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Are you a tooth grinder?

April 10th, 2024

Perhaps you had a particularly irritating commute home from work, and you realize at the end that your jaw was clenched tight the entire time. Or maybe you grind your teeth when you are nervous or anxious about an upcoming business meeting. Most people grind their teeth from time to time, but it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of chronic tooth grinding. Known as bruxism, this condition can lead to oral health problems and dental issues later.

Signs and symptoms of bruxism

  • Your partner might complain about the fact that you grind your teeth while you sleep. People who grind their teeth on a regular basis often do so during the night, and aren’t necessarily aware it is happening. However, your partner will more than likely notice if you develop this condition. If he or she mentions that it happens often, you might want to contact our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics.
  • You may experience a persistent and unexplained headache if you grind your teeth too often. You may not realize why you have this headache, because you are not aware of the fact that you have been grinding your teeth. Take note of any headaches you have, and if you cannot attribute them to another source, please give us a call to set up an appointment with Dr. Lapsi.
  • Your jaw will more than likely become sore if you suffer from bruxism. If you wake up in the morning and have any discomfort in your jaw, you might have spent the night grinding your teeth. Our team can give you tips and advice for managing bruxism.

While many people associate their teeth grinding with stress, it actually is caused more often by crooked teeth, an overbite, or an under bite. If left untreated, bruxism can lead to a variety of complications, including dental injuries, hearing loss, and the onset of TMD. If you think that you might be a chronic tooth grinder, it might be time to set up an appointment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office in order to find out which treatment options are available to you.

Working Behind the Scenes—Lingual Braces

April 3rd, 2024

There are many great reasons to see an orthodontist. For a healthier bite. For straighter teeth. For a more confident smile. So why are you hesitating? If the visibility of traditional braces is what’s holding you back, ask Dr. Lapsi about lingual braces.

With regular braces, brackets are bonded to the front of each tooth with a special adhesive. Ligatures around each bracket or bracket clips grip an archwire, which does the work of moving the teeth. The gentle pressure from the wire guides the teeth into alignment in gradual stages. Every adjustment moves the teeth to their perfect positions. These braces are quite effective—and they are usually quite visible.

Lingual braces, on the other hand, are virtually invisible. Lingual means “toward the tongue,” and this placement is the difference between lingual braces and more traditional types of orthodontic braces.

Lingual braces are custom designed to be applied to the inside of your teeth. Specially designed brackets are attached to the backs of the teeth. Individually crafted archwires are used to guide your teeth to their best alignment.

Lingual braces can be the solution to many orthodontic concerns:

  • If you need or want invisible braces for personal or professional reasons, lingual braces are a great option. Because they are behind your teeth, they are even less noticeable than clear aligners—and you don’t need to keep track of your hours wearing them.
  • Lingual braces keep the front of your teeth braces-free for playing a brass or reed instrument, or for participating in sports. (Just remember, a mouthguard is always a good idea for athletic activities, and especially when you wear braces.)
  • Both brackets and wires can be customized to fit your teeth perfectly, and new lingual brackets and wires are more comfortable than ever.

You might be a good candidate for lingual braces if:

  • You have a large enough tooth surface to place a bracket. Adults with small teeth—or children—might not be have enough room on the back of each tooth to hold a bracket.
  • You don’t have a major malocclusion (bite problem) which would make lingual braces impractical. A deep overbite, for example, could cause the wires and brackets behind the upper teeth to come loose or detach as they come in contact with lower teeth.
  • You are dedicated to keeping up with your oral hygiene. Because wires and brackets are behind the teeth, it can be harder to keep them free from food particles and plaque.

Finally, even if lingual braces aren’t the perfect match for your orthodontic needs, there are other options that can work for you. Smaller metal brackets, ceramic brackets that blend in with your enamel, and clear aligners mean today’s orthodontic work is more subtle and discreet than ever before.

For a healthier bite, for straighter teeth, for a more confident smile—don’t hesitate. Contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office to discuss the many great options you have available to give you the smile you’ve always wanted—front and center.

Early Orthodontics

March 27th, 2024

The average age of individuals who get braces is between nine and 14, although it is appropriate for younger children to visit Excel Dental and Orthodontics for a consultation with Dr. Lapsi. While parents may be concerned about the efficacy of early orthodontics, research suggests that early intervention can prevent greater dental health problems later in life.

What types of conditions require early intervention?

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, 3.7 million children under the age of 17 receive orthodontic treatment each year. Early intervention may be appropriate for younger children with crooked teeth, jaw misalignment, and other common issues. Early orthodontic treatment may be of use for several types of problems:

  • Class I malocclusion. This condition is very common. It features crooked teeth or those that protrude at abnormal angles. In general, early treatment for Class I malocclusion occurs in two phases, each two years long.
  • Class III malocclusion. Known as an underbite, in which the lower jaw is too big or the upper jaw too small, Class III malocclusion requires early intervention. Because treatment involves changing growth patterns, starting as early as age seven is a smart choice for this dental problem.
  • Crossbite. Crossbite occurs when the upper and lower jaws are not properly aligned. An orthodontic device called a palatal expander widens the upper jaw, allowing teeth to align properly. Research suggests that early treatment may be beneficial in crossbite cases, especially when the jaw must shift laterally to correct the problem.
  • Tooth extraction. That mouthful of crooked baby teeth can cause problems when your child’s permanent teeth erupt. For kids with especially full mouths, extracting baby teeth and even permanent premolars can help adult teeth grow in straight.

Considerations when thinking about early intervention

Early intervention isn’t helpful for all conditions. For example, research suggests that there is little benefit to early orthodontics for Class II malocclusion (commonly known as an overbite). Instead, your child should wait until adolescence to begin treatment. Scheduling a visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office when your child is around age seven is a smart way to create an individualized treatment plan that addresses unique orthodontic needs.

Women’s Medications and Dry Mouth

March 20th, 2024

Women using medication to treat a variety of medical conditions are often unaware of the potential side effects. One common side effect of medications such as blood pressure medication, birth control pills, antidepressants, and cancer treatments is dry mouth. The technical term for dry mouth is xerostomia.

Xerostomia can lead to undesirable effects in the oral cavity including periodontal disease and a high rate of decay. Many women who have not had a cavity in years will return for their routine exam and suddenly be plagued with a multitude of cavities around crowns and at the gum line, or have active periodontal disease. The only thing that the patient may have changed in the past six months is starting a new medication.

Saliva washes away bacteria and cleans the oral cavity, and when saliva flow is diminished harmful bacteria can flourish in the mouth leading to decay and gum disease. Many medications can reduce the flow of saliva without the patient realizing the side effect. Birth control pills can also lead to a higher risk of inflammation and bleeding gums. Patients undergoing cancer treatments, especially radiation to the head and neck region, are at a greatly heightened risk of oral complications due to the possibility of damage to the saliva glands.

There are many over the counter saliva substitutes and products to temporarily increase saliva production and help manage xerostomia. One great option for a woman with severe dry mouth or high decay rate is home fluoride treatments. These work in a number of ways, including custom fluoride trays that are worn for a short period of time daily at home, a prescription strength fluoride toothpaste, or an over the counter fluoride rinse. If you have more questions on fluoride treatments, make sure to ask Dr. Lapsi at your next visit to our office.

The benefits of many of the medications on the market outweigh the risks associated with xerostomia, however, with regular exams you can manage the risk and prevent many oral consequences of medications.

Wearing Braces? Make Cavities a Remote Possibility

March 13th, 2024

Press Pause

If you are getting braces in the near future, it’s very important to see your regular dentist first. That way, any cavities or other dental problems can be treated before your first orthodontic appointment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office.

Play it Safe

Once you have your braces, you’ll hearing a lot about how you need to be especially careful with your dental hygiene. Why? Because wires and brackets are obstacles to getting your teeth and gum area their cleanest. Plaque and food particles tend to stick to braces, and all too often can be missed while brushing. Plaque builds up around your gum line and brackets, and, in a very short time, can lead to sensitivity, demineralization, and cavities.

What can you do to prevent tooth decay?

  • Increase Your Brushing Time

Instead of brushing twice a day, start brushing for two minutes after every meal. Put together a travel bag with a small toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and interproximal brushes to clean your teeth when you’re on the go. If you absolutely can’t brush, rinse carefully with water, and then brush as soon as you can.

  • Flossing—More Important than Ever

Use the flossing tools designed just for braces to make sure you’ve removed food particles and plaque from around your braces and gums. A water flosser can be helpful if manual flossing isn’t effective.

  • Keep Up with Your Regular Dental Care

Schedule regular checkups and professional cleanings at your dentist’s office. They will be able to remove plaque you might miss at home.  

  • Follow Our Advice

We’ll give you instructions on how to brush and floss, what products to use, and diet suggestions (such as keeping sugary and sticky foods off the menu and away from your braces). If we notice plaque building up around your gums and brackets, we’ll let you know that you need to step up your hygiene habits. We can also suggest rinses and toothpastes that help fight plaque.

But if, despite all your efforts, you do get a cavity? There are options!

  • Ignoring Your Cavity?

Not an option. You shouldn’t wait until you are out of braces to get a cavity treated. This just gives decay a chance to spread further.

  • Working With Your Braces

Repairing a cavity means removing the decay in the tooth, cleaning the area, and then filling the tooth. If your cavity isn’t located near your bands, brackets, or wires, your dentist might be able to work around your braces, and you can get your cavity treated during a regular dental appointment.

  • Removing Parts of Your Braces for Treatment

Sometimes a cavity is located in a spot that your dentist can’t reach because of your braces. In that case, we’re able to coordinate with your dentist and remove a wire or bracket temporarily so you can have your tooth filled. Make an appointment to replace your bracket and re-attach your wire, and you’ll be back on schedule as soon as possible.

Fast Forward

Keep your eyes on your goal--you’re in braces because you want a beautiful smile. Keeping on top of your dental health is an essential part of creating that smile. Talk to Dr. Lapsi about tips for getting your teeth their cleanest. If you do develop a cavity, we’ll help you figure out the best way to treat it without causing too much delay in your orthodontic treatment. Taking care of your teeth now is the best way to create a future of beautiful smiles!

When Your Smile Isn’t Aging as Gracefully as You Are

March 6th, 2024

You might have been one of the lucky few born with perfectly straight teeth and a healthy bite. You might have spent months in orthodontic treatment as a teenager to achieve perfectly straight teeth and a healthy bite. But now that you’re growing older, you might be unhappily surprised to discover that your smile isn’t aging as gracefully as you are.  What’s changed?

That’s a trick question, because our bodies never stop changing, growing, and adapting. And these constant adjustments include the changes taking place in your teeth and mouth. You might begin to notice subtle differences in your smile when you’re in your thirties or forties. After young adulthood, several factors come into play which can cause shifting teeth and a misaligned bite:

  • Teeth naturally shift.

Shifting can be a result of the normal changes time brings. The periodontal ligaments which attach our teeth firmly to the jawbone lose some of their strength; the jawbones which hold our teeth in place lose some of their density and begin to narrow. Our teeth also have a natural tendency to move toward the front of the mouth, a phenomenon called “mesial drift.”

Add all of these elements together, and your once straight teeth start to crowd together and even overlap—especially the front bottom teeth.

  • Stressful habits stress your teeth.

If you habitually grind or clench your teeth, you’re putting pressure on them. Just like the gentle pressure of braces and aligners can shift teeth into alignment, the more uncontrolled force of grinding can push teeth out of alignment.  

  • Losing a tooth affects surrounding teeth.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does your smile. If you lose a tooth, your other teeth will automatically start to drift into the space left open by the missing tooth.

  • A neglected retainer is gathering dust in a drawer somewhere.

You might have spent time as a teenager in orthodontic treatment, with a beautiful smile to show for all your hard work. And, back in the day, your orthodontist no doubt let you know that you needed to keep wearing your retainer at night once your treatment was completed.

If that’s one healthy habit you abandoned as you got older, don’t be surprised if your teeth start to migrate back to their old, less-than-perfect positions.

Between normal biological changes and the wear and tear of daily life, you might find one day that your smile isn’t that same beaming smile you’re used to seeing in the mirror. And it’s not just an aesthetic concern.

Crooked teeth are harder to clean, and built-up plaque means more decay and gum disease. Shifting teeth can cause malocclusions, or bite problems, which can bring you jaw pain, headaches, and chipped or cracked teeth.

If your smile has changed over time, it’s time to give Dr. Lapsi a call. There are many discreet options which can return your smile to you, including:

  • Clear aligners—comfortable, removable, and often unnoticeable.
  • Traditional braces—brackets are smaller than ever, and you can choose ceramic brackets which are color-matched to blend in with your enamel.
  • Lingual braces—these braces are attached to the inside of the teeth, for complete invisibility.

And what if you’ve never been as confident in your smile as you wanted to be? There’s good news here as well—it’s never too late to see an orthodontist. Make an appointment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office to discover how you can make sure your smile looks just as young as you feel!

Common Braces Problems

February 28th, 2024

It’s useful to know some of the common problems that can arise when you get braces. Even if you take great care of your braces and teeth, you might not be able to avoid certain issues or side effects that accompany braces. But don’t worry: These are all common problems that can be taken care of by following some simple advice.

If you just had your braces put on, you may notice some general soreness in your mouth. Your teeth are starting to adjust to having to shift, so they may ache, and your jaw might feel tender at first. This will subside once your mouth becomes used to the new appliance in residence.

You may experience soreness on your tongue or mouth, which may be a sign of a canker sore. Canker sores are common when braces rub against your mouth. You can use ointments to relieve pain and numb the area that’s been irritated. Canker sores are commonly caused by broken wires or loose bands on your braces.

Common Issues

  • Loose brackets: Apply a small amount of orthodontic wax to the bracket. You might also apply a little between the braces and the soft tissue of your mouth.
  • Loose bands: These must be secured in place by Dr. Lapsi. Try to save the band for repair.
  • Protruding or broken wires: Use the eraser end of a pencil to push the wire carefully to a less painful spot. If you are unable to move it, apply orthodontic wax to the tip. If a mouth sore develops, clean your mouth with warm salt water or antiseptic rinse.
  • Loose spacers: These will need to be repositioned by Dr. Lapsi and possibly replaced.

Avoiding Issues

You should avoid certain foods that could cause major damage to your braces. No matter what you eat, make the effort to cut your food into small pieces that can be chewed easily. This will prevent chunks of it from getting lodged between brackets.

Avoiding hard and chewy foods is also wise. Some foods can break your hardware: for example, popcorn, nuts, apples, gum, taffy, and hard candies. Avoiding any foods that easily got stuck in your teeth when you didn’t have braces is a good rule to follow.

The appliances in your mouth are bound to attract food particles and make it easier for plaque to build up. By making sure you brush and floss carefully every day, you can prevent stains and cavities from developing over time. Dr. Lapsi and our team recommend brushing and making sure that food isn’t lodged between your braces after every meal.

Having braces can be very exciting, but it can also be challenging at first. Watching for these common issues during your first few weeks can prevent problems down the road. If you experience a lot of pain from your braces, contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office and we can try to resolve any issues.

Braces can sometimes be a pain, but they’re well worth it once your new smile gets revealed!

Scheduling Dental Procedures When You’re Pregnant

February 21st, 2024

Pregnancy leads to so many changes in your body, so it’s no surprise that your teeth and gums are affected as well! Dental care is very important during these months, so let’s look at some of the concerns you might have about treatments and procedures.

  • Regular Exams and Cleaning

Yes and yes! Let us know you are pregnant when you make your appointment. Preventive care is especially important during pregnancy for keeping your gums healthy.

  • Periodontal Care

Swollen and tender gums are often one of the first signs of pregnancy. Hormonal changes can make your gums more vulnerable to irritation and infection. Early gum disease, called gingivitis, should be treated promptly to avoid a more serious condition called periodontitis. This form of gum disease can actually cause the gums to pull away from the teeth, leading to pockets where infection can develop. Talk to us about scheduling extra cleanings, if needed, to avoid the plaque build-up that leads to gum disease.

  • Regular Dental Work

If you need a cavity filled or a crown placed, talk to us about scheduling. It is important to keep your teeth healthy to avoid infection or more serious dental problems. If you do need restorative work, procedures are usually best treated during the second trimester, where morning sickness is less of a problem and reclining comfortably in the dental chair is easier than it would be in your third trimester.

  • Emergency Work

If there is a dental emergency, call us immediately. You shouldn’t put off emergency work, as the complications of pain and infection can be harmful to you and your baby.

  • Elective Treatments

If you are thinking about whitening your teeth or having other cosmetic dental work done, waiting until after your baby is born is usually recommended.

  • X-rays

Most studies suggest that dental X-rays, because they are so limited in focus, are probably safe during pregnancy. But since there is no definitive answer at this time, it’s recommended to wait until after your baby is born for elective X-rays. In case of a dental emergency, however, an X-ray might be a necessity. If you are worried, talk to us about the shielding we use during X-rays, as well as scientific agreement about the safety of dental X-rays.

Let Dr. Lapsi know about your pregnancy, and we will work with you to schedule exams or treatments at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office so that your dental experience is both comfortable and safe. If you have any concerns, call us immediately. We know your pregnancy brings many significant changes to your life, but our concern for your health and well-being—that’s unchanging!

Tips to Keep Braces Clean

February 14th, 2024

Orthodontic technology changes and improves all the time. Today’s braces are lighter, smaller, and more efficient than those of past years. Wires are thinner and more flexible. Even brackets come in different styles and colors. These developments are all great news for braces wearers. Unfortunately, there is one advancement we haven’t been able to offer: self-cleaning braces.

Brackets and wires can both trap food particles and make brushing them away more difficult. This can lead to increased plaque, cavities, and staining around the area of your braces. But with the proper supplies and habits, keeping your braces clean will become routine in no time.

Braces-healthy Supplies

  • Toothbrush

Your old toothbrush might work well enough with some brushing adjustments. We can show you how to angle your brush so it works most effectively, and how to make sure the bristles clean around your braces. Or, if you like, there are actually manual toothbrushes designed just for braces. These have V-shaped bristles to make cleaning around the brackets easier. Some people find an electric toothbrush works best. Whichever type of brush you use, be sure you use it often!

  • Floss

Again, if regular floss works for you, stay with your normal products. If you are finding it difficult to get into the narrow spaces around your braces, there are floss threaders to get the floss into tight spaces, and flosses specially designed to work with braces.

  • Interproximal brush

A big name for a tiny brush! These little cone-shaped brushes can clean around your brackets and under your wires—a great way to reach parts of your teeth your regular brush can’t.

Braces-healthy Habits

  • Brush after every meal and sugary drink

Because food particles tend to stick to your braces, and the bacteria in plaque feed on these particles, your enamel is under attack without thorough cleaning after meals. Take a toothbrush and supplies with you to school or work so that you can always brush after eating. If there is absolutely no way to brush, be sure to rinse immediately with water.

  • Brush carefully

Pay attention to each tooth, the area around your braces, and your gum line. And don’t forget the tops and inside of your teeth! A common suggestion for braces wearers is to devote at least ten seconds to each tooth. We might also recommend a special mouthwash to reduce bacteria and help keep your mouth and breath fresh.

  • Brush on the go

Put together a cleaning kit for when you are out of the house. A brush, some floss, and toothpaste in a handy container will let you brush whenever you need to, wherever you may be. Leave it in your backpack or bag, and you’re ready for anything!

  • Watch your diet

Foods that stick to teeth will stick to braces, so avoid caramels, licorice, chewy candies, and any other sticky treats. Why make your life more difficult?

While braces can make brushing and flossing more complicated, you can still keep your teeth clean, bright, and cavity-free. And remember, regular dental exams and professional cleanings are more important than ever during this time. At your next visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, talk to Dr. Lapsi about the best products and practices for the cleanest possible teeth and braces. We have plenty of ideas to help make sure you’ll have the healthy, beautiful smile you’ve worked so hard for when those braces come off!

Camping Oral Health Tips

February 7th, 2024

If your idea of camping is a quiet walk through the woods before returning to your rustic hotel, your regular brushing habits will be perfect for your trip. But if you are hiking into the mountains with your tent, backpack, and camp food, Dr. Lapsi and our team have some suggestions to adapt your dental routine to the great outdoors.

Water

If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t brush with it! Use bottled water if you have brought it, or make sure the local water is safe by using a testing kit. Boiling, filters and purification tablets are all ways to make sure the water tests clean and safe.

Toothpaste

You aren’t the only one in the woods who finds your toothpaste tasty. Bears, raccoons, and other animals are attracted to the scent of your toothpaste, so keep it safe with the same kind of tightly sealed, odor-proof container that you keep your food in. And if you want to discourage unwanted visitors, don’t spit your toothpaste out at your campground! It’s better to go some distance from your site and bury any paste, and best of all to spit used toothpaste into a container that can be tightly closed and removed from the campsite when you head for home. This practice protects you and the environment as well, since toothpaste can be harmful to small animals and plants.

Toothbrush

While there are disposable and camping toothbrushes available, a regular toothbrush will work as well. Normally, air-drying is the healthiest option for drying your toothbrush, but camping is an exception. Just as animals are attracted to toothpaste, they are also attracted to your toothpaste-scented toothbrush. Keep it in a sealed container that is odor-proof.

Floss

There are websites devoted to the many ingenious ways to use dental floss while camping, but we recommend the original use. Don’t forget to floss regularly, keep it in a sealed container, and do be sure to take used floss out of the area with you.

Even though you are roughing it, stick with your home routine as much as possible. If you are unable to brush as usual, rinse your mouth well with clean water and brush when you can. Have a great trip, and just one more thought—maybe go easy on the s’mores. Let us know all about your trip during your next visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

How Long Will I Wear My Braces?

January 31st, 2024

How long? Well, a beautiful smile is both science and art—proper teeth and jaw alignment united with aesthetically pleasing results. Orthodontists achieve both these outcomes with a careful analysis of any dental and facial problems, a treatment plan designed specifically for each patient’s needs, and adjustments through each phase of treatment to carefully bring about that beautiful smile.

And that’s a long way of saying, there’s no one, standard answer as to how long a patient will wear braces because there is no one, standard patient. Often, treatment takes from 18 to 24 months, but it can be months shorter or months longer depending on a variety of different circumstances.

  • Different Needs

Your orthodontic needs and goals will generally determine your treatment time. Some patients need only a bit of alignment, which can lead to a fairly short orthodontic experience. Some have malocclusions such as crossbites and open bites that require more complex and lengthy treatment.

And, while we used to think of orthodontics as a teenage rite of passage, that’s certainly no longer the case. Some children will need two-phase orthodontic treatment, where early procedures before the adult teeth even come in ease the way for any necessary second stage treatment when the permanent teeth arrive years later. And some adults will want orthodontic work later in life, where denser bone tissue might lead to (somewhat) longer treatment.

  • Different Appliances

Today’s orthodontics offers you many choices in appliances. Lingual braces are an almost invisible option, with brackets and wires on the inside of the teeth. Aligners use clear, custom molded trays to move the teeth into a better position with each new tray. Even traditional braces are smaller and sleeker today, with metal or less visible ceramic brackets. Depending on the orthodontic goals you want to achieve, there might be a small difference in the amount of time each appliance will take to get you to those goals. Talk to us about all your options and what they mean for treatment time.

  • Different Levels of Participation in the Process

This is one area you can make a real difference! If you follow our instructions for using your appliances most effectively, you’ll make progress as quickly as possible. If you have aligner trays, be sure to wear them for as long as directed each day. If you have rubber bands attached to brackets on your upper and lower teeth, wear them for as many hours as required, because these little bands are actually the tools that are moving your teeth into alignment. If you don’t wear your braces or aligners as directed, not much is going to happen, and certainly not on schedule.

Give our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office a call, and we can discuss your goals for creating your very best smile. Once we’ve decided on a treatment plan, Dr. Lapsi can give you a fairly good estimate as to how long your particular treatment will take. And, when you get to share that beautiful, healthy smile, the time you’ve spent achieving it will be well worth it!

 

Diet Soda vs. Regular Soda: Which is better for teeth?

January 17th, 2024

When most patients ask Dr. Lapsi this question, they're thinking strictly about sugar content — cut out the bacteria-feeding sugar that's present in regular soda by opting for a diet soda and it will be better for your teeth. That seems logical, right? Well, there's a bit more to it than that. Let's take a closer look at how any kind of soda can affect your dental health.

Diet Soda – Why it can also lead to tooth decay

The main culprit in these drinks that leads to decay is the acid content. Diet sodas and other sugar-free drinks are usually highly acidic, which weakens the enamel on your teeth and makes them more susceptible to cavities and dental erosion. The level of phosphoric acid, citric acid, and/or tartaric acid is usually high in sugar-free drinks so it's best to avoid them.

Some patients also enjoy drinking orange juice or other citrus juices. These drinks are high in citric acid and have the same effect on the enamel of your teeth.

So what about regular soda?

We know the acidity of diet sodas and sugar-free drinks contributes to tooth decay, so what about regular soda? Like we alluded to earlier, regular soda is high in sugar — a 12 ounce can contains roughly ten teaspoons of sugar — and sugar feeds the decay-causing bacteria in the mouth. This also includes sports drinks and energy drinks, which are highly acidic and loaded with sugar too. So these drinks are a double-whammy of sugar and acidity your teeth and body simply don't need.

The problems caused by both diet and regular soda is exacerbated when you sip on them throughout the day. If you drink it all in one sitting, you won't be washing sugar and/or acids over your teeth all day long and your saliva will have a chance to neutralize the pH in your mouth.

The best beverages to drink and how to drink them

Drinking beverages that are lower in acid is a good step to take to keep your enamel strong. According to a study conducted by Matthew M. Rodgers and J. Anthony von Fraunhofer at the University of Michigan, your best bets are plain water, black tea or coffee, and if you opt for a soda, root beer. These drinks dissolved the least amount of enamel when measured 14 days after consumption of the beverage.

If you still choose to drink soda, diet soda, sugar-free drinks, or juices here are some other tips to lessen tooth decay:

  • Drink your soda or acidic beverages through a straw to minimize contact with teeth
  • Rinse with water immediately after consumption of the beverage
  • Avoid brushing your teeth between 30 minutes to an hour after drinking the beverage as this has been shown to spread the acids before your saliva can bring your mouth back to a neutral pH
  • Avoid drinks that have acids listed on the ingredients label

Still have questions about soda, sugar, and acid? Give our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office a call and we’d be happy to help!

It's been years since my last appointment; what should I expect?

January 10th, 2024

Feeling apprehensive or guilty for not visiting a dentist in over a year is common, but coming back to receive dental care is easier than you may think. Our dental team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics provides caring, non-judgmental, personalized service, and knowing this you can truly feel at ease making your first appointment back.

During your first appointment back, we will focus on three prominent dental issues including gum disease, cavities, and wear and tear by utilizing a full mouth series of X-rays, a hygiene appointment, and a comprehensive exam.

The full mouth series of X-rays are taken every three to five years, or as needed. A full mouth series may be a panoramic X-ray and bitewings (a set of four that checks for cavities) or a set of X-rays that views the entire anatomy of every tooth. The set of X-rays will depend on your individual needs.

Your hygiene appointment will begin with a review of your medical history, personal concerns and questions, and an evaluation checking for any infection. After any necessary diagnoses are made, the appropriate level of cleaning is proposed and completed if time allows.

A comprehensive exam serves as a review of what the hygienist has already covered. Dr. Lapsi will again review your medical history and dental concerns, and confirm any periodontal diagnosis. An evaluation of any decay, breakdown or broken fillings, or areas that are at risk for future problems will also be reviewed.

After the appointment, a team member at Excel Dental and Orthodontics will review any recommended treatments, payment options, insurance coverage, and scheduling. The time spent at your first visit back is an important step in the right direction, and we are committed to making this visit as comfortable and easy as possible! Come see us in Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills.

How do I overcome my dental anxiety?

January 3rd, 2024

Do you feel anxious before every dentist appointment? If the answer is yes, you are not alone—more than 75 percent of Americans feel anxious when visiting their dentist. Today, Dr. Lapsi and our team thought we would provide some tips to reduce your stress about visiting our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office.

The first thing we want you to do is plan ahead. If at all possible, book an appointment at a time when you know you won’t be in a rush to get somewhere else, such as picking up your children from school or an important meeting at the office. We also recommend you avoid caffeine and sugar prior to your visit as too much of either can make you feel even more anxious, not to mention jittery.

Once you’re here at our office, take some slow, deep breaths to relax. Then, try to relax your muscles by sitting back comfortably. If you are still feeling anxious, let Dr. Lapsi or someone on our team know. We deal with nervous patients all the time and may have additional relaxation techniques for you to try. If you’d like, we also encourage you to bring headphones and listen to music of your choice to distract yourself while we work on your teeth.

If you have additional questions about relaxation techniques, or would like to schedule an appointment, please give us a call!

Taking Charge of Your Dental Health

December 28th, 2023

Now that you’re a teenager, you have a lot more responsibility and independence. Choosing high school classes and electives. Getting a driver’s license. Landing your first job. And those new responsibilities extend to your dental health as well.

  • Mouthguards

If you have a mouthguard for sports or athletic activities, wear it! Whether you have an over-the-counter device or a custom fabricated guard, it won’t do you any good hiding in your locker. A mouthguard cuts down on tooth and facial injuries caused by falls, physical contact, or other accidents that might happen in your active life. And if you wear braces, ask about a mouthguard designed to fit around them. These custom devices protect your braces and your mouth.

  • Gum Health

Part of adolescence is adapting to all the changes your body is going through. But an increased chance of gingivitis, perhaps caused by hormonal changes, is not something you want to adapt to. You might suspect you have gingivitis, or early gum disease, if your gums are swollen, red, bleeding, or easily irritated. Let us know about your concerns. With proper dental care (brushing, flossing, cutting down on sugars and carbs), your gums will be healthy again in no time.

  • Wisdom Teeth

Your teen years might be the time that your wisdom teeth make their appearance. We could discover them at one of your visits, or you may suddenly notice new teeth emerging behind your molars. If there’s room for your wisdom teeth and they are erupting (coming in) without problems, you might be good to go. But if there’s no room, or if you have pain or infection, or if they are causing damage to the teeth next to them, extraction might be necessary. Talk to us about all your options.

  • Tobacco

You’re making decisions now that will affect the rest of your life. Don’t start using tobacco products, or if you’ve started, stop before it becomes even more addicting. Quitting tobacco is one of the best decisions you will make for your health—and this includes your dental health. Studies have shown that smokers and other tobacco users suffer much higher rates of oral cancer, serious gum disease, and early tooth loss. Set yourself up for decades of better health!

Finally, remember that sticking with your dental routine—two minutes of brushing morning and night and thorough flossing each day—will keep your gums and teeth healthy throughout your teen years. And, if you have any questions about your dental health in general, or a specific dental concern, give our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office a call! We’re here to work with you for a lifetime of beautiful smiles.

Anatomy of a Smile Makeover

December 20th, 2023

A smile makeover is usually a combination of one or more cosmetic dental procedures. To achieve your desired result, Dr. Lapsi may perform or suggest a variety of options. The entire process is designed specifically for your unique cosmetic needs, and Dr. Lapsi will make sure all your concerns regarding your smile are addressed.

Here are some of the most common procedures in cosmetic dentistry and how they work:

  • Tooth whitening – Whiter teeth are achieved through a bleaching process typically using hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Yellower teeth usually respond well to this procedure, while brown-colored teeth stained by fluorosis or taking tetracycline do not respond as well to whitening. Tooth whitening is not for everyone; if you have sensitive teeth, gum disease, or poor enamel, Dr. Lapsi may recommend against tooth-whitening services.
  • Orthodontics – Braces are one of the tried-and-true ways of achieving a healthier smile. Braces are typically worn between 12 and 24 months to reposition the teeth in a straighter and safer alignment. Since your bite is also corrected during this process, it helps ensure you won't have any trouble down the line. There are several different types of braces available these days including: traditional metal braces, clear ceramic braces, lingual braces, and clear aligners.
  • Veneers – Veneers are thin, tooth-colored material (porcelain or resin) designed to be placed on the front surface of teeth to improve their overall appearance. They can be used in cases where the color, shape, size, or length is not as desired. Veneers are usually used in cases where teeth are discolored, chipped, worn down, misaligned, irregular, or have gaps.
  • Implants/bridges – Dental implants and bridges are used to replace missing or broken teeth. Nowadays, both implants and bridges are commonly performed procedures. Implants integrate directly with the jawbone, while bridges are placed over the adjacent teeth to the missing tooth. Implant technology has advanced a great deal in recent years and highly biocompatible ceramic materials are becoming more commonplace.

Getting your perfect smile will take time and patience, but the end result will be well worth it! Please schedule an appointment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office about the cosmetic dental services we offer, and achieve the smile you've always wanted!

Is Coffee Damaging Your Smile?

December 13th, 2023

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. Many people have a cup, or two, or even three a day. It’s common to drink it in the morning to wake up and get ready for the day, as an afternoon pick-me-up, or just to catch up with a coworker or friend.

These days there are many different kinds of coffee flavors to enjoy, so it’s almost impossible for a person not to like it. But as delicious as coffee is, it’s worthwhile to be aware of the effects it has on our dental health.

Coffee contains a lot of tannic acid, which is what causes its dark color. Tannic acid ingrains itself into the grooves of tooth enamel, and that leads to serious stains. In addition to containing tannic acid, the fact that coffee is generally served very hot makes your teeth expand and contract, which allows the stains to penetrate even farther into the enamel.

Dr. Lapsi and our team know it’s not easy to kick the caffeine habit. If you find yourself needing a cup of joe every day, here are some helpful tips to consider:

  • Switch to decaf coffee.
  • Make it a habit to drink a glass of water with your coffee to rinse away the acid.
  • Try enjoying your coffee with a straw so the tannic acid makes less contact with your front and lower teeth.
  • Pop in a piece of gum after your coffee to help prevent a dry mouth.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you might find that setting a limit on the number of cups of coffee you have per week or even per day can be helpful. You are always welcome to contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office to discuss potential whitening options as well. We’re here to help!

Aftercare After Extraction

December 7th, 2023

Orthodontists do everything they can to save teeth, but sometimes, a tooth is so damaged by accident, injury, infection, or decay that extraction is the only option. Or perhaps your child’s wisdom teeth are starting to come in—and starting to cause problems. Or, when this is the healthiest alternative, an extraction might be necessary for orthodontic reasons.

While there are several possible reasons an extraction might be necessary, one thing is true for any extraction: you want to make sure that your child is as comfortable as possible and heals as quickly as possible after the procedure.

Aftercare and recovery time isn’t exactly the same for every extraction. Whether your child’s tooth is a baby tooth or a permanent one, whether it’s a single tooth or several, whether it’s erupted or impacted, whether a local anesthetic or sedation is recommended—these factors and more can make a difference in recovery time.

Dr. Lapsi will provide you with clear, specific instructions for helping your child to a speedy recovery after an extraction. We’d also like to offer you some general aftercare ideas to make sure your child is as comfortable as possible while recovering.

  • Bleeding

Some bleeding is normal after an extraction. Follow your dentist or oral surgeon’s instructions carefully to minimize bleeding at the extraction site. Your child will probably need to keep a gauze pack in place for as long as directed to reduce bleeding and to help a clot form. If bleeding is heavier than expected or goes on longer than expected, call our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office.

  • Swelling

Swelling is a normal response to extractions. Your dentist might suggest cold compresses to help reduce swelling immediately after the extraction. If you don’t have an ice pack, ask whether a bag of frozen peas or corn can substitute.

With any cold compress, it’s important to protect your child’s skin from injury. Follow your dentist’s suggestions for application and be sure not to exceed the time limits recommended. And don’t apply a compress directly to your child’s face—wrap a towel or cloth around the bag or pack to protect the skin.

  • Careful Cleaning

The area around the extraction shouldn’t be disturbed or touched. The blood clot that forms after an extraction protects the area from irritation and infection caused by food particles and bacteria. If a clot is dislodged accidentally, it can lead to a condition called dry socket, which can be very painful.

This means no brushing near the extraction site, and no heavy rinsing or spitting for as long as directed. If your child is younger, you might need to help with brushing over the days following to make sure those sturdy bristles don’t get close to the extraction site before it’s healed.

  • Soothing Foods

Have a supply of your child’s favorite comfort foods handy while healing, such as cream soups, mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, gelatin, yogurt, and smoothies. Hot and cold foods can be irritating, so stick to cool or lukewarm foods for the first few days. Encourage your child to drink lots of liquids, but nothing carbonated. And do wait until any numbness wears off before giving your child chewable foods to avoid biting tongue or cheeks.

Remove spicy favorites from the menu, which can be irritating, as well as chewy, crunchy, or jagged foods like crackers, since tiny, sharp bits of food can make their way inside the site. Remind your child to chew on the side of the mouth opposite from the extraction site. And, since suction is an all-too-easy way to dislodge the clot over the extraction site, no straws!

  • Schedule Recovery Time

Make sure your child rests and takes it easy after the procedure. Exercise, lifting, even bending over can dislodge a protective clot, so re-schedule any physically demanding sports and activities until your child is given the dental all clear.

  • Medication

If your child has been given a prescription for pain medication or antibiotics, follow the instructions as directed. Dr. Lapsi might recommend age-appropriate over the counter pain relievers to have on hand. For severe or continuing pain, call your orthodontist or oral surgeon right away.

  • Coordinate Dental Schedules

Orthodontic extractions, if needed, will be scheduled into your child’s orthodontic treatment plan. Treatment can begin or resume when the extraction site has healed.

If an emergency extraction is necessary, call our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office so we can be aware of the situation and can coordinate with your child’s dentist or oral surgeon to keep treatment on track as much as possible.

An extraction can be worrying for both patient and parent, so talk to your orthodontist for the best ways to make this experience a positive one for your child before, during, and after treatment.

Benefits of Orthodontic Treatment at a Young Age

November 29th, 2023

Contrary to popular belief, orthodontic treatment is not just for older children and teens who have alignment and spacing issues. At our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, orthodontic treatment offers many benefits for children at a young age.

Dr. Lapsi can identify your child’s alignment issues early, and provide treatment as the teeth begin to develop. It’s crucial to start dental care early, not only for proper dental health and cosmetic benefits, but to improve your child’s overall health.

The Benefits of Straighter Teeth

Aside from cosmetic benefits, starting orthodontic treatment at a young age offers many other advantages. A pediatric dentist can help guide the teeth into their proper position to prevent teeth extractions or bite problems, and even reduce the extent of orthodontic treatment later on.

Your youngster will enjoy the confidence of having straight teeth that, as an added bonus, will be easier to clean. Parents will be happy to hear the earlier your child gets treatment, the less your orthodontic expenses could be; plus, it is often covered by dental insurance.

Stages of Orthodontic Treatment

Multiple stages are included in early orthodontic treatment, but there are three main stages.

Stage 1: Treatment starts around age two or three until the child is around six. This stage includes preventive measures to avoid habits that lead to crooked teeth, and monitoring how the teeth grow in.

Stage 2: The first permanent teeth appear around age six to 12 years old and the dentist looks at possible early treatment for misalignment or bite issues.

Stage 3: Any further problems with permanent teeth are corrected during adolescence.

Dr. Lapsi and our staff are able to see early on whether your child will need to have braces in adolescence. Early treatment means fewer procedures, cleaner teeth, and less expense for parents. It’s a win-win for everyone!

Water: It’s Not Just for Brushing!

November 29th, 2023

We turn on the tap and it comes rushing out. We walk down the hall at work or school and stop at the fountain without even thinking about it. It’s the one item on the menu we most likely won’t have to pay for. Let’s face it—we’re probably taking water for granted. So let’s take a moment and look at the many wonderful things that drinking water does for our teeth and dental health!

  • Cleaning Our Mouths

We can’t always brush right after eating to get rid of food particles. Bacteria feed on the sugars and starches left behind, and produce acids that lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Drinking water with our meals washes away lots of this food residue and dilutes the amount of acid our teeth are exposed to. 

  • Protecting Our Teeth

Water helps with saliva production, and saliva distributes important minerals such as fluoride and calcium to our teeth. This process helps strengthen enamel that might have been eroded by acidic foods and bacteria and makes our enamel less vulnerable to cavities.

  • Preventing Cavities and Dry Mouth

Fluoride is a mineral that strengthens the structure of our teeth. Because so much of our water is fluoridated, you can get this essential mineral with every glass. If you don’t have access to fluoridated water, or if you tend to drink only bottled water (which may or may not have fluoride), please talk to Dr. Lapsi about the best way to strengthen and your teeth and help prevent cavities.

Drinking the recommended amount of water per day also helps prevent dry mouth, a condition caused by decreased saliva production. Saliva not only helps remineralize our teeth, as mentioned above, but also works to wash away bacteria and acids that lead to cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. Luckily, we can help ourselves stay hydrated with most liquids, as well as fruits and vegetables that are rich in water content. But the easiest, most effective and often least expensive way to hydrate is with water.

Water just can’t be taken for granted. It’s a marvel of cleaning, protection, and prevention—and it’s calorie-free!

Why Am I Getting Cavities?

November 22nd, 2023

Now that you’re in orthodontic treatment, you’re probably spending more time taking care of your teeth than ever before. So, why did your dentist find a cavity at your last checkup? Let’s look at some of the potential culprits.

  • Brushing More Doesn’t Always Mean Brushing Well

Even for adults with decades of experience, proper brushing technique is often overlooked. Brushing’s not as effective without covering all the tooth surfaces (inside, outside, and molar tops), holding the brush at a 45-degree angle, gently brushing the teeth with small strokes, brushing for at least two minutes, and flossing between the teeth at least once a day.

If you wear braces, you must also take care to reach all the spots between and around your wires and brackets. Which leads us to . . .

  • Are You Using the Right Tools?

Even with perfect brushing form, your braces will be a challenge for a regular toothbrush and floss. The right tools make any job easier, and that includes cleaning your teeth while you’re wearing braces.

Specially designed brushes with bristles designed to work with your brackets, floss made to fit behind wires, tiny cone-shaped interproximal brushes that fit between your teeth and around your brackets—all these tools are made specifically to remove plaque and food particles from your teeth and your braces.

  • Crunchy, Hard, and Sugary Aren’t the Only Problem Foods

You know sugary foods should be limited because sugars are the favorite food of cavity-causing bacteria. And hard and crunchy foods are off limits altogether because they can damage your braces. But what about treats which look soft and harmless? Well, looks can be deceiving!

Starches in soft, carb-rich foods like potato chips and white bread quickly break down into sugars. What’s more, they tend to stick around brackets and in between the teeth, giving those cavity-creating bacteria plenty of nourishment.

This isn’t to say that you must eliminate all sugars and carbs from your diet. But when you wear braces, be especially mindful about brushing or at least rinsing thoroughly whenever you have a snack.

  • Biology

Some people are biologically more prone to cavities, even with attentive brushing and flossing, so you shouldn’t feel guilty if you don’t have a perfect checkup every time. Instead, be proactive. Ask Dr. Lapsi for brushing and cleaning advice the next time you visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office—and then follow it!

It’s not just spending more time taking care of your teeth—it’s using your valuable time the best way possible. It’s always time well-spent brushing properly, eating mindfully, and working with your orthodontist and your dentist to create a beautiful, healthy, cavity-free smile.

Spacing Out

November 22nd, 2023

One of the most common reasons for getting braces is because there’s just not enough room for all your teeth to fit next to each other evenly. The result is overlapping and crooked teeth. What’s the first step in creating the space you need? Well, that depends on just how much room you need to align your teeth and bite properly.

When there is going to be a serious need for space, there are orthodontic solutions that can help, including palatal expanders, surgical options, and extractions. But if you only need a tiny bit of room so that regular braces will fit properly, we have a tiny solution—orthodontic spacers!

Why do you need to make space before you get braces? Because Dr. Lapsi might need to make some room around crowded molars so your braces can be installed properly.

For example, you might need orthodontic bands to anchor your braces. An orthodontic band is a slim, custom-fitted ring of metal which fits snugly around a molar. It is durable, provides a place to attach bands and springs to help correct malocclusions (bite problems), and can securely surround a tooth that might be weak because of a large filling. Spacers can separate crowded teeth just enough to allow a band to be fitted around a molar.

Even if you don’t need bands, sometimes separators are necessary to provide enough space between the teeth for your braces to work effectively. The back teeth tend to move even closer together with braces, and, without adequate space, bite problems, risk of decay, and other difficulties can arise.

And while you might think that some serious equipment is in order to make room between those sturdy molars, the typical spacer, or separator, is actually extremely simple--usually a tiny, round elastic band, often made of rubber. Spacers can be placed between tight teeth in a matter of minutes. Each ring is stretched and positioned between your teeth with a special tool. As it returns to its original shape, the spacer’s width provides just enough pressure on the teeth it touches to make a bit of space between them. And a bit of space is usually all you’ll need.

What do spacers feel like? For some people, they can be uncomfortable. You might feel soreness, some pressure, or as though a piece of food is stuck between your teeth. Ask us for suggestions on making you more comfortable, whether it’s dining on ice cream and cold drinks, eating soft foods, or taking over-the-counter pain relief. Separators are only designed to be in place for a very short period (usually under two weeks), but if they are causing you pain, give us a call.

What do you need to do to help the process along? Actually, it’s more what you need not to do. Don’t use dental picks or floss on your separators, avoid chewing gum, and take chewy and sticky foods off the menu. And don’t be tempted to touch or play with your spacers!

Spacers can create space between the teeth so quickly and efficiently that they often fall out on their own after a few days. If your separators fall out, give our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office a call. It could mean that you are ready for your braces, and on the way to a lifetime of healthy, beautiful smiles. And it’s a journey that begins with a tiny, springy step.

Keeping Your Teeth Strong and Healthy

November 15th, 2023

What is the strongest part of our bodies? Do you think it might be our bones, which help us move and protect our brains, hearts and other organs? Or could it be those tough fingernails and toenails that guard our fingertips and toes? Nope! You might be surprised to learn that the hardest thing in our bodies is the enamel which covers our teeth!

Our bones grow with us and can even knit back together in case we have a broken arm or leg. Our toenails grow more slowly, and our fingernails grow more quickly, so regularly trimming is required for both. But our enamel doesn’t grow or repair itself when it is damaged, so it needs to last us a lifetime. How can such a strong part of our bodies be damaged? And can we do anything to protect our teeth? Luckily, we can!

Prevent Chips and Cracks

You might be the fastest on your bike, or the highest scorer on your basketball team, or able to do the most amazing tricks on your skateboard. But even the strongest teeth can’t win against a paved road, or an elbow under the basket, or a cement skate park. If you’re physically active, talk to us about a mouthguard. This removable appliance fits closely around the teeth and can protect your teeth and jaw in case of accident. And protect your enamel even when you’re not being adventurous! Don’t bite down on ice cubes or hard candy, and save your pens and pencils for writing, not chewing.

Guard Your Teeth from Tooth Grinding

If you grind your teeth, you’re not alone! Many other young people do, too—mostly in their sleep. In fact, it might be a parent or sibling who lets you know you are grinding at night. But constant pressure on your enamel can lead to cracked enamel, sensitivity, and even worn down teeth. How can you protect them? Once again, a mouth guard can be a great solution. We can custom fit one to allow you to sleep comfortably while protecting your teeth.

Eat Healthy Foods & Brush Regularly

We all have bacteria in our mouths. Some are helpful, and some are not. The bacteria in plaque can change food products like sugar and starches into acids. These acids actually break down our enamel, which can lead to tooth sensitivity and decay. Making sugars and carbs a small part of your regular diet, and eating meals rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals, will help stop acids from attacking your enamel. And careful brushing and flossing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste can help keep those minerals in enamel from breaking down and even help restore them.

