder to care for. This in turn can lead to the growth of more bacteria, and create health issues later in life.

If you do not have your wisdom teeth removed, they will require continued monitoring. Wisdom teeth are just as subject to decay and other problems as the rest of your teeth. Those that appear above the gum surface can often be extracted at a dental office in a fashion similar to any other tooth extraction. Impacted teeth are normally handled by an oral surgeon.

Pain in the back of the jaw and swelling may indicated wisdom teeth that are beginning to rupture or are impacted. A simple set of X-rays will determine the extent and direction of growth. Please do not hesitate to discuss your concerns during your next visit our Seattle, WA office. We will be happy to explain wisdom teeth, and potential removal, as it applies to your specific case.

Educational and Entertaining Enamel Experiments

November 11th, 2020

Let’s talk about the science of our teeth for a moment. Our enamel has a very high mineral content, making it extremely strong.  In fact, enamel just happens to be the hardest substance in our bodies.  But, unfortunately, it is not indestructible! Certain foods we eat can actually damage the surface of our teeth. Some simple and entertaining experiments can show children how our teeth can be affected by things we eat and drink, and how we can help protect them.

If you have a science-minded student at home, there are many activities you can do together, using educational websites, common household products and lots and lots of eggs. (Why eggs? Eggshells are a great substitute for teeth in these experiments. Not only are they various shades of white--like our own teeth, they are also calcium-rich—like our own teeth.) You can find any number of experiments using uncooked eggs, hardboiled eggs, whole shells with the contents blown out, or eggshells alone, so you can find just the right activity for whichever egg treatment works best for you.

Examine Enamel Erosion

One of the ways we protect our teeth is with healthy eating. The bacteria in plaque use the sugars and starches in our foods to produce acids. These acids are the substances that break down the minerals in our enamel and leave the enamel weaker. Weaker enamel is more easily attacked by bacteria and acids, which leads to cavities.

With eggs or eggshells and some carefully selected food products, you can see just how acidity affects teeth. Different websites suggest a variety of acidic liquids to dunk your eggs in, such as vinegar, soda, or citrus juices, so it’s easy to find an experiment that works with your pantry. Always use a plain water sample when you submerge eggs or shells to act as a control to measure differences against. How do the egg shells soaked in acidic liquids differ from those in plain water? It’s also fun to add simple sugar water as a test liquid to see what happens. Is it sugar or acid that causes more damage? And why might that be?

The Fluoride Fix

Fluoride is well known as a mineral that protects the structure of our teeth and helps prevent cavities. And there are actually experiments out there to test the protection fluoride provides using your egg stand-ins.

In some experiments, a hardboiled egg is coated with fluoride toothpaste or rinse for a specific amount of time and then dunked into vinegar. An untreated egg also gets a vinegar bath. You are asked to observe what is happening to each egg as it sits in its vinegar bath—are there bubbles on one egg and not the other? What do the bubbles mean? Other experiments require longer exposure to fluoride and then to vinegar—what happens to the shells of the treated and untreated eggs? What could this mean for our teeth?

Staining Studies

Our diet can do more than help create cavities. Enamel is very strong, but it is not stain-proof! Dark colored foods and drinks can make our teeth appear darker or more yellow. (And teeth that have suffered enamel erosion can pick up stains more easily.) How does food affect the brightness of our smiles?

If this question interests you, find experiments that use favorite beverages as a soak for your eggs. Choose liquids with a range of color, such as coffee, soda, and apple juice. Or choose an experiment that uses different varieties of soft drinks. Will foods the same color cause the same amount of discoloration in your egg volunteers? Do you want shorter or longer soaks in each liquid? Do you want to make use of a recycled toothbrush to see if brushing that discolored shell makes a difference? With toothpaste or without?

Even though these activities are designed for older children, they still require adult supervision. You can find detailed instructions for any of these experiments at many science and educational sites online. With some household supplies, plenty of extra cups, and a quantity of eggs, you and your child can demonstrate some of the basic effects our food choices have on the health and appearance of our teeth. It’s a wonderful way to promote healthy eating and brushing habits, scientific curiosity, and shared experiences!

Don’t forget to let Dr. Wilma Shen DDS know how your experiments turned out the next time you visit our Seattle, WA office!

Cold Comfort

November 4th, 2020

The sounds of the season are filling the air—falling leaves rustling along the sidewalk, football cheers, holiday greetings—and the coughs and sneezes of your fellow sufferers. Yes, it’s cold and flu season, and you’re one of the unfortunate people who’s caught whatever it is that’s been going around. While you’re recuperating, here are some tips for looking after yourself and your dental health.

  • Keep Hydrated

Fevers, sweating, diarrhea, and vomiting can all lead to dehydration. You know how serious that can be for your overall health, but it also leads to problems for your oral health. Lowered saliva production puts you at an increased risk for cavities, since saliva washes away food particles and bacteria, neutralizes cavity-causing acids, and helps strengthen tooth enamel. In addition to the dehydration illness can cause, many over the counter medications leave your mouth dry as well. Be sure to drink fluids throughout your illness, and, as always, try to avoid sugary beverages and acidic drinks.

  • Keep Up Your Dental Hygiene

You may feel like you never want to get out of bed again, but it’s important to maintain your dental routine. Brushing and flossing are still necessary to protect your teeth and gums. And try gargling with warm saltwater or a mouth rinse. You’ll not only soothe a sore throat and help prevent the bad breath that sinus problems can cause, but you’ll also reduce oral bacteria and plaque.

  • Keep Away from Your Toothbrush after Vomiting

Even though cleaning your mouth and teeth might be the first thing you want do to after throwing up, wait at least half an hour before brushing your teeth. Cavities occur over time when tooth enamel is weakened by the acids oral bacteria produce. When you vomit, your teeth are exposed to much stronger stomach acids, and immediate brushing simply brushes these acids on to your enamel. One common recommendation is to mix a teaspoon of baking soda with a glass of water, swish it around your mouth, and spit it out. Or simply use a glass of plain water, and repeat if needed.

  • Keep Your Cough under Control

Here’s a tip your family, friends, co-workers, and fellow public transportation users will thank you for: If you are sick, stay home. If you do find yourself coughing while around others, cover your mouth. Cough into a tissue instead of your hands or the open air. If you don’t have a tissue available, cough into your upper sleeve.  And while you’re protecting others, protect your tooth enamel. Replace overly sweet cough syrups with tablets, and, if you are using cough drops, remember that sucking on a sugary cough drop is like sucking on candy. Look for the sugar-free variety and use only as directed.

  • Don’t Keep Your Toothbrush

Now that you’re feeling better, it might be time to throw out your toothbrush. The chances of re-infection are low (unless you have a compromised immune system), but we often hang on to our toothbrushes long after their effective days are past. A toothbrush should only last around three to four months. If yours is older than that, this is a perfect opportunity to replace a brush that might be getting a bit long in the tooth with a fresh, germ-free model.

Above all, be good to yourself when you are ill. Drink healthy fluids, maintain your dental routine, and treat your teeth and your body with care. Here’s wishing you a speedy recovery, continuing dental health, and a season filled with beautiful smiles.

Are dental implants painful? What You Need to Know

October 28th, 2020

Whether it is the result of tooth decay, gum disease, or injury, millions of people suffer tooth loss. Dental implants provide a strong replacement tooth root for fixed replacement teeth that are designed to match your natural teeth. Of course, there is one question all patients have about dental implants: are they painful?

Dental implant placement is performed under local or general anesthesia and is not considered a painful procedure. However, if the surgery is more complicated and involves bone or tissue grafts, there may be slightly more discomfort and swelling. At the same time, every patient has a different threshold for pain, so what may bother one person may not bother another. If you experience any pain from dental implants, there are several things can do to relive it.

Relieving Pain from Dental Implants

1. The initial healing phase can last up to seven to ten days. Over-the-counter painkillers such as Tylenol, Ibuprofen, and Motrin work well to alleviate any pain or discomfort you may experience. However, only take these if instructed to by Dr. Wilma Shen DDS.

2. Once you leave our Seattle, WA office, you can reduce inflammation and any swelling to your cheek or lip by holding an ice-pack on your face over the implant area.

3. Your gum will be tender for the first few days. We often recommended that you bathe your gums with warm salt water.

4. Steer clear of crusty or hard foods for the first day or two. Ice cream, yogurt, and other soft foods are ideal as your gums will be tender.

5. Dental implants are a relatively straightforward oral procedure. Many people take time off from work to have dental implant surgery, and then return to regular activities. However, if you are feeling any pain or discomfort, there is nothing wrong with taking the day off, relaxing, and putting your feet up.

There is typically no severe post-operative pain with dental implants. When most people return for a follow-up appointment about two weeks later, they often say that getting a dental implant was one of the least painful procedures they’ve experienced.

What is gum recession?

October 21st, 2020

Gum (gingival) recession occurs when gums recede from the tops of the teeth enough to expose sensitive roots. People typically experience increased sensitivity to sugary or cold foods when gums no longer cover and protect teeth roots. In addition, untreated gum recession may lead to loosening of teeth and accelerated tooth decay, something Dr. Wilma Shen DDS see all too often.

Causes of Gum Recession

  • Periodontal disease – a serious oral disease arising from poor oral habits
  • Gingivitis – gum disease characterized by bleeding and swollen gums
  • Aging
  • Overly aggressive brushing and/or flossing – brushing hard in a scrubbing fashion will erode gum tissue at the roots of teeth
  • Genetic predisposition to gingival recession – having inherited thin, insufficient gum tissue facilitates gum recession
  • Bruxism – a condition where someone regularly grinds their teeth, usually during sleep
  • Chewing tobacco/smoking – promotes chronically dry mouth and reduced gum health

Periodontal gingivitis may also cause causing drooping of the gums instead of gum recession. A gingivectomy removes excess gum tissue weakened by bacterial decay while a gingivoplasty can reshape gums around the teeth. If sagging or receding gums are left untreated, they may develop pockets (gaps) that provide hiding places for food particles, mucus and other mouth debris conducive to anaerobic bacteria growth. As the most destructive type of oral bacteria, anaerobic bacteria is responsible for tooth decay, cavities, gum disease, and chronic halitosis.

