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What You Need to Know About Oral Cancer

Oral cancer, sometimes referred to as mouth cancer, refers to cancerous cells that develop in any part of the mouth. This includes the lips, cheeks, tongue, gums, and the roof and floor of the mouth. According to the nonprofit Oral Cancer Foundation, it is estimated that 132 new individuals are diagnosed with oral cancer every day. Like other cancers, early detection and treatment are key to surviving this disease.

Oral cancer is categorized by a group of cancers called head and neck cancer. Patients will often be referred to an Ear-Nose-and-Throat (ENT) Doctor or an otolaryngologist for specialized care and examination.

However, your dentist should actually be your first contact if you think you’re showing signs or symptoms of mouth cancer. A dentist can look for signs of other infections, and will be able to refer you to an ENT specialist when it is necessary.

Common signs of mouth cancer include:

  • Unexplained pain, bleeding, or numbness in the mouth or neck
  • Persistent swelling, lumps, or sores in the mouth that take too long to heal
  • Jaw pain or stiffness, difficulty chewing or eating
  • Difficulty swallowing or unexplained pain the throat
  • Unexplained teeth shifting
  • Ear pain but no ear infection

Some common symptoms of oral cancer may look a lot like other oral infections and periodontal diseases. It’s important to see your dentist before making any assumptions.

Almost anyone is at risk for oral cancer, but there are things you can avoid to lower your chances of getting it:

  • Stop smoking: Research shows that tobacco use and even vaping increases your risk of getting cancer.
  • Limit alcohol intake: Studies have determined a strong link between drinking alcohol and being diagnosed with cancer.
  • Get tested for the human papillomavirus: HPV is a known risk factor.
  • Limit sun exposure: Your lips tend to get hit by UV rays often, so consider wearing lip balm with sun protection.
  • See your dentist often: It’s important to catch cancer at an early stage in order to effectively treat it, so make regular appointments with your dentist who can monitor your symptoms and look for early signs of the disease.

Book your appointment with our Long Beach dentistry today and get more information about prevention and treatment of oral cancer and other periodontal diseases. Use our online system here or call us at 562-434-6414. Dr. Coates and his team look are dedicated to your health & beauty!

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Why You Grind Your Teeth and How to Stop

If you wake up with a headache accompanied by pain in or around your mouth, you could be grinding your teeth at night.

Bruxism is the involuntary and habitual clenching or grinding of your teeth in your sleep, and it’s a common issue in many people regardless of age. Sometimes, a little bit of teeth-clenching may not be problematic, but if the issue isn’t addressed, it can lead to other oral issues in addition to the painful symptoms like headaches, earaches, disrupted sleep, and more.

Grinding your teeth at night could also be symptomatic of bigger issues, like TMJ disorder (Tempro-Mandibular Joint Dysfunction), which affects how your jaw functions, or it can be a sign of an airway issue.

People who suffer from TMJ disorder have trouble biting and even simply opening and closing their mouths can be difficult. The reason why you might have TMJ varies and is sometimes hard to determine, but most people with it will experience some kind of teeth grinding, causing more issues.

If there is restriction in your airway it can trigger clenching and grinding as a way to activate the muscles of the head and neck to help open and stabilize the airway.  If a child is grinding their teeth you need to see a dentist and/or physician familiar with pediatric airway development.

Bruxism can cause tooth decay and breakage

The most common reason you’d want to address your teeth grinding is that over time, the constant friction can wear down your enamel. You can fracture or break your teeth, which can also affect your appearance and overall oral health.

You can receive dental procedures like dental crowns and bridges to fix fractured teeth, but prevention is definitely the best course of action in this case.

How do I stop grinding my teeth?

If you’re already experiencing some pain and visible damage to your teeth, you should visit your dentist right away.

In the meantime, you can wear mouthguards while you sleep to protect your teeth from the grinding. Our Long Beach dental office can also provide custom mouthguards for optimal fit and protection.