Your enamel is the strongest part of your body, and you can help it stay that way. Protect your teeth from accidents, let our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills team know if you or a parent suspect you are grinding your teeth, eat healthy foods, and keep up your regular brushing. And remember, we are here to help keep your family’s teeth and mouth their healthiest for your strongest, most beautiful smile.

When snoring becomes more than just annoying: The dangers of sleep apnea

November 15th, 2023

Sawing wood. That’s what your wife calls it when you wake her up with your snoring. This type of scenario plays out in homes around the world, and couples have to find a way to make light of the nocturnal annoyance. Snoring can become more than just an irritating nighttime disturbance, however. It can be the first sign of a potentially serious sleep disorder.

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing repeatedly pauses throughout the night. Possible symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring loudly and feeling tired after a full night’s sleep.

Three health problems linked to sleep apnea

Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed and untreated, which puts you at a greater risk of developing health problems. While being robbed of quality sleep can take its toll on you, sleep apnea can also result in the following.

  1. High blood pressure. When you wake frequently throughout the night, it causes your body's hormonal systems to become unbalanced and go into overdrive. This results in high blood pressure.
  2. Heart disease. The disrupted oxygen flow caused by sleep apnea increases your chances of having a heart attack or stroke. The cutoff of oxygen makes it difficult for the brain to regulate the flow of blood in the arteries.
  3. Excessive daytime sleepiness. Daytime fatigue often results in impaired judgment and slow reaction times, and this may increase your risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident.

Lifestyle changes like losing weight, avoiding alcohol, and quitting smoking are often enough to cure sleep apnea. Medical treatment is also a potential solution. Surgery, oral appliances, and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which is a treatment involving a specialized breathing mask, are all possible ways to resolve the problem of sleep apnea.

If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, or to schedule a visit with Dr. Lapsi at our convenient Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, please give us a call! Our entire team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics look forward to giving you back a full night’s rest!

Orthodontics and Oral Piercings

November 8th, 2023

Traditional braces and oral piercings—does the inevitable meeting of metals pose any risks? Let’s look at some of the potential problems with oral piercings, and you and Dr. Lapsi can decide if you should take a break from jewelry while you’re in treatment.

  • Tooth Damage

Enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies, but when up against constant contact with metal? It’s not a fair fight.

Tongue piercings, especially, cause problems for your teeth. Whenever you speak or eat—even while you’re sleeping!—your tongue is making contact with your teeth. This continual tapping of metal on enamel can chip and crack teeth and damage fillings. A serious fracture could mean a root canal.

You’re getting braces to create a more attractive, healthy smile, so keeping your teeth intact is a priority.

  • Gum Problems

Your gums are affected by orthodontic treatment. As the teeth move, the gums, ligaments, and bone around them adapt and even reshape over time. You might notice when you first get your braces, or when you go in for an adjustment, that you have a few days of swollen, sensitive gums afterward. You might also find that you are at greater risk of gingivitis, because it can be harder to keep plaque away from your gumline until you perfect your brushing and flossing skills.

Oral piercings bring their own gingival dangers. Jewelry in the tongue or lip can rub against gum tissue, especially around your lower front teeth. As the gum tissue continues to be irritated and inflamed, it pulls away from the teeth. This process is called gum recession.

Receding gums expose the tops of your roots to cavity-causing bacteria. They make you more sensitive to hot or cold foods. Pockets between gums and teeth can harbor infections that threaten the tooth itself.

Caring for your gums during braces is important for your dental health. Since people with oral piercings have a much higher rate of gum recession that those without, why add one more risk factor to your oral health?

  • Metal vs Metal

Lip and tongue piercings can make contact with traditional brackets and wires, especially if you have a habit of playing with them. And let’s not forget lingual braces! Lingual braces are almost invisible because their brackets and wires are custom fitted to the back of your teeth. Whenever you speak or eat, you’ll be taking the chance that a tongue piercing will damage these custom-made appliances.

Dr. Lapsi can tell you if your piercings are in any danger of interfering with your braces, but even if you’re planning on aligners, there are additional reasons to consider retiring your oral jewelry. Dental associations and medical associations discourage oral piercings because they can damage teeth and gums. And there’s more. Oral piercings can lead to swelling, bleeding, allergic reactions, infection, and nerve damage.

The reason you’re considering braces is because you want a healthy, attractive smile. Don’t let a tiny piece of jewelry make your life and your treatment more difficult! Do some research and talk to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills team about your oral piercings, and come up with a solution that’s best for your health and best for your smile.

When You Need Immediate Care, We are Here for You

November 8th, 2023

At Excel Dental and Orthodontics, we know orthodontic emergencies are neither convenient nor timely. If you are a patient of record, Dr. Lapsi and our team are more than willing to see you after hours or over the weekend. As a general rule, you should call our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office when you experience severe pain or when you have a painful appliance problem that you can’t take care of yourself. We’ll be able to schedule an appointment to resolve the problem. If you have an orthodontic emergency after regular office hours, please give us a call and follow the emergency prompts to contact one of our doctors.

National Brush Day

November 2nd, 2023

October 31—Halloween. Fourth Thursday in November—Thanksgiving. And, in between these two favorite autumn holidays, we have November 1—National Brush Day!

Okay, okay. Maybe National Brush Day isn’t quite as well-known as Halloween or Thanksgiving, but we take any opportunity to celebrate your dental health. So, let’s celebrate brushing!

After all, brushing is vital for healthy teeth and gums.

  • Brushing is your first line of defense against plaque. Plaque forms all day long. Plaque sticks to your teeth. Plaque is filled with bacteria which produce cavity-causing acids. Brushing regularly means plaque won’t stay on your teeth long enough to cause serious tooth decay.
  • Brushing is also important for your gum health. Angling your brush to carefully clean plaque and bacteria away from your gum line helps prevent gum disease.
  • Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among children and young adults. The leading cause of tooth loss in adults is gum disease. Good brushing habits help prevent tooth decay and gum disease—a win/win when it comes to your oral health.

To make the most of the time you spend brushing, let’s take a moment to review some basics on National Brush Day.

Are You Brushing Correctly?

  • Big, broad brushstrokes aren’t the answer. Instead, use small up-and-down or circular strokes over each tooth and each tooth surface—outside, inside, and on the flat surfaces of your molars.
  • Because plaque forms all day, you need to keep on top of it. Brushing at least twice a day for two minutes each time is a good general rule. Dr. Lapsi will let you know the best brushing schedule for your individual needs.
  • Brushes are meant to clean, not to scrub. You don’t need a heavy hand for cleaner teeth.
  • Which also means, there’s almost never a good time to brush with a hard-bristled brush. Hard bristles, along with hard brushing, can actually damage your enamel and gum tissue. Stick to a soft-bristled brush for dental TLC.

Are You Taking Care of Your Brush?

  • To clean away bacteria and viruses you might have picked up during the day, wash your hands before brushing and flossing.
  • Shake your brush dry when you’re finished and then let it air dry upright with the handle pointing down. Only use a case for travel, and make sure it has air holes for ventilation. (Bacteria thrive in a wet environment.)
  • If your toothbrush lives in the bathroom, close the toilet seat before flushing to avoid airborne particles.
  • No matter how close you are to your family members or roommates, don’t share your toothbrush. Sharing doesn’t mean caring in this case—it means sharing germs. Your brush should keep a healthy distance from other brushes as well.
  • And no matter how fond you are of your brush, be prepared to replace it often! Most brushes last three to four months at best, because bristles start to fray and can’t clean effectively after several months of use.

It’s no coincidence that National Brush Day comes right after Halloween, the most sugar-filled holiday of them all. So, how can we mark the occasion?

Treat yourself to a new toothbrush! Take a moment to review your brushing habits. If you have young children at home, spend two minutes brushing together to make sure they’re brushing effectively–they might even have some tips for you! Brushing your teeth properly is one of the easiest things you can do to protect your oral health. That’s something to celebrate!

Are you ready for orthodontic treatment?

November 1st, 2023

If you’ve been hiding your smile because you have crooked teeth or gaps between your teeth, it’s time to consider orthodontic treatment with Dr. Lapsi. Preparing for treatment is an important part of getting the smile you want.

Basic exams

The first step of preparation is the examination. An oral exam and X-rays taken at our office are necessary to identify potential problems and ensure the right steps are taken to prepare for orthodontic treatment at Excel Dental and Orthodontics.

Dr. Lapsi will first examine your teeth and take X-rays to determine if it is necessary to extract any teeth or additional work is necessary before braces are possible. You will be prepared for the next step of treatment after your exam is complete and potential problems are identified.

Model for bite

The next step in preparing for orthodontic is taking a plaster model of the mouth. With the model, Dr. Lapsi will be able to determine how the jaw is aligned so that appropriate adjustments can be made to the mouth and jaw with braces.

Depending on the situation, the model may be used to help evaluate your jaw and make decisions about appropriate treatment for your specific needs. Dr. Lapsi can create a model of your mouth with the bite indentation that is taken during preparation.

Extracting teeth

If it is determined that a tooth extraction is necessary, then the final step of preparing for orthodontic treatment is the removal of teeth. Only Dr. Lapsi can determine if it is necessary to remove any teeth before moving forward with the procedure to put on braces.

When your teeth are crooked, have a gap, or otherwise make you unhappy, orthodontic treatment at Excel Dental and Orthodontics may be an appropriate solution. Although it may take time to prepare for the actual procedure, making the decision to seek treatment can provide the opportunity to show the world a beautiful smile.

For more information about orthodontic treatment and its benefits, or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Lapsi, please give us a call at our convenient Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

Prevent Tooth Decay With Braces

October 25th, 2023

When you start wearing braces, it can become a challenge to clean certain areas of your mouth. If these areas are neglected for long periods of time, though, decay and stains can form on your teeth.

Your mouth will require extra attention while you have your braces on. This can include using a special toothbrush to reach those spots, flossing every day, getting fluoride treatments, avoiding certain foods, and making sure to visit your dentist. Let’s take a closer look at what you can do to prevent decay during treatment.

When you get your braces on, Dr. Lapsi will give you an interdental toothbrush that can be used to get to those hard-to-reach spots in your mouth. The brush has bristles that can easily remove food residue stuck between the wires in your mouth. We may also suggest using a WaterPik, which pulses a pressurized stream of water to remove excess food particles.

Brushing and flossing every day should always be a part of your oral health regimen, but this becomes especially crucial when you have braces. If food gets stuck between braces and sits on your teeth, decay and staining will start to occur. Dr. Lapsi and our team recommend flossing at least once a day, and brushing and using mouthwash after every meal as long as you have braces.

If you don’t have the time, make sure at least to swish your mouth really well with water after you eat. It’s especially important to follow these steps after consuming sugary foods or beverages. It’s best to avoid sweets altogether when you have braces.

Making sure to visit your dentist at least twice a year for a routine cleaning can also help to prevent any decay from damaging your teeth while your teeth are encased in braces. Your dentist will remove any plaque or tartar that’s built up since your last cleaning.

Prevention is key when it comes to keeping your mouth healthy during orthodontic care with braces. Follow these tips and you’ll keep your teeth beautiful and healthy for the day your new smile is finally revealed!

Oral Cancer Facts and Figures

October 25th, 2023

Oral cancer is largely viewed as a disease that affects those over the age of 40, but it can affect all ages, even non-tobacco and alcohol users. Oral cancer can occur on the lips, gums, tongue, inside lining of the cheeks, roof of the mouth, and the floor of the mouth. Our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics recently put together some facts and figures to illustrate the importance of visiting our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office.

Our friends at the American Cancer Society recommend an oral cancer screening exam every three years for people over the age of 20 and annually for those over age 40. Because early detection can improve the chance of successful treatment, be sure to ask Dr. Lapsi and our team to conduct an oral exam during your next visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office.

  • Symptoms of oral cancer may include a sore in the throat or mouth that bleeds easily and does not heal, a red or white patch that persists, a lump or thickening, ear pain, a neck mass, or coughing up blood. Difficulties in chewing, swallowing, or moving the tongue or jaws are often late symptoms.
  • The primary risk factors for oral cancer in American men and women are tobacco (including smokeless tobacco) and alcohol use. Risk rises dramatically (30%) for people who both smoke and consume alcohol regularly.
  • Oral cancers are part of a group of cancers commonly referred to as head and neck cancers, and of all head and neck cancers they comprise about 85% of that category.
  • Oral cancer is the sixth most common cancer among men.
  • Oral cancer is more likely to affect people over 40 years of age, though an increasing number of young people are developing the condition.
  • Death rates have been decreasing over the past three decades; from 2004 to 2008, rates decreased by 1.2% per year in men and by 2.2% per year in women, according to the American Cancer Society.
  • About 75% to 80% of people with oral cavity and pharynx cancer consume alcohol.
  • The risk of developing oral cavity and pharynx cancers increases both with the amount as well as the length of time tobacco and alcohol products are used.
  • For all stages combined, about 84% of people with oral cancer survive one year after diagnosis. The five- and ten-year relative survival rates are 61% and 50%, respectively.
  • It is estimated that approximately $3.2 billion is spent in the United States annually on treatment of head and neck cancers.

Cancer can affect any part of the oral cavity, including the lip, tongue, mouth, and throat. Through visual inspection, Dr. Lapsi and our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics can often detect premalignant abnormalities and cancer at an early stage, when treatment is both less extensive and more successful.

Please let us now if you have any questions about your oral health either during your next scheduled appointment, by giving us a call or asking us on Facebook.

Toothbrush Science

October 18th, 2023

Let’s talk science! From the vastness of the cosmos to sub-atomic particles, science helps us understand the world around us and how it works. So, let’s take some familiar scientific fields of study and apply them to your toothbrush.

My toothbrush?

Yes, indeed! When it comes to your oral health, your toothbrush is the first line of defense, so understanding how and why it works so well might help us use this handy tool even more effectively.

Biology—the study of living organisms

Unfortunately for your toothbrush, the living organisms we’re talking about here are the bacteria which cause tooth decay and those which can lead to illness. How do these problems arise, and how do we prevent them?

Fight Plaque

Plaque is the sticky film that builds up on teeth, and millions of oral bacteria help make up this biofilm. These bacteria convert sugars and other carbohydrates in the foods we eat into acids. And these acids erode our tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay. (More on this when we get to Chemistry.) The best ways to get rid of plaque?

  • Brush often. The recommended minimum is two minutes of brushing twice a day, but when you’re having orthodontic work done, it’s even more important to banish the plaque that can stick to your braces or inside aligners. Ask us what brushing schedule is best for you.
  • Try an electric toothbrush. For some people with braces, cleaning the teeth is easier and more thorough with an electric brush.
  • Replace your brush regularly. Brushes become worn and frayed after three or four months, and you won’t be brushing as effectively.

Stop Germs from Spreading

  • Don’t share. Sharing toothbrushes can lead to an increased risk of colds and infections.
  • Rinse thoroughly after brushing, making sure you remove any toothpaste or debris left after you brush.
  • Store the brush upright and let it air-dry. Covering the brush or keeping it in a closed container can promote the growth of bacteria more easily.
  • Keep different brushes separate when they’re drying to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Replace your brush regularly!

Chemistry—the study of what makes up substances, their properties, and how they interact

When it comes to improving your brushing chemistry, the best thing you can do for your toothbrush is to put a dab of fluoride toothpaste on it! Why fluoride? Let’s look at the chemistry of tooth enamel.

Tooth enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies—even stronger than bone. But it is not indestructible, and acidic substances can dissolve the mineral bonds which give our enamel its strength, whether they come from the bacteria in plaque or are found in our favorite foods and drinks (sodas, coffee, tomatoes, and citrus are among the tasty, but acidic, culprits).

The enamel in our teeth contains calcium and phosphate ions, minerals which help make it the strongest substance in our bodies. But when the level of acidity in our mouths becomes too high, these minerals begin to dissolve. Eventually, teeth become pitted, bacteria can penetrate more deeply, and decay is the result.

So what can we do? While our saliva helps neutralize acidity naturally, and we can cut back on acidic foods in our diets, using fluoride toothpaste actually helps restore the strength of our enamel in a process known as “remineralization.”

Fluoride works on the surface of enamel to both attract and anchor calcium ions, reducing mineral loss and strengthening the weakened enamel. Fluoride also interacts with the calcium and phosphate compound to create a new compound that is even stronger and more acid-resistant.

When you brush with fluoride toothpaste, you help replace and restore the mineral composition of your enamel—and there’s evidence that fluoride might even interfere with oral bacteria’s ability to produce acid. Now that’s good chemistry!

Physics—the study of matter and energy and their interactions

The matter here is your tooth enamel, and the energy is the force you use when brushing. And this is one time the force should not be with you.

  • Over-vigorous brushing can not only damage your brackets, but can also irritate delicate gum tissue and wear down enamel. A “sawing” back-and-forth motion is both hard on your enamel and misses plaque and debris between the teeth. We’ll be happy to show you the safest and most effective way to brush with braces. Just remember, “Massage, don’t scrub.”
  • A soft toothbrush is almost always your best option when you use a manual brush, but if you’re still a heavy-handed brusher, or have sensitive teeth and gums, consider an electric model. An electric toothbrush should provide a continuous brushing motion without needing any heavy pressure from the brusher. Some models will even let you know when you are brushing too hard.

Brushing harder is not brushing better, and your teeth, gums, and braces will be heathier with careful brushing habits. If you need tips on brushing with braces, contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office and ask!

There’s a lot of science in the simple act of brushing, but we don’t need to spend hours studying to get a passing grade in dental health. The things you do normally—brushing at least two minutes twice a day, using fluoride toothpaste, and applying proper brushing technique—will help create a smile which will earn you top marks from Dr. Lapsi for a lifetime!

Braces-Friendly Recipe: Lunch

October 18th, 2023

Getting braces comes with a lot of rules. No sticky candies, watch out for popcorn, and steer clear of chips. These rules leave many braces-wearers wondering what they can still eat without hurting their teeth or their expensive orthodontic appliances. Fortunately, constructing a braces-friendly lunch is straightforward once you know which foods to avoid.

Foods to Avoid When Wearing Braces

There are a few food categories to avoid when you have braces. Sticky foods also stick to the metal in your braces, and can potentially break wires or individual braces. For example: bubblegum, candy bars, caramel, licorice, fruit roll-ups, and Starbursts should be avoided. Many of these foods also contain high levels of sugar, which can cause plaque build-up if not brushed away properly.

Also, be wary of hard foods that can harm your orthodontic appliances. Avoid eating hard taco shells, chips, Rice Crispy treats, hard candy, beef jerky, and popcorn. Some healthy foods, such as carrots, apples, corn on the cob, and nuts, are hard on braces. To eat these foods safely, cut them into smaller pieces before eating.

Remember that certain habits may be harmful to your braces. For example, crunching on ice cubes may be a reflexive response when you’re enjoying a cold beverage, but this can significantly harm your braces and extend treatment time. To stay on the safe side, Dr. Lapsi and our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics recommend you drink beverages without ice or add crushed ice whenever possible.

Lunch Recipe

Even with braces, it’s easy to enjoy a healthy, nutritious lunch. For example, make a panini on whole wheat bread with slices of turkey deli meat, a piece of Swiss cheese, and tomato slices. Spread 1 tbsp. of mustard or mayonnaise on the bread before toasting the sandwich in a panini grill. Serve the panini with ½ c. low-fat cottage cheese and a sliced pear or apple for a balanced meal. Then grab a pudding cup or some JELLO for dessert. Wash it all down with water containing a lemon wedge or all-natural fruit juice. Make sure to brush your teeth or rinse with mouthwash after lunch to wash away sugars and food residue that can get trapped in braces and cause decay.

If you have any questions about what you can and can’t eat with braces during your treatment at Excel Dental and Orthodontics, be sure to ask our team during your next appointment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

Common Malocclusions

October 11th, 2023

When we think orthodontics, we commonly think teeth. Naturally! Straight teeth and a beaming smile are everyone’s orthodontic goal. But orthodontics is a field which specializes in more than misaligned teeth. While your beautifully aligned teeth are the visible outcome of your orthodontic work, a properly aligned bite is the foundation for your healthy smile.

A malocclusion occurs when the teeth and jaws aren’t properly aligned—they don’t fit together the way they should when the mouth is closed. A malocclusion, or bad bite, affects many people to some degree, but not always in exactly the same way. Some of the different types of malocclusion include:

  • Crossbite

A crossbite occurs when upper teeth fit inside lower teeth. An anterior crossbite refers to the front teeth, with one or more upper front teeth, or incisors, fitting behind lower front teeth. A posterior crossbite affects the back teeth, with upper teeth fitting inside the lower teeth on one or both sides of the jaw.

  • Crowding

When the jaw is small and/or the teeth are large, lack of space can result in crowded, twisted, or crooked teeth.

  • Open bite

An anterior open bite means that the front teeth don’t close when biting down, leaving an open space between the upper and lower teeth. A posterior open bite occurs when the back teeth don’t make contact when the front teeth close.

  • Overbite

Our upper front teeth naturally overlap the lower ones a small bit when the teeth are closed. An overbite occurs when the upper teeth significantly overlap the lower teeth.

  • Overjet

When the upper front teeth protrude too far forward over the bottom teeth, it’s called an overjet, or, sometimes, buck teeth. Where an overbite causes a vertical overlap, an overjet takes into account the horizontal relationship of the teeth.

  • Spacing

A jaw that is large, teeth that are small, missing teeth—these conditions can lead to gaps between the teeth.

  • Underbite

An underbite results when the lower teeth and jaw extend further forward than the upper teeth and jaw, causing the bottom teeth to overlap the top teeth.

If you have a malocclusion, what comes next? This depends.

Some malocclusions are so minor that no treatment is necessary. Some are the result of misaligned teeth. Some occur because the upper and lower jaws are growing at different rates. Some are a combination of teeth and jaw misalignments. Some are caused by genetics, while others are caused by injuries or habits like prolonged thumb sucking or tongue thrusting.

Because malocclusions are so varied, your treatment plan will be designed for your specific needs. Braces, aligners, appliances like the Herbst® appliance or the palatal expander, surgery for severe malocclusions—there is a larger variety of treatment options than ever before to help you achieve a healthy bite.

When teeth and jaws don’t fit together as they should, the consequences can be damaged teeth and enamel, problems with the temporomandibular joint, headaches and facial pain, and difficulty chewing, eating, and speaking.

The good news is that early intervention for children can help correct teeth and jaw problems before they become more serious, leading to easier orthodontic care in the teen years, and helping to avoid the possibility of surgery or extractions. This is why Dr. Lapsi and our team recommend an orthodontic assessment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office for children around the age of seven.

If you’re an adult with concerns about your teeth or bite, there’s good news for you, too. Dr. Lapsi can devise a treatment plan to improve your bite and your smile no matter what your age.

Of course, despite our title, there’s really no such thing as a “common malocclusion” when we’re talking about your dental health. Each person—and each smile—is unique. Dr. Lapsi will diagnose your malocclusion and create a personalized plan carefully tailored to your exact needs, for an uncommonly attractive, confident, and healthy smile.

What to do about Dry Mouth

October 11th, 2023

Xerostomia, commonly known as dry mouth, is a condition in which the salivary glands in the mouth don’t produce enough saliva. Saliva keeps the mouth moist and cleanses it of bacteria. A lack of it makes for an uncomfortably dry mouth that is also more susceptible to infection and disease.

Symptoms of dry mouth include:

  • Dryness or a sticky feeling
  • Frequent thirst
  • Burning sensations or redness in the throat or on the tongue
  • A sore throat or hoarseness
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, or tasting food

Dry mouth usually comes about as a side effect of certain medications or medical conditions, but can also be caused by damage to the salivary glands because of injury or surgery.

If you're experiencing any of the symptoms of dry mouth, here are a few tips for what to do:

Double-check medications: If you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications, speak with Dr. Lapsi to see if any of these could be causing the dry mouth as a side effect.

There may be ways to alleviate the symptoms.

  • Stay hydrated: Whether you have dry mouth or not, it’s essential to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of fresh and pure water throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is to drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day.
  • Suck or chew on a natural, sugar-free candy or gum: Sucking on candy or chewing gum will keep your salivary glands producing saliva. Healthier versions of sugar-free candy and gum are available these days. Some are made with xylitol, a sugar alcohol that actually helps prevent tooth decay.
  • Add moisture to your living spaces: Try adding a vaporizer to your bedroom or the rooms where you spend the most time. It’s best for your home to have a humidity level of between 40 to 50%. Anything less than 30% is too low. You can measure humidity with a hygrometer, which is easy to find at your local department store or online.

These are just a few general tips, but if you’re experiencing the symptoms of dry mouth often and it’s interfering with your life, pay a visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office. That way you’re more likely to get to the root of the problem.

Ouch! Are You Biting Your Cheeks More Often?

October 4th, 2023

You’re biting into something delicious, and, Ouch! You bite into something you didn’t mean to—the inside of your tender cheek.

Painful moments like this happen every now and again. But if you find that more frequent cheek biting means that you’re extra-cautious when eating or speaking, if you wake up with sore cheeks in the morning, or if you catch yourself habitually chewing on your cheeks during the day, it’s time to visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office.

Causes of Cheek Biting

Many of us experience the occasional cheek chomp when we’re eating or talking. No fun! Besides the pain, a bite can cause broken skin, inflammation, a canker sore, or a mucous cyst. Luckily, the discomfort from these accidental bites generally resolves after a few days.

Sometimes, though, biting becomes a more frequent annoyance. Regular bites can be caused by several conditions, including:

  • Sleep Bruxism

Bruxism is the medical term for tooth grinding. When sleepers unconsciously clench or grind their teeth as they slumber, it’s known as sleep bruxism. Sleep bruxism not only causes tooth damage, jaw problems, and facial pain—that nightly gnashing can mean bites to delicate cheek tissue.

  • Problems with Dental Restorations

The placement of a crown, bridge, or implant can cause biting to occur more often if the alignment of your restoration with your other teeth isn’t ideal or has shifted, or if the restoration needs replacement.

  • Wisdom Teeth

Most of us don’t have the room to welcome four new—and large—teeth. When wisdom teeth come in, they can lead to cheek bites, especially if they erupt leaning outward toward your cheeks.

  • Orthodontic Misalignment

If you notice that you seem to be biting your cheek a lot when eating or speaking, it could be an orthodontic problem.  When your teeth or jaws don’t align properly, if your mouth is small, or if your teeth have shifted over time, your cheeks might feel the consequences.

Treatment Options

Why see Dr. Lapsi? A one-time bite can be extremely uncomfortable, and might lead to inflammation or even a sore spot inside your mouth. Usually, both pain and sore spot fade in a short while, and saltwater rinses or oral gels can soothe your injured cheek tissue. Your dentist’s office can give you advice on treating minor bites.

But what about continuous biting? Regular biting injuries can lead to bigger problems. Tissue in the cheeks can thicken or erode. Scar tissue can build up inside the mouth. Ulcers and other sores can become larger and more painful.

If you’ve been biting your cheeks more often, Dr. Lapsi can diagnose the cause and offer you treatment options depending on the reason for this frequent biting:

  • Sleep Bruxism?

Dr. Lapsi might suggest a nightguard to provide protection from the damaging effects of bruxism. Nightguards not only prevent further biting, they give your cheeks the chance to heal. We can custom fabricate a guard for the most comfortable and effective fit.

  • Restoration Problems?

If regular cheek biting occurs after you’ve gotten a crown, a bridge, or an implant, visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office. This might be a problem that can be resolved with a bit of reshaping, whether removing a bit of the restoration or building up a spot. If a crown or other restoration has shifted or is failing, replacement might be in order.

  • No Room for Wisdom Teeth?

Most of us don’t have room in our mouth to accommodate wisdom teeth, and extracting them is a common dental procedure. Wisdom teeth can be the source of many dental problems, including impaction, shifting teeth, and even damage to surrounding teeth. If you see signs that your wisdom teeth are starting to come in, talk to your dentist about your options.

  • Orthodontic Problems?

Orthodontic treatment can improve tooth and bite alignment—and can eliminate those painful cheek bites if misalignment is what’s causing them. Modern orthodontic treatment offers patients of all ages more options than ever before, including traditional and lingual braces, clear aligners, and functional appliances.

Whatever the reason for painful cheek biting, you deserve to eat and speak and enjoy your day without constant “Ouch!” moments affecting your comfort and health. If these moments are happening all too often, visit Excel Dental and Orthodontics for the answers to your biting problems.

How Sleep Apnea Can Affect Your Waking Life

October 4th, 2023

We all know that sleep apnea causes many a difficult night. Noisy snoring, gasping for breath, and waking up dozens of times a sleep cycle are the unhappy consequences of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). What you may not realize is that sleep apnea can make your days just as challenging.

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by an obstructed airway. The throat muscles may relax as you sleep and make it impossible to inhale fully with each breath. Or you may have a physical condition such as a deviated septum, enlarged tonsils or excess throat tissue that blocks the free passage of air into your lungs. As a result, you stop breathing for a short time and often choke or gasp for breath. Your body responds by waking every time you need to start breathing properly again, and this can happen dozens of times each hour you are asleep. The result is that, while you may think you have slept through the night, you have never gotten the deep sleep your body needs to restore itself.

How can sleep deprivation affect our daytime hours? You might find yourself suffering from any of these problems:

  • Constant drowsiness
  • Falling asleep at work or while driving
  • Headaches every morning
  • Sore throats
  • Dry mouth (which can lead to gum and dental problems)
  • Memory and attention problems
  • Moodiness or depression
  • Decreased libido

As if these reasons weren’t cause enough to find a solution to your sleeping disorder, the longer term results of sleep apnea can be devastating. High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, dangerous responses to medication or general anesthesia, a higher risk of accidents, and many other serious consequences have been linked to sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea doesn’t just ruin your night. If you suffer from any of the daytime problems listed above, please give our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office and your doctor a call. If obstructive sleep apnea is the cause, Dr. Lapsi can work with you to find a solution that will improve your quality of life 24 hours a day.

The Root of the Matter

September 27th, 2023

A strong, healthy smile is built on a strong, healthy foundation. Let’s take a moment to explore just what creates that foundation—your roots.

The Root of the Matter

The visible part of your tooth is called the crown. And while we spent the great majority of our time thinking about what goes on above the gum line—brushing, flossing, whitening, sealing, preventing cavities—the roots, the parts of the teeth below the surface, are also essential to our dental health.

  • What’s inside the root?

The inside of each tooth holds pulp, which is living tissue made of nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. The nerves in the pulp allow us to feel pain when a tooth is damaged, decayed, or infected. Tiny blood vessels provide oxygen and nutrients to the cells.

The inside of each root also contains pulp, located in one or more root canals. These canals are small tunnels that travel from the pulp chamber to the tip of each root. Nerves and blood vessels connect pulp tissue to the nervous and circulatory systems in the body, entering and exiting the tooth from very small openings in the root tip.

  • What’s outside the root?

On the outside, while roots look like crowns, they’re covered with a different protective surface. Roots are covered by cementum rather than enamel. This is a hard tissue, but not as hard as enamel. But cementum has another advantage—it not only helps protect our teeth, it helps them stay anchored in our jaws. (More on this below.)

  • How many roots are we talking about?

The number varies, not just depending on the tooth, but depending on the individual. Most adults have 32 adult teeth: eight incisors, four canines, eight premolars, eight molars, and four wisdom teeth, or third molars. Because the number of wisdom teeth can range from four to zero, though, that total can be smaller.

Rooted to the Spot

The reason that you can rely on your teeth for a lifetime of chewing, biting, and grinding food is the fact that they’re so securely anchored in the jaw.

  • Alveolar bone in the jaw contains a socket for each tooth.
  • A thin layer of connective tissue called the periodontal ligament lines the socket and surrounds each root. It’s filled with fibers that attach to the root’s cementum covering and to the alveolar bone, holding the tooth securely in place.
  • The periodontal ligament not only anchors the tooth, it cushions it from the daily pressure of biting and chewing.
  • Finally, the gums surround the teeth and bone, protecting them from bacteria and plaque.

Even though this design is very secure, there are situations where the root becomes vulnerable. In that case, you should see Dr. Lapsi at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office right away. Our goal is for you to keep your teeth healthy and strong, and for a lifetime!

Questions on Dental Implants? We’ve Got You Covered.

September 27th, 2023

Whether you’ve lost a tooth from decay, are preparing for dentures, or were born with a gap where a tooth should have been, you could be a candidate for dental implants.

Dental implants have changed a lot since their debut in 1965, thanks to continuing advances in design and technology. Today, you no longer have to worry about whether dental implants might have a negative aesthetic impact on your smile.

So what are dental implants? Pretty much what they sound like: An implant is a replacement tooth that substitutes for a missing natural one. It gets placed through several steps; it’s a process that can take a few months.

The initial step involves the surgical implantation of the implant root, which resembles a small screw. After that’s placed, the top is covered with gum tissue to enable it to heal faster. This is an essential phase in the process, since this portion of the implant will serve as the base of support for everything else.

In the second step, the implant gets uncovered and an implant restoration (or crown) is created and affixed to it. After that, you’ve got yourself a new tooth!

While dental implants require a little special care, it’s all easily manageable. All you have to do at home is make sure you brush and floss your implant daily, the same as you would for any other tooth. Although an implant can’t develop a cavity, if something were to get stuck in it, that could lead to a gum infection.

If you have any other questions about dental implants, give our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office a call!

Hot Day? Three Drinks to Leave Home When You’re Packing the Cooler

September 20th, 2023

Whew! It’s a hot one! And whenever the temperature soars, you need to stay hydrated, especially when you’re outside or exercising. But all cold drinks aren’t equal when it comes to healthy hydration. Which beverages shouldn’t have a prime spot in your cooler when you’re wearing braces or aligners?

  • Soft Drinks

You’re probably not surprised to find soft drinks at the top of the list. After all, sugar is a) a big part of what makes soda so popular, and b) not a healthy choice for your teeth.

Sugar is a favorite food source for the oral bacteria that make up plaque. These bacteria convert sugar into acids, and these acids attack the surface of your tooth enamel. Over time, the minerals which keep enamel strong begin to erode, and weakened, eroded enamel is a lot more susceptible to cavities.

So, what about sugar-free drinks? Does this make soft drinks a better choice? Unfortunately, you can take the sugar out of many sodas, but you can’t take the acids out. Most soft drinks are very acidic, even without sugar, and will cause enamel erosion just like the acids created by bacteria will.

  • Fruit Drinks

Fruit juice provides us with vitamins, which is great, but it’s also full of natural sugars and acids. And blended fruit drinks and fruit punches often contain added sugars and added citric acids. Best to choose 100% fruit content and check the labels before you buy. (And you can always get refreshing fruit flavor by adding a slice of fruit to a glass of water.)

  • Sports Drinks

You might be surprised to see these on the list—after all, they promise healthy hydration while you’re working out. And hydration is healthy—but sugars and acids aren’t. Even when the label tells you there’s no added sugar, that same label will often reveal high amounts of citric acid. In fact, some sports drinks are more acidic than sodas.

We’ll make an exception, though, for thirsty people who participate in sports or activities that require a lot of physical exercise and produce a lot of sweat. When we sweat, we lose electrolytes, those ionized minerals which help regulate many vital bodily functions. Talk to Dr. Lapsi about which sports drinks are best for you if you need to replenish your electrolytes when working out.

So, what’s your best hydration choice on a hot day? Water! It not only hydrates you, it cleans your teeth, it helps you produce saliva, and it often contains tooth-strengthening fluoride. But if you only have sports drinks in the cooler, or if you just want to enjoy a soft drink or a bottle of juice from time to time, no need to go thirsty. We have some ways to make sure your teeth are safer, even with this tricky trio:

  • Rinse with water after you drink a sugary or acidic drink. And remember to brush when you get home.
  • Be choosy. Check labels for added sugars and acids.
  • Don’t sip your drinks all day long. Saliva actually helps neutralize acids in the mouth, but sipping acidic beverages throughout the day doesn’t give saliva a chance to work.
  • Use a straw to avoid washing your enamel in sugars and acids.

While sugar and acids are never good for your teeth, it’s especially important to reduce your exposure while you’re in braces or aligners.

  • Increased sugar means increased plaque and bacteria, which can collect around your brackets. When plaque isn’t cleaned away, bacterial acids cause mineral erosion, which shows up as white spots on your enamel. You don’t want to see a collection of white spots when those brackets come off!
  • Filling a cavity might require the (temporary) removal of part of your braces.
  • There’s a reason Dr. Lapsi and our team recommend that you only drink water with your aligners on. If you wear them while you drink sugary and acidic beverages, the liquid collects in your aligner tray, literally bathing your teeth in sugar and acid—and speeding up the process of erosion and decay.

You need to keep hydrated when it’s hot. When you’re packing your cooler, choose drinks that are healthy for your entire body, including your teeth and gums. Ask our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills team for the best choices in cold drinks to make sure you’re getting the hydration you need—without the sugar and acids you don’t!

The Best Treats in the House

September 20th, 2023

You waited for this movie all year. You got your tickets early, and you’ve got the best seats in the theater. Whether you paid to see the latest action flick or the most romantic comedy in the history of romcoms, it’s not as nearly as much fun if the trip to the snack bar is a horror story. Perhaps Dr. Lapsi can help!

If you’re wearing traditional braces, the usual suspects, chewy, sticky, hard, and crunchy foods, are still off limits even when the lights go down. Let’s look at some alternative casting.

  • The Candy Counter

Licorice, caramels, taffy, and candy with nuts can make any film a disaster movie—and can make your next visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office an emergency one. Stick with soft chocolates, chocolates with creamy fillings, ice cream, and ice cream bars (without nuts or caramel, of course).

  • The Soda Fountain

Sodas won’t break your braces, but they will damage your teeth, so try to brush as soon as you can or rinse with water after enjoying one of those titanic servings. And no crunching on ice! That can damage your braces.

  • The Popcorn Machine

Sorry, we can’t help you here. Popcorn, with or without that tempting flood of melted butter, is off limits. The kernels can get lodged between your teeth and braces, and can be very hard to remove. They can also cause breakage to wires and brackets.

If you still crave something salty, check with us to see if soft pretzels or baked potato chips might be an option for you.

Movie treats contain a lot of starches and sugars, which stick to braces and feed cavity-causing bacteria, so it’s always best to go easy on the snacks. But you don’t have to give up the concession counter completely—just enjoy in moderation and be sure to brush thoroughly when you get home.

And if you wear clear aligners? You can remove your aligners, eat what you like, and clean your teeth carefully before replacing them. But do remember—you’re supposed to wear your aligners for a set number of hours each day. If you’re looking forward to a four-hour epic, make sure to take into account your treatment schedule.

We don’t know if your movie was worth the wait. But we do know that the results of your orthodontic treatment will be! Take care of your teeth and braces, and you’ll be on the fastest, healthiest track to an award-winning, red carpet smile.

Straight Talk about Braces and Oral Health

September 13th, 2023

We’ll give it to you straight: it can be harder to keep your teeth their cleanest while you’re wearing braces. Food particles play hide-and-seek, plaque builds up around brackets, flossing is harder when you need to maneuver around wires. But keeping your teeth and gums healthy is even more important now that you’re wearing braces.

Why? Because when your braces come off, you want to enjoy the beautiful smile you’ve worked so hard for without worrying about discolored enamel, cavities, or swollen gums. Let’s look at some of the possible consequences when brushing and flossing are more challenging.

Decalcification

If you’ve noticed white spots around your brackets, you’re seeing the signs of decalcification, a common problem for those who wear braces.

Decalcification begins when plaque collects on the enamel around your brackets. The bacteria in plaque produce acids. These acids eat away at the minerals which keep your enamel strong, minerals like calcium and phosphorous. Places on the enamel where erosion takes place are left weakened and discolored.  Eventually, these weak spots can lead to . . .

Cavities

When plaque sticks around, whether near your brackets or anywhere on your teeth, it provides the perfect conditions for decay to develop. Left untreated, bacterial acids continue working away at decalcified spots in your enamel. This continuing erosion causes these surface spots to expand, grow deeper, and become cavities.

If you’re having trouble with built up plaque, and brushing isn’t doing the job for you, your dentist can remove it with a professional cleaning. Getting rid of plaque is healthy not only for your enamel, but your gums as well.

Gum disease

When plaque and tartar collect around the gumline, they irritate delicate gum tissue. This irritation causes gingivitis, or early gum disease. And, while young people rarely suffer from serious gum disease, the pain, redness, bleeding, swelling, and bad breath caused by gingivitis are not anyone’s life goals!

Brushing and flossing are essential to keeping your enamel and gums plaque-free. But even if you brush more often, it’s not as easy as it once was now that you have to work around and between brackets and wires. Luckily, there are lots of tools out there to help you get your teeth, gums, and braces their cleanest.

  • Orthodontic toothbrushes

Special brushes designed just for braces can help you work around brackets and wires. V- or U-shaped bristle formations let you brush around and over your braces. Curved bristles can fit under wires. Smaller brush heads let you reach those hard-to-reach places.

  • Electric toothbrushes

Many people find these brushes can clean more easily and effectively, especially when wearing braces. Tapered orthodontic brush heads are available, and, if you’re a heavy-handed brusher, there are models which alert you if you’re brushing too hard—protecting your braces and your enamel.

  • Orthodontic floss

Special orthodontic flosses can help you do the tricky job of fitting floss behind your wires and between your teeth, or use a floss threader, which helps guide uncooperative floss into tight spaces.

  • Water flossers

With their pulsing streams of water, water flossers can reach spots where regular brushes and flosses just can’t comfortably fit. There are even flossers available with special orthodontic tips.

Straight teeth are great. Straight and healthy teeth? Even better! You, Dr. Lapsi, and our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills orthodontic staff make a great team. Take advantage of our advice and tips for the best tools and techniques to make sure your smile is both perfectly aligned and perfectly healthy once those braces come off!

Let's Talk About Your Roots!

September 13th, 2023

You’ve learned a lot from your dentist and your family about how to take care of your teeth. You brush and floss, you wear a mouthguard when you’re active, and you have regular checkups and cleanings at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office.

And everything you’re doing is wonderful! The smile you see each day in the mirror reflects your hard work.

But what about the part of your smile you can’t see? Let’s take a look beneath the surface, and talk about your roots.

While our teeth look solid from the outside, there’s really a lot going on inside each tooth.

  • The outside of every tooth is covered with a hard protective surface.

Enamel is the hardest material in our bodies, and covers the crown. This is the part of the tooth we can see above our gums.

Our roots are hidden below our gums, and are covered with cementum instead of enamel. Cementum is hard, but it’s not nearly as strong as enamel.

  • Just below a tooth’s enamel and cementum layers, we have dentin.

Dentin is a hard tissue, only a little softer than enamel. Most of our tooth is made of dentin. It surrounds and helps protect the center of the tooth and supports the enamel and cementum on the outside.

  • Inside the center of each tooth, there’s an area called the pulp chamber.

The pulp holds tiny blood vessels and nerves. The blood vessels give the pulp nutrients, and the nerves are the reason that our teeth can feel sensitivity or pain.

Inside the roots, we also find pulp in the root canals. These canals are very small tunnels that run from the pulp chamber down through the root, ending in a tiny hole in the tip of the root. Blood vessels and nerves running through the canals connect the pulp tissue to our bodies’ blood and nervous systems.

Around your roots, there’s a lot going on, too. Smaller teeth like the incisors, our front teeth, usually have only one root. Bigger teeth, like molars, usually have two or three roots. And while you’re busy biting and chewing, what’s holding these roots in place?

  • In your jaws, you have a spot where each tooth fits called a socket. But your tooth roots don’t just sit in the socket. That wouldn’t be very secure!
  • Instead, you have a periodontal ligament surrounding the roots of each tooth. Think of the ligament as groups of tissue fibers that can attach to both the cementum on your root and the bone in your jaw. This double attachment holds your teeth firmly in place. The ligament also helps cushion your teeth from the heavy pressures of chewing.
  • To make things even safer for your roots, your gums help cover them and protect them from bacteria and decay.

As you can see, your body is working hard to protect your roots. What’s the best thing you can do to keep your roots healthy? Do everything you’re already doing!

  • Keep up with your brushing and flossing, and your visits to our office. These good habits protect the teeth and gums you can see, and also the roots that you can’t see.
  • Avoid oral habits that put lots of pressure on your teeth and roots. Biting down on pencils, or ice, or nut shells, or anything not meant for regular eating means you’re risking a cracked tooth.
  • Be safe! Wear your mouthguard when you’re active.
  • Don’t wait to tell your adult if your tooth hurts. Remember, those nerves inside your teeth and roots are there to warn you if your tooth is damaged. Dr. Lapsi will be able to find out what’s wrong and have you feeling better in no time.

Even though you can’t see them, your roots are one important reason you have your beautiful smile. Taking good care of your teeth now is a way to make sure you have beautiful, healthy smiles for a lifetime!

Summer Smiles

September 7th, 2023

The “Back to School” ads are out already? Halloween candy’s showing up in stores? Just a minute—summer isn’t quite over yet! While the days are still warm, let’s look at a few cool ways to keep your smile bright with some healthy dental options:

  • Healthy Drinks

Hot summer days mean it’s time to hydrate. But sodas, fruit drinks, and sports drinks can have a lot of added sugars, which can mean added cavities. They can also be quite acidic, and acids break down tooth enamel. So, what to reach for on a hot day? Water!

Water is a good choice whenever you’re thirsty. Water is essential for healthy bodies and for healthy teeth and gums, too. Water helps wash away food particles that feed the cavity-causing bacteria in plaque. Acids in our foods and drinks break down tooth enamel, and water helps balance out those acids. If you have fluoridated water, fluoride makes enamel stronger and even helps reverse early decay. And it’s easily available and very cost effective!

  • Healthy Gear

Make sure that healthy smile you worked so hard for stays looking its best with protective gear:

  • A mouthguard will help protect your teeth and mouth from contact with hard surfaces and hard bodies when you’re enjoying biking, baseball, hoops, and other activities.
  • If you have a retainer, wear it as directed. Retainers keep your teeth from moving out of position while your jawbones rebuild strong bone tissue around them.
  • If you suffer from bruxism, your nightguard protects your teeth and jaws from tooth-grinding damage, so don’t forget to use it nightly.

Your appliances protect you, so return the favor and make sure your appliances stay healthy by cleaning them after use and storing them in their protective cases.

And remember to replace another piece of protective equipment regularly—your toothbrush. If you haven’t replaced your toothbrush for several months, it’s time to go shopping. Toothbrushes wear down over time, and, after three months or so, can’t clean plaque as effectively. Which reminds us . . .

  • Healthy Habits

Even as we take advantage of the end of summer with last minute camping, or travel, or action-filled weekends, one thing should stay on schedule—regular brushing and flossing.

You should be brushing twice a day, for two minutes each time. If it’s hard to time yourself, try playing a favorite two-minute song or using a timer or even a brushing app. And don’t forget to floss! Floss gets into spaces where bushes can’t to remove plaque. Floss once a day to keep your teeth their cleanest.

Finally, don’t forget to schedule regular dental appointments at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office for a cleaning and exam with Dr. Lapsi.

Summer’s almost over, but these healthy tips work in fall, winter, and spring, too—for a smile that’s sunny and bright all year long!