Treatments for Gum Recession

Corrective actions need implemented as soon as possible to reverse gum recession by addressing the cause. For example, people who brush with hard-bristled toothbrushes should switch to a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush more gently. If gum recession is the result of poor oral hygiene, improve oral hygiene habits by brushing after meals, flossing, rinsing with non-alcoholic mouthwash, and getting dental checkups and cleanings every six months. For severe cases of gum recession, soft tissue grafts can add gum tissue to exposed roots by removing tissue from the person's palate and attaching it to existing gums at the area of recession via laser surgery.

If you’re worried about gum recession, visit our Seattle, WA office and talk to a member of our team.

How can veneers improve my smile?

October 14th, 2020

Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry know your smile is an important part of your appearance; it can be a source of pride or embarrassment. Everyone deserves beautiful, straight teeth that complement their features, but few are born with natural dental perfection. Fortunately, cosmetic dentistry has come a long way in recent years, with veneers making it possible to make over your smile completely.

With dental veneers, the smile of your dreams can become a reality. These thin, wafer-like shells are crafted of porcelain and completely customized to fit your smile. Once your tooth size, shape, and color have been determined, veneers are adhered to the surface of your natural tooth, instantly transforming your appearance. What used to be a secret of the rich and famous is now highly accessible to dental patients around the world.

Benefits of dental veneers

Appearance

Dental veneers are very natural in appearance and virtually undetectable to other people. Their non-porous surfaces make them resistant to staining, which ensures they do not change color over time.

Improvements

Dental veneers can be used to improve the appearance of many kinds of imperfections. In fact, an entirely new smile can be crafted from veneers, to cover up chipped teeth, discoloration, and gaps between teeth.

Durability

Veneers are long-lasting cosmetic enhancements that can survive many years with appropriate care and maintenance. They are specially fabricated to be resistant to scratches and chipping, which makes them a practical solution for the average person.

Flexibility

Dental veneers are highly adaptable. You can opt for only a single veneer to repair a chipped or cracked tooth, or you can modify multiple teeth at once for a smile makeover.

Considerations

Keep in mind that cosmetic treatments like dental veneers are secondary to primary dental care. You must have healthy teeth and disease-free gums to be a candidate for cosmetic procedures. An initial consultation at our convenient Seattle, WA office will reveal any underlying decay or other problems that must be addressed prior to getting veneers. Give us a call today!

The Truth about TMJ

September 30th, 2020

TMJ is the quick way of referring to your Temporomandibular Joint. Pardon the pun, but that’s quite a mouthful! What is this joint, what does it do, and, if your Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team have told you that you have a TMJ disorder, what can we do to help?

The Temporomandibular Joint

Your two temporomandibular joints are amazing works of anatomical design. These are the joints where the temporal bone in the skull meets the mandible bone of the jaw, and allow our mouths to open and close, move back and forth, and slide from side to side. Muscle, bone, and cartilage work together to provide easy movement and to cushion the joint. But sometimes, the joint doesn’t work as smoothly as it should, and this can lead to Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMD.

When Should You Suspect You Have TMD?

You might have TMD if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Painful chewing
  • Pain around your TMJ, or in your face or neck
  • Earaches
  • Changes in your bite
  • Jaws that are limited in movement or lock open or shut
  • Clicking, popping or grating noises when you open and shut your jaw

There are many conditions linked to TMD. If you grind your teeth at night, have arthritis in the jaw, have suffered an injury or infection in the area, or have problems with your bite, for example, you might be more likely to have TMJ problems. If you suspect you have TMD, or suffer from any of the symptoms listed above for an extended period, give us a call.

Treating TMD

During your visit to our Seattle, WA office, we will check your medical history, and examine your head and neck. We can take an X-ray or scan if needed for further examination of the joint. Because there is no real scientific agreement yet about the best way to treat TMJ disorders, a conservative treatment plan is often best. If you do show signs of TMD, we might first suggest relaxation techniques, over-the-counter pain relievers, or the use of ice packs or moist heat compresses. A change to a softer diet can help, and you should stop chewing gum and making any exaggerated jaw movements.

If these self-care practices aren’t effective, we might suggest a nightguard. This appliance is a comfortable and flexible mouthguard custom fitted for you, and will bring relief from teeth grinding when worn at night. If this treatment is not effective, talk to us about other options.

Luckily, most cases of TMD are temporary and don’t become worse over time. But any persistent discomfort is a good reason to visit us. Whether you have TMD, or any other problem causing you pain in the head or jaw, we want to help.

Why is replacing missing teeth important?

September 23rd, 2020

When we talk about teeth, every single one of yours counts. Whether you’ve lost a tooth due to injury or poor oral hygiene, it’s worth seeing Dr. Wilma Shen DDS to evaluate all your replacement options. If you don’t, you could suffer negative effects to your teeth, gums, jawbones, appearance, and self-esteem.

Depending on how many teeth are missing and where they are located, Dr. Wilma Shen DDS may suggest an implant, fixed bridge, or a removable bridge.

Addressing missing teeth as soon as possible is in your best interests. If you don't, the consequences might include:

  • Shifting teeth: When you lose a tooth, the space it creates allows the neighboring teeth to drift and move out of alignment. A once-straight smile and correct bite can quickly turn into crooked teeth and a misaligned bite.
  • Tooth decay and/or gum disease: After teeth have shifted, it can be harder to reach all areas around them to brush and floss properly. The buildup of bacteria and plaque can result in periodontal disease and the loss of your remaining teeth due to decay.
  • Effect on jaws: Missing teeth alter your bite and how your teeth and jaws contact one another. This puts added strain on your jaw joint (TMJ) and can contribute to the development of TMJ disorder.
  • Change in face and appearance: When you lose a tooth, your gums and your jawbone are no longer stimulated in that area. A dental implant replaces the root of a tooth or several teeth, and provides stimulation to prevent bone loss. If the root isn’t replaced, this can lead to deterioration of the jawbone and alteration of the shape and appearance of your face. Your face, especially the cheeks, can look older and more sunken.

Replacing missing teeth is an essential step for your physical and emotional health. If they are replaced in a timely manner at our Seattle, WA office, you’ll continue to have the same wonderful smile you’ve always had.

The Importance of Baby Teeth

September 16th, 2020

Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team know it can be easy to underestimate the significance of baby teeth. At Laurelhurst Family Dentistry, we sometimes meet parents who assume that since their child's baby teeth, also known as primary teeth, eventually fall out and are replaced, they are less important. But did you know baby teeth serve purposes other than biting, chewing, and digesting food properly?

Baby teeth are essential not only for your child’s language development, but they also serve other important functions, like contributing to the normal development of your child’s jaw bones and facial muscles. Baby teeth also reserve space for your child’s future permanent teeth.

So, when do baby teeth fall out?

A baby tooth is intended to remain in your child’s mouth until the permanent tooth underneath it is ready to take its place. Sometimes, either due to a tooth being knocked out accidentally or being removed because of tooth decay, kids lose baby teeth before the permanent teeth are ready to erupt. If a tooth is lost, the teeth on either side of the open space may possibly push into the open space. The result? There may not be enough room for the permanent tooth when it is finally ready to erupt.

If you have any questions about your toddler’s teeth, or if your child is experiencing issues that concern you, please give us a call to set up an appointment at our convenient Seattle, WA office.

Make Brushing Teeth Fun!

September 9th, 2020

It’s understandable that kids would rather be playing outside or watching their favorite movie instead of doing a “boring” task like brushing their teeth. But there are ways to make brushing fun for your son or daughter, and encourage healthy oral hygiene habits early on! Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team have a few tricks that may help.

Game time

What child doesn’t love a good game? Try to turn brushing time into a game, whether by playing hide-and-seek or singing your child’s favorite song while he or she brushes for two minutes.

Kids also love rewards, so awarding them stickers after a good brushing can encourage them to do a good job every time. You might even tell your child that five stickers will earn a special treat or fun activity at the end of the week.

Fun accessories

Lots of toothbrush options can add something exciting to your child’s daily brushing routine. Toothbrushes that light up tend to be a popular choice with young kids. The same goes for toothbrushes shaped like your child’s favorite animal or cartoon character.

Teaching your kids about how long they should brush each time can also be fun. Let them have the special responsibility of setting a timer for two minutes before they start to brush.

The Great Toothpaste Experiment

Lots of kids can be picky eaters and that can the case with toothpaste flavors. Set aside a time to sample several different flavors, the way they’ve probably tried various flavors at the ice cream shop! Just make sure to be very clear that they shouldn’t swallow the toothpaste.

With your help, your child can easily develop healthy brushing habits over time. If you can find ways to make it fun, it can be an enjoyable experience for both of you!

Call Dr. Wilma Shen DDS at our Seattle, WA office for more fun tips or to make an appointment today!

What are the advantages of dental implants?

August 26th, 2020

Losing a tooth can affect a lot more than just the look of your smile. Missing teeth affect your ability to chew and can also cause problems for your other teeth. It is essential to replace missing teeth in order to maintain oral health as well as your overall well-being. Dental implants are an excellent option to replace your natural tooth and its root without affecting your neighboring teeth, and are available from Dr. Wilma Shen DDS.

Why choose dental implants?

There are many reasons to choose dental implants to replace your lost or damaged teeth. According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, dental implants are often considered more predictable than other treatment options and are known to provide long-term successful outcomes.

Dental implants provide many benefits over other treatments such as bridgework and dentures:

  • Unlike other treatment options for missing teeth, dental implants allow Dr. Wilma Shen DDS to replace your tooth without impacting the healthy teeth surrounding the space.
  • Dental implants also protect healthy bone by preventing potential bone loss and deterioration in the jaw.
  • This treatment option allows you to speak and eat normally without worrying about slippery or uncomfortable removable dentures.
  • The closest thing to natural teeth, dental implants allow you to maintain your smile and natural face shape.
  • These implants are built to last, providing you with a long-term solution to missing teeth.

Overall, dental implants are the next best thing to natural, healthy teeth. Choosing to undergo surgery to replace your lost or damaged teeth is an important decision. To avoid the issues caused by lost teeth, consult Dr. Wilma Shen DDS or visit our Seattle, WA office to see if you are a candidate for dental implants.

What can I expect during my implant procedure?