Why you might be grinding your teeth varies from person to person, but stress is often a contributing factor for bruxism. Find ways to relieve stress, like meditation or drinking tea, and be sure to not drink alcohol or caffeine right before bed.

As mentioned earlier, airway issues can trigger it so being assessed by a dentist familiar with airway development can help give you possible solutions that can treat airway, etc.

Your dentist can work with you on ways to protect yourself from teeth grinding, as well as the best course of action to fix the damaged teeth you might have because of it.

Dr. Stephen Coates has extensive training in these topics so book your dental appointment with our Long Beach office today using our online system, or by calling 562-434-6414.

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Do You Have Trouble Eating Due to a Broken Tooth?

The holidays are just around the corner, and you know what that means — plenty of food to be cooked and eaten!

But, if you’ve been dealing with a broken or decaying tooth, then eating may have become cumbersome to you. You’re probably thinking you won’t be able to enjoy that warm, delicious stuffing with croutons, or the readily available bowl of chips to snack on.

Don’t let a damaged tooth stop you from eating what you want. In just a matter of days, a dental crown or a cap can help you enjoy the food you’ve been avoiding all this time. Crowns are an easy procedure for you and the dentist, and they take very little time.

What is a dental crown?

A crown, or a cap, is a custom-made hard covering that encases your entire tooth, restoring it to the original shape and size. Crowns are typically made of porcelain, due to its affordability, durability, reliability, and the fact that it looks natural with a color that matches the rest of your teeth.

To create the dental crown, your dentist will scan your mouth to help create the right shape for fit and appearance. Then, a mold will be created to for a temporary crown that you can wear until your permanent one is made.

Not only do dental caps help you take a bite out of your favorite foods again, but they also restore your smile. Eating and smiling without worry will increase your confidence, helping you lead a happier, healthier life!

Do I need a crown?

For many patients, the dental staff will do everything they can to restore your teeth naturally. But often times, restorations like dental crowns are necessary. Your dentist will work with you to determine the best procedure for your case.

Schedule your dental appointment today and see what options are available for you and your dental insurance. Book online now, or call our Long Beach dental office at 562-434-6414.

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Snoring Children and Sleep Apnea

A snoring child seems hardly a cause for concern. Maybe you think that it could just be the way their head is positioned, so you just try changing their pillow or moving their head to see if that makes a difference.

Snoring for ANY child is a signal that something is wrong with their airway and you should be very concerned. Other remedies you can try include nasal strips or a dietary change. Check to see if your child has a cold or fever, in which case you’ll need to clear their sinuses with medication or nasal spray, or using a bulb syringe — sometimes called a nasal aspirator. These are usually located in the infant aisle of retail stores.

But what if all of that doesn’t work? What if your child’s snoring seems to be a chronic condition? Before you head over to WebMD or self-diagnose using search engine results, we recommend going to your family dentist who is trained in looking for signs and symptoms of sleep breathing disorders so that you can get a professional opinion.

Your oral health and condition can influence how you sleep, including whether snoring may occur. Sleep apnea, or sometimes called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), is a condition that affects millions of Americans, young and old. OSA is defined as intermittent airflow blockage during sleep, which is treatable but sometimes a sign of greater health issues. Because of this, professional diagnosis and treatment is recommended. Additionally, there is another sleep disordered breathing condition called upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS), which is when the airway may not necessarily close off but can become so small that the body just can’t get enough oxygen to properly function.

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, it’s estimated that 1 in 4 children have some kind of pediatric sleep disorder. They’ve also determined that about 25% of children diagnosed with ADHD have symptoms of OSA, in which their irregular sleeping patterns may lay the foundation for their learning disabilities and their inability to focus for long periods of time.

To test whether your child has OSA or UARS, a dentist may employ a screening test to diagnose the issue. The test is safe and non-intrusive, and will provide your family and the dentist with the information they need to work with a pediatric sleep physician and craft a custom treatment plan to address potential pediatric sleep disordered breathing.