Just Add Water

September 6th, 2023

One of the many benefits of your clear aligners is that you can remove them to eat. You should brush after every meal, just like you would with traditional braces, but cleaning your teeth is much easier without having to work around and between brackets and wires.

But when you wear your aligners 22 hours a day, you might be tempted to leave them in when you’re just having a sip of something when you’re thirsty. Unless you’re drinking water, please don’t.

What’s the problem with a can of cola or a cup of coffee?

  • Staining

The virtue of your clear aligners is that they are, well, clear! Probably one of the reasons you decided on this method of treatment was because you liked the idea of an inconspicuous appliance.  Unfortunately, dark beverages such as colas, coffee, tea, and red wine can stain your aligner, making it more visible.

  • Warping

Very hot beverages might actually affect the shape of your aligners. Since they are formed using heat, it makes sense that heat can also de-form them. If hot teas and coffee drinks cause a change in the shape of your aligners, they will not move your teeth the way they were meant to.

  • Affecting Tooth Health

Even though our enamel is very strong, sugary and acidic drinks can damage it. Acidic foods can erode enamel, and the sugars in our diet provide food for cavity-causing bacteria, which then produce acids that erode enamel.

Normally, saliva provides some protection from acids and sugars by diluting them and washing them away from the teeth. When you drink a cola or an orange juice with your aligners on, some of the liquid will get in them, and can stay in them until the aligners are removed. You will actually give these problem beverages the opportunity to bathe your teeth in sugar and acid over a longer period of time, without exposure to saliva to help offset potential harm. And after all your work to create a beautiful smile, you certainly don’t want new cavities!

How to protect your aligners and keep them their cleanest—and most invisible?

  • Take your aligners out before drinking beverages that can stain them, or, if you can’t, try using a straw. Clean your aligners according to Dr. Lapsi and our team’s instructions to keep them as clear as possible.
  • Don’t drink very hot beverages with your aligners in place. Try icing your coffee and tea if you can’t remove your aligners. And if you think your aligners have changed shape, please give us a call.
  • Drink water! Water hydrates you, doesn’t damage enamel, and keeps your aligners clean. Tap water is your best option, as even bottled waters can be acidic.

If your aligners should become stained, remember that you change them frequently, so the staining can be a temporary problem. If you do have a drink of something hot and your aligners feel “off,” give our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office a call. We’ll let you know if you need to replace them.

But prevention is always best! Avoid staining from the start by removing your aligners before you drink dark beverages. Don’t expose your aligners to heat. Think about replacing unhealthy drinks with water. And certainly brush right away, or rinse with water if that’s not possible, if you drink a sugary or acidic beverage. These simple precautions will help keep your aligners, and, most important, your teeth, looking their best.

Mouthguard Protection

August 30th, 2023

Let’s talk about mouthguards and night guards—two crucial appliances that protect your teeth and jaw.

We could talk about how important a mouthguard is when you lead an active life. Mouthguards protect teeth, delicate mouth tissue, and jaws from accidents and impacts.  

Or if you grind your teeth at night, waking up every morning with tooth or jaw pain, we can talk about how a night guard can be a quality-of-life-saver.

But we’re not going to talk about any of these important topics today. Instead of looking at how your mouthguard protects you, today we’re going to look at how you can protect your mouthguard.

If you want your guard to last longer, work better, and stay (and smell) cleaner, some basic tips make all the difference.

  • Keep your guard clean.

This can’t be stressed enough. Without a good cleaning routine, your guard can become discolored, develop an unpleasant odor, and even cause illness. Not very appealing, right? Happily, keeping mouthguards and night guards clean isn’t difficult.

When you wear your guard, whether during daytime activities or through the night, the same plaque that is present in your mouth makes itself at home in your appliance. And when your guard is in its case, that dark, moist environment makes it a perfect breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

As soon as you take your guard out, rinse it off. Brush with a soft toothbrush to remove all the plaque, saliva, or food debris that might be lingering in your appliance. (If you are on the playing field, in the park, or at some other inconvenient location, rinse it and brush as soon as you can.) Toothpaste can help get your guard its cleanest, but can be too abrasive for some appliances.

Once you’ve cleaned it, let your guard air dry in a clean spot for about 30 minutes. Air drying helps prevent bacterial growth. After your guard has dried, return it to its case.

Once a week, you might need to give your guard a good soak in a mouthwash or other dental cleaning solution.

Since cleaning instructions can be different depending on which type of guard you have, be sure to follow our instructions if you have a custom guard, or follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions if you have a store guard.

  • Keep it safe.

When your guard isn’t in your mouth, it should be in its case. Lying loose on the bathroom counter or tumbling around in your gym bag puts your guard at risk for breakage and bacteria.

And don’t forget to clean your case thoroughly every few days and air dry it as well. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, mold, and other unwelcome guests can collect in your case, too.

  • Keep it only as long as it’s in good condition.

You can purchase mouthguards from sporting or drug stores, or Dr. Lapsi can make you a mouthguard or night guard designed to fit your teeth perfectly. These appliances are made to be strong and durable, but they’re not indestructible. Over time they can wear down or become damaged, especially if you treat them carelessly.

Bacteria can lurk in dents and cracks, and you can cut your mouth on rough, sharp, or broken edges. But if your guard isn’t fitting properly, don’t resort to self-help! Trying to repair, reshape, or trim your appliance yourself is not a good idea, because it might affect its fit and protective ability.

Any sign that your guard isn’t fitting properly or shows signs of wear and tear could mean it’s time for a replacement. You can replace a store model, or ask our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills team about repairing or replacing your custom guard. A mouthguard or night guard that doesn’t fit, doesn’t protect you.

Take care of your guard, and it will take care of you. The reward for the small amount of time and effort you put into caring for your mouthguard or night guard is a smile that will last you for a lifetime. That’s a benefit we can talk about all day!

Five Common Reasons for Emergency Care Visits

August 30th, 2023

A dental emergency can strike anywhere, anytime, and without warning. Perhaps you’re playing a game of touch football on Thanksgiving and your brother-in-law decides to up the ante and tackles you, accidentally knocking out your two front teeth. Or maybe you’re on vacation somewhere in the tropics and decide to go deep-sea fishing, but when you’re climbing onto the boat you slip on the dock, fall, and chip three of your teeth. From misplaced fly balls to bagel seeds causing a painful bout of inflammation, there are all kinds of dental emergencies.

Here are the five most common reasons for emergency care visits.

  1. Somehow you've managed to knock out a tooth. Whether it's the result of a sports injury or because of decay, when you lose a tooth, you need emergency dental care. If the tooth is salvageable, then it can be reattached to the socket, but this needs to be done within a one- or two-hour window.
  2. A chipped tooth is the most common dental emergency. Small chips can be caused by food (chicken bones and nuts have sent many people to the dentist); however, it's usually some sort of accident or injury that more often causes a chip. While you might be embarrassed to walk around with a gaping chip in your front tooth, it is easily fixed with a bond, crown, or veneer.
  3. A broken tooth is more severe than a chipped tooth. When a tooth breaks, it might be due to a small or hidden chip. However, chances are the pain and discomfort will be more severe.
  4. It might seem comical, but getting a piece of food lodged in the wrong place can result in a dental emergency. If something gets stuck deep in a crevice, it can cause pain and inflammation.
  5. The loss of a filling happens more often than you think. When you lose a filling, you need to receive emergency care immediately. If you don’t, you risk further damage to your tooth.

When you injure your teeth or mouth, you need to seek emergency care as soon as possible. In the event of a suspected emergency, don't wait. Contact Dr. Lapsi immediately.

Adult Mouthguards

August 23rd, 2023

You make sure your daughter wears her mouthguard to every soccer practice. Your son doesn’t step on the basketball court without his. Why not protect your smile as well?

Athletes of all ages in team or recreational sports can help prevent dental injuries with a protective mouthguard. If you bike or ski, play racquetball or squash, skate, or sky dive, a mouthguard will help keep your teeth and gums healthy as you keep fit.

Mouthguard Options

Our office will be happy to talk to you about whether a mouthguard is a practical addition to your workout gear. There are many options available to you, including:

Stock: Preformed appliances available at sporting goods stores and drugstores. These are the most affordable, but are a one-size-fits-all option and may not be a comfortable fit for you.

Boil-and-Bite: Also available at sports shops and drugstores. This guard is formed by placing it in hot water and then biting down to allow it to conform to the shape of your mouth.

Custom: Our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office can create a personalized mouthguard just for you. Individual mouthguards are the most durable and comfortable option, in general, and provide the best fit for ease of talking and breathing while exercising. You may also have special dental conditions, such as the placement of crowns or braces, which could be a factor in your decision.

Whichever option you choose, remember to wear your mouthguard regularly while exercising. A proper mouthguard cannot only help prevent injuries to your teeth, but to your face and jaw as well. A healthy smile and a healthy body are a winning combination. The next time you visit Dr. Lapsi, let’s talk sports!

Good Dental Hygiene Gives You Better Overall Health

August 23rd, 2023

What do you think of when you hear the term dental or oral hygiene? Brushing and flossing tend to come to mind, since that is what the terms imply.

What you might not know, however, is that good dental hygiene involves much more than just your mouth. That’s the tip of the iceberg … just a piece of the complex puzzle that is the human body.

Simply put, you cannot be fully healthy if you don’t have good oral health. Studies have shown that oral health and body health are closely linked and in fact almost impossible to define as separate phenomena.

Take gum disease, for example. It’s one of the most common dental infections, but it doesn’t just affect your gums. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, gum disease can be directly linked to more serious complications such as strokes and heart disease. Doesn’t that make you want to floss a little more often?

This goes the other way, too. Many oral events like sores, swollen gums, and dry mouth syndrome, which might seem fairly trivial and even harmless, may be signals of a much bigger problem: possibly leukemia, kidney disease, diabetes, or pancreatic cancer.

Now that you’ve been made aware of just how vital dental health is for your overall health (and vice versa), the best thing to do is what you’re probably already doing: making sure you brush and floss, as well as maintain a well-balanced diet. It’s also smart to keep away from cigarettes and tobacco, because both are known to contribute to periodontal disease.

In addition, be sure to keep getting your teeth cleaned every six months! If you’re due for a cleaning, give our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office a call to schedule an appointment at Excel Dental and Orthodontics.

Your Sunny Smile

August 16th, 2023

Your beaming smile makes a sunny day even brighter—and that sunny day can return the favor! How does the sun affect your dental health? Let’s shine some light on the subject.

You may have heard how important calcium is to your body. Over 99% of the calcium in our bodies is used to form teeth and bones, providing strength and structure to the hardest parts of the body. But that’s not the only task on the calcium to-do list. Calcium is also necessary for:

  • muscles to work
  • nerves to carry messages
  • blood to deliver nutrients and oxygen
  • the release of hormones

When we don’t get enough calcium in our diets, our bodies start to draw the calcium they need for these critical functions from our teeth and bones. Over time, a severe calcium deficiency can lead to teeth that are brittle, or more vulnerable to decay, or loose due to weakened bone density in the jaw.

Keeping up with your calcium is especially important when you’re wearing braces or aligners. Calcium helps protect you from tooth decay and gum disease, which could delay your treatment. And you want your jaw bones strong and healthy as the bone tissue reforms and then stabilizes around your teeth as they move to their new, ideal positions.

We can get the calcium we need from a balanced diet. Dairy products are our most common source of calcium, and several servings of milk, cheese, or yogurt each day supply most of our needs. If dairy’s not on your menu, though, you can get calcium from other foods like broccoli, kale, collard greens, canned salmon, or sardines. Because calcium is so essential to our health, many foods are fortified with it, including fortified juices, bread, cereals—even tofu!

But there’s a snag here, and it’s a big one. We can’t really benefit from our careful consumption of calcium without the help of vitamin D. If calcium is the doorway to strong teeth and bones, vitamin D is the key which unlocks all of calcium’s benefits.

Without enough vitamin D, our bodies can’t absorb and make use of calcium. However, getting enough of this essential vitamin can be a problem. While we can get most of the vitamins we need from a balanced diet, there aren’t a lot of foods which are naturally rich in vitamin D.

So, how do we get this vital vitamin? The original option comes from nature.

  • Sunlight

Vitamin D is called “the sunshine vitamin” because of the unique chemical reaction which creates it. When the ultraviolet B rays of the sun reach special cells in our skin, they convert cholesterol in these cells to a basic form of vitamin D. These vitamin molecules travel through the body, picking up hydrogen and oxygen molecules in the liver and kidneys to become active vitamin D.

Since sunlight exposure is easy, available, and free, it seems like a simple solution to getting the vitamin D we need.

But we’ve understandably moved away from the days of basking in the sun for hours at a time. Over-exposure to UV rays damages the skin, causing premature aging and, worse, a much greater risk of skin cancer. If you enjoy time in the sun, talk to your doctor about safe sun exposure, which can depend on the part of the country you live in, the time of year, and your individual skin type.

And, if you need to avoid sun exposure, there are other opportunities for getting the vitamin D you need.

  • Diet

While there aren’t a lot of foods which are naturally rich in vitamin D, there are still a few options on the menu. Oily fish like salmon, tuna, and herring—and old-fashioned cod liver oil—are good sources of the vitamin. But most of us don’t live on a strict fish diet!

Instead, we can get the vitamin D we need from fortified foods. Vitamin D is commonly added to cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, and cereals to make sure the calcium in our diet is working effectively to keep our teeth and bones strong. Check out nutritional labels to discover whether your favorite grocery products contain vitamin D. And don’t forget to choose foods that are braces-friendly, as well!

  • Supplements

For hundreds of years, people who lived in climates and cities without a lot of sunshine suffered from the effects of vitamin D deficiency. Diseases like rickets, where the teeth and bones don’t form properly, were common in children. Adults who couldn’t absorb enough calcium suffered from weak teeth and bones.

Today, depending on age, allergies to sun or food products, dietary choices, and health conditions, some people are still at risk for vitamin D deficiency. If you’ve been diagnosed with this deficiency, your doctor might recommend a vitamin D supplement. (It’s important to take any supplement as directed, because taking too much vitamin D can be harmful, too.)

So, which form of vitamin D is best? Fortified foods? Supplements? Or is it that radiant original source—the sun? No need to worry. With any form of vitamin D, you’re getting the key you need to unlock the benefits of the calcium in your diet—for healthy teeth and bones before, during, and after your treatment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills orthodontic office. Your sunny smile will thank you!

The Herbst® Appliance

August 16th, 2023

Maybe you’ve known people with braces and aligners—maybe you’ve worn them yourself!—so if braces or aligners are in your teen’s future, you have some idea what to expect and when to expect it.

But quite often, orthodontic issues require more treatment than braces alone can provide. When misalignment affects not only the teeth but the jaw as well, treatment can be more effective when it begins earlier and makes use of a different kind of appliance—the “functional appliance.”

During the years your child’s bones are still rapidly growing and forming, around the ages of eight to 14, functional appliances can help guide tooth movement and encourage jaw growth and development. One of the most widely used of these devices is the Herbst® appliance.

What does the Herbst appliance do?

There are several types of malocclusions, or “bad bites” treated by Dr. Lapsi. A common condition called a Class II malocclusion occurs when the upper jaw and teeth project too far forward over the lower jaw and teeth. Signs of a Class II malocclusion might include an overjet (protruding upper teeth), and/or a small or recessive lower jaw.

While correcting this malocclusion often enhances facial symmetry, which can be very important for a child’s confidence, correcting a Class II malocclusion also promotes jaw and dental health. Misaligned teeth are more difficult to clean, which can lead to decay and gum disease. Bite problems can cause persistent jaw pain and damage to the teeth. And, with an overjet, a child’s upper teeth are more at risk for injury.

The Herbst appliance was developed to treat this kind of malocclusion. It moves the lower jaw and teeth forward to create a balanced, healthy smile.

How does the Herbst appliance work?

The Herbst appliance is fixed in place with stainless steel bands or crowns that are secured to four teeth in the rear of the mouth, often the first molars on each side of the upper and lower jaws. The band or crown on each lower tooth is equipped with a small bar that extends toward the front of the mouth.

An arm on each side links the bands or crowns on the upper teeth to the front of the bar assemblies on the lower teeth. Each arm consists of a rod that fits smoothly into a tube. The telescoping action of the rod and tube allows the mouth to open and close normally. When the mouth is closed, the arms on both sides telescope shut, forming compact cylinders that hold the jaw forward.

While a child’s bones are still growing, the lower jaw’s new forward position can stimulate further bone growth and remodeling to maintain the jaw in that forward position. The Herbst appliance also has a restraining effect on the forward movement of the upper jaw. The result is a steady, noticeable improvement in the relationship between the upper teeth and jaw and the lower teeth and jaw.

Is the Herbst appliance hard to take care of?

The Herbst appliance is fairly low maintenance, but, like any orthodontic gear, it should be treated with care.

  • It’s important to watch your child’s diet, because sticky, crunchy, and chewy foods can damage the appliance. Save the caramels for a post-treatment celebration!
  • Carefully cleaning around the appliance is necessary, because a buildup of bacteria and plaque leads to consequences like bad breath, gum disease, and tooth decay. A water flosser can make reaching and cleaning tight spots easier if a brush alone isn’t effective.
  • If the Herbst appliance is damaged, some minor fixes might be doable at home with instructions from your treatment team. But if a band or crown comes loose, or if there’s a problem you’re unfamiliar with, call our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office right away.
  • To help avoid the need for minor (or major) fixes, playing with the appliance with fingers or tongue, nibbling on pens and pencils, chewing on ice, or any other risky habits should be strictly off limits.

When it comes to your child’s health, you always have high expectations. Dr. Lapsi and our team have all the answers you’ll need about what to expect from this phase of your child’s orthodontic treatment, and just why the Herbst appliance is the very best option to create a future of attractive, healthy smiles.

Your Child’s First Visit to the Orthodontist

August 9th, 2023

We often think of braces as a rite of passage for kids in middle and high school. So you might be surprised when your child’s dentist recommends a visit to see Dr. Lapsi years earlier than you anticipated. In fact, dentists and orthodontists generally suggest a visit to the orthodontist by age seven at the latest.

Why see an orthodontist so early?

After all, your child is still growing, and many adult teeth haven’t come in at that age. And that’s the whole point.

Around this age, your child will probably have a mix of both baby and adult teeth, so your orthodontist will be able to assess whether there’s enough room for the permanent teeth to erupt without crowding or spacing problems. And malocclusions, or bad bites, caused by problems with jaw size or symmetry can be addressed while young bones are still forming and developing.

If your child has a first appointment coming up on the calendar, here’s a heads up on what often happens during a first visit, and potential problems your orthodontist will be on the lookout for.

What can you expect at a first visit?

The first visit is designed to evaluate how your child’s teeth and jaws work together now, and to look for potential future problems with tooth alignment and jaw structure and development.

First, Dr. Lapsi will carefully examine your child’s teeth, jaws, and mouth. Your child will be asked to bite down several times to see how the teeth and jaws fit together, and if there’s any discomfort. Other helpful diagnostic tools could include:

  • Scans or X-rays to evaluate jaw structure and the position of teeth which haven’t erupted yet
  • Photos of your child’s teeth and face
  • An impression of your child’s teeth

If there’s no immediate need for treatment, we might recommend periodic checkups at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills orthodontic office to follow the growth and development of your child’s teeth and jaws. If interceptive (early) treatment is your child’s best option for a healthy smile, your orthodontist will explain any immediate orthodontic issues and design a treatment plan tailored to your child’s specific needs.

What are the benefits of early treatment?

Interceptive treatment not only helps correct current orthodontic problems, it can help reduce the need for more complicated treatment in the future, when all of the adult teeth have arrived and bones are fully formed. Among its many benefits, early treatment can:

  • Prevent crowding

If your child has a small upper palate, it can be gently enlarged while the palate is still growing with the help of a palatal expander. This will give the upper teeth the space they need to come in without crowding.

  • Provide space

If primary teeth are lost too early, other teeth can shift out of alignment to fill the empty space. A space maintainer can be custom-made to keep the spot open until the right tooth is ready to erupt. If primary teeth are overstaying their welcome, Dr. Lapsi might recommend extraction to allow the adult teeth to erupt in the proper place.

  • Create jaw symmetry

Malocclusions can develop because the upper or lower jaw is too narrow, too far forward, too far back, or the jawbones don’t fit together properly. Dr. Lapsi might suggest the use of a functional appliance such as the Herbst® appliance or headgear to help guide symmetrical bone development while your child’s young bones are still growing and forming.

  • Protect teeth

Children with overjets, or protruding upper teeth, are more likely to suffer chips, cracks, and other trauma to those vulnerable front teeth. Functional appliances can help bring the upper and lower jaws into alignment as needed, and braces can move the teeth into alignment.

Every journey to a healthy smile begins with a first visit. And you don’t need to wait until your child is seven. Any time you’re concerned about an orthodontic issue is a good time for a consultation. Talk to Dr. Lapsi about what to expect at your first visit to help create a comfortable experience for your child as you begin this journey together.               

I have sensitive teeth. What are my options?

August 9th, 2023

At Excel Dental and Orthodontics, 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 Excel Dental and Orthodontics. The first step is to determine the cause, and that begins with a visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills 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. Lapsi and our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics want you to know that sensitive teeth can be treated, and the type of treatment will depend on what is causing the sensitivity. Dr. Lapsi 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. Lapsi 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. Lapsi can provide you with some much-needed relief!

The Dog Days of Summer

August 2nd, 2023

Here we are in the middle of the hottest time of the year. Yes, it’s the dog days of summer. But, wait—just what are “the dog days of summer,” anyway?

The ancient Greeks and Romans coined this term for the longest, warmest days near the end of summer when Sirius, the Dog Star, shone in the night sky. And it’s a Sirius (we couldn’t resist!) reminder that while we need to look after our own dental health during sizzling summer days, it’s essential to look out for our pets, too.

  • Brushing Regularly

Sure, it’s summer, but relaxed, casual days shouldn’t mean relaxed, casual dental care.

The leading cause of tooth loss in dogs is gum disease. When plaque builds up around the gum line, it irritates gum tissue, causing inflammation. After a time, the gums pull away from the teeth, leaving pockets that become infected. Infection destroys bone tissue, leaving your poor pet with loose or missing teeth.

It’s a good idea to train your dog from puppyhood to let you brush or clean their teeth. Your vet can show you the best techniques.

Use special handled brushes or finger brushes to comfortably reach your dog’s teeth, and use pastes made just for dogs to protect your pet from swallowing the cleaners and abrasives we humans spit out after brushing. There are also single use dental wipes if your pup is no fan of the brush. If your pooch protests, talk to your vet for the best ways to keep your furry pal’s teeth and gums clean and healthy.

When it comes to preventive dental care, we humans have something in common with our best friends—gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in people, too!

Don’t let the lazy days of summer lead to lazy dental care. Brush at least twice a day for at least two minutes each time and floss once a day to keep bacteria and plaque from accumulating. A professional cleaning at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills dental office will get the plaque you might have missed, remove tartar buildup, and let you know if there are areas you might be missing.

While you’re looking out for your best friend in these dog days, look out for yourself, too! Dental hygiene, proper hydration, a healthy diet—and regular professional checkups and cleanings for you both—will make sure you and your bestie will enjoy the dog days of summer with paws-itively beautiful smiles.

Do We Outgrow Tooth Decay?

August 2nd, 2023

Short answer: No. But, since an answer that short is hardly worth the time it took you to click on the link, allow us to explain further!

We tend to think of tooth decay as something we leave behind with childhood. And, while it’s true that youthful cavities are unfortunately common, older adults face unique challenges of their own which put them at risk for cavities.

Root Cavities

Gum tissue often recedes with age. And our roots, which were once completely covered and protected by gum tissue, become partially exposed to plaque, acidic foods, and the abrasive effects of heavy-handed brushing.

This is a problem. Instead of enamel, a substance called cementum covers and protects our roots. But cementum isn’t as strong as enamel, and so our roots are much more vulnerable to the cavity-causing bacteria in plaque, erosion from dietary acids, and damage caused by abrasive brushing. Root cavities also progress faster than crown cavities, which can mean a root canal procedure in your future, or, even worse, an extraction if a cavity isn’t treated promptly.

What can you do to avoid root cavities?

  • Do what you do to avoid any cavity—brush at least twice a day for two minutes, use floss to clean between the teeth and along the gumline, and use a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Fluoride treatments can be applied to the exposed root area for added protection. Ask your dentist about this option.
  • Take care of your gum health. See Dr. Lapsi regularly, and, if you have serious gum disease, a visit to your periodontist might be in order.
  • Always use a soft toothbrush. Even a brush with medium bristles can be too firm for teeth and gums.

Failing Fillings

As we age, our dental restorations age as well. Over time, fillings can become loose, erode, or crack, which can lead to cavities under or around these damaged restorations. Bacteria can reach beneath a loose filling—your toothbrush can’t.

What can you do to prevent cavities in these hidden spots?

  • Keep up with your dental checkups. Part of each dental exam is checking the condition of your dental restorations.
  • Visit Excel Dental and Orthodontics if you notice any sign of tooth decay, including tooth pain, sensitivity, or discoloration.
  • If you discover a loose, cracked, or lost filling, even without any discomfort, call Dr. Lapsi right away. A timely replacement filling can prevent hidden decay from seriously damaging a tooth.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, occurs when our bodies don’t produce their normal amount of saliva. Saliva, of course, is vital for healthy and comfortable eating—it helps us swallow, digest, and taste our food. And it also has dental benefits! Saliva helps neutralize the acidic foods we eat, washes away food particles and bacteria, and contains minerals like calcium and phosphorus which remineralize tooth enamel.

Many medical conditions (including diabetes and high blood pressure), medical treatments (such as chemotherapy and radiation), and medications (both prescribed and over the counter) can reduce normal saliva production.

What can you do to restore saliva production?

  • Drink fluids as recommended, especially water.
  • Chew gum. Sugarless gum encourages saliva. Sucking on sugar-free candies works as well.
  • Brush regularly with fluoride toothpaste, and ask about fluoride rinses.
  • Talk to Dr. Lapsi. There are medications available that can help.

Keeping up with our dental health is important at any age. Brushing and flossing, fluoride toothpaste, regular dental exams and cleanings at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills dental office—the basics of dental health don’t change over time, even if our dental challenges are a bit different as we get older. After all, do you ever outgrow an attractive, healthy smile? This answer is short and sweet: never.

Flossing Fact or Flossing Fiction?

July 26th, 2023

Somewhere in a bathroom drawer or medicine cabinet, we all have one—that little plastic dental floss dispenser. And whether you use your floss every day (yay!), or have completely forgotten it was in there (not so good), just how much do you know about that sturdy string? Let’s find out!

  • Flossing has been around for hundreds of years.

FACT: It’s been just over two hundred years since Dr. Levi Spear Parmly, a dentist in New Orleans, suggested his patients use waxed silk thread to clean between their teeth. This is considered the first “official” invention of dental floss, although using some form of tool to get rid of food particles between the teeth has been around since prehistoric times.

  • Brushing well is the same as flossing.

FICTION: It’s really not. While brushing does a great job of cleaning food particles, plaque, and bacteria from your enamel, there are some places those bristles can’t… quite… reach. Floss was designed to clean plaque and food from between the teeth and close to the gum line where your brush doesn’t fit.

  • There’s more than one way to clean between your teeth.

FACT: Indeed there is! Not only are there many varieties of dental floss (waxed, flavored, round, flat, thick, thin, in a dispenser, attached to miniature floss wands), but you have alternatives if using any kind of floss is difficult for you. Water-flossers direct a pulsing stream of water between and around the teeth and gum line to remove food particles and plaque. Another useful alternative is the interproximal brush, a tiny little cone-shaped brush designed to remove food and plaque from those hard-to-reach spots.

  • It’s impossible to floss with braces.

FICTION: Untrue—but it can be more challenging! That’s why there are any number of flossing products designed to work with and around your braces. Stiff strands of floss which work like dental picks, floss threaders, water flossers, and interproximal/interdental brushes can both clean between your teeth and remove food particles and plaque where they collect around your braces. Dr. Lapsi can suggest some great options to work with your individual orthodontic treatment.

  • Flossing helps prevent gum disease.

FACT: Scientific studies haven’t provided definitive answers. But dental and periodontal associations strongly recommend daily flossing as one of the most important things you can do to prevent gum disease. Gingivitis, or mild gum disease, is caused by irritated, inflamed gum tissue. Gum tissue becomes irritated and inflamed as a response to the bacteria, plaque, and tartar that stick to your teeth. Anything you can do to help remove these irritants will reduce your risk of gum disease.

  • Flossing helps prevent cavities.

FACT: Dentists strongly recommend daily flossing to remove the food particles and plaque that lead to cavities. Brushing removes cavity-causing plaque from the outer surfaces of your teeth. But there’s a lot of enamel between your teeth as well. Flossing removes plaque from these hidden spots, helping to prevent interproximal (“between the teeth”) cavities from forming.

  • Bleeding when you floss is normal.

FICTION: Bleeding isn’t a typical reaction to flossing. Bleeding gums could be an early sign of gum disease caused by plaque and tartar buildup. On the other hand, if you floss too hard, or go too deeply below the gum line, you can make delicate gum tissue bleed. Ask Dr. Lapsi for tips on perfect flossing technique.

  • You need to floss after every meal.

FICTION: Dental professionals generally recommend brushing twice a day and flossing at least once each day. But this suggestion comes with some exceptions. Since you have braces, Dr. Lapsi might recommend flossing whenever you have a meal or snack.

  • Your dentist will never know that you haven’t been flossing.

FICTION: Nope. Sure, you can miss flossing a few times and catch up before your appointment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office. But built-up plaque between the teeth, red, swollen, or bleeding gums, and gingivitis and interproximal cavities let both you and your dentist know that you’ve been neglecting good dental habits.

  • It’s never too late to start flossing!

FACT: Flossing is a simple, quick, and inexpensive way to maintain tooth and gum health. If you haven’t had much luck flossing in the past, ask Dr. Lapsi for flossing tools and techniques that will work for your specific needs. Start now, and see what a difference it will make at your next checkup!

If you had all these flossing facts at your fingertips, congratulations! But if you didn’t, no need to worry, because the real test of your knowledge is in its application. Flossing properly at least once each day will give you something far more rewarding than blog-quiz kudos—you’ll see that regular flossing rewarded with healthier teeth and gums!

Take Your Pick!

July 26th, 2023

Before electric toothbrushes, before dental floss, before fluoride rinses, in fact, before recorded history, people who cared about their dental health had one primary tool—the toothpick. Ancient bronze toothpicks, bejeweled Renaissance picks, and the more humble modern wooden picks have been instrumental in promoting dental hygiene for centuries.

And, while that clean, simple design is still a good one, modern technology has found a way to build an even better toothpick. Today’s interdental picks not only dislodge food particles effectively, but now gum stimulation, cleaner orthodontic appliances, and fresher breath are available literally at our fingertips. Most important, these picks are just as effective as floss for removing plaque.

  • Wood? Still Good!

Today’s softer wooden picks come in several shapes designed to fit comfortably and snugly between the teeth. Using a gentle in-and-out motion, you can clean between your teeth as you remove plaque from the tooth surface. But that’s not the only benefit! As you move the wide end of the pick up and down between teeth and gums, you are actually stimulating your gum tissue as well.  They even come with mint flavoring to refresh your mouth as you clean. And, of course, wood and bamboo picks are biodegradable.

  • Plastic? Fantastic!

If you’d like something a little more yielding than wooden dental picks, you have options. Soft dental picks are available that use rubber “bristles” on a plastic stem to gently ease their way between teeth. The heads are available in different diameters to accommodate tight or wide spacing between the teeth. Straight or curved stems provide the accessibility you need. If you have latex allergies, be sure to choose a rubber product that is latex-free.

  • Interproximal Brushes? Here’s What the Buzz Is

You might have missed these miniature brushes in the dental care aisle, but they are worth looking for. Interproximal brushes have small cone-shaped heads with nylon bristles for cleaning food particles and plaque from between the teeth. They are good for more than one use, and some are available with angled or bendable handles for hard-to-reach spots. They come in different diameters, from wide to extremely fine, to suit the spacing of your teeth. Interdental brushes are especially useful for braces wearers, who can use these clever tools to clean tight, tricky areas under wires and around brackets.

Even though bronze, bejeweled, or golden toothpicks aren’t available in the dental aisle of the local drugstore, increased efficiency and function are well worth the trade-off. If for any reason you have trouble flossing, or if you like the idea of massaging your gums as you clean your teeth, or if you wear braces, or if you want a burst of mint flavor—for any number of reasons today’s dental picks are worth a try. Talk to Dr. Lapsi at your next visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, and we’ll be happy to give you some recommendations. 

Losing a Baby Tooth

July 19th, 2023

It seems like yesterday. There you were, comforting your baby through sleepless nights, soothing her with a dentist-approved teether, celebrating as that first tiny tooth poked through her gums. And now here she is running to show you that same tooth, wiggly, loose, and almost ready for the Tooth Fairy. Now what?

Be Prepared

Children normally lose that first tooth somewhere around the age of six, but a year or two earlier or later is not uncommon. If you ever took a business class, you might have heard of the inventory method called “First In, First Out.” Baby teeth operate much the same way! The two bottom front teeth, followed by the two upper front teeth, will probably be the first teeth your child loses. Once you notice some wiggling, let your child know what is going on and reassure her that it is a normal part of growing up.

What to Expect with that First Loose Tooth

Normally, baby teeth become loose when the pressure from the permanent tooth below gradually breaks down the roots of the primary tooth. If your child has a loose tooth, encourage him to wiggle, not pull. Typically, gentle wiggling is all that is needed to free a tooth that has lost most of its root and is ready to be replaced. Avoid pulling or forcing the tooth, because that can cause injury to the root area if the baby tooth isn’t ready to come out. Call our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office if you have any questions about loose teeth. Dr. Lapsi and our team also have suggestions if the baby teeth don’t become loose on schedule, or if they stubbornly remain in place even after the adult teeth have started to show up. One important note—if your child ever loses a tooth through accident or injury, call us at once. We might need to provide a spacer to give your child’s permanent teeth the proper time and space to come in.

Celebrate this Milestone with Your Child

The arrival of the Tooth Fairy is a familiar way to mark the occasion, and she can leave your child a note, a small gift, even a brand new toothbrush. Or explore other options!

If your child is fascinated by stories and traditions, learn about El Ratón Pérez (Perez the Mouse), a familiar tooth-collector in many Spanish speaking countries, or his French cousin, La Petite Souris (the Little Mouse). In other parts of Europe, Asia and Africa, children throw teeth on the roof, drop them in a glass of water, or hide them in a slipper. This is a great opportunity for you and your child to explore the world!

If your child likes science, look into books that explain the biology of baby and adult teeth in an age-appropriate way. You could print a chart of the primary teeth and take notes on each lost tooth as it makes way for the permanent tooth below. Or track her progress with photos showing the baby tooth, the gap left by the tooth, and the adult tooth as it comes in.

Losing that first tooth is an important moment for your child—and for you. Be prepared to celebrate another milestone together, and always feel free to talk to Dr. Lapsi if you have any questions about this new stage in your child’s life.

Are you at risk for sleep apnea?

July 19th, 2023

If you are one of the more than 12 million North Americans who suffers from sleep apnea, Dr. Lapsi and our team want you to know we can help. Sleep apnea, a disorder that causes frequent disruption to your body’s sleep patterns, is also potentially dangerous, as it causes abnormal pauses in breathing or very shallow breathing during the night.

For those who suffer from sleep apnea, it may seem impossible to wake up feeling rested and energized. You may, for example, sleep for eight hours, but your body might have only received three or four hours of quality sleep.

Besides losing a good night’s sleep, the risk of heart attack and stroke have been linked to sleep apnea. Other conditions associated with sleep apnea include depression, irritability, high blood pressure, memory loss, and sexual dysfunction.

Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax to the point of inhibiting natural breathing. The muscles used to support the soft palate relax and the airway closes, causing breathing to stop for anywhere from ten to 20 seconds, which is dangerous because it lowers the oxygen level in the brain.

Sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age, and CPAP devices (continuous positive airway pressure), among other treatments, are often prescribed for sleep apnea treatment. Another treatment option is an oral sleep apnea appliance, which positions your mouth in a way that brings your lower jaw forward and opens up your airway for unobstructed breathing.

At Excel Dental and Orthodontics, we truly care about the health and well-being of our patients. In fact, we regularly screen our patients for sleep disorders during their regular checkups, and we will refer you to a sleep apnea specialist if an issue is detected. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office if you think you have sleep apnea or if you have any questions or concerns!

Tips for Lifelong Teeth Whitening

July 12th, 2023

Over time, everyone’s teeth can naturally become dull, due to aging and consumption of staining foods such as chocolate and coffee. The good news is that teeth-whitening treatments can help you maintain white teeth that last a lifetime.

Get Regular Treatments

Regular treatments at Excel Dental and Orthodontics are necessary to keep your teeth white for life, since whitening treatments are only temporary. Bleaching too frequently, however, can wear away your tooth enamel.

The effects of in-office bleaching are safe and can last for several months to a year. You may need to repeat your use of at-home bleaching kits every few months to maintain your white teeth. As far as day to day, whitening toothpastes are safe to use on a daily basis. The American Dental Association suggests you ask your dentist for advice on which treatment is best for you.

Have Realistic Expectations

Everyone’s teeth are different and, according to the American Dental Association, not all smiles can be turned bright white. Teeth can naturally be a light yellowish color that responds well to teeth-whitening procedures, but bleach is not likely to be effective for grayish teeth. Results for brownish teeth fall somewhere in between.

Practice Good Oral Hygiene

Good hygiene is imperative for teeth-whitening efforts. Visible fillings, implants, or bridges that are metallic can be visible against the white color you desire. These treatments can be prevented by maintaining a good oral hygiene routine.

In addition to brushing your teeth twice a day to remove dirt and potential staining agents, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Floss every day
  • Visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office every six months
  • Rinse your mouth with water after each meal and snack
  • Limit sugary and starchy foods and beverages, especially between meals

 

Is there a correlation between my dental and cardiovascular health?

July 12th, 2023

YES!  Studies have shown a correlation between gum disease and heart disease, underscoring the importance of good oral health care. Cardiovascular disease remains American’s leading killer, claiming more lives than the rest of major causes of death, according to our friends at the American Heart Association. In fact, an estimated 80 percent of American adults currently have some form of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease.

Studies suggest that people with gum disease are believed to have an elevated risk of heart attack and stroke. Since most patients are not regularly visiting a heart specialist, their regular visits to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office can help detect early warning signs of heart issues, prevent gum disease, or at the very least catch it at its early stage. We’d also like you to know your numbers: blood pressure (less than 120/80), cholesterol (less than 200) and BMI (less than 25).

There are many benefits to visiting Excel Dental and Orthodontics in addition to maintaining your dental health. If it has been a while since your last visit, please give us a call!

Retainer Hacks

July 5th, 2023

Even with the best of care, accidents can happen, and your retainer, unfortunately, is not immune. Of course, you need to visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office ASAP if your retainer is damaged, but, in the meantime, there are some strategies you can use to help your teeth—and your retainer—stay as healthy as possible while you wait.

For Removable Retainers

  • When you notice any damage to your removable retainer—remove it.

Don’t wear a damaged retainer, especially overnight. You don’t want to damage it further, and you do want to avoid the possibility of choking if a retainer breaks while you’re sleeping. Dr. Lapsi and our orthodontic team are experts when it comes to deciding if your retainer is wearable, so always consult an expert before putting a suspect retainer back in your mouth.

  • Damaged Hawley retainer?

If you have a Hawley retainer—the traditional wire retainer—here’s some good news: a Hawley retainer can often be repaired if it’s not damaged too badly. Don’t try to fix your retainer yourself, and bring it into our office as soon as possible to see if it’s fixable.

  • Damaged clear retainer?

If you have a clear retainer, let’s start with the bad news: A clear retainer is not a repairable retainer. Cracks, breaks, warping—these injuries mean that a new retainer is in your future.

The good news is that materials for plastic retainers are available that are more durable than ever. This might be a good option for you to check out, especially if you suffer from bruxism, or tooth grinding, which can be very hard on clear retainers.

  • When you’ve just finished treatment with clear aligners . . .

It’s worth asking if your last tray can sub for your retainer until you have it repaired or replaced.

  • Ask us about over-the-counter mouthguards.

While you wait for a retainer repair/replacement, your teeth are at risk of shifting out of alignment. A customizable OTC mouthguard might reduce the chance of shifting, although it’s definitely not a long-term solution! We can let you know if this temporary fix is worth it.

For Fixed Retainers

If the wire retainer bonded to your teeth becomes loose, or if you notice your teeth shifting, you might need a repair or a replacement. This is a job for us. In the meantime,

  • When you have a broken wire . . .

If a broken wire is causing discomfort, check to see if you should flatten it or cover the wire tip with dental wax to protect soft tissues. Warm water rinses can ease irritation.

  • When your wire is broken or loose . . .

Stay away from chewy, sticky, and crunchy foods. You should be doing this anyway with a fixed retainer to keep it from becoming detached—and if it’s already loose, no need to make it more so!

  • Ask us about over-the-counter mouthguards.

Check to see if an OTC, customizable mouthguard is a good idea to keep your teeth from shifting if you can’t visit Excel Dental and Orthodontics right away.

We started off by saying that accidents can happen even with the best of care. So you can imagine what can happen without the best of care. Keep your retainer in its case, keep it away from heat, don’t eat foods that can harm your retainer—all the precautions that make accidents unlikely to happen.

But if something awful befalls your retainer, call our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office right away. Why aren’t we suggesting ways to fix your broken retainer with the supplies you have in your home toolbox? Because the best life hack of all for someone with a damaged retainer is to leave the fixing to a dental professional.

What is a root canal?

July 5th, 2023

A root canal entails the removal of the nerve supply from a tooth. If you know the purpose of a root canal, the process may seem a little less intimidating.

Dr. Lapsi will explain the steps in person before your scheduled root canal. Here are some reasons why you may need one and how it will be done when you visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office for your appointment.

Let’s look at the parts of a tooth. Teeth are made up of layers. The outside is the enamel you see, which is composed of minerals. The middle layer is called dentin. It is less dense and made of calcified tissues.

The center of the tooth, also known as the pulp, holds the nerves and blood vessels. When a tooth has decayed or been infected all the way down to the pulp, a root canal is used to remove and replace the root with a filling.

A cavity, sudden trauma, severe cracks, or other events that may cause nerve damage can start an infection of the root of your tooth. You may notice an infection if you experience abnormal pain, swelling, sensitivity, or change in tooth appearance.

Don’t hesitate to contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office to schedule an examination if you notice these symptoms. We may need to take X-rays of the problem tooth to find out if a root canal is necessary.

Once an appointment is scheduled for a root canal and we’re ready to begin the procedure, you’ll be given anesthesia to keep you comfortable. The problem tooth will be isolated and sterilized. We work to remove all the infected area after that.

The treatment will include getting rid of nerve tissue and blood vessels, then filling in the spot where the nerve used to be. A crown is placed over the area to secure enamel from breaking down in the future and prevent the potential loss of the tooth. The root canal can block the possibility of having your tooth extracted due to decay or infection.

If you have further questions about root canals or notice any new issues in your mouth, please don’t hesitate to call our office and speak with a member of our staff. We’d be happy to answer your questions and schedule an appointment for you to come and get your problem tooth checked out.

Don’t forget: You can avoid having to undergo a root canal if we catch the problem early on!

Thirsty? We Have Some Ideas on Tap

June 28th, 2023

No, we don’t mean the latest foamy offering from your favorite microbrewery. When you’re thirsty, one of the best options available is literally at your fingertips—tap water, straight from your faucet. It might not be the most adventurous choice, but drinking a tall glass of fresh tap water is refreshing in so many healthy ways.

Physical Health

Water conveniently available at home is much more than a convenience. We need to keep hydrated, because our bodies are made to run on water. To name just a few of its benefits, water provides nutrients to organs and cells, eliminates waste, regulates our temperature, and protects our joints and delicate tissues. Dr. Lapsi and our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills team will tell you all about the importance of proper hydration when it comes to your mouth, gums, and teeth, but here are a few highlights:

  • We need to be hydrated to produce enough saliva. Saliva, which is more than 90% water, helps prevent cavities and protect enamel by both washing away bacteria and balancing acids in the mouth which can cause decay.
  • Tooth enamel is so strong because it’s made of calcium and phosphate. These minerals are leached from our enamel by both bacteria-produced acids and dietary acids. Saliva also contains calcium and phosphate, and, with fluoride, restores these minerals in our enamel, leaving teeth stronger and less likely to develop cavities.
  • As a bonus, a quick rinse with water when you can’t brush after eating is a great way to remove food particles left behand—especially healthy when you’ve had sugary or acidic foods.

Ecological Health

If you want to reduce waste, one of the easiest ways to do so is to use tap water instead of bottled water.

  • Bottled water has a carbon footprint. It takes energy (and additional water) to create plastic and glass bottles, to label them, and to transport them. Water piped into your home from local sources? No bottles, labels, or long road trips necessary.
  • Water bottles should be recycled. Unfortunately, many cities don’t offer, or have stopped offering, recycling. Plastic and glass empties end up in landfills, littering our neighborhoods, or in our waters.

Budget Health

Getting your daily hydration from bottles can add up quickly.

  • Bottled water can cost hundreds of times as much as tap water. While local water prices vary, the average gallon of tap water costs less than a penny. No matter what kind of sale your local store is offering, bottled water will never be the bargain tap water is.
  • When you buy many small bottles instead of a few larger ones, or choose more expensive “designer” water, your costs can mount up even more.
  • When you need to bring water with you for work, sports, or other activities, consider filling a reusable bottle with water from home.

Dental Health

Getting the recommended amount of fluoride in your diet is one of the single best things you can do for your dental health. Fortunately, many communities make this easy for us by providing fluoridated drinking water.

  • Fluoride works with the calcium and phosphate in your saliva to create stronger enamel, so cavities can’t form as easily when your teeth are exposed to plaque and food particles.
  • Fluoride helps strengthen your child’s permanent teeth as they develop, and helps prevent cavities in both baby teeth and permanent teeth as children grow.
  • If your community doesn’t offer fluoridated water, ask Dr. Lapsi for the best way to get the fluoride you need to protect your teeth.

For the good of your body, your planet, your wallet, and last, but most certainly not least, the health of your teeth and gums, consider a glass of water. So many benefits—and you have them all on tap!

Shark Teeth

June 28th, 2023

It seems like sharks are everywhere these days—on land, sea, and air(waves). A halftime show meme gone viral. A week of summer TV devoted to our favorite apex predators. And who doesn’t have “Baby Shark” playing in their heads all day once they’ve heard it? But are we jumping the shark to discuss this topic in an orthodontic blog?

Not at all! Because today, we’re going to talk about shark teeth—just not the ones you might be expecting.

One of the expected sights when a shark opens its mouth are those rows and rows of shiny shark teeth. Sharks can grow from two to 15 rows of teeth at any one time (and some sharks have even more). This means sharp new teeth are always ready to replace any shark tooth which is lost, broken, or worn out.

An unexpected sight? When children point to their new adult tooth or teeth coming in—right behind their still-firmly rooted baby teeth! This double set of teeth is called “shark teeth,” and, while it certainly might come as a surprise, it’s not all that uncommon. But why do children develop shark teeth at all?