August 19th, 2020

Dental implants are a surgical procedure done by Dr. Wilma Shen DDS right here at our Seattle, WA office. Screw-like parts made of titanium are inserted into your jaw bone and act as the root of your tooth. An artificial tooth will be placed on top of the screw, usually made out of ceramic or layered porcelain. The dental implant will look and feel just like the natural tooth you lost.

How much time will the dental implant surgery take?

There are numerous factors that determine the length of time for the dental implant procedure:

  • If you’re having one tooth replaced or several
  • The teeth that are being replaced
  • If you need a tooth or teeth extracted before the implant placement
  • The amount of time it takes for your IV to be placed
  • Any last minute questions or concerns you may need addressed

All of the above factors will also govern the amount of visits to our Seattle, WA office you will need to make throughout your dental implant treatment period. For example, a single tooth dental implant surgery typically takes one to two hours from the time you arrive until you awaken from the anesthesia. This also includes the amount of time it takes to put on your gown, hair cap, and other surgical dressing preparations before you are able to enter the sterile surgical environment.

Does getting an implant hurt?

With nearly any surgical procedure, you will feel some sort of discomfort. Whether it is the insertion of the IV for the anesthesia, or discomfort you may feel after the surgery. However, most patients report that their pain was tolerable after their dental implant surgery. In fact, the majority of patients said the discomfort was a lot less than they expected. Dr. Wilma Shen DDS will prescribe pain medications to help with any discomfort you may experience once you get home.

How will I feel after the dental implant treatment?

It is normal to have some bruising and swelling in the soft tissue and gum area. Usually the pain or discomfort does not require the use of anything more than an over-the-counter pain medication such as Tylenol or ibuprofen. In addition, you will have the prescription for a stronger pain medication if you need it. You should be able to work the following day.

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.

Gum Disease in Children

July 15th, 2020

When it comes to gum disease and your child, it’s a good news/bad news situation. The very good news is that children rarely suffer from advanced gum disease, or periodontitis. The not-so-good news? Early gum disease, called gingivitis, is unfortunately an all-too-common childhood problem.

  • What does gingivitis look like in children?

Childhood gingivitis has the same causes and symptoms as the adult version. Healthy gums are firm and pink. When bacteria and plaque accumulate on the teeth, your child’s gums become irritated and inflamed. Call our Seattle, WA office right away if you notice any of these symptoms of gingivitis: bleeding gums, puffiness, redness, gum tissue receding from the teeth, or bad breath even after brushing.       

  • How to Prevent Gingivitis

The most common cause of gingivitis is poor dental care. Creating a regular dental routine is the best way to prevent gingivitis from ever developing! Brushing and flossing with your child for two minutes twice a day from the very beginning helps make healthy cleaning a lifelong habit. Care should be taken to gently brush teeth at the gum line to make sure plaque doesn’t get a chance to build up there and cause gum irritation. And when your child comes in for regular cleanings, Dr. Wilma Shen DDS can be sure that any plaque that might remain on the teeth is removed.

Two additional notes: as your child approaches adolescence, hormone fluctuations can make gums more sensitive and easily irritated. This is a time to really emphasize careful and gentle brushing and flossing. Also, some medical conditions may make children more pre-disposed to gum problems, so be sure to make us aware of your child’s medical history.

  • Uncommon Gum Diseases

While gingivitis is very preventable with proper dental hygiene, there are some rare gum conditions that can occur around the time of puberty that are quite different from gingivitis. Aggressive Periodontitis can cause severe bone loss around the first molars and incisors, even without any kind of plaque build-up, and Generalized Aggressive Periodontitis leads to inflammation of the gums, heavy plaque, and, eventually, loose teeth. Again, these conditions are rare, but if you have a family history of these diseases, let us know. Checkups and cleanings are a great way to catch any potential gum problems, so be sure to bring your child in for regular visits.

Almost all childhood gingivitis is preventable. With careful brushing and flossing at home, and visiting us regularly for checkups and cleanings, your child can enjoy healthy gums and teeth now and learn habits that will keep those gums and teeth healthy for a lifetime. And that is a good news/great news situation!

Does getting a dental implant hurt?

July 8th, 2020

Getting a dental implant is a surgical procedure and everyone’s pain tolerance level is different. Therefore, what one person may perceive as pain is only a slight discomfort for another person. The general consensus about pain and dental implants is that the majority of people feel discomfort, not pain.

A dental implant is a complex procedure. Let’s take a look at what may cause discomfort:

  • Some people may find that having the IV put in is uncomfortable, especially if the healthcare worker has to try more than once. If you have a fear of needles or if you have anxiety about the procedure, we can prescribe a sedative, which you take before you arrive.
  • Of course, during the dental implant surgery, you will be asleep. Therefore, you will not feel any pain or discomfort at all.
  • When you awake from the surgery, your mouth should still be numb. In many cases, we can give you a “block” – it is basically a 24-hour pain medication, so you will not feel any pain or discomfort at all.
  • We will also provide you with a prescription for a strong pain killer, and you will most likely sleep while you are taking them. If you are still in pain, do not take more than is prescribed without calling us first. You will need someone to stay with you for 24 hours after the surgery, and they will be instructed on how to give you any prescription medication. The anesthesia tends to make people a bit loopy and forgetful the first 24 hours.
  • After the first 24 hours you may feel some discomfort. The most important thing you can do is take your pain medication regularly, whether you are taking the prescription medication or an over-the-counter pain reliever such as Tylenol or Advil.
  • You should not need pain medication for more than the first few days.

Most people do say there mouth is sore and they have to be careful what they eat, so it’s best to stick to soft foods. If you have any additional questions, please contact our Seattle, WA office and speak with Dr. Wilma Shen DDS.

Happy Fourth of July!

July 1st, 2020

Happy Independence Day from Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and team! The Fourth of July celebrations in America may have changed a lot over the years, but there is no doubt that we Americans love to celebrate the anniversary of our country's independence! Today we're devoting the Laurelhurst Family Dentistry blog to some fun facts about the Fourth!

  • My, how we have grown! This year the United States Census Bureau estimates that our country has 313.9 million residents celebrating the Fourth of July this year, but back in 1776 there were just 2.5 million members of the country.
  • Our country loves to show how proud that we are of our independence. Did you know that there are 31 United States places with the word “Liberty” in their names? The state of Iowa actually has four towns with the word Liberty in the name: Libertyville, New Liberty, North Liberty, and West Liberty.
  • The United States loves Fourth of July food! It is expected that around 150 million hot dogs are eaten on the Fourth each year. One of the Fourth's most popular sides, potato salad, goes just perfectly with the hotdogs and hamburgers that are standard Fourth of July fare. Some people choose potato chips instead, but we wouldn't have such a plethora of potatoes if not for the prodigious production of the states of Idaho and Washington -- they provide about half of all the potatoes in the United States today!
  • Americans love celebrating the Fourth outdoors: About 74 million Americans fire up their BBQ grill every Fourth of July.
  • The Chinese contribution: Did you know that Americans have spent more than $211 million on fireworks that were imported from China?

No matter how your family chooses to celebrate the Fourth, stay safe, take precautions, and don't forget to brush after your fabulous Fourth feast!

What is a crown?

June 24th, 2020

Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry hear this question all the time. Millions of people have dental crowns that artificially restore the chewing surface of a tooth. Also known as caps, these restorations surround the entire portion of the tooth that is above the gum line. Crowns are custom fabricated to match the color, shape, and size of other teeth and are visually undetectable to others. Several types of materials can be used to create crowns, including stainless steel, resin, metal alloys, porcelain fused to metal, or ceramic. When properly cared for and accurately fit, crowns can stay in place for a decade or more.

There are many reasons to get a dental crown, including:

  • To restore a broken or cracked tooth
  • To protect a tooth after a root canal
  • To restore a severely decayed tooth
  • To help anchor a dental bridge
  • To complete a dental implant
  • To protect a tooth that is at high risk for developing decay
  • For cosmetic purposes

Getting a dental crown

The process of getting a dental crown begins at our Seattle, WA office. X-rays are used to ensure the teeth are healthy enough to receive a crown. If the roots and surrounding bone are in satisfactory condition, the tooth will be numbed, filed, and reshaped in preparation for the crown. If the tooth root is not healthy, a root canal may be necessary first.

After the tooth is prepared, a special paste is placed over the upper and lower teeth to make impressions. These impressions serve as blueprints for the dental laboratory responsible for making the crown. They also help ensure the position of the new crown will not negatively affect a patient’s bite. The prepared tooth is protected by a temporary crown while the permanent one is made. When ready, the permanent crown replaces the temporary crown and is cemented in place.

To learn more about crowns, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Wilma Shen DDS, please give us a call at our convenient Seattle, WA office!

Curing the Nail-Biting Habit

June 17th, 2020

Do you ever find yourself gnawing at your nails? Nail-biting is a very common and difficult to break habit which usually has its beginnings in childhood. It can leave your fingers and nail beds red and swollen. But if you think that your nails are the only ones getting roughed up by nail-biting you'd be mistaken—so are your teeth!

According to a study by the Academy of General Dentistry, those who bite their nails, clench their teeth, or chew on pencils are at much higher risk to develop bruxism (unintentional grinding of the teeth). Bruxism can lead to tooth sensitivity, tooth loss, receding gums, headaches, and general facial pain.

Those are some nasty sounding side effects from chewing on your nails. Most nail-biting is a sign of stress or anxiety and its something you should deal with. So what steps can you take if you have a nail-biting habit?

There are several things you can do to ease up on nail-biting:

  • Trim your nails shorter and/or get regular manicures – Trimming your nails shorter is an effective remedy. In so doing, they'll be less tempting and more difficult to bite on. If you also get regular manicures, you’ll be less likely to ruin the investment you’ve made in your hands and fingernails!
  • Find a different kind of stress reduction – Try meditation, deep breathing, practicing qigong or yoga, or doing something that will keep your hands occupied like squeezing a stress ball or playing with a yo-yo.
  • Wear a bitter-tasting nail polish – When your nails taste awful, you won't bite them! Clear or colored, it doesn't matter. This is also a helpful technique for helping children get over the habit.
  • Figure out what triggers your nail-biting – Sometimes it's triggered by stress or anxiety and other times it can be a physical stressor, like having hang nails. Knowing what situations cause you to bite your nails will help you to avoid them and break the habit.
  • Wear gloves or bandages on your fingers – If you've tried the steps above and they aren't working, this technique can prove effective since your fingernails won't be accessible to bite.