To learn more about how the diagnosis works, getting options for treatment, or for more information on sleep apnea, you can read our blog post here. We also encourage you to schedule an appointment with your dentist to receive customized help and planning!

Book your next check-up or appointment with our Long Beach dental office using our online system here, or by calling us at 562-434-6414.

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How a Smile Can Enhance Your Love Life?

“Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”

Mother Teresa

We smile a lot throughout the day, often not even noticing when or why we do. It costs nothing to smile, but yet the returns are amazing!

According to hundreds of studies and research, smiling is in fact contagious — and for good reason. Not only does smiling have great benefits for you and your health, it also spreads positivity to others. It tells people that you’re a warm and approachable person, and one of the most basic needs we have is to feel safe and comfortable wherever we are.

And that warmness is only the beginning of love. A person’s smile has been recorded as one of the top attractive traits in a person. If smiling is so powerful at the beginning of a relationship, imagine its power throughout one. It brings warmth, comfort, agreeability… all very important elements to a strong relationship. When you smile, you’re happy, your partner is happy, and everyone around you feels and responds to that.

Achieving a better, more attractive smile is not hard to do. The more time you invest in creating a better smile for yourself, the more you’ll receive in the long run! Happiness leads to better relationships with family and friends, more income at work, and more self-confidence.

Here are some ways you can achieve a better smile:

  • Whitening your teeth: Whiter teeth means a brighter smile. It stands out more, and also subconsciously signals your good oral health to others. There are plenty of over-the-counter products that promise whiter teeth, but the best route is to go into your dentist’s office for a professional teeth cleaning and whitening procedure.
  • Proper hygiene for good breath and healthy gums: Having a daily routine to clean your teeth and gums is important for good-looking teeth. Red and swollen gums due to poor hygiene can cause you to smile less, and having bad breath doesn’t help either. Brush often, use mouthwash, and floss daily to keep periodontal disease at bay.
  • Teeth straightening: Thanks to modern science and the advancements of technology, having straighter teeth is easier than ever. More adults today can afford braces, and veneers have become more affordable and effective.

What options are available for you?

Not sure what procedures you need for a better smile — and want to know more about what your insurance can do for your dental health? Schedule an appointment with our Long Beach dental office today, and speak with Dr. Stephen Coates about how you can achieve a better smile.

You can book using our online system, or call our dentistry at 562-434-6414.

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Do You Have Trouble Sleeping? Your Dentist Can Help!

If you’re not getting enough sleep despite your best efforts to live a healthy life, then it’s time to call your dentist.

Sleep apnea (or obstructive sleep apnea / OSA) and upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) is estimated to affect over 18 million Americans, according to the National Sleep Foundation. This common condition occurs when the airway is repeatedly blocked or severely restricted during sleep, causing reduced airflow, paused breathing, snoring, and more.

Because of this, people with sleep apnea do not get the rest they need to be refreshed and ready for the next day. Daytime fatigue and lack of sleep may be due to insomnia, but it can also be caused by irregular breathing patterns at night. And this is where your dentist can step in!

The link between your oral health and sleep apnea

There are many signs a dentist may see to determine whether your oral health plays a role in your sleep. Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a common sign. Other visual indications may include a smaller jaw or enlarged tongue. For patients with UARS gastric reflux can occur which causes acid from the stomach to come up and can start to dissolve teeth. In many cases, your dentist provide a screening exam such as a high resolution pulse oximeter (HRPO) or may refer you to a sleep study, or polysomnogram, to get an official diagnosis.

A typical nocturnal polysomnography will include hooking the patient up to a machine at night to measure various bodily functions, from heart and lung activity to arm and leg movements. This painless test is usually conducted under the care of a sleep technician. Depending on the severity of your condition, portable at-home tests may be given to the patient instead.

Treatment options for sleep apnea

If the tests determine that you do have OSA, then your dentist will work with you to create a customized solution to help you get a better night’s sleep. Having more rest leads to a happier, healthier life, and who doesn’t want that?