After all, baby, or primary, teeth have small roots, and are designed to come out easily when the adult teeth start arriving. When a permanent tooth starts to erupt, it pushes against the root of the baby tooth above it. This pressure gradually dissolves the root of the primary tooth, and with nothing to anchor it, it’s now loose, wiggly, and ready to fall out. That’s why baby teeth often look like they have no roots at all when they eventually wiggle free.

Sometimes, though, the roots of a primary tooth don’t break down, which means baby teeth stay right where they are. It also means that the permanent teeth have to erupt somewhere else—usually behind those stubborn little baby teeth.

Shark teeth can first appear around the ages of five to seven when the permanent front teeth start arriving, or several years later, when the adult molars begin to come in. Any extra teeth in one small jaw naturally raise concerns about tooth misalignment, especially when those extra teeth are molars. If double molars are causing crowding, it’s a good time for your child to have an orthodontic examination at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office to make sure the permanent teeth are properly positioned.

Unlike sharks, we don’t have an endless supply of replacement teeth, so it’s understandable to worry when you see anything unexpected. If you want to know more about shark teeth, or if you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to call Dr. Lapsi for expert advice.

I Only Have One Crooked Tooth. Should I See an Orthodontist?

June 22nd, 2023

Your smile is just about perfect. There’s just that one tooth that’s out of place. So, do you really need to see an orthodontist?

Absolutely! Why? There are several good reasons.

First, let’s check to make sure there is no physical problem causing that turned tooth. A crooked tooth might result from an early oral trauma while the tooth is developing, or a baby tooth lost too early, or the loss of a nearby adult tooth. But a sudden change in a tooth’s orientation might also be caused by a cyst or a tumor. If you notice any changes in your tooth’s position, it’s a good idea to talk to Dr. Lapsi.

Second, we want to make sure your bite is aligned properly. If your tooth is crooked due to crowding by your other teeth, or if it has rotated a bit because there is too much space between your teeth, your bite might be affected as well. Malocclusions, or bad bites, can lead to a number of unpleasant consequences, including headaches, jaw pain, and increased pressure and stress on the teeth.

Third, a crooked tooth can lead to more difficulty brushing and flossing between and around the teeth, which increases the chance of tooth decay.

Fourth, we provide the professional medical care you need. Some people with a turned tooth attempt self-help with rubber bands, dental floss, or other home remedies. Not only is this unlikely to work, it can actually lead to infection, root problems, and even tooth loss.

Maybe there are no health concerns causing, or caused by, your crooked tooth. Your bite is strong, and you like your unique smile just the way it is. In that case, smile on!

But if you are interested in aligning that one crooked tooth with the rest, give our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office a call, and we’ll get to the root (literally!) of the problem. Depending on the reason your tooth is twisted, we’ll suggest the braces or clear aligners that will provide your most effective orthodontic treatment, and give you safe and lasting options for achieving the smile you’ve always wanted. Perfect!

What’s on Your Orthodontic Calendar?

June 22nd, 2023

Did you know that there’s a World Orthodontic Health Day in May? Or that National Orthodontic Health Month takes place in October? You may not have circled these days on the calendar—in fact, this might be the first time you’ve heard about them! But celebrating these special days is just one way that orthodontists share the health benefits of orthodontic treatment with us.

That’s because orthodontic treatment is about more than creating a beautiful smile. With the help of Dr. Lapsi, you might also be creating:

  • Healthier Teeth and Gums

When your teeth are aligned, it’s easier to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Crowded, crooked, or overlapping teeth make it harder to brush and floss as effectively. Plaque that builds up in those hard-to-reach places on the tooth enamel helps create cavities. And over time, built-up plaque turns into tartar, a leading cause of receding gums and gum disease. Straight, properly spaced teeth make efficient brushing and flossing a breeze!

  • A Comfortable, Functional Bite

A malocclusion, or bad bite, occurs when the teeth and jaws don’t align properly. In a healthy bite, teeth aren’t crowded, twisted, or spaced too widely apart. The top teeth should slightly overlap the lower teeth. And the ridges of your upper molars should fit smoothly with the grooves of the lower molars.

If your bite is off, you’ve probably noticed chewing pain, headaches, or jaw pain. Over time, malocclusions can lead to worn enamel, cracked teeth, and tooth grinding, and have been linked to mouth breathing, which dries out the mouth and isn’t good for your dental health. Braces or aligners, with other appliances if needed, can not only correct a malocclusion, but prevent the very uncomfortable side effects of a bad bite.

  • Improved Facial Symmetry

Malocclusions affect facial symmetry. Underbites occur when the lower jaw is too large, while small lower jaws can cause serious overbites. Bite problems can mean overjets (also called “buck teeth”), or open bites (where the front teeth don’t touch when the mouth is closed). Crossbites result in one or more upper teeth fitting inside the lower teeth. These conditions can affect both facial balance and profile.

With the use of braces and appliances like palatal expanders, Herbst® appliances, or headgear, Dr. Lapsi can guide jawbone development while a child’s bones are still growing. For older patients, we can design a treatment plan to align teeth, correct malocclusion, and improve facial symmetry.

  • Psychological Benefits

We can’t forget the invisible benefit of orthodontic treatment: a happy, comfortable smile is a great confidence-booster! If you’re reluctant to share your smile with the world, a visit to Dr. Lapsi can let you know just what to expect from treatment, and just how it can improve your life.

Because it’s so important to both our dental health and our overall well-being, we’re happy to celebrate orthodontic health on special days throughout the year. And let’s also celebrate the fact that there’s no calendar deadline when it comes to scheduling a healthier smile! Whether it’s early treatment for younger children to guide jaw growth, or the common orthodontic treatment window during the teen years, or adult treatment to create the smile you’ve always wanted, help is available at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office whenever you’re ready to set the date!

Ouch! Are You Biting Your Cheeks More Often?

June 15th, 2023

You’re biting into something delicious, and, Ouch! You bite into something you didn’t mean to—the inside of your tender cheek.

Painful moments like this happen every now and again. But if you find that more frequent cheek biting means that you’re extra-cautious when eating or speaking, if you wake up with sore cheeks in the morning, or if you catch yourself gnawing on your cheeks during the day, it’s time to see Dr. Lapsi.

Causes of Cheek Biting

Many of us experience the occasional cheek chomp when we’re eating or talking. No fun! Besides the pain, a bite can cause broken skin, inflammation, a canker sore, or a cyst. Luckily, the discomfort from these accidental bites generally resolves after a few days.  

Sometimes, though, biting becomes a more frequent annoyance. Regular bites can be caused by several conditions. One of the most common?

  • Orthodontic Misalignment

If you notice that you seem to be biting your cheek a lot when eating or speaking, it could be an orthodontic problem. When your teeth or jaws don’t align properly, if your mouth is small in proportion to your teeth, or if your teeth have shifted over time, your cheeks can feel the consequences! Dr. Lapsi can help you discover if a misaligned bite is the source of your biting problems.

But it’s not just orthodontic problems which can cause painful cheek bites. Other causes can include:

  • Bruxism

Bruxism is a medical term for tooth grinding. If you clench or grind your teeth as you sleep, it’s hard on your teeth and on your jaws. And for some people, that nightly gnashing causes cheek biting as well.

  • Wisdom Teeth

Most of us don’t have the room to welcome four new—and large—teeth. As the wisdom teeth come in, they can cause bites, especially if they erupt leaning outward toward your cheeks. They can also push your other teeth out of place.

Treatment Options

Why visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills orthodontic office? A one-time bite can be extremely uncomfortable, and might lead to inflammation or a sore spot inside your mouth. Usually, these reactions fade in a short while.

But what about continuous biting? Regular biting injuries can lead to bigger problems. Tissue can get thicker or erode. Scar tissue can build up inside the mouth. Ulcers and other sores can become larger and more painful.

If you’ve been biting your cheeks more often, your orthodontist can diagnose the cause and offer you treatment options depending on the reason for this frequent biting:

  • Orthodontic Treatment

Orthodontic treatment can improve tooth and bite alignment—and can eliminate those painful cheek bites if misalignment is what’s causing them. Today’s orthodontics offers more options than ever before, for both adults and kids.

  • Traditional braces are more effective—and more subtle—than ever, with brackets which are smaller or come in clear and ceramic styles.
  • Clear aligners are a convenient, almost invisible way to treat misalignment with a series of trays which gradually improve alignment with each new set.
  • Lingual braces are attached to the back of the teeth, so there are no visible brackets and wires.
  • Functional appliances can improve and correct bite issues which braces or aligners alone can’t treat as effectively.

Whatever the reason for painful cheek biting, you deserve to eat and speak and enjoy your day without constant “Ouch!” moments affecting your comfort and health. If these moments are happening all too often, visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office for the answers to your biting problems.

Healthy Gums and Older Adults

June 15th, 2023

One of the most important parts of staying healthy as we grow older is being open to learning new ways of staying healthy! While worrying about braces or wisdom teeth might be a thing of the past, there are new dental concerns that come with mature years. Taking care of our gums is one way to maintain not only our dental health, but to look out for our overall health as well.

  • Periodontal disease is preventable for older adults

While gum disease is all-too-common among older adults, it isn’t really a result of the aging process itself. If you have been keeping a regular schedule of brushing and flossing (two minutes twice a day), and have been making routine visits to our office for exams and cleaning, you probably have avoided gum disease. But if you have been neglecting your dental care, gingivitis and periodontitis are conditions that only become more serious over time.

The first symptoms of gingivitis include puffy, swollen gums that may bleed easily. Persistent bad breath and changes in the bite or the fit of dentures are also indications of gum disease. As gum disease progresses it leads to periodontitis. The gum tissue pulls away from the teeth, leaving deep pockets of tissue where plaque can collect and infections can develop. Infection, left untreated, can lead to loose teeth and even bone and tooth loss.

The good news? It is never too late to treat gum disease. Most gingivitis is reversible, and modern periodontal treatment makes use of deep cleaning, antibiotics, and even gum surgery to restore gum health. Don’t let past neglect lead to future tooth loss. We are happy to see you any time to treat your gums and teeth and to let you know ways to protect them for a happy, healthy future.

What new concerns do we face as we age?

  • Our gums recede.

This natural recession can lead to the exposure of the root areas of the teeth, which are more vulnerable to cavities. It’s very important to keep up with brushing, flossing, and regular check-ups to catch potential small problems before they become big ones.

  • Old fillings and dental work can break down.

Call our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office any time you notice a problem with a filling, and keep up with exams, where we can pinpoint fillings that need replacement and detect cavities that can develop near the edges of old work.

  • Medications can cause side effects that affect our gums.

Some medications cause the growth of puffy gum tissue. Some can cause dry mouth, which can lead to gum disease. Always let us know about any health conditions you have or medications you may be taking. We can suggest a number of options to reduce or eliminate effects on your mouth and gums.

  • Gum health and our overall health—what’s the connection?

While no one has discovered an absolute relationship between gum disease and other health problems, there is growing evidence that higher rates of diabetes complications, heart disease, and stroke are linked to higher levels of gum disease. Make your medical and dental health a priority.

  • Smoking risks increase with age.

Studies have shown smokers have not only a greater risk of gum disease, but more severe gum disease as well. Your risk of developing oral cancer also increases with every year you smoke. It is never too late to quit! Talk to us about suggestions for breaking the habit once and for all, and be sure to keep up with regular checkups for early detection and treatment of any oral diseases caused by smoking.

Please let us know any changes that have taken place in your dental habits, medical condition, or medications. Talk to us about any periodontal concerns you may have, or the latest dental procedures we offer for gum care and treatment. We can let you know about products that can make brushing and flossing easier as you age.

It’s never too late or too early to think about taking care of yourself. We are happy to offer suggestions for maintaining or restoring your dental health that will serve you well in any chapter of your life.

Importance of Oral Hygiene with Braces

June 7th, 2023

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Proper oral hygiene techniques are always worthwhile, but they are especially crucial when you’re wearing orthodontic appliances such as braces. When you don’t maintain an effective oral hygiene routine, you can be more susceptible to gum disease as well as tooth decay, cavities, decalcification, discoloration, and/or staining of the teeth.

Braces themselves don’t cause these issues, but since they create spaces that are difficult to clean, they provide extra sources of food (dental plaque and food debris) for the bacteria that do. Bacteria create a biofilm on the surface of a tooth that can spread if not addressed. That bacteria food can only be removed by a mechanical action: brushing and flossing your teeth!

Here’s a list of smart hygiene steps to follow for the duration of your braces treatment:

Proper tooth brushing technique: Make sure to brush your teeth thoroughly (for a total of about two minutes), but not too hard. Point the head of the toothbrush at the gum line and brush just hard enough so that you feel slight pressure against the gums. Use a soft, small-headed toothbrush or an electric toothbrush if you’d like. Try your best always to clean on and around every tooth, bracket, and wire in your mouth!

Flossing: Braces can make flossing a chore, but it’s an essential adjunct to proper tooth brushing. Make sure to floss between all your teeth and brackets. Dr. Lapsi can provide you with braces floss threaders and interproximal toothbrushes (small brushes used to clean areas under wires and between brackets) to make the task easier. You might also consider purchasing an oral irrigator that uses a stream of water to blast food particles and debris from between teeth and gums.

Rinse with water: This may sound slight, but it’s a good idea, especially if you aren’t able to brush. Rinsing your mouth with water throughout the day helps to dislodge the decay-causing food particles that become lodged in braces.

Hygiene away from home: It’s a good idea to have a kit with a toothbrush, floss, floss threaders, mirror, and small water cup on hand at school or work. That way, you’ll be sure to have all the tools you need to keep your mouth clean.

Regular professional cleanings: As always, it’s best to visit your dentist regularly to verify everything in your mouth is in order and your oral hygiene routine is effective. Twice a year is sufficient, unless the dentist recommends more frequent visits.

It's vital to keep your teeth and gums clean during your braces treatment, and that requires your care and attention. If feel like you need help with any of the techniques above, a member of our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills team can demonstrate them for you!

How do I know if I’m at risk for oral cancer?

May 31st, 2023

Every year, over 50,000 North Americans are diagnosed with oral or throat cancer, which has a higher death rate than many other common cancers, including cervical cancer, testicular cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and thyroid or skin cancers. The high death rate results from the fact that most oral cancers go undiagnosed until the disease is well advanced and has spread to another part of the body, most often, the lymph nodes in the neck.

Because oral cancer is typically painless in its early stages and often goes undetected until it spreads, many patients aren’t diagnosed until they are already suffering from chronic pain or loss of function. However, if detected early, Dr. Lapsi and our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics want you to know that early detection of oral cancer improves the survival rate to 80 percent or more.

If you visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office regularly, you have probably received an oral cancer screening and didn’t even realize it. That’s because the exam is quick and painless; Dr. Lapsi and our team check your neck and mouth for signs of oral cancer such as discolorations, lumps, or any changes to your tissue. Oral cancer is typically found on the tongue, lips, gums, the floor of the mouth, or tissues in back of the tongue.

Factors that may influence your risk for developing oral cancer include:

  • Use of tobacco products. Smoking cigarettes, cigars, a pipe, or chewing tobacco all elevate risk for developing oral cancer. Tobacco use especially is a serious risk factor because it contains substances called carcinogens, which are harmful to cells in your mouth.
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol. Those who drink alcohol regularly have an elevated risk of getting oral cancer. Alcohol abuse (more than 21 drinks in one week) is the second largest risk factor for the development of oral cancer, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
  • Excessive sun exposure. Those who spend lots of time outdoors and do not use proper amounts of sunscreen or lip balm have a greater risk for developing lip cancer. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight may also cause melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.
  • Your age. Oral cancer is typically a disease that affects older people, usually because of their longer exposure to other risk factors. Most patients diagnosed with oral cancer are over the age of 40.
  • Your gender. Oral cancer strikes men twice as often as it does women.
  • A history with viral infections, such as human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables.

In between your visits to our office, it is critical for you to be aware of the following signs and symptoms, and give us a call if these symptoms don’t go away after two weeks.

  • A sore or irritation that doesn’t disappear
  • Red or white patches
  • Pain, tenderness, or numbness in mouth or lips
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your jaw or tongue
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth

During your next visit, Dr. Lapsi will examine your mouth for signs of oral cancer. If you have been putting off a visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office for your regular checkup, now is an excellent time to schedule one. Regular visits can be the first line of defense against oral cancer because we can identify early warning signs of the disease. Give us a call today!

Five Tips for Taking Tots to the Dentist

May 31st, 2023

Toddlers are notoriously balky about strangers. But their first dental visit should not be cause for fear and tears. Nor should you assume that getting your toddler to Excel Dental and Orthodontics is going to involve a full-blown tantrum or Mafia-style bribery. “Honey, don’t worry. We’ll go get ice cream after…” sort of defeats the purpose of making that first dental appointment.

These five tips will make your toddler’s trip to see Dr. Lapsi as fun as a stop at an amusement park.

1. Before you make a dental appointment for your child, take him or her on a ride-along to one of your dental appointments. Let your son or daughter experience the office and get the lay of the land. Toddlers don’t like surprises. But if your little one is already familiar with the big chair that goes up and down, the next time he or she will have no problem taking a seat.

2. About the big dental chair … well, it’s really an amusement park ride. See how it goes up and down? Toddlers love games, and turning the trip to the dentist into a game is among the oldest (and most successful) tricks in the parent playbook.

3. Positive reinforcement is a good thing. That's why Dr. Lapsi and our staff hand out cool toothbrushes or stickers to children after their appointment. A fun-colored toothbrush with a suction bottom is a good incentive to come back for another cleaning.

4. Timing is everything. Don’t take your child to the dentist an hour before the daily nap. Make the appointment with your child’s schedule in mind. This increases the chances of success.

5. A few days before the scheduled appointment, start reading your toddler bedtimes stories about what happens at the dentist. Dora the Explorer’s Show Me Your Smile, written by Christine Ricci, is a popular dental story that your child might relate to.

Foods that are Safe for Braces

May 24th, 2023

Orthodontic braces are used to straighten the teeth, which not only creates a more pleasing appearance, but also helps prevent tooth decay and other oral health problems. Braces are only effective when they are properly cared for, however. Certain foods, for example, are better suited for individuals who have braces, as opposed to hard and sticky foods that can cause damage. So, what types of foods should you or your kids eat to protect dental appliances?

The best foods to eat with braces are those that are not high in sugar and do not require excessive chewing. For breakfast, try eggs, yogurt, bacon, wheat toast, or oatmeal. Lunch may steer toward a banana rather than an apple, a salad without nuts, and a glass of water. If you are looking for some after-school snacks for your kids, consider baked tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole, or try string cheese with fruit.

A healthy dinner can include most types of vegetables, so long as they are cooked to an appropriate softness. Pair that with a lean protein, such as fish or chicken, and follow up with dessert. Just be sure to brush afterward!

Post-Tightening Foods

As braces begin to adjust the alignment of the teeth, our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics will periodically tighten them to continue the alignment process. After tightening occurs, the teeth may be sore and sensitive to certain foods. During this time, it is best to eat soft foods. Examples include:

  • Pudding
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Soup
  • Ice cream
  • Cottage cheese
  • Peas
  • Pancakes
  • Pasta

Foods to Avoid

Anyone who wears braces – whether fixed or removable – should avoid excessive snacking and should aim to eat a healthy and balanced diet. It is also important to avoid foods that could cause damage to the braces, such as:

  • Hard candies
  • Gum
  • Nuts
  • Popcorn
  • Certain raw vegetables (for example, carrots)

Considerations

Regardless of what types of foods you eat with braces, it is important to keep the crevices between the teeth and around the braces very clean. That means brushing and flossing after meals to prevent the build-up of plaque and decay. Not only can failing to do so damage the teeth, but it can also cause discoloration.

Have more questions about orthodontic treatment? The Excel Dental and Orthodontics staff is always ready to answer all of your questions and help you get the most out of the treatment plan prescribed for you by Dr. Lapsi!

Mouthguard Protection

May 24th, 2023

Let’s talk about mouthguards.

We could talk about how important wearing a mouthguard is when you lead an active life. If you play sports, ride bikes, skateboard, or participate in many other kinds of exercise, mouthguards protect your teeth, mouth tissue, and jaws from accidents. 

Or we could talk about how wearing a mouthguard while you’re wearing braces has extra benefits. Besides its normal protection, your guard helps protect your brackets and wires from damaging contact, and your delicate mouth tissue from impact with your braces.

But we’re not going to talk about any of these important topics today. Instead of looking at how your mouthguard protects you, today we’re going to look at how you can protect your mouthguard.

If you want your guard to last longer, work better, and stay (and smell!) cleaner, some basic tips make all the difference.

  • Keep your guard clean.

This can’t be stressed enough. Without a good cleaning routine, your guard can become discolored, develop an unpleasant odor, and even cause illness. Not very appealing, right? Happily, keeping your mouthguard clean isn’t difficult.

When you wear your guard, the same plaque that is present in your mouth makes itself at home in your appliance. And when your guard is in its case, that dark, moist environment makes it a perfect breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

As soon as you take your mouthguard out, rinse it off. Brush with a soft toothbrush to remove all the plaque, saliva, or food debris that might be lingering in your appliance. (If you are on the playing field, in the park, or at some other inconvenient location, rinse it and brush as soon as you can.) Toothpaste can help get your guard its cleanest, but can be too abrasive for some appliances.

Once you’ve cleaned it, let your guard air dry in a clean spot for about 30 minutes. Air drying helps prevent bacterial growth. After your guard has dried, return it to its case.

Once a week, you might need to give your mouthguard a good soak in a mouthwash or other dental cleaning solution.

Since cleaning instructions can be different depending on which type of mouthguard you have, be sure to follow our instructions if you have a custom guard, or clean as directed by the manufacturer if you have a store guard.

  • Keep it safe.

When your mouthguard isn’t in your mouth, it should be in its case. Floating loose in your locker or tumbling around in your gym bag puts your guard at risk for breakage and bacteria.

And don’t forget to clean your case thoroughly every few days and air dry it as well. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, mold, and other unwelcome guests can collect in your case, too.

  • Keep it only as long as it’s in good condition.

You can purchase mouthguards from sporting or drug stores, or Dr. Lapsi can make you a mouthguard designed to fit your teeth and braces perfectly. These appliances are made to be strong and durable, but they’re not indestructible. Over time they can wear down or become damaged, especially if you treat them carelessly.

Bacteria can lurk in dents and cracks, and you can cut your mouth on rough, sharp, or broken edges. But if your mouthguard isn’t fitting properly, don’t resort to self-help! Trying to repair, reshape, or trim your appliance yourself is not a good idea, because it might affect its fit and protective ability.

Any sign that your guard isn’t fitting properly or shows signs of wear and tear could mean it’s time for a replacement. You can replace a store model, or see Dr. Lapsi about replacing or repairing your custom guard. A mouthguard that doesn’t fit, doesn’t keep you safe.

Take care of your guard, and it will take care of you. The reward for the small amount of time and effort you put into caring for your mouthguard is braces that will last through your treatment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office and a smile that will last you for a lifetime. Those are benefits we can talk about all day!

What to Do If You Lose a Filling

May 17th, 2023

It really doesn’t happen very often. But sometimes you bite into something that is much harder than you anticipated. Sometimes you grind your teeth without realizing the pressure you’re putting on them. Sometimes you have a cavity that has stealthily developed beneath an earlier filling. And the result is—sometimes you lose a filling.

What to do when this happens? If you’re at a loss for ideas, we have some suggestions.

  • Don’t panic

Usually, a cracked, broken, or lost filling is not an emergency situation. That being said, it’s still important to . . .

  • Call us immediately

Dr. Lapsi will be able to give you the best advice as to how to take care of your tooth until you can make an appointment. And if your dental problem might be a dental emergency, we can make sure you are seen as soon as possible.

  • Take care of your tooth

Keep your tooth and the area around it clean. Brush gently to keep food particles away from the newly exposed tooth surface. You can (carefully) rinse around the area with a bit of water or salt water as recommended.

Your lost filling might not inconvenience you at all. But if you feel sensitivity when the tooth is exposed to air, or when you eat hot or cold foods, or if you feel pain when you bite down, let us know. We can recommend some over the counter medications and pain relievers that can help.

If you’re experiencing severe pain, call us at once.

  • Diet

This might not be the time for sticky caramels, frozen treats, or extra-hot beverages. Make yourself comfortable by avoiding chewing with your compromised tooth, and postponing foods that could trigger sensitivity.

  • Make a dental appointment as soon as you can

Don’t put off treatment, even if the filling was a small one, and even if the tooth is causing you no discomfort.

There might be further damage or decay that should be treated. A tooth that required a large filling is often more fragile than an intact tooth, and might need to be fitted with a crown in order to protect it. A missing filling might reveal deep decay which has exposed the pulp of the tooth to infection or damage, and a root canal might be necessary. A seriously damaged tooth might require extraction. Delaying treatment could result in a more complex restoration.

See us as soon as you discover a problem with your filling, and we will make sure not only that your tooth is treated appropriately, but that the reason for the lost filling is discovered. While no filling lasts forever, if the cause of your lost filling is tooth grinding or decay, it’s important to be proactive to prevent further problems.

Losing a filling? It really doesn’t happen very often. But that’s not a lot of comfort if you do happen to lose or break a filling. If you’re at a loss for what to do next, contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office. You’ll find yourself smiling again in no time!

Are you too sensitive?

May 10th, 2023

We’re not talking about tearing up at the end of a sad movie, or that uncomfortable scratchy feeling you get from a coarse wool sweater—no shame in that kind of sensitivity! But it is a shame if you’re feeling unpleasant tooth sensitivity, especially while you’re wearing braces. No fear—we have some helpful ideas to make you more comfortable as you create your healthy, confident smile.

What do we mean by tooth sensitivity? You know it if you’ve felt it. Pain when you have a cold drink. Or a hot one. Or a sweet treat. Wincing when a light breeze hits your smile. Discomfort after an adjustment.

Fortunately, these annoying twinges can be avoided or eased with some proactive practices.

Keep Up with Your Brushing and Flossing

The oral bacteria in plaque break down enamel when they’re left on the teeth for too long. The result is a cavity, which leaves your sensitive dentin, the layer of the tooth between the enamel and the inner pulp chamber, exposed to elements which can trigger pain. These all-too-common elements include heat, cold, air, or sweet foods. If you suspect you have a cavity, a visit to the dentist will make sure your tooth is cleaned and filled to prevent further damage.

Better yet, prevent cavities before they cause tooth sensitivity. It can be harder to keep your teeth their cleanest while you’re in braces, but it’s more important than ever. You don’t want to have brackets and wires removed, even temporarily, to treat a cavity! You can keep decay at bay by:

  • Brushing after every meal and snack.
  • Flossing whenever necessary, making sure to clean around your brackets and wires.
  • Using cleaning tools made for braces for the easiest and most effective dental hygiene.

Avoid Aggressive Brushing

If you’re using anything other than a soft toothbrush, time for a shopping trip! Using a stiff bristled brush is almost always too abrasive for even the strongest enamel. And vigorous brushing is more harmful than helpful. Poor tools and poor technique can wear away enamel, and, when enamel is worn away, the more sensitive dentin is exposed. Your gums can also be injured, exposing the tops of your roots—which are more sensitive than the enameled crowns.

If your teeth are sensitive because of abrasive brushing, talk to Dr. Lapsi about possible solutions for keeping your teeth both clean and strong.

  • Use a softer-bristled brush.
  • Try toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth.
  • Practice proper brushing technique. Gently rub, don’t scrub!

Care for Yourself after Adjustments

Your teeth might be sensitive after an adjustment. This discomfort is normal, and should pass in a few days. In the meantime, treat yourself kindly.

  • Brush as usual, taking special care to brush gently.
  • Fill your menu with soft and soothing foods. Cool treats like classic ice cream and pudding, or healthier choices like frozen yogurt and fruit smoothies. Comfort foods like cream soups and mashed potatoes. Or all-day breakfasts of oatmeal, pillowy pancakes, or scrambled eggs.
  • Take over the counter medication as recommended and as necessary.

Be sensitive to your needs while you’re in braces. If you’re feeling any kind of tooth sensitivity, talk to Dr. Lapsi at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office. We have solutions which will make sure you’re both comfortable and twinge-free on your journey to a healthy, attractive smile!

Midline Misalignment

May 10th, 2023

By and large, the human body is a marvel of symmetry. But, of course, no one is perfect. You might have noticed one ear is a bit higher than the other. That you wear a shoe a half-size bigger on your left foot. That one shirtsleeve always looks longer.

Or that your smile looks off-center. This dental asymmetry could be caused by a condition known as “midline misalignment,” and, unlike that left foot, you can do something about it!

The dividing line between our center teeth, upper and lower, is called the midline. If we draw an imaginary line down the middle of a face, from the forehead to the nose to the midpoint of the chin, that line should go right between the front teeth. When it doesn’t, because the teeth have shifted past the midpoint, it’s often due to a condition called midline misalignment.

This kind of misalignment, also known as a deviated midline, can have several causes:

  • Baby teeth that are lost too early

Baby teeth do more than promote healthy eating and speech development. They also reserve space for permanent teeth. If a primary tooth is lost too early, permanent teeth might “drift” to fill the empty space, causing the midline to move as well.

  • Thumb sucking that goes on too long

As a child gets older, and certainly when by the time permanent teeth start to arrive, aggressive thumb sucking can lead to numerous orthodontic problems, including a deviated midline, as the teeth shift in response to that continuous pressure.

  • Missing adult teeth

When you lose a tooth through decay or trauma, or when an adult tooth simply never develops, the remaining teeth can shift over to fill the open spot.

  • Spacing issues

Crowded teeth, teeth with significant gaps between them, very large teeth, very small teeth—all of these issues can affect spacing and midline alignment.

  • Crossbite

A crossbite is a kind of malocclusion, or bite problem. When you have a crossbite, the teeth don’t fit together properly, with upper teeth fitting inside lower teeth, instead of aligning on the outside where they belong. A deviated midline can indicate a posterior crossbite, where the top back teeth slant inwards or fit inside the bottom back teeth.

A tiny bit of midline shift one way or the other might be nothing to worry about, but if one front tooth is literally the center of attention, or if your teeth are noticeably out of alignment, it’s a good idea to talk to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills orthodontic team.

Because there are several potential causes for midline misalignment, Dr. Lapsi will carefully analyze your individual situation to determine where the problem lies: with the teeth, the bite, or, rarely, the jaw itself.

Dr. Lapsi will also offer you your best dental treatment options. A shift of a few millimeters might be treated with clear aligners or traditional braces. A crossbite could require braces or aligners coupled with elastics (rubber bands) to bring your bite into alignment. A palatal expander can help correct a serious crossbite.

Why visit Excel Dental and Orthodontics because of a little asymmetry? Because a deviated midline is more than a cosmetic concern. If you have a malocclusion to begin with, or if your misalignment leads to changes in chewing habits, which cause new bite problems, you might be facing jaw pain, chipped and cracked teeth, headaches, and all the other unpleasant consequences of malocclusion.

By and large, perfect symmetry in life is unattainable. But if you want a smile that is well-balanced and healthy, talk to us about all the treatments available to make sure your smile—and not a single tooth—is the center of attention.

Bracing for the Heat? Try These Braces-Friendly Summer Treats!

May 3rd, 2023

Summer means sun and heat and delicious, frosty treats to keep you cool while you’re enjoying the sun and heat. If you’re wearing braces this summer, not to worry! Dr. Lapsi and our team have plenty of ideas for icy treats to help you beat the heat.

  • Fruit Smoothies

Low on refined sugars, high on vitamins and minerals, refreshing, delicious, easy on brackets and wires—what’s not to like about fruit smoothies? And if you want to up the nutritional value by adding some green vegetables to the blender, even better!

If you’re buying your smoothie instead of making it yourself, watch out for added sugars in ingredients like ice cream, sherbet, frozen yogurt, and sweetened fruit juice. It can be more challenging to keep your teeth clean with braces, so watching your sugar intake is more important than ever. Try a smoothie made with low-fat yogurt, fruits and/or vegetables, and 100% fruit juice instead. Just as delicious, without extra tablespoons of added sugar.

  • Iced (Herbal, Green, or White) Tea & Frozen Coffee Treats

Coffee and black tea contain compounds called tannins, which can stain tooth enamel and braces. Using a straw can help you limit your enamel’s exposure. If you enjoy a cold, iced beverage occasionally, consider green, white, or herbal iced teas. They don’t stain as much, and many contain healthy antioxidants and other health benefits.

And if you can’t resist that creamy iced coffee beverage? Use a straw to avoid bathing your teeth in the stain-causing tannins and enamel-weakening acids found in coffee. Because these drinks can be full of added sugars, consider reduced-sugar options and skip the toppings.

  • Frozen Treats

When you hear that familiar tune coming from the neighborhood ice cream truck, do you have to stand on the sidewalk, sadly watching it disappear into the distance? Not necessarily!

Milk shakes, ice cream, and frozen yogurt are a refreshing choice in a braces-friendly form—and they contain calcium. Popsicles and fruit bars can be a safe choice if you don’t bite into solid ice. You wouldn’t chew on ice because it could damage your braces, so make sure your frozen bar softens a bit before you enjoy it.

What kinds of frozen treats to avoid? If your favorite flavor of ice cream or your go-to ice cream bar contains hard or chewy additions like nuts and pieces of candy, choose another item from the menu. Surrounding nuts and candies with ice cream doesn’t actually make them any safer for your brackets and wires, and may lead to an unplanned visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills orthodontic office to fix a broken bracket.

We don’t recommend a steady diet of sweet treats, because you want a cavity-free smile when your braces come off. And water is always an excellent summertime choice for both hydration and health. But an occasional frosty dessert is cool and tasty and soothing, especially if you’ve just had an adjustment. Just be sure to brush—or rinse with water if you can’t brush—after indulging. Now, what’s on the menu for fall?

Spring Cleaning

May 3rd, 2023

Just like that, it’s almost summertime. As the spring season ends, perhaps these lighter, brighter days are inspiring you to do a bit of last-minute spring cleaning. Or perhaps they’re not. No judgment here!

What we can recommend wholeheartedly is finishing the season with a clean, sparkling smile. And we have some bright ideas for you!

Refresh Your Cleaning Technique

Tooth brushing can become so automatic that we don’t think about the basics anymore. And suddenly, we’ve finished brushing in half the time we used to, and, hey, how long has that floss been sitting on the counter, anyway? We suggest some mindful cleaning for a healthier smile.

  • Spend two minutes brushing, at least twice each day.
  • Make sure you reach all the surfaces of your teeth, inside, outside, and on top of your molars.
  • Use short, gentle brush strokes, covering a tooth or two at a time.
  • Angle your brush to clean along the gum line. Plaque around the gums leads to irritation and inflammation, and is a common cause of gum disease.
  • Use vertical strokes to clean the inside of your front teeth.
  • Floss at least once each day.

Good Cleaning Requires Good Tools

Since we’re tidying up, let’s talk about some helpful cleaning tools. Is your toothbrush looking a bit—long in the tooth?  

After three to four months of brushing, your toothbrush bristles start to break down. Frayed and matted bristles can’t clean as effectively as a toothbrush in top shape. Each change of season is a good time to remind yourself to change brushes.

And, while you’re shopping, remember:

  • Soft bristles are almost always all any brusher needs. Even medium bristles can be abrasive to tooth enamel. And brush gently—scrubbing is also abrasive.
  • If you use an electric toothbrush, those toothbrush heads need to be replaced, too! In fact, because these brushes often have shorter bristles, heads might need to be replaced every two to three months.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste to clean and protect your teeth.
  • Don’t forget the floss!

If you’re not a fan of your current floss, take another look at the dental aisle in your local store. There are lots of new flossing options out there just waiting to be sampled. If manual flossing is difficult, consider a water flosser. Dr. Lapsi can help you find just the right floss for your one-of-a-kind smile.

And speaking of your dental team . . .

Some Cleaning Jobs Require Professional Help

Dentists typically recommend a professional cleaning at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office twice a year to make sure you’re free from built up plaque and tartar. How does your dental team go about getting your teeth cleaner than you can get them at home? With special training and special tools.

  • Plaque and tartar need to be removed from tooth enamel above and below the gum line to prevent cavities and gum disease, and tartar can only be removed by a dental professional. Your hygienist might use an ultrasonic scaler, a hand scaler, or both to gently scrape away sticky plaque and hard tartar.
  • Teeth are polished with a gentle abrasive to remove surface stains. This can be done with a special toothpaste applied with a small rotating cup, or with an air polisher, which removes stains with a stream of fine abrasive powder, water, and pressurized air.
  • An expert flossing will remove any remaining plaque from between the teeth.

Bonus: Your hygienist can point out spots you’ve been missing to help make your home brushing and flossing more effective.

Clean and Bright

Increasing daylight can brighten your mood—and so can a whiter smile! Over time, smiles get dimmer without our even noticing, thanks to tooth-staining foods and drinks, medications, smoking, or thinning enamel as we age. If you’re feeling self-conscious because your smile isn’t its sparkling best, consider a whitening treatment.

  • Whitening Toothpastes

Whitening toothpastes use chemicals and mild abrasives to remove surface stains caused by foods, beverages, and smoking. If you’d like to give a whitening toothpaste a try, ask Dr. Lapsi for suggestions.

  • Whitening Strips and Gel Trays

Whitening gels can be applied at home with strips or tray kits. These peroxide-based gels are stronger than the formulas used in toothpaste, but can be irritating. Talk to Dr. Lapsi to learn how to achieve the best and safest outcome with these products.

  • Office Treatment

Whitening treatments at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office are generally faster, more effective, and last longer because this process uses a more powerful whitening agent. That’s why it should only be applied by a dental professional, who will examine and prepare your teeth, protect the surrounding gum tissue, and monitor your treatment throughout.

Spring’s coming to an end, but taking care of your dental health is always in season! A clean smile isn’t just a more confident smile, it’s a healthier one. Talk to your dentist for more tips to create your best and brightest smile at any time of year.

Early Orthodontics

April 26th, 2023

Perhaps you are already planning for the years when your teenager will need orthodontic work. But hearing that your seven-year-old would benefit from orthodontic treatment? That might come as a complete surprise! It’s a recommendation with real benefits, though—early intervention can save children from tooth and bite problems now, and even simplify their future orthodontic care.

Treating young children for orthodontic problems is called “interceptive orthodontics.” When the permanent teeth start arriving, there might be problems with spacing, bite or protruding teeth. Often, treatment while the bones are still growing is the best way to prevent more serious problems later.

We recommend that your child have an orthodontic consultation with Dr. Lapsi around the age of seven. This exam is especially important for children who may have been thumb suckers or used a pacifier after the age of three, or if you notice obvious teeth, speech or bite issues.

  • Crowding and Spacing Issues

Teeth are arranged in two crescent shapes called arches. When the arch of your child’s mouth is small, the permanent teeth can become very crowded as they erupt. Formerly, teeth were removed to make more room. Now, early use of a palatal expander can enlarge the upper dental arch in order to help the permanent teeth come in without crowding. The need for future tooth extraction is reduced, and there is a better chance for correct spacing and alignment with early treatment.

On the other hand, when a child loses a tooth too soon, too much space left between baby teeth can also be a problem. The remaining teeth can shift, leaving the wrong place open for the adult tooth to come in. We might recommend a space maintainer so that there is no shifting of the teeth and there is room for the proper adult tooth to erupt in its proper spot.

  • Malocclusions (Bite Problems)

Some malocclusions, like a crossbite, can be caused by problems with jaw and facial structure. Again, we might recommend a palatal expander to help the upper arch of the teeth to fit properly with the lower jaw. Problems with overbite, open bite and other bite issues can also be addressed at this age if necessary. Early care can discourage TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders, reduce speech problems, and improve facial symmetry. 

  • Protruding Front Teeth

Teeth that protrude are much more likely to be damaged when playing or after a fall. Methods such as braces or appliances can reposition them and protect them from breaking or fracturing.

Many children will not need early intervention, and many can wait until they are older for orthodontic work. But if your young child has orthodontic problems that should be addressed, early intervention can do more than set the stage for successful orthodontics in the teen years. Talk to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills team about what we can do for your child. Interceptive orthodontics can protect teeth, guide jaw and speech development, modify harmful oral habits and help to adjust bite problems before they become serious—when it comes to your child’s dental health, the best solutions are early ones!

What kind of toothbrush and toothpaste should my child use?

April 26th, 2023

Dr. Lapsi and our team know that as a parent, you want your child to be as healthy as possible. By now, you probably know that your son or daughter’s oral health plays a huge role in overall health.

When there are so many toothpaste ads and different styles of brush to choose from, it can be difficult to know which will serve your child the best. We recommend you break down the decision process to make it simpler.

First, your child’s age and stage of development are vital to consider. Until about the age or 12, your youngster may not be prepared to brush or floss adequately alone, due to dexterity issues. If that’s the case, it can be easier to use a battery-powered toothbrush to improve the quality of brushing.

Next is to select the right size of toothbrush head to fit your child’s mouth. As a general rule, the head of the toothbrush should be a little larger than the upper portion of the child’s thumb.

Flossers are great for children and easy to use. They have handles and a horseshoe shape on one end with floss in between. Your child can choose a color he or she likes as well as the handle size, shape, etc.

Not only are there many brands of toothpaste to choose from, there are also many different ingredients that offer varying benefits. Kids are at high risk for developing cavities so you want to make sure the following ingredients are in your child’s toothpaste if you wish to avoid problems later on.

Sodium fluoride is the standard ingredient for cavity prevention, while stannous fluoride is anti-bacterial and anti-cavity. Anti-sensitivity toothpastes often contain potassium nitrate, and triclosan can be found in one particular brand for anti-bacterial action.

Fluoride should not be ingested, so if your child can’t spit yet, use a toothpaste that contains xylitol. This is a natural sweetener and should be the first ingredient listed on the tube.

Now comes the fun part: choosing a flavor! Your little one may sample different flavors and select the one he or she likes the best. A youngster is more likely to adopt good brushing habits if the flavor is appealing.

Don’t hesitate to speak with Dr. Lapsi if you need to make an appointment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, or if you have any questions about toothpastes or toothbrushes.

Speech! Speech!

April 25th, 2023

If you are a student of Speech or Drama, you know how important it is to be clear and articulate. You’ve worked on pronunciation and projection, and the audience in the back row can understand every word.

And now you’ve gotten braces, and, suddenly, you don’t sound quite like yourself. Why? And, more important, what can you do?

  • Don’t Panic!

Many patients see no change at all in their speech after getting braces. With some orthodontic conditions or appliances, you might have problems pronouncing certain sounds, but these changes in articulation are usually quite temporary. 

  • Why Are You Sounding Off?

Every consonant is formed in a precise way as tongue, lips, and teeth work together. If you have brackets and wires in the way, or just got a new retainer, or have a set of aligners, you might find that your articulation is a little off, especially for sibilant sounds such as S’s and Z’s. Luckily, we humans are a flexible bunch, and it usually takes a very short time for our tongues and mouths to adapt to orthodontic appliances and return to normal pronunciation.

If your speech is affected at first because your lips and cheeks are sore or sensitive after getting braces, take time to take care of yourself! Use wax as often as needed to cover irritating brackets and wires, eat foods that are low in salt, spice, and acids, and follow your orthodontist’s instructions for taking care of your mouth. You should start feeling better within a few days, and should be fine after a week or two. If pain or discomfort persists, call your orthodontist.

  • Practice Makes Perfect

If you want to speed along the process of getting back to your normal pronunciation habits, practice! Read aloud, sing along to your favorite songs, recite lists of words with the specific sounds you want to work on. Oddly enough, to get back to your normal speech more quickly, slow down. Thinking before you speak is never a bad idea, and, in this case, thinking while you speak can help you position your tongue and mouth to verbalize tricky sounds more easily.

You don’t have to be a national debate champion or the world’s most blood-curdling Lady Macbeth to be concerned about clear speech. Talk to Dr. Lapsi during your next appointment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office if you find you are having problems with pronunciation. Whether your appliance needs an adjustment, or you need a few suggestions for speech exercises, or it’s simply a matter of time, soon you’ll be back on the road to perfect pronunciation—and on the way to your perfect smile.

Can You Chew Gum and Wear Braces?

April 25th, 2023

Well, of course you can chew gum and wear braces. But, should you chew gum and wear braces? That can be a sticky question.

For many years, the answer was a firm “No.” Not only did our favorite chewables literally gum up the (dental) works, but they were filled with loads of the sugar that cavity-causing bacteria love to feed on. The result? A much better chance of damage to your orthodontic work, and a higher risk of cavities near your brackets and wires.

But times, and gum recipes, change. Today’s sugar-free gum provides us with some new ideas to chew over.

  • Sugarless gum is much less sticky than regular gum, so it is much less likely to stick to your appliance. If there is any chance that gum will damage your wires or brackets, we’ll let you know that it’s best to wait until your braces are off to indulge.
  • Some orthodontic patients find that their jaws and ligaments are less sore if they chew gum for a few minutes after an adjustment.
  • Most important, studies suggest that chewing sugarless gum might actually help prevent cavities from forming. How is that possible?

Because chewing gum increases our production of saliva! Okay, we don’t normally find saliva an exciting, exclamation-point-worthy topic, but let’s look at the dental benefits:

  • Saliva washes away food particles and bacteria. And because braces can trap food when we eat, it’s great to have some help washing away any meal-time souvenirs.
  • Saliva helps neutralize acids in the mouth. The acids found in foods and produced by oral bacteria lead to cavities, so diluting and neutralizing their effects provide important protection for our enamel.
  • Saliva helps bathe the teeth in minerals that can actually rebuild weakened enamel. Acids in the mouth attack minerals in the enamel such as the calcium and phosphate that strengthen our teeth. Fortunately, saliva provides calcium, phosphate, and fluoride that can actually help rebuild weakened enamel.

So, should you chew gum and wear braces? The real question is, should you chew gum while you’re in braces? Dr. Lapsi and our team are more than happy to provide the right answer for you! Talk to us at your next visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office about the potential benefits and drawbacks of dentist-approved sugarless gum. Depending on the kind of gum you choose and the kind of orthodontic work you are having done, the answer just might surprise you.

What type of toothpaste is right for you?

April 25th, 2023

Toothpaste no longer comes in simple choices of fluoride and fresh breath. Paste is not even the only option! You can choose gel forms and even some with ribbons of color and flavor. With so many varieties available, it may be difficult to know which features or combinations of ingredients are best for your mouth. Dr. Lapsi and our team are here to help!

Fluoride

The majority of all dental patients should use toothpaste with fluoride. Fluoride helps to strengthen the enamel on your teeth; it makes them stronger and more resistant to cavities. Even if you live in an area that adds fluoride to your drinking water, the fluoride protection in toothpaste is necessary.

Some individuals can have an allergic reaction to fluoride. Fluorosis can occur in children or adults that swallow too much toothpaste while brushing. If swallowing cannot be prevented, fluoride use should be reduced. The American Dental Association has updated guidelines that recommend fluoride be used as soon as the first teeth erupt in children. However, the amount should be minimal and swallowing should be prevented.

Sensitivity Protection

If your teeth are sensitive to temperatures, toothpaste with sensitivity protection can work wonders for your discomfort. Ingredients in these pastes or gels work to block the pathways to the nerves that react to hot or cold. Do not give up on this type of toothpaste after a few days; the full results may take a few weeks.

Plaque, Tartar, and Gingivitis Protection

Everyone has bacteria in his or her mouth, and this bacteria is normal. Unfortunately, some bacteria also cause plaque. If the plaque remains on your teeth, it hardens into tartar or calculus. Tartar is an almost cement-like substance that cannot be removed by brushing alone. When bacteria and tartar are left behind, the deposits will form under the gum line. This leads to gingivitis and gum disease.