If you're still having trouble with nail-biting after trying these self-help steps, it's best to consult your doctor, dermatologist, or Dr. Wilma Shen DDS. For some, it may also be the sign of a deeper psychological or emotional problem.

Whatever the cause, nail-biting is a habit you need to break for your physical and emotional well-being. If you have any questions about the effects it can have on your oral health, please don't hesitate to ask Dr. Wilma Shen DDS during your next visit to our Seattle, WA office.

Help! My gums hurt when I floss!

June 10th, 2020

By no stretch is it rare for your gums to hurt during and after flossing. Even some bleeding is to be expected. This is especially true if you have not flossed in a long time. However, if your gums do indeed hurt when you floss, and unbearably so, there are some things you can do.

Be Gentle

Perhaps the most obvious way to combat gum soreness and bleeding is to be gentle. One of the most common occurrences of these gum problems is over-aggressive flossing. In other words, if you are too rough on your gums while flossing, either because you are out of practice or because you are in a hurry, soreness and hurting is to be expected. Instead, try taking your time and be gentle. Also, if you are just starting out, be patient and consistent, your gums will become more conditioned over time.

Use an Alternative Method

If being consistent and gentle does not work, there are other alternative methods of flossing that you can try. You can also try a water floss machine, or what is sometimes called a water pick. The device essentially shoots water into the crevasses between your teeth, and in other areas of your mouth, in order to dislodge food and plaque. These oral instruments also come with different attachments that allow you to reach many of the hard to see and reach areas of your mouth. And lastly, you can always buy floss that is not as abrasive to your gums. There is floss that comes with soft and gentle coatings that will do less harm to your gums while they are adjusting to the good oral hygiene habit you are creating.

Flossing is one of the easiest parts of oral hygiene to overlook. When you first start out, it is common that you may want to stop because of the pain it can initially cause. However, if you try one, or all, of the above mentioned methods, you will give yourself the best chance of being success with your flossing, and it won't hurt as much.

For more flossing tips, schedule an appointment at our Seattle, WA office and askDr. Wilma Shen DDS or a member of our team!

Water Features

June 3rd, 2020

Heading for the beach! Hiking to the lake! Keeping cool with a tall, frosty glass of ice water in a foreign bistro, or taking a refreshing gulp from the fountain in the park! Hot weather has arrived, and water is something we’re more conscious of now than most other times of the year. Even so, water as a dental feature? Glad you asked!

  • Recreation

Whether you want to bask in the heat or escape it, heading out for a day in or on the water works. And while you’re protecting your skin with sunscreen, think about protecting your teeth and mouth as well. With one small slip, any physical water sport—water skiing, water polo, surfing—can result in damage to your teeth or jaw. Bring—and use—the mouthguard you wear for sports like basketball or biking, and make sure you have a summer of smiles ahead of you.

  • Refreshment

Summer has a beverage menu all its own. Iced coffee and iced tea, a cooler full of sodas, fresh lemonade, fruity cocktails—so many refreshing ways to beat the heat! And we would never suggest that you turn down every frosty summer temptation. But do be mindful that dark beverages like tea, coffee, and sodas can stain teeth, sugary and acidic ones are damaging to your enamel, and alcoholic drinks can be dehydrating. Water, on the other hand, is always a healthy choice. It’s helpful for keeping your mouth and teeth clean, it often contains the fluoride that helps fight cavities, it’s hydrating—and, it has no calories! Be sure to make water a significant part of your summer beverage menu, and your body will thank you for it.

  • Rinse & Restore

Water’s importance to our bodies can’t be overstated! From major organs to individual cells, we need water. And one major benefit of proper hydration is healthy saliva production. Why is that important? Saliva plays a vital role in preventing cavities. It washes away the food particles that oral bacteria feed on, reducing their ability to produce the acids that lead to enamel erosion and cavities. Saliva even helps neutralize acids already in the mouth. Finally, saliva contains important calcium, phosphate and fluoride ions which actually help restore enamel strength after it has been exposed to oral acidity.

Summer goes by all too quickly. Protect your teeth during these warm, active months with a mouthguard. And whether you spend your free time outdoors, or visiting people and places, or keeping cool at home, be mindful of dental-friendly beverage options and always stay hydrated. You’ll be ready to greet fall with a beautiful smile and healthy teeth. “Water Features”? Perhaps a better title would be “Water Power”!

Telltale Signs that Your Tooth has a Cavity

May 27th, 2020

Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry frequently get questions about cavity causes and prevention. You brush twice a day and floss regularly. You rinse with mouthwash, just like the dentist recommended. In fact, you can’t remember the last time you had a cavity, but you think it was when you were a little kid. In all seriousness, you thought only kids got cavities.

The Signs and Symptoms of a Cavity

It’s believed that roughly 90% of North Americans will get at least one cavity in their lifetime. Those other ten percent, it seems, can eat as much pie, cake, and sugary cereals and sweets as they want. That’s not really true; just a stab at dental humor, and it was as bad as the pain your cavity is probably giving you.

When a cavity is in its initial stages, you will often be symptom-free and experience no discomfort at all. It’s not until the tooth decay has reached a certain level that you will begin to notice the signs and symptoms. While a toothache and sensitivity to hot and cold foods and liquids are surefire signs that you have a cavity, there are lesser-known symptoms as well. If you’re experiencing any of these warning signs, you may want to consider making an appointment with our office as soon as possible:

  • Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
  • When you bite down, there is a sticky, tarry feeling
  • Puss or discharge around a tooth
  • A visible discoloring, usually black or brown
  • Small pits or holes in the tooth

Routine dental care is important. While good oral hygiene, a healthy diet, and regular cleanings will deter the formation of cavities, they do not constitute a foolproof practice. A cavity can occur at any time, no matter what your age. Bacteria causes tooth decay, and no amount of brushing, flossing, and rinsing will eradicate all the bacteria from your mouth. If you think you may have a cavity, please contact our office immediately.

Can my body reject my dental implant?

May 13th, 2020

According to the International Congress of Oral Implantologists it is rare that your body will reject your dental implants. However, this does not mean that your dental implant will not fail. A successful dental implant is one that is placed in healthy bone and is properly cared for after the surgery takes place.

There is only one major reason why a dental implant would be rejected: a titanium allergy. The majority of dental implants are made with titanium because it has proven to be the most biologically compatible of all metals. On average, less than one percent of potential dental implant recipients reported an allergy to titanium.

Dental Implant Failure

The most common cause of dental implant failure in the upper and lower jaw is bacteria. Everyone has bacteria in their mouth. If you have bacteria in your jawbone at the time of your dental implant, it can spread from implant to implant, causing dental implant failure.

If you do not take proper care of your dental implants, that could also cause them to fail. You also have to take proper care of the implant and keep your mouth clean. The development of excessive bacteria around the implant and in surrounding tissues can lead to implant failure.

Teeth grinding is another reason dental implants fail. When you grind your teeth, it can move the implants out of position. Therefore, you should wear a mouthpiece when you go to sleep if you know you grind or clench.

If you take care of your implants by practicing good oral hygiene and visit our Seattle, WA office, you should not have any problems with your new dental implants. As always, ask Dr. Wilma Shen DDS about any questions or concerns you have about you dental implants.

Wishing all our moms a happy Mother’s Day!

May 6th, 2020

"Motherhood: All love begins and ends there." - Robert Browning

We would like to take this moment to thank all the great moms out there for being so great during their child’s visits to Laurelhurst Family Dentistry. Whether it’s driving their kids to regularly scheduled appointments or for “being there” while their child is treatment, the moms who come to our office are all stellar individuals, so Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our entire staff would like you to know that we appreciate you all!

Happy Mother’s Day and enjoy your special day!

Zirconia Dental Implants

April 29th, 2020

Since dental implants first started being implemented in the 1980s, they have been primarily made of titanium. Recent advances in implant technology have allowed dental implant manufacturers to shift from all-metal implants, to part-metal and part-ceramic implants, to the newer all-ceramic or zirconia implants.

Zirconia implants are made of high-impact resistant ceramic called tetragonal zirconia polycrystal (ZrO2+Y2O3). They remedy many of the issues and complaints doctors and patients have with traditional metal implants and have several advantages—let’s take a look at some of them.

Advantages of Zirconia Implants

  • Do not cause allergic reactions – Although titanium is considered non-toxic, some people still have allergic reactions to titanium. Zirconia implants are inert, non-corrosive, and hypoallergenic.
  • Have been used for decades in medical applications – Millions of patients have had zirconia used safely and effectively as the base material for their hip replacements. The zirconia used for medical applications also undergoes strict radiation monitoring to ensure its safety for use within the body.
  • They are incredibly strong – Unlike titanium implants, zirconia offers a much higher degree of resistance to scratching, corrosion, and fracture. The aerospace industry even uses zirconia (ZrO2) due to its high resistance to heat and fracture. This all means a safer and more aesthetically pleasing result for the patient.
  • One-piece design is more hygienic – Zirconia implants are a one-piece design, meaning there is nowhere for bacteria to build up or liquids to penetrate like with titanium implants. They are highly biocompatible (how a material reacts with the human body) which leads to healthier gums and no risk of corrosion.
  • Implant margin is at gum not bone level – With titanium implants the margin (or gap between the implant and the tooth) is at bone level, which can lead to bacterial buildup since you can’t brush there. The zirconia implant margin, which is at gum level, allows you to brush and clean your implant and restoration regularly.

If you are in need of a restorative dental implant, it would be wise to consider zirconia due to its many advantages. It might not work in every situation, but feel free to discuss your options with Dr. Wilma Shen DDS or one of our Seattle, WA staff members.

Make Every Day Earth Day

April 22nd, 2020

Earth Day began in 1970 as an event to raise awareness of our environment. What began as a single day in April is now recognized around the world to bring attention and education to global environmental issues. Conserving our natural resources, reducing water and air pollution, and developing green technologies are all ways in which we can improve the environment around us.

Reduce, Recycle, and Reuse

One of the easiest ways to participate in Earth Day is by simply reducing the amount of refuse that ends up in landfills. Many communities have recycling programs for paper, plastic, and metal refuse. By keeping recyclable items out of landfills, we reduce the need for new disposal space and the amount of energy needed for burning refuse. Recycling products also helps conserve the resources that are used in making new products.