One of the most common suggestions is for the patient to cut down on or stop smoking and alcohol consumption, as those things typically worsen the condition. After some lifestyle changes are recommended, the dentist may talk with you about certain devices to help you breathe while you’re asleep.

One of the most common medical devices for patients with OSA is the CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine, which is essentially a sleep mask that assists in opening up your airways. It’s a bit bulky and for some patients it can be somewhat uncomfortable, but luckily there are other dental appliances available. These devices may be covered by your insurance.

Sometimes, surgery may be the best option for certain patients. It’s a more permanent solution that will adjust your mouth and jaw, leaving more room for air to flow through.

Ready for better sleep?

If you’d like to understand better why you’re not sleeping well at night, let Dr. Stephen Coates and his experienced staff help. Book your appointment using our online system, or call our Long Beach dental office at 562-434-6414.

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Gum Disease Can Adversely Affect Your Quality of Life

A smile is a powerful thing! It costs very little to do and yet can yield a lot of positive outcomes, like more friendships, better job prospects, and a happier life in general.

There are many documented studies all around the world that prove the power of a smile. One British study showed that smiling stimulates the brain in the same way receiving $25,000 does. An amazing 30-year study out of UC Berkeley measured the smiles of teenagers in their yearbook photos, and collected data in their later years like test scores, relationship fulfillment, and how inspiring they were to others. Those with the widest smiles consistently scored the highest.

But you don’t need science to prove how much a smile is worth. Just take note of all the people you encounter every day, and then see how many of them smile and brighten up your mood. Smiling is contagious (again, scientifically proven) so not only do you feel better about yourself, but everyone else feels better too! As Mother Teresa once said, “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.”

Gum disease is the enemy of a good smile

Without good dental hygiene, this almighty tool loses its power. A study from the University of Michigan revealed that people who exhibit signs and symptoms of gum disease, no matter how severe, were less likely to smile at their full extent, and often times end up covering their mouths to smile or laugh.

Gum disease — inflammation of the gum line that can affect the bone and surrounding teeth — is diagnosed in millions of Americans. Millions more live without realizing they’re showing signs of it, because symptoms are relatively painless. Some of the early signs of gum disease may include:

  • Red or swollen gums
  • Sensitive bleeding gums or discharge around gumlines
  • Receding gumlines
  • Chronic bad breath, or bad taste in mouth
  • Loose teeth

There are also three different stages or degrees of gum disease: gingivitis, periodontitis, and advanced periodontitis. Knowing what stage of gum disease you’re at will help inform your dentist on the best treatment for your condition.

It’s also important to note that gum disease can do more than just harm your smile; it can harm your overall health, too. Studies have shown strong links between periodontal disease and heart disease, stroke, stomach issues, diabetes, and even complications in pregnancy.

How do I prevent gum disease?

Like you do with any disease, prevention is key. Good, thorough, and daily oral care is of course necessary, but routine dental check-ups are where you’ll get the best information. Your dentist will actively look for signs of gum disease and work with you on changing your daily routine if they are concerned about your oral health.

The recommended daily at-home oral care plan is to brush your teeth twice a day, for at least two minutes each time. Use mouthwash whenever you can, and floss your teeth at least once a day BEFORE you brush. Limit the amount of times you smoke, and of course, stay away from drugs. Taking care of your mouth is taking care of your life.

Make sure to schedule your dental exam today to check for signs of — and to receive more information on the prevention — of gum disease. Schedule now with our Long Beach dental office by using our online system, or by calling 562-434-6414.

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What to Do When You Have a Cracked Tooth?

A fractured tooth is never fun. The pain that comes with a crack in your tooth can range depending on the kind of tooth fracture it is, but it’s still a very uncomfortable experience.

There are many ways a patient can get a cracked tooth, and it doesn’t always involve a physical accident. You can crack your tooth by:

  • Chewing on something hard, like a rock
  • Hard grinding on your teeth, or bruxism
  • Physical impact, like getting hit in the face
  • Untreated cavities that weaken the tooth
  • Old mercury/silver amalgam fillings that can expand and act like a wedge to crack the tooth

Do I need to see a dentist for a cracked tooth?