Since there is a wide variety of toothpastes and ingredients for preventing tartar and gingivitis, ask Dr. Lapsi and our staff what the best choice is for your teeth. We can help you select the right combination of ingredients.

Whitening

White teeth are desirable, and manufacturers are heavily marketing whitening toothpastes. Most brands do not contain bleaching ingredients; they use abrasives to polish stains away. Unfortunately, too much abrasive use can be damaging to your teeth. If you’re interested in teeth whitening, our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills team can recommend a number of safe and effective options.

Feel free to ask Dr. Lapsi and our staff at Excel Dental and Orthodontics about the best choice in toothpaste to meet your individual needs. Remember to look for the ADA approval seal on any toothpaste you are considering.

Mamelons

April 25th, 2023

Quick trivia question: define “mamelon.” Some kind of warm blooded animal? No, not a member of the mammal clan, but good guess. A fruit of the gourd family? Nope! There are watermelons, and honeydew melons, and even canary melons, but no ma-melons. Those little rounded bumps you notice on the edge of your child’s permanent incisors when they first emerge? We have a winning answer!

  • Why Do We Have Mamelons?

We have eight incisors, or biting teeth, in the front of our mouths—four on top and four on bottom. Mamelons are actually a clue as to how these incisors were formed. Even before a baby is born, the permanent teeth begin to take shape. Three different groups of cells develop to form the incisal edge of these front teeth. As they fuse together, they create three lobes of enamel on the erupting edge of the tooth. It’s these lobes, or bumps, that give the teeth a serrated appearance.

Whether your child’s mamelons are quite prominent or barely noticeable, if you are worried about them, relax! They are almost always a temporary part of your child’s smile, and disappear over time with chewing and normal wear. But what if the mamelons overstay their welcome?

  • Cosmetic Concerns

Because mamelons are composed of enamel, without the underlying dentin layer found in the body of the tooth, they can appear translucent or a bit different in color. They might wear away unevenly, leaving the tooth edges looking misaligned. Or, they might not wear away at all if your child’s tooth eruption is delayed. Talk to Dr. Lapsi if mamelons are a cosmetic concern for you or your child. You might discover that they are wearing away naturally, or we can discuss ways to polish or smooth them down if needed. This is a painless procedure that doesn’t require an anesthetic. Generally, however, this is a matter where time will resolve the issue for you.

  • Orthodontic Implications

Occasionally, mamelons might become a topic of discussion for orthodontic reasons. Sometimes, mamelons do not wear away over time because of a malocclusion (misaligned bite). Your orthodontist will let you know your child has a bite problem and can explain treatment options. Your orthodontist might also suggest smoothing away the mamelons to ensure that the edges of the incisors align correctly and symmetrically while the teeth are in the process of straightening. Again, this is not always considered a necessity, so weigh your options with your dental care provider.

So, if you notice that your child’s beautiful new teeth are bumpy or serrated as they erupt, don’t be concerned! If you have any questions about mamelons, talk to Dr. Lapsi at your next visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office. This is a natural occurrence and most likely just a temporary “bump” in the road. Soon enough, mamelons will be a memory—and the answer to a pretty difficult trivia question.

Natural Ways to Soothe a Toothache

April 5th, 2023

Toothaches can come in many different forms, but no matter which, they’re always uncomfortable. Dr. Lapsi and our team want you to know there are simple ways to cure this common problem.

Toothaches can be caused by infections, gum diseases, teeth grinding, trauma, or having an abnormal bite. Several symptoms may become noticeable when you start to experience a toothache. You might develop a fever, have trouble swallowing, notice an unpleasant discharge, and most often feel lasting pain when you bite down.

If you begin to notice any of these symptoms, try to manage the pain with the simple remedies below. If the pain continues, contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office and schedule an appointment, because a bigger issue might be involved.

  1. First, try rinsing your mouth out with warm salt water. This helps to disinfect your mouth and may soothe the region where the toothache is occurring. Hydrogen peroxide can also help if you swish it around in your mouth.
  2. Applying a cold compress or ice pack to your jaw in area that hurts can help with swelling.
  3. Make sure to floss your entire mouth thoroughly. The problem could be caused by food debris stuck between your teeth.
  4. Certain essential oils possess pain-relieving qualities, including clove, nutmeg, eucalyptus, or peppermint oil. Use a cotton swab and dilute one of these oils, then apply it to the problem tooth and/or gum area. Repeat the process as needed. This can also be done with apple cider vinegar.
  5. Similar to essential oils, peppermint tea can soothe and slightly numb the area. Swish it around in your mouth once it has cooled off for temporary relief.
  6. You may also soothe a toothache by eating Greek yogurt. You might be surprised to know that yogurt contains healthy bacteria that can help fight against pain.
  7. Crushed garlic can be rubbed on the aching area to help relieve pain. Garlic contains allicin, which slows bacterial activity. The application may burn at first but it has been known to help treat inflammation.

When it comes to preventing toothaches, you can take various measures. Always make sure you brush and floss every day, though. If you schedule regular oral examinations by Dr. Lapsi, you will decrease infections that may cause toothache from spreading.

If you’ve tried the methods listed above and your toothache hasn’t gone away, call our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office and we can schedule an appointment to figure out the cause of the problem and provide a solution.

How NOT to Forget Your Retainer

March 29th, 2023

The alarm sounds in the morning, you wake up and realize "I forgot to wear my retainer!"

If this only happened once, don't panic. Missing one night with a retainer is unlikely to cause significant teeth movement. However, if it has happened often, give our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office a call to make sure your teeth haven’t shifted position.

Here are some tips from Dr. Lapsi to help you remember your retainer:

1. Write down the instructions we give you for wearing the retainer, whether you should wear it all day or at night, or just a few times a week. Writing things out like this helps set the schedule in your memory.

2. Clean the retainer when you take it out each time. If you don’t you may not have time when you’re rushing to get to work or school to clean it properly and may be tempted not to wear it.

3. Put a note on your mirror or in your purse or wallet reminding you to wear your retainer.

4. Set an alarm on your mobile phone to remind you when it’s time to put the retainer in. If you have email with a calendar you can set up daily reminders, too.

5. Always put the retainer in its case when you take it out to eat or sleep. You’ll reduce your risk for losing it or accidentally throwing it away.

6. If you don’t have to wear the retainer every day, you can use some recurring events to help you remember. With this system for example, watching your favorite weekly TV show, laundry day, or family pizza night can all serve as reminders that you should put in your retainer.

7. Don’t be shy about asking for help if you’re forgetful. Assure your spouse, parents, siblings, or roommates that you won’t consider if nagging if they remind you to wear your retainer.

8. Surf online for examples of how teeth can shift when retainers are not properly used. Those stories can serve as timely warning not to let the same thing happen to you!

Remember, you can always call our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office if you feel your retainer is uncomfortable or painful. We'll work with you to protect your smile!

Be Prepared!

March 29th, 2023

When you’re busy at school or work, when you’re on vacation, when you’re on the road to adventure—preparation helps everything go smoothly. Especially when the unexpected happens! So, how can you be prepared for any orthodontic and dental situations which might arise? By creating these useful—and portable—travel kits.

Everyday Basics Kit

Dentists recommend brushing twice a day and flossing at least once each day for clean and healthy teeth. But after a long day at school or work with no time to head home before your date, or a garlic-heavy lunch in the cafeteria, or a dash from the classroom to after-school activities, you might feel like there’s no time like the present to give your smile a bit of a boost.

Be prepared with a small travel bag filled with these easy-to-carry basics to get you through your busy day with clean teeth, fresh breath, and a confident smile:

  • Toothbrush and case—and do make sure your case is ventilated so your brush can air dry. Bacteria love a closed, damp environment!
  • Toothpaste
  • Mini-bottle of mouthwash
  • Small mirror—to check for any lunch leftovers
  • Dental floss—to remove any lunch leftovers. Use braces-friendly dental floss if you have traditional braces.
  • Dental Wax—to cover any uncomfortable wires or brackets
  • Interproximal brushes—to remove food particles from around your braces and between your teeth
  • Extra rubber bands
  • Aligner/Retainer case—keep your aligner or retainer safe and clean while you’re eating

Flight Gear

Getting set to travel by air again after this long lay-over? Your basic kit will do the job with just a few minor additions and alterations.

  • A travel version of your manual or electric toothbrush and travel case
  • Plug adapter or voltage converter as needed for your electric brush if you’re visiting another country
  • Quart size, resealable plastic bag to hold your carry-on supplies. Toothpaste and mouthwash are included in the list of items which need to fit carry-on guidelines.
  • Travel-size toothpaste—3.4 oz (100 ml) or smaller tube size. (And an almost-empty regular size tube doesn’t count!)
  • Travel-size mouthwash—also in a 3.4 oz (100 ml) or smaller container
  • Our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office’s phone number. In case of emergency, Dr. Lapsi can give you advice on how to handle any problem which might arise when you’re far from home.

Looking for Adventure?

If you’re camping in the forest, leaving for the lake, going for a road trip, or heading out on any travel adventure, you’ll be bringing the dental care basics, of course. We’d also like to recommend some items to take along in the event of a dental emergency while you’re away from home:

  • Dental mirror
  • Cotton rolls
  • Over-the-counter pain relief—including a tube of oral pain relief gel
  • Ice pack
  • Dental wax—this handy item not only protects against sharp wires, it can cover the sharp edges of a broken bracket
  • Temporary fillings—to protect your sensitive tooth if a filling or crown is lost
  • Tooth preservation kit—to protect a dislodged tooth in case it can be reimplanted. (This means seeing a dentist very quickly, usually within 30 minutes of the accident.)

And, if you’ll be mountain biking, water skiing, or enjoying any activity where there’s potential for impact, don’t forget to pack your mouthguard!

Preparation is key to eliminating a lot of stress in our daily lives, and who couldn’t use a bit of stress-relief these days? Make room in your bag, locker, desk, luggage, or backpack for some portable, lightweight dental necessities. Be prepared to share your confident, healthy smile no matter what life has in store!

Dental X-rays and Your Child

March 22nd, 2023

We’re parents, so we worry. It comes with the job description! That’s why we make sure our children use toothbrushes with soft bristles and apply just the right amount of fluoride toothpaste. That’s why we make regular appointments with their dentists for preventive care and examinations. And that’s why we want to know all about the X-rays that are used in our children’s dental exams.

First of all, it’s reassuring to know that the amount of radiation we are exposed to from a single dental X-ray is very small. A set of bitewing X-rays, for example, exposes us to an amount of radiation that is approximately the same as the amount of radiation we receive from our natural surroundings in a single day.

Even so, dentists are especially careful when children need X-rays, because their bodies are still growing and their cells are developing more rapidly than adults. And children often have different dental needs than adults, which can require different types of imaging.

In addition to the usual X-rays that are taken to discover cavities, fractures, or other problems, young patients might need X-rays:

  • To confirm that their teeth and jaws are developing properly
  • To make sure, as permanent teeth come in, that baby teeth aren’t interfering with the arrival and position of adult teeth, and that there’s enough space in the jaw to accommodate them
  • To plan orthodontic treatment
  • To check the progress and placement of wisdom teeth

So, how do dentists make sure your child’s radiation exposure during X-ray procedures is as minimal as possible?

Radiologists, the physicians who specialize in imaging procedures and diagnoses, recommend that all dentists and doctors follow the safety principal known as ALARA: “As Low As Reasonably Achievable.” This means using the lowest X-ray exposure necessary to achieve precise diagnostic results for all dental and medical patients.

Moreover, radiologists are devoted to raising awareness about the latest advances in imaging safety not only for dental and medical practitioners, but for the public, as well. With children in mind, pediatric radiologists from a number of professional associations have joined together to create the Image Gently Alliance, offering specific guidelines for the specific needs of young patients.

And because we are always concerned about the safety of our patients, dental associations around the world, including the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Dental Association, the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, the Canadian Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association, are Image Gently Alliance members.

The guidelines recommended for X-rays and other imaging for young people have been designed to make sure all children have the safest experience possible whenever they visit the dentist or the doctor. As dental professionals, Dr. Lapsi and our team ensure that imaging is safe and effective in a number of ways:

  • We take X-rays only when they are necessary.
  • We provide protective gear, such as apron shields and thyroid collars, whenever needed.
  • We make use of modern X-ray equipment, for both traditional X-rays and digital X-rays, which exposes patients to a lower amount of radiation than ever before.
  • We set exposure times based on each child’s size and age, using the fastest film or digital image receptors.

We know your child’s health and safety are always on your mind, so you’re proactive about dental care. And your child’s health and safety are always on our minds, too, so we’re proactive when it comes to all of our dental procedures available at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office.

Please free to talk with Dr. Lapsi about X-rays and any other imaging we recommend for your child. We want to put your mind at ease, knowing that X-rays will be taken only when necessary, will be geared to your child’s age and weight, and will be used with protective equipment in place. Because ensuring your child’s dental health and safety? That comes with our job description!

The Twin Block Appliance

March 15th, 2023

Orthodontic treatment involves a lot more than just straightening your teeth. For a healthy smile, your bite must be healthy as well! This means that the upper and lower jaws need to fit together properly and comfortably.

If your bite is out of alignment because of jaw misalignment, orthodontic treatment can help correct the shape and position of your jaws with devices called functional appliances. These appliances are most often used for young patients whose bones are still growing, and are designed to treat malocclusions, or bite problems.

Common malocclusions such as overbites and overjets can occur when the upper teeth protrude further than they should, or the lower jaw is positioned too far back, or both. The Twin Block appliance can be used in such cases to help move your lower jaw and teeth into alignment with your upper jaw.

Why “Twin”? Because the Twin Block appliance is two separate pieces, each made of wire and smooth acrylic. Both pieces are crafted to fit precisely over your upper and lower arches and can be adjusted as your treatment progresses. The top plate can also be adjusted, if necessary, to widen the upper palate.

Why “Block”? Acrylic blocks cover the biting surfaces of several of your upper and lower teeth. These blocks fit together like a 3D puzzle. When you bite down, the upper blocks interlock with the lower blocks, pushing the lower blocks forward just a bit before you can bite down completely. Over time, bit by bit (and bite by bite), the Twin Block appliance advances your lower jaw and teeth to create a balanced, comfortable bite.

For the quickest and best results, you should wear your Twin Block appliance as directed. It’s made to be worn comfortably while you sleep, eat, and otherwise go about your day. (It’s a good idea to check with our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills orthodontic team to see about removing it when you’re active, especially for swimming and contact sports.) When it’s time to brush, the Twin Block appliance is removable. This means that you can clean your teeth and your appliance easily.

And, while it’s made to work hard for you, it’s not indestructible. Don’t expose your appliance to heat or hot water, as the plastic may warp. Use the cleaning methods we recommend. Finally, when your appliance is out of your mouth, keep it in its case! You don’t want your appliance to end up carefully wrapped in a napkin in the nearby recycling bin. Or, even worse, in your dog’s mouth instead of yours.

The Twin Block appliance might fit together like a puzzle, but there’s nothing puzzling about how to achieve your best and fastest results. Your success really depends on you. Follow Dr. Lapsi and our team’s advice, wear your appliance as directed, and you’ll be on your way to a healthy, comfortable bite and an attractive, confident smile!

Teeth Grinding

March 8th, 2023

It might seem like you’ve gotten a great night’s sleep—but why aren’t you well rested? Worse, why are you waking up with:

  • A headache
  • Ringing in your ears or an earache
  • Pain in your jaw
  • Worn or sensitive teeth
  • Dry mouth or mouth and cheek injuries
  • An unhappy partner who’s been kept awake all night?

If you suffer from any or all of these symptoms, you might be one of the millions of people who have a sleep-related disorder called bruxism, better known as teeth grinding.

There are any number of causes that have been linked to bruxism. Stress and other negative emotions seem to trigger episodes, as can lifestyle habits such as smoking and drinking alcohol or caffeine. Sleep apnea can lead to grinding your teeth, or you could have bite or tooth alignment problems. Certain medications might set off this disorder, and some studies have shown a hereditary tendency in families. Whatever the reason you grind your teeth, there are many important reasons to stop as soon as you can.

As bad as the nagging headaches and earaches that can accompany bruxism can be, long-term damage to your teeth can develop over time. With continuing grinding pressure on the teeth, enamel is worn away prematurely. Teeth can crack or chip. They may loosen or develop sensitivity to heat, cold, and pressure. Gum tissue can recede or become inflamed. Dental restorations can be cracked or broken.

If you—or someone in your house—suspects that you are grinding your teeth at night, give our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office a call! We can recommend relaxation techniques, diet changes, or tips to help you relax your jaw. Dr. Lapsi might suggest a nightguard, a custom-fitted appliance worn while you sleep, to reduce the impact of grinding. There are options available. Let’s work together to make every night’s sleep a restful, healthy one.

Overbite or Overjet?

March 1st, 2023

The words “overbite” and “overjet” certainly sound similar. Both conditions concern your front teeth. Both conditions fall under the same category of bite problems—Class II malocclusions, if you want to be technical. So it’s not surprising that they’re often used interchangeably. But while there are similarities, overbite and overjet are also distinctly different.

  • Overbite/Overjet Geometry

In a healthy bite, the front top teeth project slightly beyond, and slightly overlap, the bottom teeth. The key word here is “slightly.” With a Class II malocclusion, the upper front teeth project further beyond the lower teeth than they should.

Of course, teeth and bites are as individual as we are, so there are variations in just how and just how much the overlap occurs. In diagnosing an overbite vs. an overjet, the difference comes down to a matter of vertical vs. horizontal.

An overbite, or deep bite, occurs when the top teeth vertically overlap the bottom teeth more than they should for a healthy bite. Generally, when a person’s top teeth cover more than a quarter of the bottom teeth when biting down, or more than two to three millimeters, that person is said to have an overbite.

An overjet, commonly known as protruding or buck teeth, is the result of a horizontal overlap that is broader than normal. This causes the top teeth to project outward toward the lips more than they do in a typical bite. An overjet is usually diagnosed when the horizontal distance between the top and bottom teeth exceeds two to three millimeters.

  • Overbite/Overjet Causes

The causes for both an overbite and an overjet might be dental (caused by tooth alignment), or skeletal (caused by bone development), or a combination of both. These bite problems can run in families. They are also affected by the size and position of the jaws and the shape and position of the teeth.

Early oral habits, such as prolonged and vigorous thumb-sucking or pacifier use, can also contribute to the development of a Class II malocclusion, particularly an overjet. Consistent pressure from thump or pacifier pushes the teeth outward as they erupt, which encourages them to protrude. These oral habits can affect the shape of the palate and jaw, too.

  • Overbite/Overjet Treatments

There are many types of treatment available to correct teeth and bite misalignments. Dr. Lapsi will tailor your treatment to your specific malocclusion for the best orthodontic outcome.

If you have a mild malocclusion, and minor dental issues are the main cause of that malocclusion, either braces or clear aligners can be effective for an overjet or an overbite. Elastics (rubber bands) are often used as part of this treatment.

If the malocclusion is due to bite problems caused by uneven upper and lower jaw development, devices called functional appliances can be used with braces to help guide the growth of the jawbones while young patients’ bones are still forming. These include appliances that work inside the mouth to help the upper and lower jaws grow proportionally, and external appliances such as headgear.

In some cases, where the malocclusion is skeletal in nature as well as dental, surgical treatment might be necessary to reshape the jawbone itself. Orthodontic treatment is usually needed as well both before and after surgery.

  • Overbite/Overjet Consequences

Over time, a deep overbite can cause damaged gum tissue, worn enamel, and fractured teeth. When teeth protrude because of an overjet, they can lead to self-consciousness and are more at risk for injury. Both malocclusions share dental and medical consequences, including concerns about facial and jaw appearance, problems speaking or chewing, headaches, and face and jaw pain.

Class II malocclusions aren’t all the same, and orthodontic patients aren’t all the same either. You may have a minor malocclusion or a significant one. You may have an overbite, or an overjet, or a combination of different bite and alignment concerns. Your malocclusion may not bother you at all, or it may cause pain, discomfort, or self-consciousness.

That’s why every overbite or overjet should be evaluated by an orthodontist. When you visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills orthodontic office, Dr. Lapsi will be able to diagnose the exact nature of your malocclusion, the reason for it, and your best individualized treatment plan. An overbite and an overjet are different malocclusions, but you and your orthodontist want the same outcome for each: a healthy, attractive, and confident smile!

Oral Health Concerns Specific to Pregnant Women

February 22nd, 2023

A lot of changes occur in a woman's body during pregnancy. Hormone fluctuations are responsible for many of those changes, including the need for additional attention to the teeth and gums. Women who are expecting are at an increased risk for oral health complications, including gingivitis and tooth decay, which can lead to irreversible damage. Fortunately, there are steps pregnant women can take to keep their teeth and gums in optimal health from the first trimester to delivery day. Today, Dr. Lapsi and our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics thought we would share them.

At-home dental care

At-home dental care should not vary much from what you did prior to pregnancy. The American Dental Association recommends brushing at a minimum of twice per day using fluoridated toothpaste. Follow up with floss to keep bacteria from accumulating in hard-to-reach spaces.

Dental checkups

It is safe and recommended to continue visiting Dr. Lapsi for routine dental checkups and cleanings during pregnancy. However, it is very important to inform Dr. Lapsi about an existing pregnancy. Special steps must be taken to protect pregnant women from certain medications or X-ray radiation that could be harmful to a growing baby. On the other hand, avoiding teeth cleanings during pregnancy can lead to serious consequences, including advanced tooth decay and infection.

Food and cravings

It is no secret that pregnancy can cause a woman to crave specific foods. Sugary treats like candy, cookies, or sodas may satisfy a sweet tooth, but they can also cause serious dental problems when consumed frequently or without brushing afterward. Trade out these treats for naturally sweet fruits when possible, and never forget to brush and floss thoroughly after eating sugar-filled foods.

Signs of complications

It is important to know and recognize the signs of oral health problems during pregnancy; an early diagnosis usually translates to an easier, less-invasive treatment. Symptoms of potential problems include gums that easily bleed or are swollen, reddened, or painful. These are symptoms of gingivitis, which can lead to a receding gum line and tooth loss if left untreated.

Call our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office if you experience any of these symptoms or pain in a tooth, loss of a tooth, a broken tooth, or bad breath that does not go away with brushing.

New Ligatures? Some Things to Consider When You Choose Your Hues

February 15th, 2023

Colorful elastic ligatures (the official name for those tiny bands around your brackets) are often replaced when you come in to have your braces adjusted. Which is great! Now you have the opportunity to go with your team colors, or your school colors, or tones that work with your skin and eyes, or shades that represent your favorite holiday season. Today’s bands come in a wide variety of colors, so you never need to worry about becoming bored with your choices.

But are there certain hues that can be a bit more challenging to work with. Let’s look at some of those trickier tones.

  • Lunch Look-Alikes

If you don’t want kind friends constantly informing you that you have something stuck in your teeth, you might want to leave certain colors off your list. Dark greens and browns can sometimes give the appearance of food trapped in your braces. Have a look at the shades available, and see what is least likely to send you running for a mirror and a toothbrush.

  • Smile Dimmers

A blazing white band might seem like a good match to your blazing white teeth, but for many people, really light colors can make teeth look more yellow. And often bands in shades of yellow can bring out any yellow in your enamel. If you’re looking for a brighter smile, try some darker, richer tones for a gleaming contrast.

  • You’re So Over the Rainbow

If you are someone who loves a monochromatic look, perhaps any colors will be, well, just too colorful. In that case, there are ligatures for you! Silver or grey braces will blend with your metal brackets, and clear or tooth-colored bands will be less obvious with metal or ceramic brackets. Light colored bands can be more prone to staining, so keep that in mind if you’re going for invisibility or a close bracket match.

Now with all that being said, you be you! If you like a color, give it a go. It might be the perfect accessory for your smile and your personality. And, if it doesn’t work . . . no big deal! You can explore another part of the color palette on your very next adjustment to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office.

Five Clues That It’s Time to Replace Your Toothbrush

February 8th, 2023

Your dashboard lights up when your car needs an oil change. Your family smoke detector beeps when you need to switch out the batteries. But when it’s time to replace your toothbrush, you’re on your own. Luckily, there are several not-too-subtle clues that you should be shopping for a new model.

  • Fraying

Is your toothbrush looking a bit scruffy? Do those once orderly bristles look like they have the toothbrush equivalent of bed head? Have some bristles vanished altogether? Time to retire that toothbrush. Once the bristles are frayed, you just can’t reach plaque as effectively, especially where it likes to hide between the teeth.

Are you prematurely fraying? You could be brushing too hard. Overbrushing can injure delicate gum tissue, cause wear and tear to tooth enamel, and even damage your braces. If you find your brush fraying after only a few weeks of use, you might be using too much force. Remember, plaque is a sticky film, but it’s a soft sticky film. Ask us for advice on just how hard you need—or don’t need—to brush.

  • Odor

This one really goes without saying—no one wants an aromatic toothbrush! How to make sure your toothbrush is fresh and clean?

Always rinse carefully after you brush. This will get rid of any toothpaste, bits of food, or other particles left on your brush.

Let your toothbrush air dry. It might seem more hygienic to keep your brush covered in a bathroom setting, but a closed, moist container is a perfect breeding ground for germs. Don’t let them make a home in your bristles!

  • Illness

A cold or a bacterial infection (like strep throat) is no fun. But now that you’re feeling better, it might be time to throw out your toothbrush. The chances of re-infection are very low, unless your immune system is compromised, but this is a perfect opportunity to replace your brush with a fresh, germ-free model.

And if you share your toothbrush, or if you store it right next to a family member’s (which you really shouldn’t do, for this very reason), germs get shared, too. Quarantine your brush while you’re ill, and replace it once you’re out and about.

  • Discomfort

Bigger isn’t necessarily better. A brush with a head that’s too big won’t allow you to get into those small spaces in your mouth where plaque likes to collect. And when you are trying to clean around brackets and wires, a regular brush might be a problem. Ask Dr. Lapsi for suggestions for the best tools for clean and comfortable brushing.

Also, harder doesn’t mean more effective. A brush with hard bristles can cause damage to your gums and enamel. We almost always recommend soft-bristled brushes for this every reason.

There are so many styles of brush out there, you’re bound to find the perfect fit with a little trial and error. Or ask us for suggestions the next time you’re at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office for an adjustment!

  • You’ve Passed the “Best By” Date

Because of its durable construction, your toothbrush can last a long, long time. But no matter how comfortable and effective your toothbrush is right now, it was never meant to go through life with you. Bristles break down over a period of a few months, and just don’t clean as effectively. Your brush should be changed every three months, and this includes changing the head on your electric toothbrush. And because you wear braces, you’re brushing more often, so that three month lifespan might be stretching it.

Unfortunately, you don’t have a flashing light or annoying beep to remind you when it’s time to change brushes, so you’ll have to devise your own reminders. Reminder apps, calendar notes, the first day of a new season—use whatever works best for you. 

Don’t ignore the clues your toothbrush is leaving you. Replacing your brush whenever it’s necessary helps guarantee that the time you spend cleaning your teeth and gums will lead to confident, healthy smiles. Case closed!

Troubles with Cementum? Prevent ‘Em!

January 25th, 2023

Our teeth are a lot more complicated than they look. Beneath that shiny white surface is an entire system of different cell tissues working together to keep each tooth vital and healthy.

  • Enamel, the protective exterior of the crown (the visible part of the tooth), is the strongest substance in the body and the first line of defense against damage to our teeth.
  • Dentin, the hard tissue under the enamel and cementum, has microscopic tubules that connect to the pulp.
  • Pulp, the tissue at the center of the tooth, contains the nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue that keep the tooth alive.
  • Cementum, composed of connective tissue which forms the protective exterior of the root, also attaches to fibers in the periodontal ligaments which hold the teeth securely in the jaw.

Because cementum is below the gum line, it’s generally safe from the cavity-causing conditions that our enamel is exposed to every day. But there are still potential hazards that we should be aware of.

  • Cementum Erosion

With a name like “cementum,” it’s logical to assume that this is the hardest tissue in the body. Actually, however, that distinction goes to our enamel. And if even our enamel can be damaged by bacteria and plaque, cementum doesn’t stand a chance!

How does cementum come in contact with cavity-causing bacteria? Gums often recede as a natural part of the aging process, leaving part of the root exposed. Gum disease, failure to brush and floss regularly, and heavy-handed brushing can lead to early gum recession. The newly exposed cementum is now exposed to the same conditions, which cause cavities in our enamel. But a root cavity can be trickier to treat and, because the cementum is not as strong as enamel, can progress more quickly. And if a cavity reaches the pulp, a root canal could be necessary.

But the erosion of cementum doesn’t have to result in a cavity to cause discomfort. When cementum is removed, the dentin beneath is exposed. Dentin, you’ll recall, contains tiny tubes that connect to the pulp of the tooth. The result? Conditions such as heat, cold, even an intake of air can cause tooth sensitivity as they stimulate the nerves in the pulp. If your hot coffee or ice cream cone is suddenly causing you pain, let us know. There are treatments, which can reduce tooth sensitivity.

  • Gum Disease (Periodontitis)

In more severe cases of gum disease, the gums pull away from the teeth leaving pockets, which harbor plaque and bacteria. Left untreated, these pockets can become home to infections, which attack and destroy bone structure and connective tissue. Caught early, a treatment called tooth scaling and planing can help. In this type of deep cleaning, your dentist or endodontist will remove plaque and tartar and then smooth the root surface to make it harder for bacteria and plaque to stick. If the gums have receded too far, a gum graft might be necessary to protect the exposed roots.

  • Trauma

The same traumas that can damage teeth above the gum line can result in injuries below it. Chewing on hard objects (ice, hard candies, wooden pencils), bruxism (tooth grinding), and sports injuries or accidents can cause cracks in the cementum. If your root is split or fractured, it might be possible to save your tooth, but sometimes extraction is the best option.

So how do you protect your cementum, hidden as it is under your gum line? The same way you protect the more visible parts of your teeth!

  • Keep to a healthy daily routine of brushing and flossing. This will help prevent gum disease and keep gum recession at bay. Using a soft brush and brushing firmly but gently will remove plaque while protecting both enamel and cementum. If you notice tooth sensitivity, give us a call!
  • Come in to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office for regular dental exams. The best treatment for gum disease is prevention. When you come in for regular checkups, we are able to discover early signs of gum disease before it becomes a serious problem. If you are suffering from more advanced periodontitis, there are treatments available.
  • Safety first when it comes to your smile. If you chew on hard objects, talk to Dr. Lapsi about how to break the habit. If you grind your teeth, see us for solutions. If you play sports, let us know—often a mouthguard can help protect your teeth from injuries that could otherwise lead to more complex procedures or even tooth loss.

Maintaining your healthy dental habits is a lot like cementum—the foundation of a beautiful smile. Nothing complicated about that!

Looking—and Feeling—Your Best in Braces

January 18th, 2023

It’s normal to be a little self-conscious when you first get your braces. Even though you really want to straighten any crooked teeth, or correct a bad bite, you might still be a bit hesitant about sharing your new orthodontic work with the world. What are some ways to get over those under-confident feelings?

  • Keep It Clean

Make sure you brush after every meal to reduce the chance of food particles and plaque sticking to your enamel and brackets. Brushing and flossing is particularly important now, not only to prevent cavities, but because nobody wants to see food stuck in your braces—especially you! If you absolutely can’t brush, rinse with water right after eating.

And carry a small bag filled with all the essentials for gleaming braces: a travel toothbrush, floss, a small tube of toothpaste, an interproximal brush, and a handy mirror to make sure you’re good to go. When you know your teeth and braces are their cleanest, you can’t help but feel more confident.

  • Express Yourself

Braces are no longer the one-style-fits-all appliances of the past. Traditional metal braces at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office are more compact, and now come in different colors and shapes. Metal brackets are typical, but ceramic brackets are an option for an almost unnoticeable look. And don’t forget to accessorize!

You can choose from a rainbow of band colors to make a fashion statement that’s uniquely you. Show your spirit with school colors, celebrate the holidays with festive tones, or choose shades that do wonders for your coloring. Whether you go for bold contrast, mono-chromatic subtlety, or “just because I’m in the mood” quirky combinations, let your braces showcase your style. And remember—you can change that style with every adjustment!

  • Smile with Confidence

Nothing looks better on you than a confident smile. If you’re a little unsure, practice! Some mirror or selfie time will get you used to seeing yourself in braces. Break them in with friends and family before you go public. Remember that any difficulties with talking or eating should only last a little while.

Above all, you’re still your unique and valued self. You can wear braces and be a good friend, a student, an athlete, a lovestruck Juliet on the theater balcony, a star at your after-school job. Don’t let wearing braces hold you back from the activities you love.  Act like your old self, and you’ll soon feel like your old self!

It’s normal to feel a little self-conscious when you first get your braces. But when you care for yourself and your braces, good things happen! If you’re having difficulty adjusting, talk to Dr. Lapsi. We want to help make sure your journey to a beautiful, healthy smile is as rewarding and as positive as it can be.

Make this the Year You Stop Smoking

January 4th, 2023

It’s a new year, and it couldn’t come fast enough for many of us! Let’s do our part to make this a better year in every way—and you can start by making this the year you quit smoking once and for all.

You know that smoking is very damaging to your body. Smokers are more likely to suffer from lung disease, heart attacks, and strokes. You’re at greater risk for cancer, high blood pressure, blood clots, and blood vessel disorders. With far-reaching consequences like this, it’s no surprise that your oral health suffers when you smoke as well.

How does smoking affect your teeth and mouth?

  • Appearance

While this is possibly the least harmful side effect of smoking, it’s a very visible one. Tar and nicotine start staining teeth right away. After months and years of smoking, your teeth can take on an unappealing dark yellow, orange, or brown color. Tobacco staining might require professional whitening treatments because it penetrates the enamel over time.

  • Plaque and Tartar

Bacterial plaque and tartar cause cavities and gum disease, and smokers suffer from plaque and tartar buildup more than non-smokers do. Tartar, hardened plaque that can only be removed by a dental professional, is especially hard on delicate gum tissue.

  • Bad Breath

The chemicals in cigarettes linger on the surfaces of your mouth causing an unpleasant odor, but that’s not the only source of smoker’s breath. Smoking also dries out the mouth, and, without the normal flow of saliva to wash away food particles and bacteria, bad breath results. Another common cause of bad breath? Gum disease, which is also found more frequently among smokers.

  • Gum Disease

Smoking has been linked to greater numbers of harmful oral bacteria in the mouth and a greater risk of gingivitis (early gum disease). Periodontitis, or severe gum disease, is much more common among smokers, and can lead to bone and tooth loss. Unsurprisingly, tooth loss is also more common among smokers.  

  • Implant Failure

Tooth implants look and function like our original teeth, and are one of the best solutions for tooth loss. While implant failure isn’t common, it does occur significantly more often among smokers. Studies suggest that there are multiple factors at work, which may include a smoker’s bone quality and density, gum tissue affected by constricted blood vessels, and compromised healing.

  • Healing Ability

Smoking has been linked to weakened immune systems, so it’s harder to fight off an infection and to heal after an injury. Because smoking affects the immune system’s response to inflammation and infection, smokers suffering from gum disease don’t respond as well to treatment. Smokers experience a higher rate of root infections, and smoking also slows the healing process after oral surgeries or trauma.

  • Dry Socket

Smoking following a tooth extraction can cause a painful condition called “dry socket.” After extraction, a clot forms to protect the tooth socket. Just as this clot can be dislodged by sucking through a straw or spitting, it can also be dislodged by the force of inhaling and exhaling while smoking.

  • Oral Cancer

Research has shown again and again that smoking is the single most serious risk factor for oral cancer. Studies have also shown that you reduce your risk of oral cancer significantly when you quit smoking.

Quitting smoking is a major accomplishment that will improve your life on every level. It’s always a good idea to talk to Dr. Lapsi for strategies to help you achieve your wellness goals for the new year. Make this the year you stop smoking, and the year your health improves in countless ways because you did.

A Brighter Smile for the New Year

December 28th, 2022

The beginning of a new year is the perfect opportunity for a fresh start for you and your smile. At Excel Dental and Orthodontics, a brighter smile is quick and easy!

Given the latest in whitening technology, whiter teeth are only an appointment away. Teeth whitening is a safe, quick, and inexpensive way to create the dream smile you’ve always desired. We can offer a safe method that corrects tooth discolorations that may have been caused by staining, aging, or chemical effects.

So, start the new year off right and get a whiter smile today! Give us a call at our convenient Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office to schedule an appointment!

Color Combinations of Elastics for the Holidays

December 21st, 2022

There's something special about customizing the elastics on your braces to fit your unique personality. Once you embrace your braces (no pun intended) you'll realize how many color options and combinations there are to choose from. Although you'll have a fantastic smile afterward, you won't have this level of customizability once your braces come off, that's for sure!

Adding flair to your braces isn't what all patients are looking to do (like those opting for clear aligners or ceramic braces), but it's part of the fun of traditional metal braces! Many of our patients ask Dr. Lapsi to have their elastics match the colors of their favorite sports teams or their school, but how about changing your elastics to match holiday colors?

Here are some options to consider:

  • Valentine’s Day – Red and pink
  • Easter – Pink, blue, and violet
  • Halloween – Orange and black
  • Christmas – Red, green, and white
  • Saint Patrick’s Day – Green and white

There are a few colors that some people choose to avoid. But if you’re trying to make your teeth stand out in a crowd, the following suggestions need not apply!

  • Brown or Green – can be mistaken for food being stuck in your teeth
  • Black – might look like a rotten tooth if someone isn't looking hard enough
  • White – Some patients think it will make their teeth look whiter, but in fact it can make your teeth appear yellower than they actually are. White elastics can also stain easily.
  • Yellow – accentuates the yellowness of your enamel

Since changing the color of your elastics has no effect on the actual orthodontic treatment process, the idea is to have fun and add a personal touch. So, next time you get your elastics changed at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, why not wear your braces boldly and opt for something festive?

Orthodontics and Implants

December 14th, 2022

Maybe you’ve wanted braces since childhood. Maybe you had them, but your teeth have shifted over time. Maybe you’re tired of living with an uncomfortable bite. Good news! If you’re not happy with your adult smile, that doesn’t mean you’ve missed the opportunity to have the healthy, attractive smile you’ve always dreamed of.

While there are many benefits to having orthodontic work done as a child, there’s a lot to be said for orthodontic treatment as an adult. After all, you know exactly what you want. You’re dedicated to following your treatment plan. You have plenty of discreet orthodontic options available now, from clear aligners to lingual braces, to make your treatment as inconspicuous as possible.

But, on occasion, adult treatment does come with some adult baggage. Worried about your crowns, fillings, or veneers? If these restorations are part of your dental history, we can generally work with them. Dental implants? Those might fall into a slightly different category.

Implants are a great way to restore your smile because they function like your natural teeth. They are designed to look just like natural teeth, and they allow you to speak, chew, and bite with confidence. Implants even stimulate the jawbone when we chew just as natural teeth do, helping to prevent bone loss in the jaw as we age.

But there is one important difference between implants and natural teeth: implants are firmly anchored in the jaw, while your natural teeth can change position.

Why is this a concern? Because tooth movement is one of the basics of orthodontic treatment. Unlike implants, our teeth aren’t firmly anchored in our jaws. They are held in their sockets by a ligament which cushions them and connects the tooth to the bone.

When braces or aligners gently apply consistent pressure to the teeth, the ligaments and eventually the bones holding the teeth reshape themselves in response to this pressure, and then become stable again during the retainer phase of treatment.

Implants, on the other hand, are crowns attached to a metal cylinder or screw that is surgically implanted into the jawbone. After several months, osseointegration takes place—which is a technical way of saying that the metal base fuses with the bone. This means that there won’t be any movement taking place—good when you’re chewing, but not helpful for realignment!

If you haven’t yet replaced a missing tooth with an implant, it’s often best to wait before starting orthodontic work. We can design treatment around a missing tooth, leaving room to accommodate an implant in just the right spot when your orthodontic treatment is finished.

If you have an implant already, the placement of your implant will help determine your treatment:

  • If your implant is already perfectly placed for your future alignment, braces or aligners can be designed to work with and around your implant.
  • If the placement is almost ideal, you might find a very small degree of misalignment acceptable, and we can plan your treatment around your existing implant.
  • If it’s not possible to work with your implant where it’s presently located, it is possible to remove an implant. You would then have the implant procedure redone after your orthodontic work is complete.

Talk to Dr. Lapsi about your treatment possibilities. By analyzing your orthodontic goals and working with your dental history, we can let you know exactly what can be done for your teeth and bite—even if you have an implant.

True, there are many benefits to having orthodontic work done in your childhood, but there’s a lot to be said for orthodontic treatment as an adult. And the greatest benefit of all? You’ll finally have the healthy, self-confident smile you’ve always dreamed of. Talk to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills team about making that smile a reality.

What’s so great about an orthodontist?

December 7th, 2022

A lot of our patients are curious about the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist. In fact, one of the most common questions we hear at Excel Dental and Orthodontics is, “Dentists and orthodontists are all the same, right?”

A general dentist is your primary dental care provider. Dentists diagnose, treat, and manage your overall oral healthcare needs, including gum care, root canals, fillings, crowns, veneers, and bridges.

Orthodontists, such as Dr. Lapsi, are more concerned with diagnosis, prevention, interception, and treatment of malocclusion, or what we call “bad bite,” of the teeth. Orthodontists focus on tooth and jaw alignment and bite problems such as overbites and underbites, and are responsible for straightening teeth via bands, wires, braces, and other fixed or removable corrective treatment options, like braces and clear aligners. Orthodontists treat children as well as adults who wish to improve the function of their bite and appearance of their smile.

Before becoming an orthodontist, doctors such as Dr. Lapsi start out in dental school and earn a dental degree, just like your general dentist. After dental school, those doctors who decide they are interested in the orthodontic field, stay in school for a few more years and become experts in orthodontia, which is one of nine specialties within the dental field.

Isn’t it nice to know we have orthodontic experts here at Excel Dental and Orthodontics to help you through any type of treatment your teeth and jaw might need? To schedule your initial appointment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, please give us a call today!

Toothaches and Abscesses

November 30th, 2022

With Dr. Lapsi, 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 Excel Dental and Orthodontics, we’re here to assist you through any and all your dental emergencies! We encourage you to make an appointment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office if you notice any signs of discomfort, so we can provide the most efficient care for you.

Talking Over Your Underbite

November 23rd, 2022

You’ve been told that you have a malocclusion called an “underbite.” Let’s look at just what this diagnosis means, and what it means for you.

Just what is an “underbite”?

A malocclusion is another way of saying that you have a problem with your bite, which is the way your jaws and teeth fit together when you bite down. In a typical bite, the front top teeth project slightly beyond, and slightly overlap, the bottom teeth.

An underbite, on the other hand, results when the lower teeth and jaw extend further forward than the upper teeth and jaw, causing the bottom teeth to overlap the top teeth.

What causes an underbite?

Underbites tend to be genetic, and run in families, so, most often, an underbite is something you’re born with. The size of your jaws, the shape of your teeth, or both will affect your bite.

A smaller number of underbites develop because of injuries or early oral habits, such as prolonged and vigorous thumb sucking or tongue thrusting.

How do we treat an underbite?

Your treatment will depend on the type and severity of your underbite, and your age when treatment occurs.

  • Braces and Aligners

If your underbite is a slight one, caused, for example, by crowded or overly large teeth, braces or clear aligners can help move the teeth into proper alignment.

  • Functional Appliances

If the underbite is caused by a problem with upper and lower jaw development, devices called functional appliances can be used to help guide the growth of the jawbones while a child’s bones are still growing and forming.

If you’re a young patient, two appliances commonly used to help correct an underbite are palatal expanders, which gradually widen the upper jaw if it’s too narrow, and reverse pull headgear, which fits both inside the mouth and outside on the face, and provides a steady, gentle pull to encourage the forward growth of the upper jaw.

  • Surgical treatment

In some severe cases, surgical treatment can correct an underbite by reshaping the jawbone itself and positioning it further back to align properly with the upper jaw.

Why treat your underbite?

A serious underbite can cause damaged teeth and enamel, painful problems with the temporomandibular joint, headaches and facial pain, sleep apnea, difficulty chewing, eating, and speaking, and can affect confidence and self-esteem.

By following your treatment plan, you’ll not only prevent these consequences, but you’ll achieve major benefits—a healthy, comfortable bite, and an attractive, confident smile. Want to know more? Talk it over with Dr. Lapsi at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office for all the information you’ll need!

Dental-Healthy Snacks for Your School-Aged Child

November 16th, 2022

Kids are constantly active and constantly growing. No wonder they’re constantly hungry! When it’s time for a snack, here are some tips to make between meal treats timely, tasty, and tooth-friendly.

Keep snacks to a minimum

Every time we eat, we’re also providing food for the bacteria in our mouths. Bacteria use sugars to produce acids. These acids weaken our enamel and can lead to cavities. Luckily, we have a natural way of protecting our teeth. Saliva washes away food particles and bacteria, and even provides substances that strengthen our teeth in the hours between meals.

When we eat throughout the day, there is no chance for this recovery period to take place. Small children aren’t usually able to get through the day without a few snack periods, which is perfectly normal. Just try to make sure that snacking doesn’t become all-day grazing!

Avoid foods that contain sugar and carbohydrates at snack time

We know that sugar leads to an increased chance of cavities because bacteria convert this sugar into acids that damage our enamel. But carbohydrates should also be in the no-snack zone. Why? Because carbohydrates break down into sugar very quickly. So while you wouldn’t offer your child a daily mid-afternoon snack of sodas and chocolate bars, those muffins, doughnuts, chips, and bagels should be on the “special treat” list as well.

Dental-healthy snacks

Luckily, we are left with many healthy and convenient choices when your child needs a nibble.

  • Crunchy, crisp fresh fruits and vegetables provide vitamins as well as a gentle scrubbing action to help clean teeth. They are also rich in water, which helps us produce the saliva that naturally washes away food particles and bacteria.
  • Low-fat yogurts and cheeses provide essential calcium for strong teeth and the vitamin D that helps us absorb calcium.
  • Whole grain breads, cereals, and crackers are healthier than products made only with white flour because they retain valuable vitamins and minerals that have been removed from refined grains.
  • Lean meats, peas, legumes, and eggs provide protein that helps build connective tissue and maintain tooth structure.
  • Water helps stimulate saliva production and provides cavity-fighting fluoride. Win/win!

You are constantly looking for ways to make your children’s lives better. Mix and match any of these foods for a snack that’s not only good for their teeth, but rich in the proteins, vitamins, and minerals needed to keep them active and growing throughout their school years. If you have questions about your child’s dietary needs, feel free to ask Dr. Lapsi at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office.

There’s an App for That!

November 9th, 2022

We live in a tech-savvy world, and dental professionals take advantage of it! Digital imaging, convenient record storage and sharing, even more comfortable denture design—these are just some of the ways dentists can use modern technology to make our time in the office more efficient and more effective.

And since modern software developers have given us a program for just about everything, it’s no surprise that you can find apps to help make your home dental care more convenient and perhaps even more effective, too. What can an app do for you?

  • Brushing and Flossing? Apply Yourself!

A big part of making your smile look its best is the care you take at home. This means keeping up with daily brushing and flossing, and using proper technique. Two minutes brushing, twice each day, and flossing at least once a day are the basic recommendations for preventing cavities and gum disease.