You can save money by reducing your consumption of many everyday products. Single disposable water bottles can be recycled but they are costly. By using filtered faucet water, you can conserve your financial resources. Disposable paper towels can also be wasteful. Consider reusable cleaning rags for the majority of your chores.

Reusing items saves both the environment and your finances. A large number of products can be re-purposed to create a new item. Old furniture can be remade into a new piece. Old clothing can be used for craft items. If you are not able to find ways to reuse your old items, donate them to a charity. Remember to continue your positive environmental steps on a daily basis.

Other things you can do to improve the environment

Everyone, young or old, can find ways to participate in improving the environment. Some ideas include:

  • Planting trees
  • Picking up litter
  • Reducing energy consumption
  • Walking, bicycling, or carpooling to work or school
  • Disposing of hazardous waste properly
  • Using rain barrels to conserve water for plants

Earth Day is designed to appreciate and celebrate the health of the earth. Keeping the earth healthy is important, but keeping your mouth healthy is important, too. Healthy teeth and gums contribute to your overall health and well-being, so remember to call our team at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry to schedule an appointment. Have a happy and healthy Earth Day, from Dr. Wilma Shen DDS!

Warning Signs of Impacted Wisdom Teeth

April 15th, 2020

You might suspect that your wisdom teeth are starting to emerge, but knowing the signs of impacted wisdom teeth can help you be more proactive about your dental care. Impacted wisdom teeth can be extremely painful and can make your life truly miserable until they are removed. Therefore, looking for the early warning signs listed below, and seeing Dr. Wilma Shen DDS if you experience them, can help you conquer the problem before it conquers you.

There are three primary signs of impacted wisdom teeth. While every person may not have all three of these signs, you can usually expect to experience at least one of these if your wisdom teeth are impacted.

Unusual Pain

If you are feeling a type of teeth pain you've never felt before, especially when it is focused in the back area of your jaw, this may be a sign that you have a tooth impaction. You may be fortunate enough to catch it early, before all of your wisdom teeth become impacted, if you see Dr. Wilma Shen DDS as soon as you feel the pain.

Swollen Jaw

If your jaw is suddenly swollen and the area feels tender to the touch, you have a high chance of having an impacted tooth. Since the wisdom teeth are set so far back in your jaw, the swelling tends to show itself low in the jaw, towards the ears, when they are impacted.

Bleeding Gums

If your gums are bleeding, something you may notice when you see a pink or red tinged toothbrush, you may be dealing with a wisdom tooth issue. When the wisdom teeth are impacted, they put a lot of pressure on your back teeth and gums, which often leads to bleeding.

Visit our Seattle, WA office as soon as possible if you have any of the above signs of impacted wisdom teeth. The sooner you get treatment, the sooner the pain will be behind you for good!

How can Botox® help my smile?

April 8th, 2020

We all want to have a smile that makes us feel happy. We want to look in the mirror and feel good about ourselves. Botox has been used for several years to help reduce the appearance of lines, wrinkles, and folds caused by repetitive muscle contractions and old age. While Botox is commonly used to reduce crow’s feet (smile lines), frown lines, and wrinkles on the upper portion of the face, more people are using Botox to improve their smiles. If you’re looking to have a smile makeover, here are three ways Botox at our Seattle, WA office can help.

Improving a Gummy Smile without Surgery

For years, dentists corrected a gummy smile with two surgical procedures: crown lengthening or gingivectomies. While both dental surgeries are relatively painless, they are intrusive; a dental laser removes excess gum and then sculpts and reshapes the gums into an even shape. Healing can take several weeks. However, you can also improve a gummy with Botox. How does it work? We inject Botox into the muscles that control and elevate the upper lip; this relaxes the muscles and allows them to hide more of the gums. There is no downtime to heal with this procedure, and you'll see results in 24 to 36 hours. In addition, a Botox treatment lasts six months, which means you won’t be coming back to see Dr. Wilma Shen DDS for further restorations.

Fixing Upper and Lower Lip Lines

Upper and lower lips lines are sometimes called “smoker’s lines,” but age, genetics, excessive sun exposure, and a host of other things can also cause these lines to form. Botox injections between the lip and the skin will cause the orbicularis muscle to relax, which softens lip lines and greatly improves a person’s smile. Furthermore, Botox doesn’t just get rid of lip lines, but it also creates fuller and more youthful lips.

Changing a Down-turned Smile

Do you always look like you’re sad or frowning? Does your droopy smile make you self-conscious? An overactive depressor angulu oris, which is a muscle in the lower part of the face, can make it look like you have a down-turned smile. Botox can be injected to weaken the muscles that pull down the corners of the mouth, which in turn allows the corners of the lips to rise.

While Botox can give you a fuller and happier smile, be sure to consult with Dr. Wilma Shen DDS about the best course of action.

Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April 1st, 2020

Happy Oral Cancer Awareness Month! We know oral cancer can be kind of a scary topic, but it’s worth using this opportunity to learn about the disease and spread knowledge so everyone becomes more aware. The more we know, the better we can work to prevent it!

Oral cancer is exactly what it sounds like: cancer that occurs anywhere in the mouth. It could occur on the tongue, the lips, the gums, the tongue, inside the cheek, or in the roof or floor of the mouth. Every  year, more than 8,000 people die from oral cancer. It’s a truly deadly disease.

The reason oral cancer scores a higher death rate than other common cancers such as testicular cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, thyroid cancer, cervical cancer, or even skin cancer, is because it often goes undetected until it's become too advanced and has spread to another part of the body.

So what causes this devastating disease? There is no clear answer, but some potential causes have been identified. By being aware of these, we can be alert and promote prevention of this illness:

  • Age: Most patients who develop oral cancer are above the age of 40. If you’re over 40, make sure your doctor checks for signs of oral cancer and that you stay on your dental hygiene regimen.
  • Tobacco: Excessive tobacco use, whether in the form of cigarette smoking or tobacco chewing, can be a substantial contributor and cause of oral cancer. So that’s another reason, among many, you should avoid tobacco.
  • Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption can put you at risk because alcohol converts into a chemical called acetaldehyde, which damages the body’s DNA and blocks cells from repairing the damage. When paired with tobacco, the dehydrating effects of alcohol make it even easier for tobacco to infiltrate mouth tissue.
  • Sun exposure: Your lips need SPF, too! Repeated sun exposure increases your risk of contracting cancer on your lips, especially the lower lip.
  • Diet: Not getting all the nutrients you need, from vegetables and fruits for instance, can weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable to the disease.

Obviously, many of these causes relate to lifestyle choices, which we have control over. It's all about balance, being aware, and making small tweaks to our habits if we need to.

If you’re concerned that you may be at risk for oral cancer, give us a call to talk about a screening. And if you’ve been putting off a visit to our Seattle, WA office, now is an excellent time to schedule one. Regular visits to the dentist can be the first line of defense against oral cancer!

Are your teeth ready for the big day?

March 4th, 2020

Capturing the Moment

At Laurelhurst Family Dentistry we know that just about anyone who has taken on the challenge of planning her own wedding could tell you how important the little details can be. Things like having complementary colors, the right location, show-stopping flowers, and delicious food are all a big part of planning your spring wedding. Another little detail that has a big "I do" related role? Your smile.

Whether you’re the bride, or an attendant, looking your best when you tie the knot (or help someone tie the knot) is essential. If your teeth aren’t ready to make an entrance, turning to one of the many available teeth whitening solutions is a great option.

Reliable Solutions

Before the wedding day arrives, you should take your smile into consideration. If diet and daily wear-and-tear have caused your teeth to lose their original luster, our team can help! In-office procedures do cost more than kits you use at home, but with an in-office treatment, you benefit from a professional taking proper care of your teeth.

In addition, relying on our office to handle teeth whitening before the wedding can give you access to trustworthy advice on how to keep your teeth looking their best for a longer period of time. It’s common for someone experienced in assisting people with their oral health to suggest investing in an in-office whitening technique and then following up with a teeth-whitening kit at home.

This is a season of new beginnings and beauty. Take the time to bring out your most beautiful smile before the big day. Don’t let your smile hold you back on your wedding. With our in-office teeth whitening, you can be sure that you’ll be more confident and comfortable interacting with friends and family. So remember, when in need of some quality oral care in Seattle, WA to think of Dr. Wilma Shen DDS!

Are there foods that whiten teeth?

February 26th, 2020

Coffee. Blueberries. Red wine. Tomato sauce. They might please our palate, but they are notorious for staining our teeth. Luckily, nature has balanced the scales for us! Here are just some of the foods that could actually help whiten your smile.

Apples

The crunchy texture of an apple makes it perfect for scrubbing your teeth as you chew. The more you chew, the more saliva you produce. And saliva helps lower the amount of the bacteria in our mouths that cause decay, while washing away food particles that can stain our teeth.

Broccoli

Raw broccoli florets look—and act—like tiny toothbrushes. Broccoli also contains high levels of iron which help protect our enamel from stains and erosion.

Carrots and Celery

More crunchy vegetables that scrub teeth. These are high in fiber, which acts as a gentle abrasive, and water, which stimulates healthy saliva production.

Nuts and Seeds

These are nutritious snacks that both act as abrasives and increase saliva production.

Pineapple

Pineapple is that rare fruit that produces bromelain, enzymes that help in digestion. These enzymes are also believed to help remove staining.

Strawberries

Malic acid considered by many to be a natural whitener which helps break down stains, and strawberries are a great source for this organic compound. But don’t overdo, because too much acid is hard on your enamel.

Of course, the real benefit of eating a balanced diet containing fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds is nutritional, and any whitening that takes place is an added bonus. And eating healthy foods won’t take the place of brushing to keep your teeth clean and bright, especially if you are relying on sugary fruits for their whitening effect. If you want help whitening your smile, and diet and brushing alone aren’t the answer, give our Seattle, WA office a call and we’ll be happy to suggest other options. Until then, bon appétit!

Implants: Why It’s Important to Replace Missing Teeth

February 19th, 2020

Sometimes, despite our best care, we lose a tooth. If it is a front tooth, it will probably be a high priority to replace. But if a missing tooth doesn’t show when we smile, what’s the hurry? Let’s look at the reasons why prompt replacement with an implant is always a good idea, no matter which tooth is involved.