These things can hardly ever be fixed at home, and a fracture can indicate that there may be a larger problem than just the cracked enamel. It’s important that as soon as you notice any pain, like a toothache, that you see your dentist right away.

However, sometimes, if the crack is purely cosmetic, there may be no need for a dental visit. Known as craze lines, you might just have a scratch on your enamel (similar to a scratch on a car) that may not cause you any pain. You could get the lines polished and buffed by your dentist if appearance is a concern.

If my tooth hurts, what can I do to ease the pain before I see the dentist?

If seeing your dentist the same day you notice the pain is not possible, there are a few things you can do in the meantime to deal with the pain:

  • Avoid chewing on the side of the mouth where the pain is
  • Use a straw to drink liquids
  • Apply pressure to the area by biting down on cloth, paper towels, or a tea bag
  • Use dental cement (available at general retailers) to seal the crack temporarily
  • Take your choice of pain relievers
  • Call your dentist’s office for more help

If the pain is too unbearable, you always have the choice of visiting the ER or urgent care for stronger options. While they may not be able to treat the fracture, they can manage the symptoms until you see your dentist or endodontist.

What is treatment like for a fractured tooth?

Every cracked tooth is different, so there are a variety of treatment options a dentist may use in your specific case.

In some instances, a filling material may be used if it’s just a chipped tooth. However, if the crack goes deep into the enamel, and the pulp of the tooth may be exposed, a root canal or a crown may be necessary. If it seems that the pulp may not be in danger, then your dentist may suggest a porcelain onlay (sometimes referred to as a partial crown) instead.

Ready to explore options for your fractured tooth? Schedule an appointment with our Long Beach dental office online, or call us at 562-434-6414.

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How to Make Caring For Teeth Fun for Kids?

One of greatest challenges of parenting is teaching your children good habits. Most of the time, kids resist learning them because they’re “necessary,” meaning they “aren’t fun.” And well, who can blame them? Sometimes being remedial just seems like a chore, and who likes chores?

However, even if we don’t like chores, we as adults know that they must be done. On top of that, caring for your family’s oral health is a necessity because it could cost you a lot more money later in life if good hygiene isn’t practiced today. So, while you know you need to have good teeth and gums, but how do you convince your children?

As a busy parent, you’ve got enough problems to worry about. Teaching your child how to brush their teeth doesn’t have to be cumbersome, so here are some fun and creative tips to get the job done.

Brush Your Own Teeth With Them

Children often learn by watching other people around them, so try making tooth brushing time become family time. Not only will you be there to assist your child brushing their teeth, but you also get your cleaning time as well. Don’t be afraid to let them see you flossing and using mouthwash – showing your kids that you care for your own teeth this way will encourage them later on to do the same.

Play Music Or Audiobooks

Search online and you can find many apps, videos, or audio clips that are about 2 to 2.5 minutes long, dedicated to entertaining your children while they brush their teeth. Give the kids something to look forward to when you tell them that this specific music or video is only allowed during teeth cleaning time. There are popular apps for many families like Brush DJ – where you can choose from a collection of 2 minute songs, or Star Teeth – which contains 2 minute animated clips. Alternatively, you can search YouTube for 2 minute videos.

Use Flavored Toothpaste

Make tooth brushing a special treat by giving your children a variety of toothpaste with different flavors. Add some creativity by assigning flavors to certain days, like Monday Minty, Wednesday Watermelon, or Strawberry Saturdays.

Make It A Positive Experience

Many parents struggle with the idea of rewarding mediocrity, that you shouldn’t have to incentivize children for doing what they are supposed to do. However, even if you choose to reward good behavior as children are just starting to learn how to brush their teeth, you can always pull back on the rewards later. Also, motivation doesn’t have to come from the promise of a reward. It can also just be a fun activity that children get to experience with their family. Bonding time is a great reward that goes both ways.