And to help you make sure you get a solid two minutes of brushing twice a day? Try an app that plays two minutes of your favorite music with a perfectly timed brushing playlist. Apps can also send you brushing and flossing reminders, let you know when it’s time to change your toothbrush (every three months, please!), and give you tips on better brushing and flossing techniques.

And for the kids in the house? There are apps just for children that use music and games to help teach them how—and how long—to brush, for an enjoyable and even educational brushing experience.

  • Keep Track of Your Appointments

Your dentist is your partner in preventative care. Regular examinations and professional cleanings at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office not only make sure problems are caught before they become serious, they can help prevent problems from developing in the first place.

There are many apps out there that are designed to help you keep your dental care on track with appointment reminders. This sounds pretty basic, but when you have work, school, volunteering, sports, and activities filling your days, it doesn’t hurt to get a timely reminder that Dr. Lapsi should be seeing you for a checkup and a cleaning in the near future.

  • Mapping Out Your Dental Care

Have an electric toothbrush? There just might be an app available designed to work especially with your model. These handy apps can let you know if you’re brushing long enough. They can alert you if you’re brushing too hard, which is not good for your enamel. Some apps can provide a map that lets you know just where you’ve brushed, in case you tend to neglect a few spots.

If you or a family member are thinking about orthodontic treatment, you’re in luck!

Not sure just how you’ll look in braces? Get a preview with an app that uses one of your selfies to model different types and styles of braces, brackets, bands, and aligners. Metal brackets? Ceramic? Elastic bands in your choice of colors? No bands at all? Hardly visible aligners? Find the look that works for you.

There are apps which can keep track of the hours you wear your aligners, or alert you to put on or replace your elastic bands if you wear traditional braces. Some apps even let you track your progress with selfies or “countdown” features.

  • When Problems Happen

There are apps which can help you with basic dental questions. Apps can let you know that symptoms like a discolored tooth mean you should give your dentist a call, or provide instructions for taking care of simple problems, such as applying wax to an irritating bracket. Always remember, though, an app is not a dentist, and can’t diagnose or suggest treatment. If you have a problem or concern, call us immediately.

  • Dentist Approved

If you’ve checked out the dental apps available for your operating system, you know that there are a lot of options out there. To help you find the best app for you and your family, talk to Dr. Lapsi.

We might know just the app for your specific dental needs, whether you’re looking to brush up on brushing techniques, organize your time more efficiently, manage your dental care, or simply make your family’s dental activities a little more fun. It’s a tech-savvy world—take advantage of it!

Getting Ready for Winter

November 2nd, 2022

Winter Is Coming.

Okay, that sounded a lot more dramatic in a popular fantasy series. But here in the real world, winter is coming as well, so let’s look at some easy steps you can take to keep your teeth and gums healthy during this icy season.

Remember to Hydrate

Dehydration is dangerous for your health in general, and it’s also bad for your dental health. A dry mouth is more vulnerable to gum disease and tooth decay because there’s less saliva to help maintain a healthy oral environment. Saliva helps wash away food particles and bacteria, works to neutralize the cavity-causing acids they produce, and strengthens tooth enamel with its mineral content.

Summer means heat and perspiration—two obvious causes of dehydration. Winter, though, has its own more subtle ways to dry you out.

  • Just as you lose moisture through summer perspiration, you lose moisture with a winter workout as well. That foggy cloud you see when you exhale outdoors? That’s water vapor leaving your body.
  • Cold weather means it’s time to kick up the heating system a few degrees. But unlike heated summer outdoor air, heated winter indoor air is not as humid, so it’s more drying.
  • Some of us just aren’t as thirsty during winter months, and so we don’t hydrate as regularly as we do in the summer. And while summer menus tend to offer foods like salad, fruits, and iced drinks which automatically provide us with a lot of water content, winter menus? Not so much. Keep up with your daily recommended amount of water throughout the year for a healthier body and healthier teeth and gums.

Wear Your Mouthguard

Whether it’s skiing, hockey, snowboarding, or skating, those winter sports can be hard on your teeth. That’s why it’s important to wear your mouthguard when you’re getting the most out of the snow and ice. Mouthguards help prevent injuries to your teeth and provide protection for your jaw and mouth, too.

And a sport doesn’t have to involve snow and ice to be a winter hazard for your teeth. The combination of hard courts, flying elbows, and body contact make basketball a leader in the dental injuries competition. In fact, any sport which involves potential falls or personal contact is a good candidate for a mouthguard.

Mouthguards are available in several forms:

  • One-size-fits-all, pre-formed mouthguards can be found in drugstores and sporting goods stores.
  • “Boil-and-bite” models are warmed in hot water and then shaped when you bite down. The fit is somewhat more comfortable than a stock guard.
  • Custom-made guards from your dentist are precisely molded to your teeth and mouth, letting you speak and breathe more comfortably.

If you haven’t gotten a mouthguard yet, or your old high school guard was retired years ago, talk to Dr. Lapsi about a custom guard.  While the over-the-counter options are better than going unprotected, a custom mouthguard fits your teeth perfectly—and comfortably!

Get to the Bottom of Winter Sensitivity

That first breath of frosty air might be more alarming than invigorating when tooth pain and sensitivity makes being out in the cold an unpleasant experience. Sensitivity to cold air or warm winter drinks can be an important symptom, caused by a number of dental conditions such as:

  • Cracked teeth
  • Cavities
  • Exposed dentin (the layer of the tooth underneath your enamel)
  • Receding gums
  • Over-vigorous brushing

If the cold weather is keeping you indoors because of oral sensitivity, give us a call.

Even though this can be a very busy time of year, if you’re due for a checkup and cleaning at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, or if you have any concerns about your teeth and gums, make time for your dental health. We want to make sure you’re ready to enjoy every frosty moment of the season!

How long will a root canal last?

October 26th, 2022

According to the American Association of Endodontists, root canals have a success rate of over 95% and in most cases they last a lifetime.

There are a few factors that ensure the root canal will last and should be followed.

  • You want to make sure you allow Dr. Lapsi to perform a permanent restoration of the tooth. That means getting the filling and the crown immediately after the canals have been cleaned of all bacteria and debris.
  • Practice good oral hygiene; that means brushing and flossing at least three times a day especially after meals and before bed.
  • Just because a tooth has had a root canal that does not mean the tooth is safe for as long as it remains in your mouth. That tooth can still get a cavity. Since the nerves are no longer present in that tooth you will not feel any pain or experience any other signs of a cavity. That’s why it is important to get regular cleanings and checkups.
  • If the tooth becomes fractured or you develop an abscess, you will feel pain and know there is a problem with the tooth.

Why do root canals fail?

As mentioned above, only about five percent of root canals fail, and sometimes it is not actually a “failure.” In cases, of teeth that have more than one root, it is possible that only one root was infected and filled. If the remaining root(s) become infected in the future, they will also need a root canal performed on them.

There are a few other reasons why your root canal may fail:

  • The first reason is you may not have taken good care of your tooth (teeth). This is commonly seen in children and teens who often have inconsistent oral hygiene habits.
  • If the tooth has more than one root, and one of the roots has a minute infection that is undetectable and goes unnoticed it can cause the root canal to fail. While this scenario is very unlikely, it does occasionally happen.
  • Over time, the seal can become weak and bacteria can enter the tooth. This is also very uncommon but it does happen.

No procedure dental or medical comes with a 100% guarantee to last a lifetime, but if you take care of your treated tooth, the chances of success are great.

If you have any additional questions about root canals and your oral health, be sure to ask a member of our team at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office.

A Prescription for Oral Health

October 19th, 2022

You and your dentist are essential partners in making sure you have the best dental care. You do your part by eating a tooth-healthy diet, brushing and flossing as recommended, and seeing Dr. Lapsi regularly for checkups and cleanings.

And one more essential step you can take for your dental health? Let Dr. Lapsi know which prescriptions and over the counter medications you’re taking.

Medications Have Oral/Dental Side Effects

We’ve all grown used to hearing “Possible side effects include . . .” at the end of every pharmaceutical commercial. That’s because those unintended side effects can affect our health in any number of unexpected ways—and this includes oral health.

For example, a common side effect of many medications is xerostomia, or “dry mouth.” Because saliva helps keep our teeth and gums healthy by washing away food particles and oral bacteria and by reducing acidity in the mouth, a reduction in saliva production means a greater risk of cavities, gum disease, oral infections, denture discomfort, and bad breath.

Knowing a patient is taking one of the hundreds of medications which cause xerostomia allows Dr. Lapsi to both monitor the condition and suggest the most effective treatment options to control unpleasant symptoms.

Medications can cause not only dry mouth, but excessive gum tissue growth, oral sores, tooth discoloration, and changes in taste, among other side effects, so knowing which medications you’re taking can provide essential information for the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions.

Medications Interact

Medication might be needed for your dental treatment. Because certain drugs, supplements, and even some vitamins and foods can affect the way our bodies metabolize, absorb, and respond to other medications, we need to know which medicines you’re taking to arrive at your best treatment options.

  • There are different classes of antibiotics used to treat oral infections. Knowing your medical history enables Dr. Lapsi to choose an antibiotic option which won’t interact with your other medications.
  • Local anesthetics such as lidocaine, which numb the area to be treated, can also interact with certain medications. Dr. Lapsi can prescribe an alternative local anesthetic or adjust the dosage as needed.
  • If you will be using sedation during your procedure, you have several options, including nitrous oxide gas, oral sedation, or IV sedation. Be sure we know about all of your medications beforehand because of possible interactions. Changes can be made to the type of sedation and/or the dosage as needed.

Medications Impact Treatment

It’s important for Dr. Lapsi to know if any of your medications will affect standard treatments.

Anticoagulants, for example, are a necessary medication for preventing blood clots from forming, and are often prescribed for certain heart conditions, after joint replacement surgery, or for anyone at risk for developing blood clots. Because these medications prevent the blood from clotting, it’s important to let us know if you are taking such drugs before any kind of oral surgery.

If needed, Dr. Lapsi can work with you and your doctor to create a treatment plan which will be safe, effective, and designed to work with any of your medications. You should never discontinue taking your prescribed medications before dental work without medical approval, as this can be dangerous.

We need the most up to date information about your health to provide you with the best care possible. Knowing which medications you take and why you take them can help us:

  • Diagnose and treat any side effects from non-dental medications which have affected your oral health,
  • Prevent drug interactions from occurring, and
  • Tailor your treatment to your specific medical needs.

Your prescriptions, over the counter medications, and even herbal supplements and vitamins are essential information. It’s a good idea to make a list before your next appointment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office so you have specific medications and their dosages at hand. It’s one small—but vital—step you can take to work with Dr. Lapsi for your best dental health!

Care for Your Dentures

October 12th, 2022

Just like natural teeth, Dr. Lapsi will tell you that dentures have a tendency to get coated with plaque, which is a sticky, transparent film that attracts food and bacteria. When you don’t take care of your dentures adequately and regularly, plaque can build up, harden, and become difficult to remove. More importantly, it can result in dental problems, including gum disease and infection. Proper care for your dentures also helps them maintain their shape, fit the way they are supposed to, and last longer.

Cleaning your dentures

Your dentures should be cleaned with the same diligence as you clean natural teeth.

  • Take out dentures and rinse them after eating. To remove food particles, run water over your dentures.
  • Clean your teeth after denture removal. Once dentures have been removed, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to brush existing teeth, gums, and tongue.
  • Scrub your dentures on a daily basis. At least once per day, gently scrub your dentures with a soft-bristled toothbrush and denture cleanser.
  • Soak dentures overnight. In order to keep their shape intact, many dentures must remain moist. Always use a mild denture solution recommended by our office. Never use hot water on your dentures, as they may warp their shape.
  • Rinse dentures prior to placing them back in your mouth. This is especially important if you soak your dentures in a denture solution.
  • Dentures are fragile and can break when dropped. It’s a good idea to hold them in a soft cloth or towel to keep them from falling and breaking.

Over time, even with diligent daily care, your dentures may form difficult-to-remove tartar. When this happens, our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics uses a powerful ultrasonic cleaner to remove stubborn, denture build-up.

Proper care for your dentures can help retain their shape, prevent oral issues, and increase their longevity. Visit Dr. Lapsi regularly at our convenient Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office to maintain your oral health and keep your dentures in tip-top shape.

Finding the Right Dental Products for Your Child

October 5th, 2022

Dr. Lapsi and our team know how overwhelming it can be to pick the right dental products for your children. When you visit the dental aisle at the grocery store, you see too many options to choose from. We want to help you make an informed decision based on your son or daughter’s needs.

First, you should consider your child’s age and where he or she is in terms of development. Most kids are unable to floss properly until around 12 years of age because of the necessary dexterity. If your youngster is under 12 years old, make sure to assist with flossing every night.

Another option is to use flossers for children. This will make the exercise a bit easier for your little one, because flossers have different-sized handles to fit all ages of hands.

When you’re looking for a child’s toothbrush, the head should be a little bigger than the top portion of your son or daughter’s thumb. If a toothbrush is too big, it won’t be able to reach small areas in the mouth properly. Battery-powered toothbrushes are also recommended because they improve overall brushing quality for both adults and children.

If your child is too young to spit, he or she should use toothpaste without fluoride. Small children tend to swallow toothpaste, even when they don’t intend to. Try looking for a toothpaste that has xylitol listed as the first ingredient. This is a natural sweetener that is beneficial to teeth.

You should also try to identify a flavor that appeals to your child. Same as adults, children like to brush more if they enjoy the flavor that lingers in their mouth after brushing.

It’s smart to look at the ingredients in a toothpaste for the benefits your child needs. Some toothpastes contain sodium fluoride, which fights effectively against cavities. If your child has a sweet tooth, or has already had a cavity, we recommend buying a toothpaste with this ingredient.

Stannous fluoride is another popular ingredient that discourages cavities and includes anti-bacterial properties. You should also watch for the ingredient triclosan, which also suppresses bacteria. These ingredients are both recommend for children who have a high risk for cavities.

Anti-sensitivity toothpaste should also be easy to find in the dental aisle of the store. It contains potassium nitrate to help with sore gums and teeth.

If you’re still unsure which dental products your child should be using, contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office. Once we have general information about your child and his or her dental health, we can guide you in the right direction.

When it comes to picking the right toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash for your child, Excel Dental and Orthodontics is always here to help.

Is soda really bad for your teeth?

September 28th, 2022

You take a sip of soda – and someone remarks, “That’s going to ruin your teeth!”

Is that true? Is sweet soda the enemy of a healthy smile? The answer, unfortunately, is that one glass might not hurt your teeth, but drinking soda regularly can do some real damage.

Sodas are one of America’s favorite drinks. The American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry says about half of us drink soda regularly, averaging 2.6 glasses each day.

That’s a lot of soda considering the drinks are acidic, full of sugar, and have little or no nutritional value. It may surprise you to learn that it’s actually the acidity of cola, not the sugar, which poses the biggest threat to teeth. Over time, repeated exposure to soda wears down tooth enamel, leaving teeth stained and less able to prevent cavities.

As enamel wears away, teeth can become discolored, take on a rough texture, and become highly sensitive to hot or cold. Your teeth may start to tingle, and brushing or flossing can cause pain. If not checked by dental care, teeth may start to erode, becoming thinner and more likely to crack. It’s a pretty high price to pay for a glass of soda.

Of course, sodas are not the only culprits in tooth erosion. Coffee, wine, and some fruit juices are also acidic, though these drinks tend to have less acidity that a typical soda.

So what can you do to protect your teeth?

1. Cut back – way back – on acidic drinks.

2. Add more water to your daily diet in place of sodas.

3. Use a straw when you drink.

4. Don’t confuse diet soda with a healthy alternative. Diet drinks are just as acidic as regular sodas.

5. Rinse your mouth with water after drinking soda. The rinse may remove some acid from your teeth, although abstaining from the soda would do more good.

6. Hold off on brushing your teeth after drinking soda. Brushing too hard can weaken enamel that is already covered in acid.

7. Pay attention to your teeth, both how they look and how they feel. Let Dr. Lapsi know if you see signs of discoloration or erosion, or feel tingling. Make an appointment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office if you feel tooth or gum pain when eating or drinking.

Why choose an orthodontic specialist over a general dentist?

September 21st, 2022

Patients have so many choices for straightening their teeth nowadays — clear aligners, ceramic braces, lingual braces, self-ligating braces — but who is best suited to guide them through orthodontic treatment? Well, an orthodontist like Dr. Lapsi in Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills of course!

This may seem obvious, but there’s misinformation circulating with regard to the roles dentists and orthodontists play in treating patients’ oral health.

Dentists are trained to clean teeth, fill cavities, perform certain dental surgeries, and examine overall oral health. Many dentists now offer braces to their patients, but according to the American Association of Orthodontists, it’s better to consult an orthodontist if you need to straighten teeth or fix a bite.

Why an orthodontist? Because they are...

  • Specialists in straightening teeth and aligning jaws, even advanced cases
  • Required to study an additional two to three years after dental school
  • Trained to choose the correct treatment option because they have worked with all the available options
  • Trained to recognize the potential pitfalls with certain treatments and cases, which means there’s less chance of problems after treatment has started or been completed
  • Familiar with emerging treatments and technologies so they can make the best choice for a patient’s case

Some dentists claim to have taken enough continuing education or additional training to offer braces to their patients. But this can't compare to the advanced training an orthodontist receives during his or her education.

Ideally, dentists and orthodontists work hand in hand to make sure oral health and the alignment of teeth and jaws are the best they can be. Think of a dentist as the one who is there for a lifetime, to make sure teeth and gums are healthy.

In contrast, an orthodontist is the highly skilled teammate who helps the dentist by straightening teeth and aligning the jaws over the course of a few years. Instead of one replacing the other, they work together for the health and benefit of their patients.

Are braces right for me?

September 14th, 2022

According to Preferred Consumer, it's estimated that 50 percent of people around the world have teeth that are crooked, not aligned properly, or irregular. Fortunately today, orthodontics has advanced to the point where corrective devices, such as braces and retainers, are less obvious, more comfortable, and can be worn for shorter periods of time.

So, with that being said, how do you know if braces are right for you? Typically your dentist will be able to point out any issues with your teeth at your regular six-month cleanings and recommend you to an orthodontist. But here are some other things to keep in mind when deciding whether or not braces could be in your future:

Crooked Teeth

As children grow, so do their teeth. And more often than not, certain teeth will grow in crooked. This isn't uncommon, as the majority of children will require some sort of teeth correction, whether that’s braces or retainers. Retainers are custom-made devices that either work to hold teeth in place or correct tooth alignment. They're often worn all day, aside from meals, at the start of the treatment period and then eventually are rolled back so they're just worn at night. Braces on the other hand are worn for at least a year and work to help straighten or position teeth.

Overbite or Underbite

The other main oral issue that orthodontics helps correct is uneven alignment, such as an underbite or an overbite. You might hear Dr. Lapsi refer to this as a "malocclusion," which means "bad bite." Braces can help rearrange your alignment so an overbite or underbite is less of a problem. Typically after the braces come off for this sort of treatment, patients need to wear a retainer from Excel Dental and Orthodontics to finish the treatment.

While braces are typically associated with dental issues in children, more adults are wearing the devices as well. About one in every five braces wearers are adults; a sign that it's never too late to correct any oral issues. Part of this is due to the technological advancements in orthodontics. For instance, new braces feel much better and come in a variety of styles — including clear — so they're far less obvious. Plus, the wires on braces are now made from advanced metals, which are stronger and lighter, so they get the job done much more efficiently. With so many people wearing braces these days, nicknames like "metal mouth" and "brace face" are almost a thing of the past. What's more, is that insurance plans are increasingly covering orthodontic treatment, making braces a much more feasible option for families on a budget.

When weighing whether or not braces are in your future, it's important to study all of your options about the styles of braces and what treatment option is best for you. Also be sure to contact your insurance provider to see what is covered and what will have to be paid out of pocket. It might take a few years of treatment, but braces can give you that winning smile for the rest of your life. Call our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office with any questions you might have!

Keep Those Teeth Shipshape, Matey!

September 7th, 2022

September 19th is just around the corner, and you know what that means—Aye, matey, it’s “Talk Like a Pirate Day”! Why do we have a “Talk Like a Pirate Day” and not a “Take Care of Your Teeth Like a Pirate Day”? You don’t need a treasure map to find the answers!

  • High Seas Hygiene

The toothbrush as we know it, with easy to clean nylon bristles, was invented less than 100 years ago. Even toothbrushes with animal bristles weren’t easily available until a century after pirates sailed the seas. If pirates brushed at all, they probably used rags or twigs with frayed ends to clean their teeth. And rags and twigs just can’t take care of plaque the way careful brushing and flossing can.

Two minutes brushing in the morning and two minutes at night, with careful flossing each day, will help keep your teeth as white as a chest of pearls—and healthy to boot!

  • Dastardly Diet

Pirates were a scurvy lot—literally. Scurvy is a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C, a vitamin found in fresh fruits and vegetables. One of the many unpleasant symptoms of scurvy is bleeding, swollen gums. As you can imagine, months at sea on a pirate ship provided very few chances for fresh fruit and vegetables. As a result, sailors often had to live with gum pain and even tooth loss from serious gum disease.

We now know that eating a healthy diet is a key to oral health. In fact, it was a British naval doctor who discovered that bringing oranges, lemons, and limes aboard sailing vessels prevented scurvy—but sadly for our pirate crew, this discovery happened several decades after the Golden Age of Piracy. Fortunately, you have access to a bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Eat a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, and your teeth and gums will be all the better for it.

It’s not looking too good for our pirate crew, but let’s look on the bright side—even if a pirate did get a cavity or suffer gum disease, he could always see the ship’s dentist, couldn’t he?

  • Ship’s Dentist—Arrrr You Kidding?

If a pirate had a bad cavity, his best treatment option would probably be to ask a fellow pirate to pull the tooth. If a pirate needed a root canal, his best treatment option would probably be to ask a fellow pirate to pull the tooth. If a pirate had a cracked tooth, his best… well, you get the picture.

Luckily, it’s a different world today. Now we have dentists with years of education and training, modern tools and equipment, and the very best medical knowledge to treat all of our dental problems, big and small. See your dentist at least twice a year for exams and cleanings, and you will reap the bountiful rewards of regular, professional, proactive care.

Being a pirate for a day is fun. We all enjoy tales of a good treasure hunt. But you already have a treasure that most pirates could never hope to have—healthy teeth and healthy gums! And with proper care, this treasure can last a lifetime. Until next September 19th, fair winds and good checkups at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office be yours, matey!

Awesome Archwires

August 31st, 2022

When we think braces, we can’t help but think of the brackets on each tooth and the colorful ligature bands that surround them. But actually, the whole point of those brackets and bands is to hold the archwire in place as it gradually moves your teeth to create a better bite and a straighter smile. Let’s learn more about this talented part of your braces!

  • Wire We Wearing These, Anyway?

Archwires use gentle, continuous pressure to move your teeth into alignment. That sounds simple, but there is actually a lot going on. Teeth often need more than realigning. Some teeth need to be turned a bit, some tilted. Your teeth need to be better aligned with those next to them, of course, but also need to fit properly with the teeth above or below them. You might have a malocclusion, or bad bite.

How can one wire handle all that? Well, it can’t. That’s why there are different types of wire. We often use thinner, flexible wires at the beginning of treatment, to put gentle pressure on the teeth as they start their movement. Other wires are firmer, and can be helpful in later phases, when each tooth is carefully moved to its specific, ideal spot. Archwires can be round or rectangular, thicker or thinner, springy or stiff, remember their shape or be bendable—all depending on what they need to do.

Whew! This sounds confusing, but Dr. Lapsi and our team are archwire experts! At every adjustment appointment, we check on the progress of your alignment and choose the exact wire you need to take you to the next stage of your orthodontic journey.

  • Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Wire

Now that you have braces, it’s more challenging to make sure that your teeth are clean after eating. We’ll give you advice on how to get rid of the pesky food particles that sometimes get stuck in your braces. First, that’s absolutely not the look you’re going for. But, more than that, bacteria can use these “leftovers” as fuel to create the acids that damage your enamel and cause cavities.

There’s a whole new world of dental products out there waiting to help get your braces clean. Special toothbrush heads work in the spaces between your teeth and the archwire. There are floss threaders that can get dental floss into tight places, and flosses with one stiff end you can guide under the wire so you can direct the floss to where it’s needed. There are even tiny cone-shaped brushes called “interproximal brushes” that can fit under your wires to clean around your brackets and teeth.

Take a care kit to school or work with you so you can keep the tooth surface under your wires and around your brackets free of plaque. After all the hard work you’ve put in with your braces, the last thing you want is cavities once you’ve achieved your beautiful smile!

  • Down to the Wire

We said archwires were awesome, but we didn’t say they were perfect! We couldn’t leave without suggestions for handling any wire-related problems that might come up.

One of the most common problems is the irritation caused by the end of a wire that has somehow come loose. You might be able to use a cotton swab to gently push the wire flat against the tooth. If that doesn’t work, orthodontic wax can be used to cover the end of the problem wire and smoothed into place. We’ll provide you with instructions on how to handle these and other minor wire problems at home. 

Other problems should be run past us first. If you feel your wire is coming loose, or if a loose end is causing a lot of pain and irritation, call our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office. We’ll give you instructions on how to help, and make an appointment if necessary for a professional fix.

In fact, call us anytime you have questions about your braces. We’re here to help you understand each phase of the orthodontic process as you move step by step on the path to a healthy bite and a beautiful smile. And what’s more awesome than that?

Smoking and Dental Implants

August 24th, 2022

Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to replace a missing tooth with an implant. While an implant will restore the appearance of your smile, you also know that there are many reasons that an implant will improve your health, too.

A missing tooth causes structural problems as well as cosmetic ones. Remaining teeth can shift to fill the gap, leading to wear and bite problems. Without the stimulation of biting and chewing, bone tissue under the lost tooth gradually shrinks and is resorbed. The shapes of our jaws, cheeks and lips can be affected. Replacing a lost tooth with an implant can not only restore the appearance of your smile, but maintain it.

And implant procedures have a very high rate of success. Implants are made of materials compatible with the body, and surgically placed in the jaw to act as anchors for replacement teeth. The implant will actually integrate with the bone growing around it for strong, stable, and long-lasting support. After the time it takes for the implant to integrate and the area around it to heal, a crown, designed to match your own teeth perfectly, will be securely attached to the implant post.

What can you do to help the healing process? Follow our instructions carefully. Dr. Lapsi will give you suggestions for the time immediately following the procedure as well as instructions on the importance of keeping the area clean while healing takes place. And one very important favor you can do yourself? If you smoke, this is the time to stop.

Studies have shown that smokers have a significantly increased risk of dental problems and implant failures, and there are several theories as to why.

  • Smoking slows the healing process. Some studies indicate that smoking impairs blood flow in the gums, so that less oxygen and fewer nutrients are delivered to healing tissue.
  • Smokers tend to be more vulnerable to gum disease.
  • Smoking has been linked to a weaker immune system, so it’s harder to fight off an infection or to heal from one.
  • More marginal bone loss around implants is seen in smokers than in non-smokers.
  • Peri-implantitis, an inflammation of the gum tissue around the implant that can lead to bone loss and implant failure, is also more common in smokers.

Now that you have decided on a dental implant at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, make one more decision to ensure the success of the procedure. Talk to us about ways to quit smoking before your implant, and how to reduce the chance of smoking-related complications. We know that quitting can be difficult, but your improved smile—and your improved health—are worth it!

When should I floss during the day?

August 17th, 2022

A vital step in your oral health routine is flossing. We hope our patients at Excel Dental and Orthodontics maintain good oral hygiene, including daily flossing between each visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office. A toothbrush is not always enough to get to the hard-to-reach areas of your mouth. When food remains between your teeth, bacteria starts to grow and will break down your enamel. This is where flossing comes in!

Should you floss before or after brushing?

Whatever your personal preference, you may floss before or after you brush your teeth. When you floss first, you can brush away any leftover dislodged food debris from your teeth. On the other hand, when you brush first, you will loosen the plaque between your teeth, which makes flossing more effective.

The essential aspect is that you floss thoroughly by using a fresh strand of floss and make sure to get between every tooth. Even if your teeth look and feel clean, don’t skip flossing or plaque will begin to build up on your teeth.

When is the best time to floss?

Although you should brush your teeth at least twice a day, Dr. Lapsi and our team recommend flossing your teeth thoroughly once a day. Many people prefer to floss before bed, so that plaque doesn’t sit between their teeth all night.

What kind of floss should I use?

You may choose between interdental cleaning picks or flexible floss strands to perform your daily flossing routine. If you have permanent oral appliances or restorations, be sure to follow the flossing instructions provided to you.

Do you need help flossing?

If you’re having trouble flossing or have questions about which floss is best for your teeth, contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office and we can provide you with support. Be sure to keep up with your daily flossing routine, and we will see you at your next appointment!

Treatments for Tooth Discoloration

August 10th, 2022

Congratulations! You’re getting married! Wow! It’s your twentieth reunion! New job? Great news! No matter the occasion, large or small, you want to celebrate it with your whitest, brightest smile. How can Dr. Lapsi help? In a number of ways!

Professional Whitening

Because teeth are porous, over time substances in food, beverages, and tobacco products can stain the surface of the teeth. This is called extrinsic staining. If this is your concern, having your teeth whitened professionally is the fastest, most effective, and longest-lasting method of achieving your brightest smile.

We’ll examine your teeth to make sure that there are no pre-existing conditions such as cavities or gum disease that should be treated before whitening. We will use a gel with a higher concentration of whitening ingredients than over-the-counter products, protect your gums, and monitor the entire process. If you want to whiten at home, talk to us during your visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office about custom mouthpieces and professional whitening gels for precise application and safe, effective results.

Intrinsic Stains

Intrinsic stains are below the surface of the tooth, and harder to remove. These stains might be the result of an injury to the tooth or exposure to a medication like tetracycline while the tooth is forming.

While some whitening systems and professional whiteners can improve intrinsic staining if it is not too severe, normally bonding or veneers are better options. We can use color matching to make sure bonding or veneers are indistinguishable from your natural teeth. And do consider a professional whitening first, so we can match your dental work to your whitest natural smile!

Treating Existing Dental Work

Again, when you are considering porcelain veneers or crowns, composite veneers, or tooth bonding, choose the color that works best for your whitest natural smile, because these materials cannot be whitened like natural teeth. If you have dental work already in place that you would like to brighten, both composite and porcelain dental work can be polished to remove surface stains. If the color is simply not a good match for your natural teeth any more, replacement of your dental work is an option we can discuss.

There are plenty of good reasons to get your teeth whitened—Weddings! Reunions! New jobs!—but the best reason of all is giving you the healthy, confidant smile you’ve always wanted. And that’s something to celebrate!

Hot Day? Three Drinks to Leave Home When You’re Packing the Cooler

August 3rd, 2022

Whew! It’s a hot one! And whenever the temperature soars, you need to stay hydrated, especially when you’re outside or exercising. But all cold drinks aren’t equal when it comes to healthy hydration. Which beverages shouldn’t have a prime spot in your cooler when you’re wearing braces or aligners?

  • Soft Drinks

You’re probably not surprised to find soft drinks at the top of the list. After all, sugar is a) a big part of what makes soda so popular, and b) not a healthy choice for your teeth.

Sugar is a favorite food source for the oral bacteria that make up plaque. These bacteria convert sugar into acids, and these acids attack the surface of your tooth enamel. Over time, the minerals which keep enamel strong begin to erode, and weakened, eroded enamel is a lot more susceptible to cavities.

So, what about sugar-free drinks? Does this make soft drinks a better choice? Unfortunately, you can take the sugar out of many sodas, but you can’t take the acids out. Most soft drinks are very acidic, even without sugar, and will cause enamel erosion just like the acids created by bacteria will.

  • Fruit Drinks

Fruit juice provides us with vitamins, which is great, but it’s also full of natural sugars and acids. And blended fruit drinks and fruit punches often contain added sugars and added citric acids. Best to choose 100% fruit content and check the labels before you buy. (And you can always get refreshing fruit flavor by adding a slice of fruit to a glass of water.)

  • Sports Drinks

You might be surprised to see these on the list—after all, they promise healthy hydration while you’re working out. And hydration is healthy—but sugars and acids aren’t. Even when the label tells you there’s no added sugar, that same label will often reveal high amounts of citric acid. In fact, some sports drinks are more acidic than sodas.

We’ll make an exception, though, for thirsty people who participate in sports or activities that require a lot of physical exercise and produce a lot of sweat. When we sweat, we lose electrolytes, those ionized minerals which help regulate many vital bodily functions. Talk to Dr. Lapsi about which sports drinks are best for you if you need to replenish your electrolytes when working out.

So, what’s your best hydration choice on a hot day? Water! It not only hydrates you, it cleans your teeth, it helps you produce saliva, and it often contains tooth-strengthening fluoride. But if you only have sports drinks in the cooler, or if you just want to enjoy a soft drink or a bottle of juice from time to time, no need to go thirsty. We have some ways to make sure your teeth are safer, even with this tricky trio:

  • Rinse with water after you drink a sugary or acidic drink. And remember to brush when you get home.
  • Be choosy. Check labels for added sugars and acids.
  • Don’t sip your drinks all day long. Saliva actually helps neutralize acids in the mouth, but sipping acidic beverages throughout the day doesn’t give saliva a chance to work.
  • Use a straw to avoid washing your enamel in sugars and acids.

You need to keep hydrated when it’s hot. When you’re packing your cooler, choose drinks that are healthy for your entire body, including your teeth and gums. Ask our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills team for the best choices in cold drinks to make sure you’re getting the hydration you need—without the sugar and acids you don’t!

Orthodontic Myths

July 27th, 2022

Some myths never wear out their welcome. If the Tooth Fairy helps your child transition from baby teeth to adult teeth, more power to her! On the other hand, some myths we can do without. Here are five common misconceptions about orthodontics, and the reality behind the myth.

  • It’s Only Cosmetic

If you think orthodontists can make a crooked smile straight, you’re right! Creating a beautifully aligned smile is one of our specialties. And if your primary interest is in a straight, even smile for you or your child, that’s a good thing. You can’t underestimate the confidence a beautiful smile brings. But please don’t think that’s all we do. In orthodontics, aesthetics and function work together. An essential part of an orthodontist’s work is diagnosing and treating malocclusions, or bad bites. The correct alignment of teeth and jaw is what makes a beautiful smile a healthy one as well.

  • I Don’t Need an Orthodontist for Orthodontic Treatment

All dentists receive comprehensive training and experience in order to earn their dental degrees. But did you know orthodontists like Dr. Lapsi receive two to three years of additional formal training, concentrating specifically in the field of orthodontics? An orthodontist is a specialist, and diagnoses and treats problems with tooth alignment while taking into account dental, jaw and facial development. That is why an orthodontic specialist is best qualified to create a unique, custom-tailored treatment plan for each patient in order to achieve a beautiful, balanced, and healthy smile.

  • My Child is Too Young for Orthodontic Treatment

We actually recommend that every child see an orthodontist for an evaluation by the age of seven. It’s important to be aware of any potential orthodontic problems that might affect your child’s later years, but we can also treat problems even before braces are on the horizon. If your child’s mouth is very small, we may recommend gently enlarging the upper dental arch with the use of a palatal expander to accommodate adult teeth as they erupt. If a baby tooth is lost too soon, we can provide a space maintainer so your child’s permanent tooth can erupt in the right place. We can even treat bite problems before all the adult teeth arrive. A visit when your child is young might help prevent the need for more complicated treatment in the future.

  • I’m Too Old for Orthodontic Treatment

You’re really not. As long as your teeth and gums are healthy, orthodontic treatment is a great way to keep them healthy. Crowded teeth and malocclusions can lead to problems like worn or cracked enamel, headaches, jaw problems, increased tooth decay, and periodontal disease, to name but a few. And today’s orthodontics offer a much wider variety of treatment options than the metal gear you remember from your high school days. Which leads us to our last myth of the day:

  • Those Metal Braces Aren’t for Me

In that case, it’s a good thing we have many other options to offer. Ceramic brackets and clear elastic ligatures make traditional braces much less visible. Lingual braces use brackets and wires placed behind the teeth, which are almost impossible to detect. And clear aligners allow you to subtly reposition your teeth with each new aligner tray—and are removable if need be. In fact, even those metal braces you might remember from your own high school days have gotten smaller and sleeker. Talk to us about the many discreet options available for older and younger patients.

If you are interested in what orthodontics might do for you, give our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office a call! We are here to help you discover what’s possible and then to design the best possible treatment plan in order to achieve it.  Let’s make your beautiful, healthy smile a reality!

Heading Off to College? Maybe It’s Time to Graduate to an Electric Toothbrush!

July 20th, 2022

Your trusty manual toothbrush has been with you from pre-school through high school—well, obviously not the same manual toothbrush, because that would be seriously unhygienic—but it’s the kind of toothbrush you’re used to and comfortable with.

Now, though, you’re off to college, and your lifestyle will be changing. Late night study sessions complete with study session snacks. Getting caught up in a project and making dinner from dorm vending machines. Grabbing fast food on the way to the practice field, or work-study job, or evening class. You get the point—meals can be hectic, unscheduled, and less than tooth friendly.

Maybe it’s time to consider an electric toothbrush. After all, anything that can make your life easier and more efficient during busy college days deserves a spot in your dorm room.

  • Electric Brushes Are Effective

The most important reason to switch to an electric toothbrush is its effectiveness. Several studies have shown that regular use of an electric toothbrush leads to a marked reduction in plaque, that bacteria-filled film which sticks to the teeth and leads to cavities and gingivitis. And it’s really no surprise that an electric brush can out-perform a manual brush.

Electric toothbrushes offer several design options, from oscillating/rotating brushes to oscillating/rotating/pulsating models to brushes using sonic vibration technology. What these technologies all have in common is the ability to remove plaque far more efficiently than we can on our own, because electric brushes provide the equivalent of thousands and even tens of thousands of brushstrokes per minute, compared to the hundreds we can achieve by hand.

You know by now what your brushing habits are like. If you tend to be a bit cavalier with your brushing and flossing, make sure you set yourself up for success. Because you have better things to do during semester breaks and summer vacations than visiting Dr. Lapsi!

  • Electric Brushes Can Make Life Easier

Several of today’s electric brushes come with options designed to do more than simply remove plaque. They can let you know if you’ve brushed for the recommended two minutes, alert you if you’re brushing too hard, and even remind you when it’s time to replace the brush head.

Want more from your electric brush? Some models offer apps that can map out just where you’ve brushed, in case there are a few spots that often get overlooked. Or provide different brushing modes for daily cleaning, deep cleaning, whitening, and more. Or come with a travel case that can recharge while you’re busy exploring the world—or going home for a visit.

In the end, it’s up to you. Do some independent study and research the toothbrushes that will give you the best results for your individual brushing habits. You might not need or want a brush with all the technological bells and whistles.

If you’re comfortable with your manual brush and you get good grades when you visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, stick with it. But if you think you might benefit from the ease and efficiency of an electric toothbrush, if an electric toothbrush makes your teeth and gums healthier and your smile brighter, that’s an extra credit project worth pursuing.

Heading Off to College? Maybe It’s Time to Graduate to an Electric Toothbrush!

July 20th, 2022

Your trusty manual toothbrush has been with you from pre-school through high school—well, obviously not the same manual toothbrush, because that would be seriously unhygienic—but it’s the kind of toothbrush you’re used to and comfortable with.

Now, though, you’re off to college, and your lifestyle will be changing. Late night study sessions complete with study session snacks. Getting caught up in a project and making dinner from dorm vending machines. Grabbing fast food on the way to the practice field, or work-study job, or evening class. You get the point—meals can be hectic, unscheduled, and less than tooth friendly.

Maybe it’s time to consider an electric toothbrush. After all, anything that can make your life easier and more efficient during busy college days deserves a spot in your dorm room.

  • Electric Brushes Are Effective

The most important reason to switch to an electric toothbrush is its effectiveness. Several studies have shown that regular use of an electric toothbrush leads to a marked reduction in plaque, that bacteria-filled film which sticks to the teeth and leads to cavities and gingivitis. And it’s really no surprise that an electric brush can out-perform a manual brush.

Electric toothbrushes offer several design options, from oscillating/rotating brushes to oscillating/rotating/pulsating models to brushes using sonic vibration technology. What these technologies all have in common is the ability to remove plaque far more efficiently than we can on our own, because electric brushes provide the equivalent of thousands and even tens of thousands of brushstrokes per minute, compared to the hundreds we can achieve by hand.

You know by now what your brushing habits are like. If you tend to be a bit cavalier with your brushing and flossing, make sure you set yourself up for success. Because you have better things to do during semester breaks and summer vacations than visiting Dr. Lapsi!

  • Electric Brushes Can Make Life Easier

Several of today’s electric brushes come with options designed to do more than simply remove plaque. They can let you know if you’ve brushed for the recommended two minutes, alert you if you’re brushing too hard, and even remind you when it’s time to replace the brush head.

Want more from your electric brush? Some models offer apps that can map out just where you’ve brushed, in case there are a few spots that often get overlooked. Or provide different brushing modes for daily cleaning, deep cleaning, whitening, and more. Or come with a travel case that can recharge while you’re busy exploring the world—or going home for a visit.

In the end, it’s up to you. Do some independent study and research the toothbrushes that will give you the best results for your individual brushing habits. You might not need or want a brush with all the technological bells and whistles.

If you’re comfortable with your manual brush and you get good grades when you visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, stick with it. But if you think you might benefit from the ease and efficiency of an electric toothbrush, if an electric toothbrush makes your teeth and gums healthier and your smile brighter, that’s an extra credit project worth pursuing.

Broken Tooth: Is It an emergency or not?

July 13th, 2022

Have you ever had that sinking feeling after biting into something soft and chewy and feeling something hard and crunchy instead? You’ve chipped or broken a tooth, but what should you do next? First try to assess the damage by determining whether it’s a chip or a whole tooth.

As Dr. Lapsi will tell you, a broken or chipped tooth is usually not a dental emergency unless you are experiencing a great deal of pain or bleeding, but you should contact us for an appointment shortly afterward. Be sure to mention that you have a broken tooth so we can fit you into our schedule quickly. After a thorough evaluation, we’ll recommend a course of action. If it is a small chip, we may simply smooth it out. For a larger break, the dentist may fill in the space with a composite material that matches your other teeth.

Emergency Dental Care

If you are in severe pain, are bleeding excessively, have a major break, or have lost a tooth, that is a dental emergency and you should contact us. As emergency dental specialists, we’ll be able to schedule an appointment immediately and advise you on the next steps to take.

You can rinse your mouth with warm water and apply pressure to stop the bleeding. An ice pack will help reduce any swelling. Do not take any aspirin as that could increase the amount of bleeding. Should your tooth be knocked out completely, rinse it under running water but do not scrub it. Hold the tooth only by the crown, or the part you normally see above the gum line, not by the root. If you can, put the tooth back into the socket while you travel to our office, or put it in a mild salt solution or milk. Don’t let the tooth become dry, because this can lead to damage. Once you get to our office, our dentist will determine whether the tooth can be saved or if it will need to be replaced.

A broken tooth may not always be an emergency, but it’s best to have it treated with us at Excel Dental and Orthodontics. While it may only be a cosmetic problem at first, if left too long without treatment, you may experience further damage to your tooth and mouth.

Broken Tooth: Is It an emergency or not?

July 13th, 2022

Have you ever had that sinking feeling after biting into something soft and chewy and feeling something hard and crunchy instead? You’ve chipped or broken a tooth, but what should you do next? First try to assess the damage by determining whether it’s a chip or a whole tooth.

As Dr. Lapsi will tell you, a broken or chipped tooth is usually not a dental emergency unless you are experiencing a great deal of pain or bleeding, but you should contact us for an appointment shortly afterward. Be sure to mention that you have a broken tooth so we can fit you into our schedule quickly. After a thorough evaluation, we’ll recommend a course of action. If it is a small chip, we may simply smooth it out. For a larger break, the dentist may fill in the space with a composite material that matches your other teeth.

Emergency Dental Care

If you are in severe pain, are bleeding excessively, have a major break, or have lost a tooth, that is a dental emergency and you should contact us. As emergency dental specialists, we’ll be able to schedule an appointment immediately and advise you on the next steps to take.

You can rinse your mouth with warm water and apply pressure to stop the bleeding. An ice pack will help reduce any swelling. Do not take any aspirin as that could increase the amount of bleeding. Should your tooth be knocked out completely, rinse it under running water but do not scrub it. Hold the tooth only by the crown, or the part you normally see above the gum line, not by the root. If you can, put the tooth back into the socket while you travel to our office, or put it in a mild salt solution or milk. Don’t let the tooth become dry, because this can lead to damage. Once you get to our office, our dentist will determine whether the tooth can be saved or if it will need to be replaced.

A broken tooth may not always be an emergency, but it’s best to have it treated with us at Excel Dental and Orthodontics. While it may only be a cosmetic problem at first, if left too long without treatment, you may experience further damage to your tooth and mouth.

Should I use mouthwash?

July 6th, 2022

Mouthwashes are commonly used as a part of a daily oral care regimen. Not only do they freshen breath, but some are capable of improving dental health too. Using a mouthwash daily can rinse fine debris away and out of reach while brushing. It can also make the teeth and gums more resilient to decay and disease.

Types of Mouthwashes

There are several types of mouthwashes available today that Dr. Lapsi and our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics want you to be aware of. Some do little more than freshen breath and are known as cosmetic mouthwashes. These are ideal for quickly eliminating odors that linger after eating, drinking, or taking medication. Using a cosmetic mouthwash does not offer any health benefits.

Other mouthwashes offer more comprehensive benefits; they can potentially prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Mouthwashes that contain antimicrobial agents work by preventing the buildup of plaque that can lead to gingivitis and decay of the tooth enamel. However, it should be noted that the use of a mouthwash is never a substitute for regular brushing and flossing.

In some cases, prescription mouthwashes are necessary to treat patients with gum disease or who have undergone periodontal surgery. These specialty mouthwashes are designed specifically for the treatment of gum disease and should not be used outside of their intended use. The majority of mouthwashes require no prescription.

Tips for Choosing a Mouthwash

The choice to use a mouthwash and which one to use is between you and your dentist, depending on your individual oral health needs. If you determine that a mouthwash is right for you, look for one that contains fluoride, if possible. Fluoride provides an added layer of protection for your teeth, and helps them become more resistant to decay. As always, if you have any questions or concerns when choosing a mouthwash, please give our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics a call for assistance in selecting the rinse that is best for you. Or, we invite to ask us during your next visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

Should I use mouthwash?

July 6th, 2022

Mouthwashes are commonly used as a part of a daily oral care regimen. Not only do they freshen breath, but some are capable of improving dental health too. Using a mouthwash daily can rinse fine debris away and out of reach while brushing. It can also make the teeth and gums more resilient to decay and disease.

Types of Mouthwashes

There are several types of mouthwashes available today that Dr. Lapsi and our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics want you to be aware of. Some do little more than freshen breath and are known as cosmetic mouthwashes. These are ideal for quickly eliminating odors that linger after eating, drinking, or taking medication. Using a cosmetic mouthwash does not offer any health benefits.

Other mouthwashes offer more comprehensive benefits; they can potentially prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Mouthwashes that contain antimicrobial agents work by preventing the buildup of plaque that can lead to gingivitis and decay of the tooth enamel. However, it should be noted that the use of a mouthwash is never a substitute for regular brushing and flossing.