Appearance

Implants look like natural, individual teeth, but that is not the only aesthetic reason to replace a lost tooth. Without some type of tooth replacement, missing teeth can eventually affect the structure of our jawbones and change our facial appearance. Cheeks, lips, profiles—all are impacted by the changes in our bones resulting from tooth loss.

Better Bite

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so do our teeth. When a space is left by a missing tooth, the teeth around it might shift positions, affecting the even pattern of our bite. And without a tooth to keep it in place, a tooth above or below the missing one might begin to grow longer to fill the void in your bite. This lengthening, in turn, can cause even more bite problems.

Chewing

With the loss of only a single tooth, there is a negative impact on the remaining teeth. More pressure is placed on the other teeth in order to chew properly, front teeth not meant for chewing might need to be used for that purpose, or food is not chewed as thoroughly as it should be. The first two problems are not healthy for our teeth, and the last one is not healthy for digestion!

Don’t Delay

Changes in bite and chewing problems probably won’t happen overnight, so is putting off the process really a big deal? It can be! Time is not on our side when a tooth is lost. The bone tissue which supports our teeth needs the stimulation of biting and chewing to stay healthy. Without that stimulation, the bone area under the missing tooth gradually shrinks. If there is not enough bone area left, you might need surgical bone grafting to achieve the right bone height to hold an implant, or it could lead to the impossibility of placing an implant at all.

Expense

Replacing a lost tooth quickly requires less restoration of the gums and bone in the future and prevents other serious problems from developing.

We could continue through the alphabet, but instead, come talk to Dr. Wilma Shen DDS about all the reasons a tooth implant might be your best option. Whether you have already lost a tooth, or if you have an extraction scheduled at our Seattle, WA office, we are happy to recommend the best procedure at just the right time to make your smile beautiful, healthy, and complete!

The Transformation of Valentine's Day

February 12th, 2020

Did you know the actions leading to the beginnings of Valentine's Day were actually centered on the avoidance of war? A Catholic priest named Valentine defied the orders of the Emperor Claudius II and secretly married young men and their brides after the emperor had declared it illegal because only single, young men could be sent to war. Rather than lose potential soldiers to fight his war, Claudius attempted to hoard them by proclaiming marriage illegal.

Valentine continued to marry young couples anyway and, eventually, was put to death for it in 270 AD. Before his death, he sent a letter to a secret love and signed it “From your Valentine”. Nearly 1,800 years later, people are still signing letters and cards in this manner. This year, carry on the tradition started long ago, while adding your own twist. Here are a few suggestions.

Simple and Creative Valentine's Day Ideas

  • Memorialize it with a Photo. Couples often have photos taken around Christmas, but Valentine's Day photos allow you to capitalize on romance. Famous couple Julia Child and her husband, Paul, had their picture taken together every Valentine's Day and included their sense of humor with silly props.
  • Return to Your First Date Location. Even if your first date together was at a local hotdog stand, its sentimental value can make it a fun part of your Valentine's Day agenda. Be creative and make a treasure hunt with clues that lead your partner to the original date location, where you can express your love with flowers or a gift.
  • “From Your Valentine” Messages. Deliver your message in a creative way to make this Valentine's Day stand out from the others. Bake your partner's favorite treat and write a message on it with a tube of icing, or draw a note on the steamed up mirror so it shows up when your partner takes a shower.

Although Valentine's Day is a day to celebrate love, it doesn't have to be a special day only for couples. If you're single, use this special day to shower yourself with love, because you're worth it! After all, the priest Valentine believed so strongly in the sanctity of love that he was willing to risk his life for it. Whether you're in a relationship or single, young or old, romantic or not, Valentine's Day is for you. Happy Valentine’s Day from the dental office of Dr. Wilma Shen DDS.

February is Heart Month

February 5th, 2020

The American Academy of Periodontology stresses the importance of good oral health since gum disease may be linked to heart disease and stroke. Thus far, no cause-and-effect relationship has been established, but there are multiple theories to explain the link between heart disease and periodontal disease. One theory suggests that oral bacteria may affect heart health when it enters the blood and attaches to the fatty plaque in the heart's blood vessels. This can cause the formation of blood clots. Another theory suggests the possibility that inflammation could be a contributing link between periodontal disease and heart disease. Gum disease increases plaque buildup, and inflamed gums may also contribute to the development of swollen or inflamed coronary arteries.

What is coronary artery disease?

Coronary artery disease is caused in part by the buildup of fatty proteins on the walls of the coronary arteries. Blood clots cut off blood flow, preventing oxygen and nutrients from getting to the heart. Both blood clots and the buildup of fatty proteins (also called plaque) on the walls of the coronary arteries may lead to a heart attack. Moreover, periodontal disease nearly doubles the likelihood that someone will suffer from coronary artery disease. Periodontal disease can also worsen existing heart conditions, so many patients who suffer from heart disease need to take antibiotics before any dental procedures. This is especially true of patients who are at greatest risk for contracting infective endocarditis (inflammation of the inner layer of the heart). The fact that more than 2,400 people die from heart disease each day makes it a major public health issue. It is also the leading killer of both men and women in the United States today.

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that destroys the bone and gum tissues around the teeth, reducing or potentially eradicating the system that supports your teeth. It affects roughly 75 percent of Americans, and is the leading cause of adult tooth loss. People who suffer from periodontal disease may notice that their gums swell and/or bleed when they brush their teeth.

Although there is no definitive proof to support the theory that oral bacteria affects the heart, it is widely acknowledged better oral health contributes to overall better health. When people take good care of their teeth, get thorough exams, and a professional cleaning twice a year, the buildup of plaque on the teeth is lessened. A healthy, well-balanced diet will also contribute to better oral and heart health. There is a lot of truth to the saying "you are what you eat." If you have any questions about you periodontal disease and your overall health, give our Seattle, WA office a call!

Your Options for Sedation Dentistry

January 29th, 2020

Fear of going to the dentist is more common than you may think. That’s why Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team want to make your visit as relaxing as possible.

Your anxiety about pain or routine procedures doesn’t have to stop you from visiting our Seattle, WA office; we offer various types of sedation to remove the pain and stress from your dental procedure.

Nitrous Oxide Sedation

Nitrous oxide combined with local anesthetics ensures both pain relief and reduced anxiety for many patients. It’s useful because the dosage can be regulated during treatment, and patients are usually able to drive shortly after the procedure is completed.

Oral or Injected Sedation

With oral sedation, you may be given a pill or liquid to consume several hours before your treatment. Make sure someone will be available to drive you to your appointment, because you will not be able to drive yourself.

An oral liquid is often given to children before any shots or intravenous anesthesia. An intramuscular injection may be given at the office to provide relaxation benefits for 20 to 30 minutes.

Nitrous Oxide with an Oral Sedative

For patients with higher levels of anxiety, an oral or injected sedative can be offered before nitrous oxide begins. This can also be effective for reducing anxiety about the injection of local anesthetics itself. A liquid medication followed by nitrous oxide is beneficial for children to produce a deep sedation level.

General Anesthesia

This type of anesthesia can be offered as an inhaled gas or intravenous liquid. If no oral sedative is given before the general anesthesia is administered, you should wake up quickly after your procedure.

To reduce your anxiety, we can offer a pill or liquid medication before intravenous sedation starts. Intravenous sedation can also be used at moderate-to-deep sedation levels without complete loss of consciousness.

Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team are happy to go over your sedation or pain prevention options when you visit. We’re here to ensure all your questions are answered and your procedure is a relaxing one.

How do I care for my dental implant?

January 22nd, 2020

Dental implants are designed to be strong and durable, able to withstand the everyday rigors of chewing and biting, but to keep them functioning the way they should and looking their best, you need to care for them properly. Luckily, dental implant care is fairly straightforward; in fact, your implants can be cared for the same way you care for your natural teeth, with regular brushing and flossing performed correctly, as well as regular visits with Dr. Wilma Shen DDS to ensure your implants, the neighboring teeth, and your gums are as healthy as possible.

Before the actual replacement tooth is attached to the implant post, you may want to avoid harshly abrasive toothpastes, such as those with baking soda or those designed to get rid of significant staining. These abrasives may damage the threads of the posts or irritate the gum and soft tissue surrounding the posts, causing inflammation or bleeding.

As the implant heals and “settles in,” a special kind of protective tissue called “keratinized” tissue will form where the implant meet the gum. This natural development in healing helps ensure the implant post and the soft tissue beneath the gum line are protected from bacteria.

As you care for your implants, always look for signs of infection, like swollen, tender, or bleeding gums – just as you would with your normal teeth. If you're nervous about caring for your implants or you feel you may be reluctant to floss around them, ask our team to provide you with care tips and walk you through the process of flossing.

Your implants represent a considerable investment both in time and money, so it's only natural you'd want to be sure you're doing all you can to keep them in top shape. Remember: dental implants are designed to replace your natural teeth, and they're also designed to be cared for in much the same way as you care for your natural teeth. Although you may be a little nervous at first, you'll soon become as used to your new implants as you are to your natural teeth, and caring for them will become second nature.

More questions? Simply as at your next visit to our Seattle, WA office!

Alleviating Anxiety before Your Implant Procedure

January 15th, 2020

Does the thought of getting a dental implant put knots in your stomach? There are many people who don't enjoy getting dental work done and there is a myriad of reasons why. For whatever reason you aren't at your best when you arrive at our Seattle, WA office, we'd like to offer some tips that can help put you at ease for your implant procedure.

Sedation

For lengthy visits like an implant procedure, sedation dentistry may be an option for you. With sedation dentistry you are given sedation medication, usually orally with a pill or intravenously, which allows you to drift through the entire procedure without any memory of it afterward. If you decide on oral sedation, typically you take the medication about an hour before your procedure starts.

To avoid any complications, a complete medical background check is made along with a record of any allergies before any sedation is administered. Your vital signs are also monitored throughout the entire procedure.