When Should My Child Start Seeing the Dentist?

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a child should see the dentist right after their first tooth comes in. This is beneficial for both the child and their parent to get them accustomed to seeing a dentist, and gives the dentist a chance to examine the child’s oral condition for any early signs of issues.

Ready to schedule a dental appointment for your family? Book your next appointment online, or call our Long Beach office at 562-434-6414.

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What to Expect in a Routine Dental Cleaning with Your Dentist?

A routine dental cleaning isn’t so different from a routine dental exam, since it’s all about ensuring your teeth and gums are healthy. However, while you’ll receive a teeth cleaning during a regular exam visit, a cleaning visit will allow the dental hygienist more time to spend on you and your mouth.

It’s suggested that in addition to your regular dental exams, that you also come in for a regular cleaning about twice a year. If you have a good daily routine for cleaning your teeth at home, you may be able to afford coming in just once a year. However, with new studies coming out about adults today and their abysmal daily care of their teeth, it’s very likely that you and your family should schedule a dental cleaning right away.

So, what goes on during a dental cleaning visit? Even if you’re scared of going to the dentist, like many American adults today, you’ll find that it’s a simple and almost painless experience, and of course, necessary for your overall health — not just oral.

  1. An initial exam
    A dental hygienist will introduce themselves to you, as generally teeth cleaning is performed without a dentist. However, in a physical exam, the hygienist will use a small mirror and visual inspect your teeth and gums to see if there are any dire issues, in which then a dentist will be called in. Once the initial exam is complete, the hygienist will move on to the next step.
  2. Removing plaque and tartar
    Everyone develops plaque, even if you brush your teeth daily. Plaque is a thin film of bacteria that can build up on the small crevices between your teeth and gums (hence why flossing is important). If plaque isn’t addressed early, then it becomes tartar, which is essentially a hardened, calcified form of plaque, and it makes your teeth look yellow. Plaque can eventually lead to periodontal diseases and gingivitis if you don’t clean your teeth often.The hygienist will use a metal tool called a scraper, which is used just how it sounds — the tool will scrape away plaque and tartar build up. Tartar is hard to remove with common cleaning tools like toothbrushes and floss.
  3. Polish and cleaning
    Once the hygienist is done scraping away, they’ll use an electric toothbrush that will polish your teeth’s enamel. This procedure should definitely not be done at home, as polishing incorrectly can ruin rather than help your enamel. It’s safer with professional guidance. Polishing will remove any remaining stains, and help your teeth to achieve that pearly whiteness so many of us want!
  4. Flossing
    If you already floss at home, you might think this is something you could skip at a dental cleaning, but having a professional floss your teeth is always a good idea. First, the hygienist might see problem areas that you may not have been able to identify on your own. Second, this helps to remove any remaining debris from the cleaning process earlier. Keep in mind that while you’re getting a flossing procedure during your cleaning, you should still learn how to floss correctly at home.
  5. Rinsing and fluoride treatment
    You know how during a car wash, near the end you’ll get streams of water to rinse off the soap, but then there’s also a last bit of sealant or wax that’s applied at the very end? That’s similar to how this step works. After the hygienist rinses your mouth, clearing it from all the soap and debris, you will get a fluoride treatment, or dental sealant, to help protect your teeth from future build-up. Like almost all sealants, this isn’t going to prevent your teeth from plaque 100%, but it’ll be a great line of defense to help fight against additional bacteria.

After all that is said and done, your hygienist will clean up the work area, and sit down with you about any issues they saw during the cleaning, and discuss a thorough at-home cleaning routine for you to commit to. If you haven’t had a digital x-ray of your teeth in a while, this may be suggested to you. X-rays will look under the hood to identify any potential issues beneath your enamel or gums — essentially, places where the naked eye can’t see.

Ready to make your next cleaning appointment with our Long Beach dental office? Schedule online here or call us at 562-434-6414.

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