In some cases, prescription mouthwashes are necessary to treat patients with gum disease or who have undergone periodontal surgery. These specialty mouthwashes are designed specifically for the treatment of gum disease and should not be used outside of their intended use. The majority of mouthwashes require no prescription.

Tips for Choosing a Mouthwash

The choice to use a mouthwash and which one to use is between you and your dentist, depending on your individual oral health needs. If you determine that a mouthwash is right for you, look for one that contains fluoride, if possible. Fluoride provides an added layer of protection for your teeth, and helps them become more resistant to decay. As always, if you have any questions or concerns when choosing a mouthwash, please give our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics a call for assistance in selecting the rinse that is best for you. Or, we invite to ask us during your next visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

Should I use mouthwash?

July 6th, 2022

Mouthwashes are commonly used as a part of a daily oral care regimen. Not only do they freshen breath, but some are capable of improving dental health too. Using a mouthwash daily can rinse fine debris away and out of reach while brushing. It can also make the teeth and gums more resilient to decay and disease.

Types of Mouthwashes

There are several types of mouthwashes available today that Dr. Lapsi and our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics want you to be aware of. Some do little more than freshen breath and are known as cosmetic mouthwashes. These are ideal for quickly eliminating odors that linger after eating, drinking, or taking medication. Using a cosmetic mouthwash does not offer any health benefits.

Other mouthwashes offer more comprehensive benefits; they can potentially prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Mouthwashes that contain antimicrobial agents work by preventing the buildup of plaque that can lead to gingivitis and decay of the tooth enamel. However, it should be noted that the use of a mouthwash is never a substitute for regular brushing and flossing.

In some cases, prescription mouthwashes are necessary to treat patients with gum disease or who have undergone periodontal surgery. These specialty mouthwashes are designed specifically for the treatment of gum disease and should not be used outside of their intended use. The majority of mouthwashes require no prescription.

Tips for Choosing a Mouthwash

The choice to use a mouthwash and which one to use is between you and your dentist, depending on your individual oral health needs. If you determine that a mouthwash is right for you, look for one that contains fluoride, if possible. Fluoride provides an added layer of protection for your teeth, and helps them become more resistant to decay. As always, if you have any questions or concerns when choosing a mouthwash, please give our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics a call for assistance in selecting the rinse that is best for you. Or, we invite to ask us during your next visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

Should I use mouthwash?

July 6th, 2022

Mouthwashes are commonly used as a part of a daily oral care regimen. Not only do they freshen breath, but some are capable of improving dental health too. Using a mouthwash daily can rinse fine debris away and out of reach while brushing. It can also make the teeth and gums more resilient to decay and disease.

Types of Mouthwashes

There are several types of mouthwashes available today that Dr. Lapsi and our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics want you to be aware of. Some do little more than freshen breath and are known as cosmetic mouthwashes. These are ideal for quickly eliminating odors that linger after eating, drinking, or taking medication. Using a cosmetic mouthwash does not offer any health benefits.

Other mouthwashes offer more comprehensive benefits; they can potentially prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Mouthwashes that contain antimicrobial agents work by preventing the buildup of plaque that can lead to gingivitis and decay of the tooth enamel. However, it should be noted that the use of a mouthwash is never a substitute for regular brushing and flossing.

In some cases, prescription mouthwashes are necessary to treat patients with gum disease or who have undergone periodontal surgery. These specialty mouthwashes are designed specifically for the treatment of gum disease and should not be used outside of their intended use. The majority of mouthwashes require no prescription.

Tips for Choosing a Mouthwash

The choice to use a mouthwash and which one to use is between you and your dentist, depending on your individual oral health needs. If you determine that a mouthwash is right for you, look for one that contains fluoride, if possible. Fluoride provides an added layer of protection for your teeth, and helps them become more resistant to decay. As always, if you have any questions or concerns when choosing a mouthwash, please give our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics a call for assistance in selecting the rinse that is best for you. Or, we invite to ask us during your next visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

Should I use mouthwash?

July 6th, 2022

Mouthwashes are commonly used as a part of a daily oral care regimen. Not only do they freshen breath, but some are capable of improving dental health too. Using a mouthwash daily can rinse fine debris away and out of reach while brushing. It can also make the teeth and gums more resilient to decay and disease.

Types of Mouthwashes

There are several types of mouthwashes available today that Dr. Lapsi and our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics want you to be aware of. Some do little more than freshen breath and are known as cosmetic mouthwashes. These are ideal for quickly eliminating odors that linger after eating, drinking, or taking medication. Using a cosmetic mouthwash does not offer any health benefits.

Other mouthwashes offer more comprehensive benefits; they can potentially prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Mouthwashes that contain antimicrobial agents work by preventing the buildup of plaque that can lead to gingivitis and decay of the tooth enamel. However, it should be noted that the use of a mouthwash is never a substitute for regular brushing and flossing.

In some cases, prescription mouthwashes are necessary to treat patients with gum disease or who have undergone periodontal surgery. These specialty mouthwashes are designed specifically for the treatment of gum disease and should not be used outside of their intended use. The majority of mouthwashes require no prescription.

Tips for Choosing a Mouthwash

The choice to use a mouthwash and which one to use is between you and your dentist, depending on your individual oral health needs. If you determine that a mouthwash is right for you, look for one that contains fluoride, if possible. Fluoride provides an added layer of protection for your teeth, and helps them become more resistant to decay. As always, if you have any questions or concerns when choosing a mouthwash, please give our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics a call for assistance in selecting the rinse that is best for you. Or, we invite to ask us during your next visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

Are you at risk for tooth erosion?

June 29th, 2022

Many people consume carbonated or sugary drinks and acidic foods every day but have no idea those beverages may be harming their teeth, making them vulnerable to tooth erosion. The acid in the foods we eat and drink can cause tooth enamel to wear away, making your teeth sensitive and discolored. Dr. Lapsi will tell you that in many cases, what’s important is not what you eat and drink, but rather how you consume it.

What is tooth erosion?

Tooth erosion is the loss of tooth structure caused by the weakening of dental enamel, which is the strongest substance in the human body. Enamel is the thin, outer layer of hard tissue that helps maintain the tooth’s structure and shape. When the enamel is weakened, it exposes the underlying dentin, causing your teeth to appear yellow.

What causes tooth erosion?

Tooth erosion may occur when the acids in the foods and beverages you eat and drink, as well as other factors we will discuss later, weaken the enamel on your teeth. Typically the calcium contained in saliva will help remineralize (strengthen) your teeth after you consume foods or drinks that contain some acid. However, the presence of a lot of acid in your mouth does not allow for remineralization to happen.

Acid can come from many sources, including the following:

  • Drinking carbonated or fruit drinks. All soft drinks (even diet varieties) contain a lot of acid and are capable of dissolving enamel on your teeth. Bacteria thrive on sugar and produce high acid levels that can eat away at enamel.
  • Eating sour foods or candies. All those sour candies may taste great, but these treats can be acidic to your teeth. Sour and fruity candy, such as Starburst and Skittles, are the worst for your teeth since these candies have a low pH value, which is known to ruin enamel.
  • Low saliva volume. Saliva helps prevent decay by neutralizing acids and washing away leftover food in your mouth.
  • Acid reflux disease. Acid reflux, or GERD, brings stomach acids up to the mouth, where the acids can erode enamel.
  • Bulimia or binge drinking. These conditions can cause tooth damage because they frequently expose teeth to stomach acids.
  • Wear and tear. Brushing your teeth too vigorously or grinding your teeth at night can erode enamel.

What are the symptoms of tooth erosion?

Acid wear may lead to serious dental problems. When your tooth enamel erodes, your teeth become more vulnerable to cavities and decay, and you may begin noticing the following symptoms:

  • Severe sensitivity or tooth pain when consuming hot, cold, or sugary foods or drinks
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Rounded teeth
  • Transparent teeth
  • Visible cracks in teeth
  • Cupping, or dents, that show up on the biting or chewing surfaces of the teeth

What you can do to prevent tooth erosion

  • Reduce or eliminate altogether your consumption of carbonated drinks. Instead, sip water, milk, or tea.
  • If you must consume acidic drinks, drink them quickly and be sure to use a straw so that the liquid is pushed to the back of the mouth. Don’t swish them around or hold them in your mouth for a long period of time.
  • Instead of snacking on acidic foods throughout the day, we suggest eating these foods just during meal times in order to minimize the amount of time the acid makes contact with your teeth.
  • After consuming highly acidic food or drinks, rinse with water to neutralize the acids.
  • Chew sugar-free gum to produce more saliva, as this helps your teeth remineralize.
  • Brush with a soft toothbrush and be sure your toothpaste contains fluoride.
  • Dr. Lapsi may also recommend daily use of a toothpaste to reduce sensitivity (over-the-counter or prescription strength) or other products to counter the effects of erosion.

It’s important to know that the majority of dental problems, such as tooth erosion, do not become visible or painful until they are advanced. And, unfortunately, serious oral issues are painful and expensive to treat. A deep cleaning twice a year by our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics is the best way to hit all the spots you may have missed with brushing and flossing and prevent any issues that may have gone unseen.

Make sure your teeth get the professional attention they deserve! If you are overdue for your next checkup or cleaning, please give us a call to schedule an appointment at our conv

Getting a Retainer? Make It Personal!

June 22nd, 2022

If Dr. Lapsi and our team recommend a Hawley retainer to complete your orthodontic treatment, you’re getting a classic. This retainer, invented by Dr. Charles Hawley, has been in use since the early decades of the twentieth century.

But this isn’t your great grandmother’s pink plastic retainer! The look of today’s Hawley retainer has really evolved from its early days as the “Hawley bite plate”—and pink is now a choice instead of an inevitability. In fact, you can choose from any number of colors, patterns, and designs to create a retainer that is uniquely you.

Each Hawley retainer is customized to fit your mouth and teeth perfectly. Wire clasps and a labial bow wire are securely attached to an acrylic base based on a model made from your teeth and mouth.

Your retainer is designed for function—the bow wire makes sure your teeth stay in the perfect position while your bones and ligaments get strong enough to hold them in place. The acrylic base, of course, is also functional—but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it!

Retainer bases can be formed in different ways.  One type of retainer model uses pre-formed acrylic discs for the base, and these are available in many pre-formed colors and patterns. Another type of retainer builds the base by alternating several applications of liquid and powder acrylics, layer after layer. This process allows the retainer technician to create one-of-a-kind designs.

What are some of the ways to make your retainer uniquely yours?

  • Color—whether deep tones, pastels, electrics, neon, or metallic, you can find an appealing shade in the color chart. Or, if you want your retainer to keep a low profile, choose a clear or a color-coordinated pink tone.
  • Glow in the Dark—if you don’t want your retainer to keep a low profile, this might be just the look for you!
  • Glitter—accessorize your sparkling smile with a sparkling retainer.
  • Patterns—stripes, polka dots, geometric shapes—even animal patterns are possible.
  • Color Combinations—why choose one color when you can have a marbled swirl of your favorites? Or a tie-dye look? Or team colors?
  • Acrylic Designs—a colorful design that captures your personality is available with some creative acrylic artistry. Rainbows and flags, hearts and flowers, ladybugs, and spider webs are just some of the options on hand.
  • Picture Perfect—for that special hobby, pet, team, or other personal favorite, decals or pictures can be applied under a layer of clear acrylic.

Hawley retainers are made to last, so choose your design with years of use in mind. Talk to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills team about the custom looks which are available to celebrate your unique personality. After all, there’s nothing more personal than your smile!

Dental Tips for Your Summer Vacation

June 1st, 2022

Summer’s here, and it’s time to enjoy a well-deserved break! But even though school’s out, please take a few minutes to learn some tips from Dr. Lapsi to keep your teeth and mouth healthy for a summer of great smiles.

Hydration

When you are active in warm weather, you need to keep hydrated. So choose your drinks wisely. Sodas and sports drinks can contain a lot of sugar, which encourages cavity-causing bacteria to grow. Water is always a healthy, sugar-free choice. If your tap water contains fluoride, you can even fight cavities while staying hydrated. One other benefit of hydration? It helps with saliva production, and saliva is a natural way to wash away food particles and bacteria while providing substances that help keep teeth strong.

Mouthguards

Biking, skateboarding, baseball, soccer—all great outdoor sports, but one fall or accidental contact can cause serious damage to teeth. If you have a mouthguard for school sports, don’t forget to wear it for summer activities as well. And, if you don’t have a mouthguard, now is a good time to think about getting one. You can use a ready-made guard, or we can custom-fit one especially for you. Talk to us about your favorite sports, and we’ll suggest ways to protect your teeth while you enjoy all the physical activities warm weather brings.

Vacation Plans

If you and your family are going to be traveling this summer, let us know! If you need any procedures at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, we can plan them around your time away. It’s best to get any necessary work done before you travel, and we will be happy to work with your family’s schedule. When you are away, be sure to carry our number with you in case a dental problem comes up, and it’s always a good idea to travel with a dental emergency kit.

Sticking To Your Dental Routine

Unfortunately, the bacteria that lead to increased plaque and cavities never take a vacation. Keep up with your regular schedule of two minutes of careful brushing at least twice a day, and make sure to floss. Come see us if it’s time for an exam or a cleaning, or if you have any dental problems or concerns.

However you spend your summer, we hope it is filled with happy—and healthy—smiles!

Clearing Up Your Questions About Clear Braces

May 25th, 2022

First, let’s clarify what we mean about clear braces. We’re not talking about clear aligners, which can be a great option if you want treatment that is a) removable and b) almost invisible. But sometimes only traditional brackets-and-wires braces will do when it comes to your orthodontic treatment. Does this mean you can’t opt for a more subtle, less visible treatment plan?

No! Orthodontic advances in materials and design mean that you have more options than ever before when it comes to selecting brackets and wires. If you prefer more inconspicuous braces for professional or personal reasons, some of the current options in clear braces might be just the (inconspicuous) look for you.

“Clear braces” can refer to several styles of brackets and wires:

  • Brackets themselves can be crafted in porcelain, ceramic, or plastic. High quality materials make them strong and stain-resistant.
  • Brackets can be transparent or can be carefully tinted to blend in with your enamel.
  • Some of these brackets require the usual ligatures (those tiny rubber bands holding the wire to the brackets), so it’s important to choose a band color to coordinate for a monochromatic look.
  • Some of these brackets are self-ligating, designed to hold the archwire with built-in clips and needing no ligatures at all.
  • Finally, there are coated and even non-metallic archwires that are designed to blend in with your enamel color and work without calling attention to themselves. Depending on your individual bite and tooth alignment, these wires might be an option.

Some of the common questions about clear braces include:

  • Can everyone use clear braces?

While clear braces generally function just as traditional metal braces do, there are some cases where they might not be ideal depending on the amount and type of alignment and bite correction you need. Dr. Lapsi will let you know the best options to treat your orthodontic problems as effectively as possible.

  • Are they as strong as typical metal braces?

Clear brackets are quite strong, but they’re not as durable as metal brackets. If you choose porcelain, ceramic, or plastic brackets, we’ll give you all the information you need for their care.

  • Do clear braces take longer to work?

They might take a bit more time to bring your teeth into alignment, or they could work just as quickly as traditional braces. They often take less time than aligners. Today’s orthodontic treatments work more efficiently and therefore more quickly than ever before, so if there are any differences in wear-time, they probably won’t be significant.

Your individual orthodontic needs will dictate how long any treatment plan will take, and if different treatment options will add or save you time. Before you choose any orthodontic plan, we’ll go over all your options and give you an estimate for treatment time for each of them.

  • Any notable differences from metal brackets?

Clear brackets can be larger than metal versions. Because they can also be somewhat abrasive, they might be suggested only for your upper teeth. We’ll let you know if these brackets are a good fit for you.

  • Do clear braces stain?

Today’s clear brackets aren’t prone to staining—that would certainly defeat the purpose of choosing them! We’ll give you instructions on keeping them as clean and clear as possible. Do remember, if you use ligatures, that these little bands can stain if your diet is big on coffee, tea, cola, blueberries, or any other colorful food.

  • Are clear braces more expensive?

Cost of treatment is based on several factors, including the type of braces you select. We’ll be happy to compare the costs of your various treatment options.

If you want the benefits of traditional braces, but don’t necessarily want the visibility of regular metal brackets, consider the many transparent and tinted options available. Want more clarity? Talk to a member of our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills orthodontic team! You might discover that clear braces are the clear choice to create your healthy, beautiful smile.

Why Do I Need Rubber Bands?

May 18th, 2022

Getting braces is a huge step in creating the beautiful smile you want. It’s easy to see how important your wires and brackets are. Week by week, you and your family and friends can see the progress you’re making as your teeth become straighter. That makes all the careful brushing, periodic adjustments at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, and annoying loose ligatures worthwhile.

And while straight, even teeth are the visible reward you get for your months in braces, there’s a benefit that’s every bit as important that might go unnoticed by your friends and family—a healthy, properly aligned bite.

Many people have some kind of malocclusion, or bad bite. There are several different bite problems we treat. Some of the most common are:

  • Overjet (the upper front teeth protrude too far forward over the bottom teeth)
  • Underbite (the bottom teeth overlap the top teeth)
  • Crossbite (one or more teeth haven’t come in in the proper position, often with an upper tooth fitting inside a lower tooth)
  • Open bite (the upper and lower front teeth don’t touch).

When the jaws and teeth don’t fit together properly, you might be looking at damaged teeth, headaches, and painful problems with the temporomandibular joint, or jaw joint, in your future. That’s why correcting your bite early is so important. Using rubber bands with your braces is one of the most popular and effective ways to help create a better bite.

Bands are used with your braces to gradually move your teeth into their best position. Specially designed brackets with tiny hooks are bonded to very specific teeth. Why so specific? Because the placement of the brackets depends on which type of malocclusion we are correcting. Rubber bands are then attached to the bracket hooks, usually from an upper tooth to a lower one. When they are in just the right position, those little bands provide just enough force to move your teeth more quickly and effectively than braces alone can.

If you need bands to help correct any kind of malocclusion, you will play a very important part in your orthodontic treatment. It will be your job to attach your bands every day. Don’t worry—while it can seem confusing at first, we’ll make sure you know exactly how and where to place them.

How long should they stay in? You’ll probably need to wear your bands 24 hours a day. It’s while you’re moving your mouth and jaw muscles that your bands are working their hardest. Talk to us about removing them for brushing and flossing, and whether you should wear them while you eat.

Can you use the same bands over several days? Not a good idea. Bands are selected for size and strength to move your teeth very precisely from visit to visit. When bands stay on too long, they become too stretched out to supply the proper pressure needed to move your teeth efficiently. Dr. Lapsi will let you know how long is too long for your specific bands.

Are two bands better than one? Absolutely not. Again, the bands you’re given at each visit are designed for your specific needs. Too much pressure can actually be harmful. Just keep to your recommended schedule of replacing bands, and your orthodontic treatment will stay right on track.

Attaching rubber bands? Keeping them on all during the day? Replacing them as needed? All of these responsibilities might seem a bit overwhelming at first, but we are here to give you all the information and support you need to succeed. Because straight, even teeth and a bite that is healthy and functional? That’s truly how you create your beautiful smile!

 

How Your Pearly Whites Can Help You in Life

May 11th, 2022

At Excel Dental and Orthodontics, Dr. Lapsi and our staff have found that patients who like their smiles have better self-esteem. People who don’t like their smiles are often skittish about talking to other people. According to the National Women’s Health Resource Center, when women are asked about what they’d most like to change about themselves, many point to their smile. Despite wanting to change their smiles, quite a few of the people who are unhappy about that part of themselves won’t consider getting braces.

Most Americans Don’t Have Straight Teeth

The American Association of Orthodontics estimates that 4.5 million Americans wear braces or other orthodontic equipment to straighten their teeth and to get a healthier mouth. One in five of those braces wearers are women. The organization’s statistics also show that about 75 percent of the population doesn’t have straight teeth, and those people would benefit from getting braces.

While the main benefit of braces is straight teeth, and to improve the look of your smile, there are other benefits that make braces even more useful, including:

  • Straighter teeth help people chew better.
  • Straighter teeth give people a proper bite.
  • People speak better when they have straighter teeth.
  • When people have straight teeth, they have better overall gum and mouth health. A healthier mouth means flossing and brushing are easier, and that means your entire mouth stays healthy.
  • A healthy mouth is also linked to a healthy body.

When you feel proud of those pearly whites, you feel better about your smile, and that contributes to a better self-image and improved self-esteem. Ultimately, that can lead to greater career success and a more fulfilling social life.

Celebrate Your Mom’s Smile with These Mother’s Day Gifts

May 4th, 2022

Mother’s Day is around the corner, and if you’re looking for some different gifting ideas for one of the most important people in your life, we have some suggestions for you. Here are a variety of gifts large and small tailored to your mom’s interests and chosen to support her dental health. After all, that’s what we’re here for!

  • The Techie Mom

If your mother hasn’t tried the latest in brushing technology, a new electric toothbrush might be the gift to warm her techie heart.

Modern electric toothbrushes have plenty of options for the tech-savvy. They come with different settings for brushing and massaging. They can let your mom know if she’s brushing long enough, or if she’s brushing too hard, or when the brush head needs to be replaced. Some models link to apps which show a map of just where she’s brushed, in case some spots tend to get overlooked and underbrushed.

  • The Adventurous Mom

A week in the woods doesn’t faze her. Backpacking? Relaxing. Day hikes? No problem. So help your mom stay unfazed, unstressed, and problem-free with an emergency dental kit for peace of mind during those adventurous outings.

Lightweight kits are available in sporting stores and online. Supplies like cotton rolls, dental floss, oral pain relievers, a dental mirror, and even temporary fillings are included, because, as your mom no doubt told you, it’s always best to be prepared!

  • The Gourmet Mom

For the mom who appreciates foods which both taste good and do good, consider a gourmet gift which can satisfy her palate and contribute to her health. While normally we wouldn’t recommend sugary chocolates as having any kind of health benefit, dark chocolates are the delicious exception to the rule.

Dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao) is a great source of antioxidants, iron, zinc, magnesium and other important minerals. It’s lower in sugar content, and some studies suggest that dark chocolate has cavity-fighting properties and supports gum health. For a personal touch, deliver homemade treats like dark chocolate-covered frozen bananas (low in acidity and filled with nutrients) or dark chocolate-dipped strawberries (a good source of vitamin C, which is great for her gums).

  • The Athletic Mom

She can outski you, outrun you, and hit those threes with ease. If your mom finds her bliss on the slopes, the soccer pitch, the basketball court, or any other sporty venue, consider a custom mouthguard to protect that winning smile.

Custom guards are more comfortable than store-bought options because they are molded to fit the user’s teeth and mouth precisely. This is especially helpful for those with dental work like braces or bridges. And, because the fit is custom, your mom will enjoy easier breathing and talking while exercising.

  • The Mom on the Go

With her active life, any gift which makes your mom’s busy schedule run more smoothly is a good thing—such as a portable kit filled with dental necessities.

A travel toothbrush, a small tube of her favorite toothpaste, a compact mirror, dental picks, dental floss, and a mini-bottle of mouthwash are great basics for a confident smile any time of day. Put everything in a stylish lightweight travel bag. And don’t forget to include a pack of sugarless gum! Sugarless gum helps increase saliva flow (for better hydration) and decrease oral acidity (to help prevent enamel erosion).

  • The Media-Ready Mom

With those perfect selfie angles, your mom’s smiles light up social media! If she’s ever expressed an interest in lightening and brightening that beautiful smile, a professional whitening treatment might be the very gift for her.

Professional whitening at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office is the most effective way to brighten teeth, with results which are generally faster and more long lasting than over-the-counter treatments. And it’s done with your mom’s dental health in mind, with a checkup to make sure her teeth are in perfect shape before whitening, and with protective measures in place for sensitive mouth and gum tissue.

We hope this list is a helpful starting point for choosing a smile-healthy gift tailored to your mom’s interests. But we can’t close without adding one last gift perfect for every mother. Including a heartfelt letter or card telling her how much she means to you will put a smile on your mom’s face long after Mother’s Day has come and gone!

Ceramic Braces

April 27th, 2022

Congratulations! You have made the decision to get orthodontic treatment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office. Now it’s time to choose among your various appliance options. Traditional metal brackets and wires, lingual braces, a series of aligners—they all have positives to recommend them. And for some people, ceramic braces are the clear favorite.

Ceramic braces work like regular metal braces. Brackets are bonded to the front of each tooth, and rubber bands surrounding the brackets hold the arch wire that gradually moves the teeth into alignment.

Ceramic braces, however, use brackets made of clear or tooth-colored ceramic or porcelain which blend beautifully with the color of your tooth. The elastic ligatures, or rubber bands, can be chosen to match the brackets or your enamel. There are self-ligating ceramic brackets which don’t use bands at all. Technology is even working on ways to make the arch wire less visible! The end result is braces that are almost undetectable.

If you want a less obvious appliance for professional or personal reasons, talk to us about ceramic braces. As always, there are other factors to consider before you decide, which we will be happy to discuss with you.

  • Ceramic brackets are very strong, but they are still more brittle than the metal model. If you play a contact sport, these might not be for you. (But whatever braces you choose, please wear a mouthguard when playing sports.)
  • Ceramic braces might not be ideal depending on the amount of alignment and bite correction that is needed. They might also take a bit more time to bring your teeth into alignment. We will be able to tell you if ceramic braces will work for you and if they might require a longer period to move your teeth to their perfect position.
  • Brackets can sometimes be somewhat larger (though this isn’t always the case), and, because they can be abrasive, are often recommended for upper teeth only. This way, the lower teeth will not impact, or be impacted by, contact with the upper teeth.
  • Oral hygiene can trickier with ceramic braces. Although today’s brackets aren’t as prone to staining, you still need to be careful to brush away the plaque that can accumulate around the brackets. And the bands are susceptible to staining by the usual suspects—coffee, tea, colas, blueberries, or any strongly colored food or beverage.
  • Costs will differ depending on the treatment method you choose. Talk to us about cost comparisons with other orthodontic treatments.

Ceramic braces, because they are so much less visible, are a popular orthodontic option, especially for older teenagers and adults. If you are interested, talk to Dr. Lapsi about this effective way to straighten your teeth—discreetly. Ceramic might be the clear solution for creating your lasting, beautiful smile.

HPV and Oral Cancer

April 20th, 2022

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country. There are over 100 strains of HPV, and, while most of these infections leave our systems on their own with no long-term ill effects, some cancers have been linked to certain “high risk” strains of the virus. One of these strains, HPV16, increases the risk of oral cancer.

HPV-related oral cancer most often appears in the oropharynx. This area of the mouth includes:

  • The base, or back, of the tongue
  • The soft palate
  • The tonsils
  • The back and sides of the throat

While HPV-related oral cancers can appear in other parts of the oral cavity, they most typically occur at the back of the throat and tongue and near the folds of the tonsils. Because of this location, oropharyngeal cancer can be difficult to detect. This is one more important reason to maintain a regular schedule of dental exams. Our examination doesn’t focus only on your teeth and gums. We are trained to look for cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions in the mouth, head, and neck to make sure you have the earliest treatment options should they be needed.

If you discover any potential symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer, call us for a check-up. These symptoms can include:

  • Trouble moving the tongue
  • Trouble swallowing, speaking, or chewing
  • Trouble opening the mouth completely
  • A red or white patch on the tongue or the lining of the mouth
  • A lump in the throat, neck, or tongue
  • A persistent sore throat
  • Ear pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Coughing up blood

Not every symptom is caused by cancer, but it is always best to be proactive. HPV-related oral cancer is rare, but it is on the increase. While HPV-positive oral cancers generally have a better prognosis than HPV-negative oral cancers, early diagnosis and treatment are still essential for the best possible outcome.

Finally, if you are a young adult or have an adolescent child, talk to Dr. Lapsi and to your doctor about the HPV vaccine, which is effective before exposure to the virus occurs. Most HPV vaccines, while not designed specifically to prevent oral cancer, prevent the HPV16 strain from infecting the body—the very same strain that causes the majority of HPV-related oral cancers.  Although no studies have shown definitive proof yet, there is strong feeling in the scientific community that these immunizations might protect against HPV-positive oral cancer as well as cervical, vaginal, and other cancers. It’s a discussion worth having at your next visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office.

Why Do I Need a Retainer?

April 13th, 2022

Congratulations! You’ve done the hard work necessary to create your beautiful smile! You’ve carefully completed all the steps needed to reach the end of your orthodontic journey. Well, nearly all the steps. We can’t forget that last step which will ensure that all your hard work is rewarded.

When you first began orthodontic treatment, Dr. Lapsi decided on the best plan for straightening your teeth and perfecting your bite, whether you wore traditional braces, lingual braces, aligners, or other orthodontic appliances. And now that you’re finishing treatment, there’s one more option to consider—your retainer.

Why do I need a retainer?

While you’ve spent time in treatment, more has changed than just the position of your teeth. The periodontal ligament, the connective tissue that connects the teeth to the jawbone, is stretched as the teeth shift. The bone in your jaw changes, too, reforming and rebuilding around the roots of your teeth as they move to their ideal locations.

These changes happen because your braces or aligners apply gentle, constant pressure to move your teeth. When you’ve finished wearing these appliances, the pressure stops. Ligaments will try to return to their original shape, which can shift teeth back toward their old positions. And the rebuilding bone isn’t dense enough yet to stop teeth from shifting due to the normal, everyday pressures of eating, chewing, and smiling.

A retainer prevents your teeth from moving back, or “relapsing,” by giving your bones and ligaments time to stabilize and rebuild. The process takes months, so keeping your teeth in place as bones rebuild and grow denser is crucial. This is especially important for patients with more serious misalignments. Dr. Lapsi will let you know which kind of retainer will be best for you and just how long you’ll need to wear your retainer.

Are there different kinds of retainers?

There are! Retainers can be removable or fixed, visible or nearly invisible, metal, plastic, or metal and plastic. Three of the most popular retainer options include:

  • Hawley Retainers—the traditional removable retainer, which uses a molded acrylic plate with wires attached to keep your teeth properly aligned and to hold your retainer in place.
  • Clear Plastic Retainers—a removable retainer made of custom vacuum-formed plastic, which fits over the teeth like a clear aligner.
  • Fixed Retainers—a small single wire bonded to the back of specific teeth, which holds them in place and prevents any movement.

Dr. Lapsi will let you know whether a removable or fixed retainer is best for making sure your teeth don’t start to relapse, and fill you in on the benefits and care of each type of retainer.

How long do I need to wear a retainer?

There’s no standard answer to this question. Just like your retainer is custom-built to fit your individual teeth, the amount of time you’ll spend in that retainer depends on your individual needs. Retainers might be worn fulltime for months or years, be worn only at night after several months of daily wear, or be worn long-term to make sure your orthodontic work lasts.

Because you’ve done the hard work already, and your beautiful, healthy smile is the result. Talk to a member of our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills team about which retainer option will be best for making sure that this smile lasts a lifetime.

Do Spring Allergies Mean (B)Looming Dental Problems?

April 6th, 2022

April showers bring May flowers, and May flowers bring . . . allergies. If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from seasonal allergies, you might be suffering some dental side effects as well.

When you have pollen allergies, pollen triggers your body’s immune system to release histamines. Histamines are part of the body’s defense system. They cause the tissues in the nose and sinuses to become inflamed and swollen as they increase blood supply to these areas. They also cause your body to produce more mucus.

Normally, mucus from the sinus cavities drains into the nasal cavity and then down the back of the throat, where it mixes with saliva and is swallowed. We never even notice it. Until it’s allergy season. Unfortunately, our defense mechanisms can have some offensively unpleasant consequences.

  • Headache & Facial Pain

Our sinus cavities are small hollow spaces in the bones of the head which are filled with air and, like our nasal cavities, are lined with mucous membranes. It’s these membranes, not surprisingly, which produce mucus. And though we might turn up our noses at this slippery topic, mucus is actually quite helpful for trapping and filtering out unwanted hitchhikers like bacteria, viruses, dust, pollens, and other pollutants in the air we breathe before they reach our lungs.

When histamines are released, normal mucus production increases to filter out those tiny pollen invaders. At the same time, tissue around the nose and sinuses swells up, which can trap mucus inside the sinus cavities. This, in turn, causes increased pressure within the sinuses, and this pressure brings on allergy-related headaches and facial pain.  

  • Nasal Congestion & Postnasal Drip

With the occasional runny nose or sneeze, you can blow your nose once or twice and that’s that. During allergy season, greatly increased mucus production might see you spending all day within reaching distance of your box of tissues. But when the tissue in your nose is swollen as well, you now find yourself with nasal congestion.

A stuffy nose means excess mucus has to exit somewhere else, which means this extra, often thicker, mucus all drains into the back of your throat. This is postnasal drip, and it can make you miserable in several different ways. Hoarseness. Coughing during the day. Worse coughing at night. Sore throat. Nausea. Difficulty swallowing.

All these allergy symptoms are uncomfortable enough! But, to add to our discomfort, allergies can lead to uncomfortable oral symptoms as well.

  • Tooth Pain

A common result of allergies is tooth pain. How does this happen? It’s because of the way our bodies are designed. The maxillary sinus cavities are directly above the roots of our upper molars.

When sinus cavities are congested and sinus pressure builds up, it also puts pressure on these roots. The result is tooth pain, usually affecting several upper molars at once.

  • Dry Mouth

One of the natural responses to a stuffy nose is mouth-breathing—we can’t go without air, after all! But exposing the inside of the mouth to all that air dries out delicate gum and mouth tissues. It also reduces normal saliva flow. This can cause xerostomia, more commonly known as dry mouth.

Because saliva neutralizes acidity in the mouth and washes away bacteria and other germs, lower saliva production means greater risk of cavities, infections, and bad breath. Dry mouth can also cause gum irritation and gingivitis, because less saliva means more harmful bacteria build-up between the gums and the teeth.

  • Antihistamines & Your Oral Health

If histamines are the problem, are antihistamines the obvious solution? This is a good question for Dr. Lapsi or your physician. Antihistamines can be very drying—so you might find you’re experiencing dry mouth even when all those other pesky allergy symptoms have disappeared. And, if you already suffer from xerostomia, it’s especially important to get your doctor’s advice before buying over the counter antihistamines.

In allergy season, just like any other time of the year, be sure to hydrate and keep up with brushing and flossing for fresh breath and healthy teeth and gums. Talk to Dr. Lapsi if you have persistent tooth pain, dry mouth, or irritated gums—it’s always best to rule out other causes like infection or decay.

But, if your problems are caused by allergies, you don’t have to wait until the next snowfall to get relief. Talk to your doctor or allergist for ways to reduce or eliminate your symptoms before allergy problems start blooming into dental problems. You’ll breathe easier!

How Long Will My Retainer Last?

March 30th, 2022

You’ve worked hard for your attractive, healthy smile, and now you’re making sure it stays attractive and healthy by wearing your retainer. Since wearing a retainer is usually a matter of years, not months, it’s natural to wonder just how long you can count on that retainer to help you maintain your smile.

That answer depends on the type of retainer you get at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office. A Hawley retainer, a clear retainer, and a fixed wire retainer have different lifespans. Because they each have their own advantages, Dr. Lapsi will recommend the retainer that’s right for protecting your individual smile.

So let’s look at the average lifespan for different retainers, and, equally important, some of the common mishaps that can shorten that working life.

The Hawley Retainer

This is the retainer most people picture when they think “retainer.” Made of wire securely attached to an acrylic base, the Hawley retainer keeps the teeth in place, and can even be adjusted, if needed, to improve alignment. They generally last anywhere from three to ten years.

How can you make sure your Hawley retainer keeps working for you as long as possible?

  • Keep it in its case. While some damages to these retainers can be repaired, why take a chance? And it’s much harder to lose a retainer if it’s in its case as opposed to, say, a cafeteria napkin.
  • Keep it away from your pet. Dogs, especially, are tempted by the taste and smell of saliva, but there are safer, less expensive chew toys out there.
  • Keep wearing it. Without your retainer, your teeth can shift. Over time, not only will your retainer fail to fit anymore, but you might need to return for further orthodontic treatment. If you notice your retainer is starting to feel uncomfortable, give your orthodontist a call.

The Clear Retainer

Clear retainers look like clear aligners, and, like clear aligners, are almost invisible. Made of vacuum-formed plastic, they’re designed for a close, comfortable fit, often around the entire arch of your teeth. Also like clear aligners, these retainers aren’t made to last forever. If they become loose, warped, or cracked, they should be replaced. With care, they can last from six months to several years. How to protect them?

  • Protect your retainer from damage. Keep it in its case when you’re not wearing it. You’ll avoid losing it, and you’ll avoid damaging it.
  • Protect it from teeth. And we don’t just mean pets, although they find clear retainers yummy, too. If you grind your teeth, your retainer can suffer. Clear retainers are not the same thing as night guards, so talk to your orthodontist for recommendations.
  • Protect it from heat. Hot surfaces like ovens or heaters, hot dashboards, washers and dryers, even very hot drinks can be a problem. (You should only be drinking water while you wear your clear retainer, so that particular issue shouldn’t arise!)

The Fixed Retainer

A fixed retainer is a small piece of wire that is custom-fit and bonded to the back of specific teeth to prevent any movement from occurring. Because it’s bonded to the inside of the teeth, a fixed retainer is completely invisible when you speak or smile. It can last five years, ten years, and in some cases, even longer. Even though you won’t be exposing this retainer to external dangers like hungry pups or the wash-and-rinse cycle, there are still some situations to watch for:

  • Watch your diet. The same sticky, crunchy, or hard foods that can damage brackets and wires can also loosen a fixed retainer.
  • Watch your dental hygiene. While cleaning around a bonded retainer can be a bit challenging, not cleaning around it can result in plaque and tartar buildup—and your retainer might have to be removed to clean your teeth.
  • Watch for changes. If your teeth start to shift, it could mean your retainer has detached from one or more teeth. Ask your dentist to check the retainer’s bond whenever you have a checkup.

So, how long will that retainer last? Depending on the kind of retainer you have, if you don’t keep it in its case, or if you don’t watch your diet, or if you expose it to heat, the answer is—not nearly long enough. Dr. Lapsi will give you the very best tips to keep your retainer clean, safe, and working for as long as possible. Now, it’s up to you!

Teeth Grinding: Not just a bad habit, but a dental concern

March 23rd, 2022

Perhaps you don't even know you grind your teeth. Maybe a spouse or loved one woke you up in the middle of the night and made you aware of what was happening.

For many people, teeth grinding is a habit and a mechanical reflex; when they’re awakened and informed they were grinding their teeth, they have no recollection of it at all. According to the American Dental Association, this is the nightly situation for roughly ten percent of Americans. From young children to the elderly, teeth grinding, known in the dental community as bruxism, is a serious concern.

Many people who grind their teeth in their sleep have no idea they're doing it. In fact, when they wake up in the morning they feel no jaw pain and their teeth are fine: if it hadn’t been for someone telling them about it, the teeth grinding would have gone unnoticed.

There are other people, however, who wake up with jaw pain, shoulder and neck pain, and headaches. Teeth grinding can cause a host of dental complications. From cracked teeth and receding gums to a misaligned jaw, teeth grinding is not something to take lightly.

Preventive measures are the key to combating bruxism, and a visit to Excel Dental and Orthodontics can set you on the path to a healthy and safe night sleep.

The Reasons for Teeth Grinding

There are many reasons for teeth grinding. For some people, it’s a habit they acquired when they were a child and never grew out of. On the other hand, some research claims that the condition is related to stress, anxiety, or some other type of psychiatric issue.

Still other studies point to everything from poor muscle control or over-eating before bed to gastro-esophageal issues. However, the root cause of the teeth grinding is less important than identifying preventive measures against it.

Common solutions to teeth grinding include:

  • Wearing a protective nightguard
  • Stress management techniques
  • Medications and muscle relaxers

When you make an appointment with Dr. Lapsi at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, we will assess your situation and determine what the best course of action is. Teeth grinding is a dental concern that can cause serious health issues down the road, so be sure to take preventive measures today.

Going Green for St. Patrick’s Day?

March 16th, 2022

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. Lapsi about professional whitening procedures at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office for a brighter, more confident smile. And with a bright, confident smile, every day’s a reason to celebrate!

Too old for braces? You Might be Surprised

March 9th, 2022

Although adolescence is a common time to get braces, there’s no reason for adults of any age to have to deal with crooked teeth, overbite, underbite, or other dental issues. In fact, the American Association of Orthodontists notes that demand for orthodontic treatment in adults continues to grow, with adults representing 20% of new patients.

You’re never too old for braces or other orthodontic appliances, but it’s important to consider the following:

  1. Braces don’t have to be as noticeable as the metal brackets of the past. Many adults opt for ceramic or plastic braces, which are bone-colored or clear, respectively. Another option is a lingual appliance, which attaches to the back side of your teeth. These so-called “invisible” braces are much less noticeable than traditional options.
  2. By adulthood, bone growth has stopped. This means that certain structural changes can only be achieved by surgery. Although this typically affects people with significant crowding, bite, or jaw problems, Dr. Lapsi can provide an individualized treatment plan that addresses your unique issues.
  3. Treatment may take a bit longer. The length of orthodontic treatment tends to be slightly longer for adults than adolescents. Exact estimates vary by individual, but the average length of time for adult braces wearers is two years, according to the Harvard Medical School.
  4. Outcomes are just as good for adults! Many adults worry that it’s too late to treat their orthodontic problems. However, treatment satisfaction tends to be very high, which is a testament to how effective braces can be in middle-aged and older adults.

The Evolution of Braces

March 2nd, 2022

Did you know that even in ancient times, people wanted to improve the look and function of their smiles? Excel Dental and Orthodontics thinks of modern orthodontic appliances as sleek, efficient technology, but this was not always so! Take a look at the highlights in the evolution of braces.

Ancient Times: From Greece to Rome

  • According to The Angle Orthodontist, Aristotle and Hippocrates first thought about methods for straightening teeth between 400 and 300 BC.
  • The Etruscans, in what we now know as Italy, buried their dead with appliances that maintained spaces and prevented collapse of their teeth and jaws during life. Archaeologists have discovered mummified remains in various locations that have metal bands wrapped around the teeth.
  • A Roman tomb has also been discovered in which the teeth were bound with gold wire, including documentation on the wire’s use as a dental device.

18th Century: A French Development

  • The French dentist Pierre Fauchard is acknowledged as the father of modern dentistry. In 1728 he published a book that described various methods for straightening teeth. Fauchard also used a device known as a “blandeau” to widen the upper palate.
  • Louis Bourdet was another French dentist who published a book in 1754 that discussed tooth alignment. Bourdet further refined the blandeau and was the first dentist to extract bicuspids, or the premolar teeth between canines and molars, for the purpose of reducing tooth crowding.

19th Century: Orthodontics Defined

  • Orthodontics started to become a separate dental specialty during the early 19th century. The first wire crib was used in 1819, marking the beginning of modern orthodontics.
  • During this period, gold, platinum, silver, steel, gum rubber, vulcanite, and occasionally wood, ivory, zinc, and copper were used — as was brass in the form of loops, hooks, spurs, and ligatures.
  • Edward Maynard first used gum elastics in 1843 and E. J. Tucker began making rubber bands for braces in 1850.
  • Norman W. Kingsley published the first paper on modern orthodontics in 1858 and J. N. Farrar was the first dentist to recommend the use of force over timed intervals to straighten teeth.

20th Century: New Materials Abound

  • Edward Angle developed the first classification systems for malocclusions (misaligned teeth) during the early 20th century in the United States, and it is still in use today. Angle founded the American Society of Orthodontia in 1901, which was renamed the American Association of Orthodontists in the 1930s.
  • By the 1960s, gold was universally abandoned in favor of stainless steel.
  • Lingual braces were the “invisible” braces of choice until the early 1980s, when tooth-colored aesthetic brackets made from single-crystal sapphire and ceramics became popular

Today

As we arrive in the present, you need only look at your own braces to see how far we’ve come. Your treatment plan was probably created with a 3D digital model, and we’ve likely used a computerized process to customize your archwires. Perhaps you have clear aligners, self-ligating brackets, or highly resilient ceramic brackets with heat-activated wires.

Orthodontics has come a long way from the days of Aristotle, and even the bulky wrap-around braces of just 60 years ago. Regardless of your specific treatment plan, the development of high-tech materials and methods has made it possible for your orthodontic experience to be as effective, efficient, and comfortable as possible. Call our office in Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills to schedule your first orthodontic consultation!

Common Emergency Visits: From lost fillings to broken dentures

February 23rd, 2022

You never know when you're going to experience a dental emergency, but if you do, it should give you peace of mind to know that emergency dental care is available at our office 24/7. Whether you chip your front tooth playing softball, or your child knocks out a couple of teeth in a playground fall, receiving the emergency dental treatment you need is accessible and convenient.

If you're experiencing a dental emergency, our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics is here to help you any time of the day or night. Dental emergencies should not be taken lightly, so don't delay. Contact our office as soon as possible. Common dental emergencies include the following:

Lost Fillings and Crowns

Fillings are used to repair cavities. Crowns, on the other hand, are used to cover broken or damaged teeth. Over time, it’s possible for both of these items to loosen and fall out. A lost filling or crown can be painful, because the exposed tissue may be sensitive. Hot and cold temperatures will cause discomfort. While a lost filling or crown might not be as severe a dental emergency as a broken or chipped tooth (most people respond quicker to pain than self-consciousness about their looks), you need to get it fixed as soon as possible.

Broken Dentures

If your dentures are broken, everyday tasks may become trying and arduous. If you can’t chew, swallow, or eat properly, the situation calls for emergency care. Depending on how damaged your dentures are, Dr. Lapsi may need to send out a mold of your mouth in order to have the manufacturer make a new pair. On the other hand, if the dentures are not damaged too badly, then we may be able to fix them in-house. If you're having problems with your dentures, you should give us a call as soon as possible.

From chipped and cracked teeth to lost fillings and broken dentures, dental emergencies come in all shapes and sizes. Emergencies are unexpected, but we want you to know that treatment is available, day or night. When your dental health is at risk, we are here to help. In the case of a dental emergency, don't wait; contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office at your earliest convenience.

Common Causes of Gum Disease

February 16th, 2022

Your gums are responsible for a large part of your overall oral health. So keeping them healthy and knowing how to detect gum disease is extremely important.

Since it’s often painless, gum disease may go unnoticed and can progress when left untreated. Understanding the causes of gum disease will give you the ability to keep your oral health in great shape:

  • Bacteria and Plaque. Good hygiene helps remove bacteria and plaque from teeth. When plaque is not removed, it turns into a rock-like substance called tartar, which can only be removed by a dentist.
  • Smoking and Tobacco. Smokers and tobacco users put themselves at a higher risk of developing gum disease. Tobacco use can also stain your teeth, give you bad breath, and increase the risk of oral cancer. It’s best to avoid using tobacco altogether.
  • Certain Medications. Ironically, certain medications for other health conditions can increase your risk of developing gum disease. Talk with Dr. Lapsi if you have concerns about a medication you are taking. Steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, certain cancer therapy medications, and oral contraceptives can be among the culprits.
  • Medical Conditions. Certain medical conditions can also affect your gum health. Diabetics can have an increased risk of gum disease due to the inflammatory chemicals in their bodies. Talk to our team about your health condition so we can take that into account when treating you.