If you decide sedation is not the right option for you, there are other techniques that you can benefit from. Some of these include:

  • Communication: This may seem obvious, but communicating any fears or anxiety you may have about your procedure with us is extremely helpful. Not only does this build a relationship of trust but it allows us to try and alleviate your anxiety as much as we can.
  • Herbal teas: Drink some herbal tea (like chamomile or lemon balm) before you visit the office. Many patients find this is a great help in relieving anxiety and putting them sufficiently at ease.
  • Relaxing music: Bring a pair of headphones along and listen to your favorite music during treatment (preferably something low-key). Or why not catch up on your reading when you visit us — some patients like to listen to audiobooks too!
  • Meditate or practice deep breathing: Meditation and deep breathing are good to practice in general, since they relax both the body and mind. They can be effective in the case of anxiety, too!

How long do dental implants last?

January 8th, 2020

The average dental implant can last a lifetime if taken care of properly. In fact, studies have shown that the success rate of implants after ten years is about 90%! Of course, Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team know that the better you care for your implant, the longer it will last.

There are a few factors that must be taken into consideration, when you are considering dental implants. These factors all play a role in how long your dental implants will last.

  • Bone Structure – You must have enough bone in your mouth for the implants to be inserted. Over time, the bone can wear down and become too thin or to short. In cases, where you may have just enough bone for the implants, over the years, the bone will continue to become smaller and thinner and the implants will not last nearly as long as the suggested minimum of ten years.
  • Healthy Gums – Diseased gums will not support dental implants for very long. It is important to maintain regular dental visits to maintain your healthy gums.
  • Good Oral Hygiene – Just because your implants are not your “real” teeth, doesn’t mean you have to take care of them. That means brushing, flossing, and regular professional cleanings.

Bone structure, healthy gums, and good oral hygiene all play a crucial role in the length of time your dental implants will last. Whether you have full dental implants, partial implants, or a single tooth implant. The bottom line is you have to take care of them if you want them to last as long as possible.

For more tips on how to maintain the health of your dental implant, visit our Seattle, WA office!

New Year's Day Around the World

January 1st, 2020

New Year’s Day marks the beginning of the calendar year in most parts of the world. The holiday is celebrated on January 1st of each year. Customs and celebrations vary by country, religion, and even individual desires. Whether celebrated quietly or with gusto, the day brings the start of new opportunities for those that observe it.

United States and Canada

In both the US and Canada, celebrations begin on New Year’s Eve. At midnight on January 1st the New Year is welcomed with bells, horns, whistles, and other noisemakers. Fireworks are often part of the celebrations. In New York City, Times Square comes alive with revelers. In Toronto, there are large celebrations which may feature concerts, late-night partying, sporting events, and fireworks, with free public transit service during peak party times. Many individuals in North America greet the year by making resolutions for improvements in their lives.

China

In China, many people celebrate two forms of a new year. They may observe January 1st, but the traditional Chinese New Year is based on a lunar calendar. Parades with paper lanterns and dragons made from silk are a significant part of the festivities. Legends say that the dragon spends most of its time in hibernation so fireworks are used to keep the dragon awake.

Jewish Celebration

Jewish New Year’s observances begin with Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the New Year, and end with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This ten-day celebration is held in September or October, based on the Hebrew calendar. The New Year is not marked as much with loud celebrations as with personal insight to mend wrongs and resolve to better oneself.

Other countries and cultures also have different dates for New Year’s Day observances:

  • Vietnam observes the New Year in February
  • In Iran, the day is celebrated on March 21st
  • Islamic cultures often observe the tenth day of the month of Muharram
  • Russian Orthodox observers use the Julian calendar and celebrate on January 14th
  • Buddhist celebrations are held from April 13th through 15th

If you observe New Year’s Day by making healthy resolutions, include dental care in your plans with Dr. Wilma Shen DDS. The health of your teeth and gums contributes to your overall health. Caring for your mouth now can prevent many dental problems later in life. Laurelhurst Family Dentistry wishes you a healthy, prosperous, and happy New Year!

The History of Dental Implants

December 25th, 2019

The earliest endeavors for dental implant tooth substitutes on record dates back to the Mayan civilization, to 600 AD. Archeologists recovered primeval skulls in which the teeth had been replaced with materials the ranged from wood, stones, and jewels to small pieces of seashells.

Like most scientific progresses, the finding of what makes todays dental implants so successful was unexpected. In 1952, a Swedish orthopedic surgeon, named Dr. Branemark, placed a very small titanium cylinder into a bone to learn how the bone would heal. What he discovered was that the titanium cylinder had fused (melded to the bone.) Out of this experiment dental implants would be born within two decades.

In 1970s, modern dental implants made their first appearance. Of course, over the past four decades, the original dental implant has undergone several improvements in both structure and design, but has always been based on the original theme.

Dental implants were first made available to individuals who had lost all of their teeth and had difficulty wearing dentures, mainly because they had lost of much of their jawbone were dentures set. Today, most dental implants are used in place of dentures, for multiple teeth that are missing, or to replace a single tooth.

When dental implants were first designed, they were a one size fits all. The original dental implants were all the same circumference, while the length of each tooth varied depending on the type of tooth it was replacing. The dental implants were smoothed out and polished by a machine, but still did not produce the natural looking dental implants we have today.

Now, with the help of state-of-the-art equipment and advanced technology, implants come in a wide variety of sizes and shape to match the teeth that are missing. The surfaces of today’s dental implants give them a more natural look and feel. In addition, the surface of the dental implant also attaches to the bone much easier and for a longer period of time.

Dr. Branemark's discovery has left an impression on dental professionals, all over the world, including Dr. Wilma Shen DDS. If you are considering dental implants to improve your smile’s health, beauty, and function, be sure to contact our Seattle, WA office to schedule an appointment.

Are My Child’s Baby Teeth on Schedule?

December 18th, 2019

Your darling three-month old is crying and fussy—can she be teething already? Or, your happy baby boy has just celebrated his first birthday—with only one tooth in that beautiful, gummy smile. Is this normal? Probably! While baby teeth do typically erupt (come in) in the same order for all babies, and around the same time, there is still a lot of flexibility in the time it takes for a full, healthy smile to develop.

Baby teeth actually form before your baby is born, and those 20 teeth are there under the gums waiting to come out and shine. And even though there are no firm and fast dates for each of these primary teeth to erupt, it’s helpful to have a general overview of typical teething patterns so you know what to look forward to.

Incisors

These little teeth create a charming baby smile, and, if your finger has been in the wrong place at the wrong time, a very sharp one as well! That is because these tiny incisors are made to bite into foods. You might notice this when you introduce solid foods, even if the majority of your child’s “chewing” is done with her back gums. These teeth are the earliest to arrive.

  • Six to ten months old: The lower central incisors (bottom front teeth) are often the first to come in.
  • Eight to 12 months old: The upper incisors (8-12 months) are the next to show.
  • Nine to 13 months old: The upper lateral incisors on each side of the front teeth arrive.
  • Ten to 16 months old: The lower lateral incisors appear.

First Molars

Because these are larger teeth, babies often experience another bout of teething pain at this time. The large flat surface of each molar helps your child to chew and grind food, so he can handle a wider variety of foods and develop his chewing skills.

  • 13 to 19 months old: You can generally expect to see the upper first molars arrive.
  • 14 to 18 months old: The lower first molars appear.

Canines (Cuspids)

Fitting between the first molars and the incisors, the strong, pointed shape of the canine teeth allows your child to grip food and break it apart more easily.

  • 16 to 22 months old: The upper two canines make their way into the space between the incisors and the first molars.
  • 17 to 23 months old: The two lower canines appear.

Second Molars

By the age of three, most children have a full set of baby teeth.

  • 23 to 31 months old: The second pair of bottom molars start erupting—you are in the home stretch!
  • 25 to 33 months old: The upper second molars come in—completing that beautiful set of 20 teeth!

Baby teeth are extremely important, as Dr. Wilma Shen DDS will tell you when you visit our Seattle, WA office. They help your child eat and chew, develop face and jaw muscles, assist proper speech formation, and provide space for the adult teeth to come in properly. Now that your child’s smile is complete, keep providing him with the same care and attention you have been giving those little teeth since the arrival of the very first incisor.

It seems that so much of new parenthood is scheduling—when to feed her, when to put her to bed, how many hours between naps. But we soon find out that every baby is not on the same schedule, and the same is true for the arrival of their teeth. We should see your baby when that first tooth comes in, or by his or her first birthday. And if you ever have concerns at any time about your child’s teething schedule or teething delays, always feel free to give us a call.

What are mini implants used for?

December 11th, 2019

The use of mini dental implants (MDIs) is on the rise. MDIs are about the diameter of a toothpick (1.8 to 2.9 millimeters with lengths between ten to 18 millimeters) and are primarily used to secure loose upper or lower dentures or partial dentures.

MDIs are particularly useful for patients who suffer from osteoporosis or otherwise aren't well enough to get the bone grafts sometimes required by traditional dental implants. Their diminutive size also allows them to replace smaller teeth where the placement of a dental implant isn't feasible or called for.

Some of the benefits of MDIs include:

  • The procedure is quicker and less invasive – Since MDIs don’t require the cutting of gum tissue or sutures, Dr. Wilma Shen DDS can place the implant quickly, resulting in a shorter healing process. MDIs go directly through the gum tissue and into the jawbone.
  • Lower cost – MDIs run in the range of $500 to $1500, whereas traditional dental implants can cost around $4,000.
  • Less risk of surgical error – Since MDIs don't go as deep into the tissue or jawbone, there is less risk of surgical error, like hitting a nerve or sinus cavity.
  • Can be used in thinner areas of the jawbone – Since MDIs don't require as much gum tissue or jawbone, they can be used in thinner areas of the jawbone, where a traditional dental implant would require a bone graft.

Although there are many advantages to MDIs, they aren't for everyone or every situation. There are some drawbacks, especially when it comes to their durability and stability. MDIs also haven't been studied nearly as much as dental implants.

Whatever your situation, it's best to speak with Dr. Wilma Shen DDS about your options, and whether an MDI or a dental implant would work best for your specific case. Schedule an appointment at our Seattle, WA office to learn more.

Dental Fear in Children: Brought on by parents?

December 4th, 2019

A study conducted in Washington State in 2004 and another conducted in Madrid, Spain in 2012 both reported findings that support a direct relationship between parents’ dental fear and their child’s fear of the dentist.

The Washington study examined dental fear among 421 children ages 0.8 to 12.8 years old. They were patients at 21 different private pediatric dental practices in western Washington state. The Spanish study observed 183 children between the ages of seven and 12 as well as their parents.

The Washington study used responses from both parents and the Dental Sub-scale of the Child Fear Survey Schedule. The survey consisted of 15 questions, which invited answers based on the child’s level of fear. The scale was one to five: one meant the child wasn’t afraid at all, and five indicated he or she was terrified. The maximum possible points (based on the greatest fear) was 75.

Spanish researchers found a direct connection between parental dental fear levels and those among their kids. The most important new discovery from the Madrid study was that the greater the fear a father had of going to the dentist, the higher the level of fear among the other family members.

Parents, but especially fathers, who feared dental procedures appeared to pass those fears along to every member of the family. Parents can still have some control over fear levels in their children. It is best not to express your own concerns in front of kids; instead, explain why going to the dentist is important.

Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team work hard to make your child’s visit at our Seattle, WA office as comfortable as possible. We understand some patients may be more fearful than others, and will do our best to help ease your child’s anxiety.

Thanksgiving

November 27th, 2019

At Laurelhurst Family Dentistry, we love to celebrate the holidays with vigor! Dr. Wilma Shen DDS would love to share some unique ways of celebrating Thanksgiving from beyond the Seattle, WA area to the national level!

When Americans sit down to dinner on the last Thursday of November, the day that Abraham Lincoln designated as the day on which Thanksgiving would be celebrated, they do so thinking that the first Thanksgiving feast was held at Plymouth in 1621. According to National Geographic, the Spanish explorer Francisco Vásquez Coronado and his men celebrated a feast of Thanksgiving in Texas in 1541, giving Texas the distinction of being the first place where Thanksgiving was celebrated.

Different Types of Celebrations

Native Americans had rituals around which they celebrated in hopes of ensuring a bountiful harvest. The Cherokees had a Green Corn Dance that they did for this very purpose. The Pilgrims (not to be confused with the Puritans,) rejected any type of public religious display. They held a three-day long non-religious Thanksgiving feast. Although they said grace, the focus of their celebration was on feasting, drinking alcohol (they did have beer,) and playing games.

The Pilgrims at the Plymouth Plantation celebrated a different day of Thanksgiving in 1623. Plagued by a crop-destroying drought, the settlers prayed for relief. They even fasted. A few days later, they got the rain they so desperately needed. Soon thereafter, they received another blessing when Captain Miles Standish came with staples they couldn't otherwise get. He also told them that a Dutch supply ship was en route. In gratitude for the abundance of good fortune, the Plymouth settlers celebrated a day of prayer and Thanksgiving on June 30, 1623.

The Story of Squanto

No discussion of Thanksgiving is complete without a discussion of Squanto, or Tisquantum, as he was known among his people, the Patuxet Indians. It is believed that he was born sometime around 1580. As he returned to his village after a long journey, he and several other Native Americans were kidnapped by Jamestown colonist, Thomas Hunt. Hunt put them on a ship heading to Spain where they were to be sold into slavery.

As fate would have it, some local friars rescued him and many of the other kidnapped natives. Squanto was educated by the friars. Eventually, after asking for freedom so he could return to North America, he ended up in London where he spent time working as a ship builder. By 1619, he was finally able to get passage on a ship headed to New England with other Pilgrims.

Upon arriving at Plymouth Rock, he learned that his entire tribe was wiped out by diseases that accompanied earlier settlers from Europe. In gratitude for passage on their ship, he helped them set up a settlement on the very land where his people once lived. They called the settlement Plymouth. Since they knew nothing about how to survive, let alone how to find food, Squanto taught them everything, from how to plant corn and other crops, how to fertilize them, how and where to get fish and eels and much more.

After a devastating winter during which many settlers died, thanks to Squanto's teaching, they had an abundant harvest. After that harvest, they honored him with a feast. It is this feast of 1621 which was celebrated between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians that is widely considered the first Thanksgiving celebration.

About the Meal of the Plymouth Settlers

Surviving journals of Edward Winslow that are housed at Plymouth Plantation indicate that the first Thanksgiving feast was nothing like what Americans eat today. The meal consisted of venison, various types of wild fowl (including wild turkey,) and Indian corn. There were no cranberries, stuffing, pumpkin pie, potatoes, or any of the other “traditional” foods that appear on modern menus.

Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, the day that Abraham Lincoln designated as the holiday. It is still a day of feasting, and for some, a day of prayer and thanksgiving. For others, it is a celebration of gathering, especially for families. Still others may celebrate in entirely different ways, including watching college football bowl games, or by playing family games.

If you ever wonder why you're so tired after the Thanksgiving meal, it's because turkey contains an amino acid, tryptophan, and it sets off chemicals whose chain reaction combine to make people sleepy.

How do I know if my gums are receding?

November 20th, 2019

Gum recession, a common result of gum disease, occurs when the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth wears away or pulls back, forming pockets between the gumline and exposing more of the tooth. Gum recession occurs gradually, so you might not know that you have it. Left untreated, gum recession can result in tooth loss. In addition, there are several studies that suggest that gum disease is associated with modest increases in coronary heart disease. Here are five ways to know if your gums are receding.

1. Healthy gums are firm, light pink, and very elastic. If your gums don’t fit that description, then it’s time to visit our Seattle, WA office. Red, swollen gums are a common symptom of gum disease, and may lead to gum recession.

2. Do your gums bleed easily when you brush or floss? If you have gum recession, even if you brush gently and with toothpaste specifically designed for sensitivity, it may still result in bleeding.

3. When you look in the mirror, do you see more of a tooth than you used to? This is one of the easiest ways to tell if you have gum recession. When gums recede, more of the tooth is visibly exposed. Look for lines or notches along the bottom of the teeth, as this typically indicates areas where the gums have receded.

4. One of the first signs of gum recession is tooth sensitivity. Does it hurt when you bite down or chew? The more gums recede, the more painful it is going to be. However, before you experience tooth sensitivity or pain, you may notice awkwardness when you bit down. When gum recession occurs, teeth can shift slightly, making it feel as if they are not properly aligned.

5. Loose teeth are a symptom of advanced gum recession and periodontal disease. In other words, the supporting bone structure of the teeth has already begun to deteriorate. If left untreated, it will result in tooth loss.

From deep cleaning (scaling) to gingival tissue grafting surgery, there are several ways to combat gum recession and periodontal disease. How gum recession is treated depends on how far advanced it is. Talk to Dr. Wilma Shen DDS about what options are best for you.

Adults Can Get Cavities Too

November 13th, 2019

Sure, you brush your teeth and floss regularly, so you might think you’re off the hook when it comes to the dental chair. However, it’s just as important for adults to get regular dental exams as it is for kids. Cavities are common among adults, with 92% of people aged 18 to 64 having had cavities in their permanent teeth, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

How cavities form

Our mouths are teeming with hundreds of types of bacteria. Some are helpful and maintain good health, while others are harmful. Certain types of bacteria process the sugars in food and release acid in return. Although minor decay can be naturally reversed by your body, Dr. Wilma Shen DDS and our team at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry will tell you that eventually the acid wears away the enamel and creates small holes in the surface of teeth.

Cavity prevention for adults

Some people are naturally more prone to cavities than others. However, making a few lifestyle changes can dramatically reduce your likelihood of developing cavities.

  • Food choices. Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables increases saliva production, and reduces cavity risk. It is also important to avoid foods that get stuck in the ridges of your teeth. Candy, cookies, and chips should be eaten sparingly.
  • Beverages. Most people know that drinking soda contributes to tooth decay. However, fruit juices and energy drinks also contain large amounts of sugar. Whenever possible, replace these sugary beverages with tea or water, which rinses your mouth and prevents decay.
  • Fluoridated water. Fluoride is a naturally-occurring chemical that facilitates enamel growth. Most municipal water supplies are fortified with fluoride, so drinking tap water is a great way to keep teeth healthy. People with well water may use fluoridated toothpaste or other supplemental forms of fluoride to decrease cavity risk.
  • Brush teeth and floss frequently. Gently brushing teeth several times a day removes the harmful bacteria that cause cavities to develop. If possible, brush your teeth after each meal or when drinking sugary beverages. Flossing regularly removes small particles that get trapped between teeth, which further decreases tooth decay.

One of the most important steps in cavity prevention is visiting your dentist at least twice a year. Consistent dental exams ensure that cavities are caught early, before they cause major damage to your teeth.

For more information about avoiding cavities, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Wilma Shen DDS, please give us a call at our convenient Seattle, WA office!

November Marks National Diabetes Awareness Month

November 6th, 2019

Diabetes is a chronic disease that increases the risk for many serious health problems, including severe gum disease. November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and it’s a great time for us at Laurelhurst Family Dentistry to remind our patients that the way you care for your teeth at home doesn’t just affect your oral health; keeping your mouth healthy is vital to your overall health, too.

Diabetes is the result of a deficiency, or lack of the hormone insulin to properly transport glucose (blood sugar) to the cells throughout the body. According to the American Diabetes Association, the most common types of diabetes are Type One (90-95 percent of cases), Type Two (five percent), and gestational or pregnancy diabetes. Women who have had gestational diabetes have a 35 to 60 percent chance of developing diabetes, mostly Type Two, in the ten to 20 years following their pregnancy.

In the past decade, researchers have found links between periodontal (gum) disease and diabetes. Not only are people with diabetes more vulnerable to gum disease, but diabetes may also have the potential to affect blood glucose control, as well as contribute to the advancement of diabetes.

Nearly 26 million Americans currently live with the disease, with an additional 79 million in the pre-diabetes stage. There is some good news we want you to know, however; you can protect your gums and teeth from the effects of diabetes by visiting our Seattle, WA office for an exam. Patients who are living with diabetes may require more often visits to ensure their dental health remains in tip-top shape. Many insurance plans provide expanded benefits for diabetic patients, and Dr. Wilma Shen DDS can tell you how often you need to come in for an appointment.

For more information on how we can help, please do not hesitate to give us a call at our Seattle, WA office.

Welcome to Our Blog

October 24th, 2019

Thank you for taking the time to visit our blog. Please check back often for weekly updates on fun and exciting events happening at our office, important and interesting information about  the dental industry, and the latest news about our practice.

Feel free to leave a comment or question for our doctors and staff - we hope this will be a valuable resource for our patients, their families, and friends!

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