Luckily, there are actions you can take to prevent gum disease. You should make regular visits to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office for regular cleanings. It’s also worthwhile to maintain good hygiene habits at home, such as flossing and brushing at least two times every day.

Good oral hygiene practice and visits to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office can help you eliminate or reduce the risks of developing gum disease!

What is biofilm?

February 9th, 2022

Biofilm, the protective housing for bacteria, is a hot topic in the medical and dental fields. Routinely taking an antibiotic for a bacterial infection has become more complicated because of biofilm. Bacterial infections may become resistant to antibiotics in part because the biofilm allows for communication among the bacteria, allowing the infection to be sustained.

You’re probably wondering, Dr. Lapsi , what does this have to do with teeth? Since we’re dental professionals, we can tell you why it’s important and what you should know! There is biofilm in your mouth; healthy biofilm and diseased biofilm. Both are made of the same general compounds, but when combined with certain amino acids and cellular chemicals, the diseased biofilm conquers and destroys.

Periodontal disease, otherwise known as gum disease or pyorrhea, is a biofilm disease. If you are undergoing treatment for gum disease and you do not continue with the treatment plan the disease will progress and/or spread due to the biofilm.

There are several ways to treat diseased biofilm. But remember, antibiotics cannot touch the bacterial infection if the biofilm is established.

When your exam is complete, the Ultrasonic or Piezo Scaler should be used. This method of spraying water disturbs the biofilm and provides an opportunity to treat the infection causing bacteria.

Remember, we all need healthy biofilm. Just as your skin protects your body, biofilm housing good bacteria protects your body. The bacteria in the biofilm replicate every twenty minutes. If your body has healthy bacteria, low levels of hydrogen peroxide are produced by the biofilm, preventing harmful bacteria from residing. Harmful bacteria do not like oxygen.

At your exam, we will take measurements around your teeth checking for “pockets”. The higher the number, the deeper the pocket giving more room for harmful bacteria where there is no oxygen. Ask what your numbers are and be involved in restoring your healthy biofilm.

Adjusting Your Diet after a Braces Adjustment

February 2nd, 2022

We all welcome the idea of braces adjustments at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office—an adjustment, after all, means you have taken another step on the way to your ideal smile! But sometimes the reality of an adjustment can be a little less welcome—you might have a few days of discomfort as you get used to new or different pressure on your teeth. Luckily, there are some menu options that will help you get through these days in a comfortable and tasty way.

Keep Your Cool

If you are feeling a bit sore after your braces have been tightened, a cool treat might be just the thing. Ice cream is the classic choice, but if you are looking for some healthier options, consider yogurt. It generally has less sugar, while still providing soothing, creamy sweetness. A fruit or vegetable smoothie is always a good (and nutritious) choice. Pudding and gelatin cups? Chilly, delicious, and easy to eat.

Comfort Food

Some of our favorite comfort foods mean literal comfort for newly adjusted braces. Creamy soups, soft pastas and noodles, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese are warm, silky options that don’t require a lot of chewing. Just don’t go too hot or too spicy—that might irritate sensitive gum and mouth tissue.

Breakfast All Day Long

Most of our favorite braces-friendly breakfast foods are delicious any time of day. Eggs scrambled, fried, or in an omelet are easy on your braces and packed with protein. Are you an oatmeal fan? Try some oatmeal with mashed fruit for a more flavorful bowl. And you can’t beat the taste and texture of pillowy pancakes.

The discomfort that follows an adjustment is temporary, but treat your teeth—and yourself—gently over the next day or two. Take over-the-counter medication if needed for pain, brush carefully, and eat a comforting, comfortable diet. Soon you will be back to your normal, braces-friendly menu, and one step further on your way to a beautiful smile!

What exactly is periodontal disease?

January 26th, 2022

Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. Our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics wants you to know that this common ailment can be fixed with little worry if treated properly.

Periodontal disease is usually identified through dental X-rays, probe depths, and visual exams. If left untreated, it can lead to tooth sensitivity, premature tooth loss, or discomfort and pain in your mouth. Some common symptoms to watch for include bleeding or swollen gums, bad breath, teeth movement, or jaw displacement.

Factors that may increase your risk of developing periodontal disease may include poor oral hygiene, smoking/chewing tobacco, genetics, stress, inadequate nutrition, pregnancy, diabetes, and some medications. Some of these causes are avoidable, but others are not.

If you have diabetes, you may be more prone to periodontal disease due to the greater difficulty in controlling blood glucose levels. Studies have shown that once periodontal disease is treated, glucose levels become more responsive to control as well. If your risk for periodontal disease is heightened by one of these factors, make sure to watch for the signs and keep up with your daily oral hygiene routine.

How can you treat this common disease that affects almost half of the population? Depending on the severity, treatment can include a medicated mouth rinse, antibiotic treatment, laser therapy, or scaling and root planing. It’s useful to recall that this condition can vary from mild to severe, which is why you should make an appointment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office if you notice any of the above symptoms.

 

When is the best age to begin orthodontic treatment?

January 12th, 2022

Most parents know that routine dental care should begin during their child’s toddler years. And many assume they must wait until their child has all of his or her permanent teeth to visit Dr. Lapsi for an initial orthodontic consultation.

The ideal age for an orthodontic evaluation is age seven. At that age, your child will have a mixture of adult and baby teeth for Dr. Lapsi and our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics to make a determination about whether any problems are present. Typically the first molars have come in by the time your child turns seven, giving us an opportunity to check for malocclusion, also known as “bad bite.” Also, by the time your child reaches the age of seven, the incisors have begun to come in, and problems such as crowding, deep bites, and open bites can be detected.

When Dr. Lapsi and our team perform an evaluation on your child at an early age, you get one of two positive outcomes. Although treatment usually will not begin until one to five years after the initial evaluation, it’s still helpful in determining whether your child has any problems with the jaw and teeth early when they are still easy to treat. Earlier treatment can also cost less to correct a potential problem than delayed treatment.

Early evaluation, of course, may signal a need for early treatment. For some children, early treatment can prevent physical and emotional trauma. Aside from spurring years of harmful teasing, misaligned teeth are also prone to injury and are detrimental to good oral hygiene.

If your child is approaching age seven, or has already surpassed his or her seventh birthday, it is time to schedule an appointment for an initial examination at Excel Dental and Orthodontics.

Resolving to Eat Better in the New Year

December 29th, 2021

It’s a new year, and a resolution found on many lists is learning to be more mindful about healthy food choices. You might have set some of these goals yourself. Gaining, losing, or maintaining your current weight. More fruits and veggies. Better proteins. Less sugar. Fewer carbs. You want to make this new year your healthiest year yet.

And while you’re making your new and improved shopping list, don’t forget your oral health! Because while brushing and flossing are extremely important, your diet can also have very real benefits for your teeth and gums.

Stronger Teeth and Jaws

We often talk about teeth and bones together, and that’s natural. Calcium and phosphorus, as well as other minerals, make them the strongest parts of our bodies. When teeth lose mineral strength, they are more vulnerable to cavities, and bone loss in the jaw can cause loose or even lost teeth.

Making sure you get the recommended daily amount of the minerals and vitamins you need will help sustain and repair both teeth and bones. A diet rich in calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D helps build strong bones and promotes bone density. While your teeth can’t create new enamel, minerals that are eroded by acids from plaque and acidic foods can be restored, or remineralized, with the calcium and phosphates in saliva.

  • Calcium

Strong teeth and bones need calcium. More than 99% of the calcium in our bodies is located in our teeth and bones. How to make sure we get enough?

Dairy products are the traditional answer. Several servings of milk, cheese, or yogurt each day supply most of our needs. If you can’t eat dairy, though, calcium is also found in other foods, such as salmon, sardines, many dark leafy vegetables, and fortified juices, tofu, and cereals.

  • Phosphorus

Calcium gets most of the attention when it comes to creating strong teeth and bones, but it’s not a solo act. We need phosphorus to make full use of the calcium in our diets.

Proteins like meat, fish, and poultry are good sources of phosphorus, as are beans, nuts, whole grains and dairy.

  • Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a diet essential because it enables us to absorb the calcium and phosphorus that keep teeth and bones strong.

Most dairy and many other foods are fortified with vitamin D, such as cow’s milk, soymilk, orange juice, and cereals. Egg yolks and fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and herring, are also a rich natural source of the vitamin.

Healthy Gums

Gum disease is more than just a nuisance. Left untreated, gingivitis (early gum disease) can become periodontitis (serious gum disease). Periodontitis can cause infection, loose teeth, and tooth and bone loss.

Brushing and flossing promote gum health and help prevent gum disease, but your diet plays an important role, too.  

  • Vitamin A

Vitamin A is essential for the health and healing of mucous membranes, including gum tissue and the soft membranes in the mouth.

You can get this vitamin directly from animal products such as dairy foods and meats, or it can be formed in the body from beta-carotenes. Think orange when you hit the produce aisle, because foods such as carrots, peppers, pumpkin, squash, and sweet potatoes are a rich source of beta-carotenes.

  • Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the so-called “essential nutrients.” These are the nutrients that are necessary for our bodies to function properly, and which can only be supplied in our diets. Vitamin C is vital for healthy gums and soft tissue—in fact, one sign that your diet is deficient in vitamin C is inflamed and bleeding gums.

Citrus fruits, those oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and all their cousins, are a wonderful source of vitamin C, but you have many other flavorful options. Fruits such as kiwis, mangos, papayas, and strawberries are rich in vitamin C. Step over to the vegetable aisle to load up on red peppers, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli—all of which contain more vitamin C per serving than a medium orange!

Fewer Cavities

Plaque thrives on a diet of sugar. Oral bacteria in plaque use the sugars in our food to produce acids. These acids erode enamel and eventually lead to cavities. Limiting your sugar consumption and choosing complex carbohydrates over simple carbs are two ways to reduce your risk of cavities.

  • Sugars

The usual suspects—candies, desserts, pastries, sodas—are sugar-filled items you’re familiar with. What might surprise you is the amount of sugar in sports drinks, fruit juices, flavored yogurts, breakfast cereals, and other standard grocery purchases. Checking labels for sugar content is a great way to cut down on unexpected sweeteners.

  • Carbs

The refined starches in white bread, white rice, potato chips, and other simpler carbohydrates quickly break down into sugars. This is the kind of nutrition only plaque appreciates.

Instead, fill your cart with complex carbohydrates, which contain important vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Found in foods like whole-grain breads and cereals, legumes, and many vegetables, complex carbs break down slowly for longer-lasting energy.

Of course, these suggestions don’t cover everything on your healthy dental shopping list. We could add magnesium for bone density, vitamin B to prevent oral irritation and inflammation, vitamin K for bone strength, and more. To find out the best options for your healthiest smile, talk to Dr. Lapsi or a member of our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills team about ideas for improving your daily diet.

Because besides leading to stronger teeth, healthier gums, and fewer cavities, a careful and conscious approach to your food choices has another wonderful benefit—a healthy dental diet is healthy for the rest of your body as well. Just something to be mindful of as we greet the new year!

Tips for Keeping Your Breath Fresh While You’re in Braces

December 22nd, 2021

You’ve got a lot going on in your busy life, and whether it’s school, practice, or simply socializing, you want to put a confident face forward. And part of that confidence comes from knowing your breath is its freshest!

Too often, though, this time of your life makes that goal seem difficult. Let’s look at ways to keep you smiling your brightest and feeling your freshest in any social setting.

  • Watch Your Diet

Sure, garlic, onions, and other pungent food choices are obvious culprits when it comes to bad breath, but did you know that sugars and simple carbs are the food of choice for the bacteria that cause decay, gingivitis, and bad breath? Eating a nutritious, braces-friendly diet will help keep your mouth, your braces, and your breath healthy.

And it’s not just what you eat. Dehydration also causes bad breath. But those caffeinated drinks and sodas that keep you going through the day are the source of acids and sugars that contribute to tooth decay, gum disease, and less-than-fresh breath. Water, milk, and healthy smoothies are a great way to stay hydrated, add vitamins and minerals to your diet, and go easy on your braces.          

  • Keep Up with Oral Hygiene

It’s hard to keep your teeth and gums their cleanest when it seems like you’re always on the go, but good oral habits are just as important now as they were when you were younger.

Brushing after every meal and snack and flossing daily will help get rid of the bacteria and plaque, which lead to cavities. Our tongues also harbor the bacteria that cause bad breath, so finish off your routine with a gentle brush of the tongue, or try a tongue scraper.

Flossing helps keep gums healthy, which, in turns, keeps your breath healthy as well. Dentists generally suggest flossing once a day, but wearing braces could require flossing more often to make sure you’re getting rid of all those food particles that can become trapped in brackets and wires. Studies have suggested that hormonal changes in teenagers can mean your gums are more at risk for periodontal problems, which can also lead to bad breath, so don’t neglect your gum health!

And be sure to make room in your schedule for regular checkups and cleanings. Your dentist and hygienist will let you know if you’re on track for healthy teeth and gums and fresh breath.

  • Wearing Braces?

Part of careful brushing and flossing means getting to all those places in your braces which trap food particles. Besides being a source of unpleasant odors, food particles lead to plaque buildup and tooth decay, another cause of bad breath.

Dr. Lapsi can suggest the best methods for keeping your braces their cleanest—even in hard to reach spots—with suggestions for brushing and flossing techniques. We can also suggest the best and easiest-to-use products for your particular braces, and recommend or prescribe antibacterial mouthwashes.

  • Wearing Aligners?

Aligners are removed before you eat, so it’s easy to forget that they also need attention. Follow instructions given at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office for daily cleaning to prevent saliva and plaque from sticking to your aligners and causing odors. And always remember to brush before you replace aligners after eating a meal or even snacking—otherwise, you’re just trapping the food particles that cause cavities or odors next to your teeth.

You’ve got a lot going on in your busy life, and the last thing you need to worry about is fresh breath. Keep up with your solid dental routines, make sure your braces or aligners are clean and plaque-free, and show the world your healthiest, freshest, most confident smile.

What should I use to clean my baby’s teeth?

December 15th, 2021

You might think babies don’t need to brush their teeth, especially when they don’t have any. But by starting good habits like brushing when your child is young, you can lay the foundation for them to continue those good habits into adulthood.

When do I start?

The best time to start brushing your baby’s teeth is before he or she has any. Develop the habit of wiping your baby’s gums with a wet, soft washcloth or gauze every day. There is no need to use toothpaste, just wrap the gauze or cloth around your finger, moisten it with a little water, and gently rub it over the gums.

This helps your little one get used to brushing while it eliminates bacteria in the mouth that can harm emerging teeth. You don’t need to apply a lot of pressure or even take very long: just a quick, gentle rub over the gums will do it.

What do I use?

When your child’s teeth begin to come in, you will need to switch from a cloth to a baby toothbrush. Find one that has a grip big enough for your hand, but a head that is small enough to maneuver easily in your infant’s mouth.

You don’t need to use any toothpaste until your son or daughter is about a year old. Even then, though, you’ll want to use just a tiny amount: about the size of a grain of rice. When your toddler is about two years old, you can use a pea-sized amount.

By around six years of age, your child will probably rinse and spit without your help. At that point, you may want to introduce a child-friendly fluoride mouthwash.

How do I do it?

Your child probably won’t be able to brush his or her teeth alone until about the age of five or six. This means that you will need to do it. To brush your child’s teeth, gently use the brush over all the teeth and gums, even areas where the teeth have not come in yet.

As your child grows and becomes more independent, you can allow him or her to hold the toothbrush while you guide your child’s progress. Make sure you talk to your child while you are brushing, and explain why you brush: what you are doing and how you are doing it.

In addition to regular visits with Dr. Lapsi, instilling good oral health habits in your child early on will ensure a lifetime of good dental health.

Make Your Smile Dazzling For Your Wedding!

December 8th, 2021

Planning a wedding can be a highly stressful time. Dr. Lapsi and our team want to support you in this process by helping you achieve a beautiful, bright smile. Wedding days entail a lot of photographs that will last a lifetime. We know how crucial it can be that you have a smile that makes you feel confident throughout this memorable day.

Whether you’re the bride or groom, a member of the wedding party, or just a guest, a teeth-whitening treatment from Dr. Lapsi can give you extra confidence. Even when you’ve made the proper effort to keep up your oral health routine, staining still can appear on your teeth from foods and beverages over time. You can do several things to make sure your smile is in top shape before a wedding.

Our in-office whitening treatment is a good option if you’re looking for an investment that can last. If you’ve tried whitening kits on your own, you may have noticed they have to be used frequently to maintain the bright smile you desire.

Professional whitening treatments done by Excel Dental and Orthodontics are quite comfortable and have long-lasting effects. You can also use whitening toothpaste and mouthwash to keep your teeth bright between in-office whitening treatments.

Our staff can also provide helpful advice on how to avoid staining between your whitening treatment and the big day. If you’re concerned that you may have to hold back your smile on your wedding day or some other pending event, contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office and ask about our whitening treatment options.

Five Ways You Won’t—And One Way You Will—Get Your Braces Off Faster

December 1st, 2021

It’s only natural when you’re waiting for something good—you count down the weeks until your birthday, or until the summer holidays, or until your braces come off. But while your birthday and your vacation won’t come any faster no matter what you do, you can help determine just how fast that happy day arrives when you’re done with your orthodontic treatment.

When you first got your appliance, Dr. Lapsi gave you an estimate of how long your treatment would take. Of course, that estimate is based on everything going according to plan. What are some detours that can delay your progress?

  • Missing Appointments

With every adjustment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, you are moving closer to the ideal positioning for your teeth. If you miss or postpone appointments, it can take just that much longer to complete your orthodontic work.

  • Eating the Wrong Foods

You have a list of foods that are on the do-not-eat list. Hard, chewy, sticky bites are famous braces-breakers, but don’t forget that size also matters! Biting into a juicy apple or a buttery ear of corn can damage your brackets and wires just as much as chewy candy can. Be sure everything you eat is size-appropriate and braces-friendly. Obviously, damaged braces can’t straighten teeth as effectively as intact appliances!

  • Sticking with Bad Habits

Pressure from nail biting, chewing pencils, or crunching on ice can cause chips and cracks in your teeth, so just think what they can do to your appliance. Ask us for tips for quitting if you’ve picked up any of these habits. We know habits can be hard to break, but they are harder on your teeth and braces. If you bend or break a wire or loosen a bracket, you might be delaying your orthodontic progress. Which leads us to . . .

  • Ignoring Appliance Accidents

Accidents happen. Brackets or metal bands can become loose; wires can bend or break; spacers can fall out. If you notice a problem, call our office right away. Sometimes a minor problem can wait, but if your appliance is damaged, your teeth aren’t moving into position on schedule.

  • Blowing Off Bands

If you have bands to help correct your bite, be sure that you wear them as directed. If you skip hours or days of band-wear, you are adding to the time it will take to correct the bite problems they are meant to fix. And don’t double band to speed things up—that might put too much pressure on your teeth. Just follow our recommendations, and you will be done with those bands—and those braces—as soon as possible.

But, wait! We promised you one sure way to keep your orthodontic progress on track:

  • Follow Your Treatment Plan

If you keep your appointments, take care of your braces, call us promptly if they are damaged, and wear your appliance as directed, you will be doing your part to keep your treatment on track. And that happy day when your braces come off? It will arrive right on schedule!

Gums and Braces

November 24th, 2021

“Yes,” you’re thinking, “I shouldn’t be chewing sugary, sticky gum while I’m wearing my braces.” Or perhaps, “I should check with my orthodontist to see if this sugar-free gum is safe for my braces.” And these are both great thoughts—but today, we’re thinking about gums of a different sort!

While you’ve been taking care of your teeth with regular brushing and flossing, you’ve also been taking care of your gums. And now that you’re wearing braces, your gums need a bit of special attention to keep them their healthiest.

We tend to think of gum disease as an adult problem. In fact, periodontitis, or serious gum disease, is one of the most common chronic infections in the adult population. But young gums need care, too! Gingivitis, a milder form of gum disease, is unfortunately a common problem for both children and adults.

Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums caused by the build-up of plaque and tartar. When plaque builds up, it irritates delicate gum tissue. And while gingivitis is not as serious as periodontitis, the symptoms caused by this disease are nothing to smile about:

  • Redness
  • Tenderness and soreness
  • Swelling
  • Bleeding
  • Bad Breath

If you’re already feeling a little tender or swollen after an adjustment, the added discomfort caused by gingivitis is the last thing you want. But even worse, neglected gingivitis can lead to more serious infections of gum and even bone tissue. Luckily, gingivitis is both preventable and treatable with proper dental care.

So, how to protect your gums? We have some suggestions.

  • Brushing Better with Braces

It can be hard to brush around your brackets and wires, but keeping these areas free of food particles and plaque makes for healthy gums—and fewer cavities! There are specially designed manual toothbrushes made for braces wearers, and tiny interproximal brushes that can reach tight spaces. Or, perhaps an electric toothbrush will do a better job for you. Just be sure to brush after each meal for the most complete removal of bacteria and plaque.

  • Learn New Flossing Techniques

You might wonder how on earth you’ll get in between your teeth with your wires and brackets in the way. We have the answers! We know the best techniques for flossing your specific braces, and we’ll recommend specially designed flossing tools to make the job easier. Water flossers can also be a great help for cleaning in tight spots. Be sure to make flossing part of your daily routine—you’ll be able to remove plaque from places brushing just can’t reach.

  • Rinsing? Recommended.

Talk to Dr. Lapsi about the best dental rinses for reducing plaque and tartar, or how gargling can help prevent irritation. And drink water! Water helps wash away plaque and bacteria, and is a great way to rinse teeth and braces if you absolutely can’t brush after eating.

  • Keep up with Professional Cleanings

Be sure to keep up with your regular dental exams and cleanings. Your dentist or hygienist will be able to remove any plaque or tartar build up that home brushing can’t handle.

We want your time in braces to be as healthy—and comfortable—as possible. If you have any gum discomfort, swelling, or sensitivity, give our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office a call. With prompt action, gingivitis can be treated, and with careful attention to your cleaning routine, gingivitis can be prevented altogether. Something to think about!

How do I handle my child’s dental emergency?

November 17th, 2021

With children undergoing developmental dental changes and engaging in rough-and-tumble activities, dental emergencies can sometimes arise. If your child knocks out a tooth or experiences any type of oral discomfort, call Excel Dental and Orthodontics right away so we can provide you with a quick assessment and pain-free treatment.

Before an emergency occurs, it’s a good idea to stay informed about the problems your child may encounter. Here are a few things you should keep in mind about teething pain, loose baby teeth, and other common dental issues.

Teething Pain

Typically occurring in babies that are between four months and two and a half years old, teething may cause excessive drooling, tender gums, and some irritability. Giving your baby a cold teething ring or gently rubbing her gums with wet gauze or your finger may also make her feel better.

Loose Baby Tooth

It is normal for a child’s first set of teeth to become loose and fall out. On the other hand, if your child’s baby tooth is knocked loose, schedule an appointment with our office so we can assess whether any damage has been done.

Issues with Permanent Teeth

Sometimes a child’s permanent teeth will grow in before the baby teeth have fallen out. Even if this condition isn’t causing any discomfort, you should schedule an appointment with our office so we can determine whether your child’s permanent teeth are growing in correctly.

Bleeding Gums

Bleeding gums can result from a number of factors, including periodontal disease, rough brushing, or an injury to the gum tissue. If your child’s gums are bleeding heavily, call our office right away so we can address the situation. If you have time before your appointment, wash your child’s mouth with salted water and gently put pressure on the affected area.

Regardless of the type of dental issue your child has, you can always consult Dr. Lapsi for further guidance. We make sure our emergency services are available 24 hours a day and seven days a week, so you have ready access to convenient and professional dental care that will have your child feeling better in no time.

Why is orthodontic treatment important?

November 10th, 2021

The goal of orthodontic treatment at Excel Dental and Orthodontics, which may include the use of braces, retainers, and aligners, is to straighten your teeth. Treatment often starts in the pre-teen or teenage years, but adults may also need orthodontic treatment. The treatment can feel like a chore that lasts for several months or a couple of years, but it can fix important problems. These include:

  • Crowded teeth spaced too close together
  • Gaps between your teeth
  • Crooked teeth
  • Overbite or underbite
  • Upper and lower teeth that do not meet

Straight Teeth are More Attractive

You are more likely to be proud of your smile when your teeth are straight and evenly spaced. Pride in your appearance can give you more confidence and encourage you to try new things. This can be particularly important for adolescents. In addition, people often judge others based on first impressions. A smile that shows straight teeth is more attractive.

Better Oral Health is Easier

Brushing and flossing your teeth are two basic components of an oral health routine to protect your teeth from conditions such as tooth decay, gingivitis, and plaque build-up. As Dr. Lapsi and our staff know, caring for your mouth is easier when your teeth are straight. The American Dental Association says the following conditions are less likely to occur if you have the proper orthodontic treatment.

  • Dental caries
  • Gum disease or gingivitis
  • Tooth loss
  • Impaired speech
  • Worn tooth enamel

Orthodontic Treatment Improves Nutrition

Poorly aligned teeth can reduce your ability to chew properly or make certain foods more difficult to eat. Many of these more challenging foods are healthy, and avoiding them can cause you to limit your diet to softer, often less-nutritious foods, such as ice cream and canned soup. Straighter teeth and a better ability to chew let you eat crunchy foods, such as apples and carrots; stringy foods, such as asparagus and chicken; and chewy foods, such as raisins.

My Mummy had Braces! Weird Facts about the History of Braces

October 27th, 2021

Sometimes real life is stranger and more interesting that any made-up story. These weird and interesting facts about braces will amuse you … and make you glad you didn’t have to get braces “way back when.”

Mummies with braces: Archaeologists have discovered mummies with crude bands of metal wrapped around their teeth. The metal was wrapped around each individual tooth, and it is believed that ancient dentists used catgut to guide the teeth and close the gaps.

First “official” braces: The first official braces were constructed in 1728 by Pierre Fauchard. They consisted of flat strips of metal. String was used to connect the metal to the teeth.

Early rubber bands: In 1850, Tucker began making rubber bands out of rubber tubing.

Brackets are better: Brackets were invented by Edward Angle in 1915. They were not bonded to the teeth directly, but instead were attached to bands that went around the teeth.

Wiring by NASA: As braces have become more modern, the technology has improved by leaps and bounds. You may know that some braces wire contains nickel titanium. What you may not know is that this metal was developed by NASA and has special shape memory that is activated by pressure or body heat.

Over 60 with braces: Actress Faye Dunaway got braces at the age of 61, which shows you are never too old to look more fabulous!

Oh, and one more thing that didn’t quite make our list, but is interesting all the same. Did you know that almost 25 percent of patients who get braces have to get them again because they wouldn’t wear their retainers? So suck it up, buttercup, and use that retainer!

Braces and Band? Play On!

October 20th, 2021

You’re in the band and you’re getting braces. Now what? If you are a member of the string or percussion sections, you can go back to rehearsal. You’re good to go. When your talents have seated you in the reed or brass sections, though, a little adjustment might be necessary to keep your instrument and your braces working in harmony.

If you play a wind instrument, you know the term embouchure—the way you position and use your lips, tongue, facial muscles, and teeth to produce the sound you want. Depending on the instrument you play, you might be completely unaffected when you get your braces, or you might need to develop a more comfortable embouchure to accommodate them.

Wires and Woodwinds?

If you play a wind instrument such as the flute or piccolo, you might find that your normal lip positioning or blowing angle is affected by your braces, but usually the adjustment time is fairly short. Reed instruments such as the saxophone, clarinet, oboe, and bassoon are considered some of the easiest to adjust to when you have braces, but even though the single and double reed mouthpieces don’t require as much pressure as brass instruments, there can still be an adjustment period. One thing you should look out for is more condensation in your mouthpiece or instrument—be sure to keep your instrument clean to keep your sound pure.

Brackets and Brass?

Brass instruments require mouthpiece pressure. This leaves your lips pressed between the mouthpiece and your braces. For this reason, many brass players have a more challenging adjustment when wearing braces. Smaller mouthpieces (trumpet, French horn) usually require more pressure than larger ones (tuba, trombone). It’s important to learn how to use technique to avoid cuts, irritation, and other injuries caused by the pressure of your braces against your lips. Learning to play with less pressure on the lips and more air control and breath support will help you to recover your tone and range of notes while protecting your lips and mouth.

How Can We Help?

Let Dr. Lapsi know if you play, or plan to play, a wind instrument. We might be able to offer some suggestions. For regular metal and ceramic braces, some musicians find extra wax is helpful in preventing lip and cheek injuries. There are brace guards available that can be applied over the braces to protect your lips and mouth if wax doesn’t do the trick.

There are also alternatives to regular bracket-and-wire braces, depending on your orthodontic needs, cost factors, and length of treatment. Invisalign® devices fit smoothly over your teeth and can even be removed when it is time to practice or play, as long as you get the necessary hours of wear in per day. In some cases, lingual braces, where the brackets and wires are placed behind the teeth, might be the best choice for you.

Finally, don’t forget to talk to your music instructor. Don’t be dismayed if you find the quality of your playing has been affected. Your teacher might have valuable suggestions for adjusting your embouchure, playing with less pressure on the lips, and developing better air and breath support. You might need to shorten your practice time at first, and there might be another period of adjustment after your braces come off.

Above all, take care of yourself! If something is poking your lip or cheek, call our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office immediately before it causes injury. It might be difficult at first, but finding an embouchure that works for your comfort and technique is worth it. And remember, these temporary fine-tunings will lead to a wonderful coda: skilled musicianship and a beautiful, healthy smile. Bravo!

 

How Sedation Dentistry Can Help You Overcome Dental Anxiety

October 13th, 2021

Putting off your dental visit to Excel Dental and Orthodontics because of fear or anxiety only increases the potential for tooth decay or gum problems. At our office, Dr. Lapsi and our team offer solutions that allow you to relax, without any pain, so you can keep your mouth healthy. Our solutions can help with many different anxiety issues for both adults and children.

Help with minor anxiety

Nitrous oxide is an excellent choice for most patients. Sometimes referred to as laughing gas, nitrous oxide can be regulated to provide you with the amount of sedation you need. When used before a local anesthetic, the injection will not be uncomfortable and you should not notice any pain during your procedure.

If you plan to use nitrous oxide, you can drive yourself to your appointment. In most cases, you will be fine to drive after your treatment: the sedation wears off quickly. Nitrous oxide can also be used along with other sedation techniques to produce a higher level of sedation.

Oral sedatives are available in a liquid or pill form. If you experience moderate anxiety levels, you can be given a tablet to take before your appointment. This type of sedation will be beneficial in relieving the anxiety that can build before your procedure. However, if you choose this method, you cannot drive yourself to your appointment.

Help with major dental anxiety

If you experience extreme levels of stress and anxiety about dental treatment, you may wish to discuss deep sedation or general anesthesia. With these techniques, you will be barely conscious or unconscious during your procedure. You will not feel discomfort or pain. Once you have experienced dentistry with a sedation technique, your anxiety level may decrease on its own.

People are not born with the fear of a dental exam. Unfortunately, most anxiety issues are due to a bad dental experience or childhood trauma. Sometimes anxiety comes from listening to the tales of others, who may have exaggerated their story. Talk to Dr. Lapsi and our team about your dental concerns or fears. Let us help you so you can get the dental care you need for a healthy mouth for life.

For more information about overcoming dental anxiety, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Lapsi, please give us a call at our convenient Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

Top Five Best Foods for Oral Health

October 6th, 2021

Some foods are just terrible for your teeth — think cookies and candy bars — but there are certain foods that are beneficial to your oral health. Below, Dr. Lapsi and our team have covered five of the top foods to keep your teeth and gums healthy!

1. Crispy, low-acid fruits and vegetables: Fruits like apples and vegetables such as carrots and celery act like “natural toothbrushes,” helping to clear plaque from your teeth and freshen your breath.

2. Kiwis: These little green superstars are packed with vitamin C which is essential for gum health. The collagen in your gums is strengthened when you consume foods that are high in vitamin C, like kiwis, thus helping to prevent periodontal problems.

3. Raw onions: Onions have long been studied for their antimicrobial, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. Proliferation of bacteria is what leads to tooth decay and cavities. By including raw onions in your diet, you'll be doing your part to wipe out those little microbes before they can multiply!

4. Shiitake Mushrooms: A specific compound in shiitake mushrooms, lentinan, has been shown to have antibacterial properties that target the microbes that cause cavities while leaving other beneficial bacteria alone. It may also help prevent gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums.

5. Green Tea: Often lauded for its high antioxidant content and many health benefits, it turns out green tea also benefits your oral health! A Japanese study found men who drank green tea on a regular basis had a lower occurrence of periodontal disease compared to men who drank green tea infrequently. It's believed this is due to the catechins in green tea, a type of flavonoid that may help protect you from free radical damage, but more research needs to be done. Either way, drink up for your overall health, as well as your teeth!

If you have any questions about your oral health, or are looking for even more oral health tips, contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

There’s an App for That!

September 29th, 2021

Modern orthodontic technology has led to major changes in the world of braces. Brackets are smaller and come in both metal and ceramic materials. Wires are more efficient and more comfortable. Elastic bands come in a variety of vivid colors, or you can choose brackets which work without bands. You can even decide on clear aligners, with no brackets or wires at all.

And since modern software technology has given us a program for just about everything, it’s no surprise that you can install apps to help make your modern orthodontic treatment more convenient and more enjoyable. What can an orthodontic app do for you?

  • Keep Track of Your Appointments

There are many apps out there that are designed to help you keep your treatment on track with appointment reminders. This sounds pretty basic, but when you have school, work, sports, and activities filling your days, it doesn’t hurt to get a timely reminder that our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office will be expecting you in the near future. And, since missed appointments delay your progress, you are making sure you achieve your beautiful, healthy smile in the shortest amount of time.

  • Mapping Out Your Routine

You know how important it is to keep track of the hours you wear your aligners. Apps can help remove the guesswork with a timer to make sure you’ve got the hours you need to progress to the next phase of treatment. Apps can also remind you when you’re ready for a new aligner, and let you track your progress in one convenient place with selfies after each aligner transition. After all, it’s really exciting to see just how far you’ve come.

If you wear traditional braces, there are apps with very helpful reminders for you, too. For example, forgetting to wear your elastics can really delay your progress. An app can let you know when it’s time to wear your rubber bands and keep track of your hours. It can also remind you to replace your bands regularly, because elastics become less elastic through the day. And take advantage of the countdown feature some apps offer to see just when you can expect to be done with your treatment when you keep on top of your routine.

  • Brushing and Flossing? Apply Yourself!

A big part of making your smile look its best after your orthodontic treatment is making sure you take care of your smile during your treatment. This means keeping up with daily brushing and flossing, and using proper technique. Two minutes brushing, twice each day, and flossing at least once a day are the basic recommendations for preventing cavities and gum disease. (During orthodontic treatment, you might need to increase your brushing and flossing—ask us how often is best for your needs.)

And to help you make sure you get a solid two minutes of brushing twice a day? Try an app that plays two minutes of your favorite music with a perfectly timed brushing playlist. Apps can also send you brushing and flossing reminders, let you know when it’s time to change your toothbrush (every three months, please!), and give you tips on better brushing and flossing techniques.

  • Have Fun with Your Appearance

Not sure just how you’ll look in braces? Get a preview with an app that uses one of your selfies to model different types and styles of braces, brackets, bands, and aligners. Metal brackets? Ceramic? Elastic bands in your favorite colors? No bands at all? Hardly visible aligners? Find the look that works for you!

  • When Problems Happen

Some apps will even guide you through common orthodontic problems, such as applying wax to an irritating bracket or relieving discomfort. Always remember, though, an app is not an orthodontist. If you have a serious problem or concern, call us immediately.

  • Orthodontist Approved

If you’ve checked out the orthodontic apps available for your operating system, you know that there are a lot of options out there. If you’re looking for an app providing information about your treatment, tips for dealing with your braces, or a convenient way to track your progress or even be part of a community, you want the best information, tips, and conveniences possible—and hopefully all in one place.

To help you find the best orthodontic app for you, talk to Dr. Lapsi! We might know just the app for your specific needs. Whether you choose aligners or brackets and wires, consider all the wireless options that can make your life easier, your dental care more complete, and—just maybe—your orthodontic experience a little more fun.

Electric or Manual Toothbrush: Why It Does (and Doesn't) Matter

September 22nd, 2021

You live in the golden age of toothbrushes. Until a few decades people used twigs or brushes made from animal hair to clean their teeth: not very soft and none too effective.

Now, you have a choice of manual brushes with soft, medium, or hard bristles. Or you might choose to go with an electric toothbrush instead.

Have you ever wondered whether manual or electric brushes provide better cleaning? Actually, they both do the job. The key is to brush and floss every day, regardless of the kind of brush you prefer.

At our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, we like to say the best brush is the one you'll use. So if you prefer manual, go for it. If you prefer electric, turn it on.

Both types have their advantages but both types will get the job done as far as removing plaque.

Electric Toothbrushes

  • Provide power rotation that helps loosen plaque
  • Are great for people with limited dexterity due to arthritis or other problems
  • Are popular with kids who think the electric brushes are more fun to use
  • Can come with variable speeds to help reduce pressure on sensitive teeth and gums

Manual Toothbrushes

  • Can help brushers feel they have more control over the brushing process
  • Allow brushers to respond to twinges and reduce the pressure applied to sensitive teeth and gums
  • Are more convenient for packing when traveling
  • Manual brushes are cheaper and easier to replace than the electric versions.

In many ways, the golden age is just beginning. There are already phone apps available to remind you to brush and floss. New apps can play two minutes worth of music while you brush, help you compare the brightness of your smile or help explain dental procedures. Maybe someday we’ll even have programs that examine your teeth after brushing and identify spots you might have missed.

Water Flossers and Braces

September 15th, 2021

You devote a lot of energy to your orthodontic treatment. Appointments, rubber bands, adjustments, cleaning (so much cleaning)—and why? Because you know that your attractive, healthy smile will be well worth the effort.

But if you find that keeping your teeth and braces clean requires more time and energy than it should, and you’re still not getting the results you’d like, a water flosser might be just the tool you need to help make your cleaning routine easier and more effective.

Plaque and tartar can be a real problem when you wear braces. Cleaning around braces and wires can be a challenge, and it can be difficult to get floss between your teeth and close to your gums, even with special threaders or floss designed to slip behind your wires.

But ignoring bacteria and plaque build-up can lead to cavities, weakened or discolored enamel, and gum problems. Fortunately, a water flosser can help wash away food particles, bacteria, and plaque even in tight, hard-to-reach spaces, while providing gentle cleaning along sensitive gums.

Water flossers use a pulsing stream of water to remove food particles and plaque between and around teeth. You can adjust the water pressure to apply just the right amount of cleaning power, and then direct the flow to your gum line, between your teeth, around your brackets, or anywhere else you need. Some models even offer tapered heads with brushes designed specifically for cleaning braces.

You might consider investing in a water flosser if you have:

  • Mobility issues. If you have joint or mobility issues, a water flosser will let you clean those hard-to-reach areas more easily.
  • Lingual braces. Because lingual braces are on the inside of the teeth, they can be more difficult to clean effectively with regular brushing and flossing.
  • Problems removing plaque. If you find that you are brushing and flossing regularly, but still have plaque build-up around your braces, give water flossing a try.

A beautiful smile is well worth all the time and effort you are devoting to it. If you think a water flosser might save you a bit of that time and effort, and provide better cleaning power, talk to Dr. Lapsi  about your options during your next visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office. We’ll let you know if traditional flossing, a water flosser, or a combination of the two will give you your cleanest, healthiest smile.

Play Sports? Use Mouthguards.

September 8th, 2021

Dr. Lapsi and our team recommend always wearing a protective mouthguard to participate in most physical sports. We especially encourage this if you have braces that can potentially cut your mouth or cause damage to your teeth. You have various choices to consider when you’re looking for a protective mouthguard.

One option is a full facial guard, which is often used for contact sports, such as football or hockey. This type offers full protection of the face from external impact. You should also consider an additional mouthguard to protect yourself from cuts inside your mouth, and avoid possible damage to your braces.

Boil-and-bites are another version of mouthguard that can be used for more physical sports. This type is used just the way its name implies: You warm the mouthguard in water to soften the material, then bite down gently once it’s at the correct temperature to form it into the shape of your mouth. These are fine to use temporarily, but they don’t always provide the best protection if they don’t fit properly.

Another option is to have Dr. Lapsi make a custom mouthguard for you. The mouthguard will be designed with built-in layers to protect both your teeth and braces when it’s worn. Having Dr. Lapsi create a custom-fitted mouthguard will ensure optimal protection and a comfortable fit whenever you participate in physical activities.

Protecting your teeth and braces is essential when you compete in sports. Accidents happen, and having a preventive mouthguard can potentially save you from oral pain and damaged braces. Our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office is happy to assist you in creating a custom-made mouthguard for any sports activities you want to pursue.

If you’ve experienced a mouth injury that has caused damage to your braces, please contact us immediately so we can fix the problem right away. Remember, prevention is key when it comes to your oral health!

Back to School? Remember Your Dental Homework!

September 1st, 2021

It’s a busy time of year. Book lists! Supplies! New clothes! (How did they outgrow those shoes already?) And while you’re preparing your family’s list of back-to-school necessities, here are a few essential reminders to help your child begin the school year with a healthy smile.

  • Review

It never hurts to review the basics before the start of the school year, and that holds true for dental care as well! Make sure your child is brushing two minutes twice a day, and using floss or another interdental tool to clean between the teeth. If his toothbrush has been in use since the end of the last school year, it’s probably time to replace it. Bristles are at their best for about three months—after that, they become frayed and worn, and can’t remove plaque as effectively.

  • School Supplies for Braces Wearers

If your child is going to school with braces for the first time, send her off with the tools she needs. A travel-sized toothbrush and tube of toothpaste are perfect for a quick brushing after lunch, while dental floss and a threader or dental picks will take care of any after-lunch particles lurking in brackets and wires. Orthodontic wax is a great product to have on hand if a wire or bracket is causing irritation. If your child uses clear aligners or a retainer, make sure a protective case is always close by, ready to use every time the appliance is removed. And it’s a good idea to include the number of your dentist and orthodontist in her contacts in case of emergency.

  • Exams

If your school requires a dental exam before the start of classes, be sure to make your appointment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office now! Regular checkups with Dr. Lapsi are vital for preventing small problems from becoming bigger ones, and a professional cleaning will remove the plaque even careful brushing can miss.

A positive, confident start can set the tone for the academic year, so your homework might include monitoring summer reading, providing required supplies, and making sure your child is well-rested and ready to go. You can also help your child to a positive, confident start by monitoring brushing habits, providing the necessary tools for appliance-wearers, and making sure your child is up-to-date with dental exams and cleanings. Because entering the classroom with a beaming, healthy smile—that’s an A+ way to begin the school year!

Going Beyond Braces

August 25th, 2021

At Excel Dental and Orthodontics, we aren’t just concerned with straightening your teeth and giving you the beautiful smile you’ve always wanted. We are also committed improving the oral health and the well-being of all our patients. Dr. Lapsi and our team strive to serve our patients by educating them about their treatments, as well as making them feel as comfortable as possible during their initial consultations up until the day they complete their treatments.

Making our patients more comfortable with taking care of their braces in between visits increases the likelihood that they will complete their treatments successfully. We want you to know that if you should ever have any questions about your orthodontic treatment, whether it’s during your adjustment appointment or after hours, we are always here for you and your family.

Please do not hesitate to give us a call at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office or ask us any questions you may have on our Facebook page! We can’t wait to hear from you!

Orthodontic Treatment: Does a Missing Tooth Mean Missing Out?

August 18th, 2021

You’ve decided—now’s the time to talk to Dr. Lapsi about straighter teeth and a better bite. So what’s holding you back? If you are concerned because you have a missing tooth, don’t let that stop you from making that first appointment. Orthodontists today have many options to help you achieve the benefits of a more attractive, and even healthier, smile.

How can we accommodate a patient with a missing tooth or teeth? Because each patient is different, our approach will be tailored to your specific needs.

A Lost or Missing Permanent Tooth

There are a number of treatment options available, depending on the position of your other teeth.

  • If your teeth are already crowded, it might be possible to close a small gap left by a missing tooth with braces.
  • If the space between your teeth is the perfect size for a replacement tooth, your orthodontic appliance will keep that spot open as your braces move the rest of the teeth into alignment.
  • If you need more space for a replacement tooth, braces can help widen the space between your surrounding teeth for an ideal fit.

Tooth loss can occur for a number of reasons. Accidents, decay, and gum disease can lead to tooth loss.  Congenitally missing teeth, teeth that simple never developed, are also a fairly common condition. But missing teeth are not merely a cosmetic issue, and should not be ignored. A gap in your smile can lead to shifting of the teeth around it, bite problems, difficulty chewing, and gradual loss of bone tissue beneath the missing tooth.

Today’s implants are a permanent, natural-looking replacement for a lost tooth. If you decide that an implant is your best option for tooth replacement, you are still a candidate for orthodontic treatment. Dr. Lapsi and your oral surgeon can decide on a schedule that will provide the best timing for each phase of your treatment.

A Lost Baby Tooth

Finally, let’s not forget younger patients. Sometimes children benefit from orthodontic care before all of their adult teeth have erupted. If your child has lost a baby tooth too early, a space maintainer can be used to prevent shifting and misalignment of the remaining baby teeth and leave room for the adult tooth to erupt in its proper spot.

We recommend that your child have a first orthodontic assessment around age seven, but if your child has lost a primary tooth before its time, give our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office a call. We can let you know if a space maintainer is the best way to prevent future dental and orthodontic problems.

If you have concerns about a missing tooth or teeth, talk to us! Orthodontic treatment is always custom-designed to fit the needs of each individual patient. We can discuss your specific goals, and how orthodontic treatment can help you achieve them. There is no reason to let a missing tooth keep you from a more attractive, healthier smile!

Avoid Brushing After Every Single Meal!

August 11th, 2021

Here is some surprising yet worthwhile advice you might be hearing for the first time: Brushing after a meal can be incredibly bad for your teeth if you do it after eating certain foods.

Enamel is an extremely hard mineral on the exterior of each of your teeth. It’s actually the hardest substance in the human body: It’s even stronger than your bones! Its only weakness is that acids in the food we eat can easily destroy enamel.

Healthy teeth thrive in an environment that has the proper pH balance. That ensures your mouth doesn’t start the process of demineralization. That’s what happens when alkaline turns into acid, which attacks and softens the enamel on the surface of your teeth. Pores and fissures form, and that’s when the harmful bacteria go to work.

Our mouth’s pH level fluctuates depending on what we eat throughout the day. Examples of the most common highly acidic foods include citrus fruits, soda, and sugary foods. Highly acidic foods tip the balance of pH in your mouth from a healthy alkaline to a dangerous acid.

Can brushing your teeth immediately after a meal lead to even more damage? The answer is yes!

Eating highly acidic foods causes your teeth to be more susceptible. If you brush your teeth when they have been weakened by acids, even more destruction can happen to your enamel. Your toothbrush’s bristles will actually wear away some of your enamel. So it’s healthier to wait at least an hour after eating or snacking to brush.

Good preventive measures to take instead of brushing after you eat include:

  • Rinsing or drinking water
  • Chewing sugarless gum
  • Consuming dairy or non-acidic foods to conclude your meal

These practices help produce saliva, which in turn restores a healthy pH level in your mouth and coats the teeth with minerals they need.

Once you’ve allowed time for your mouth to be restored to a healthy pH level, you may brush your teeth as you normally would. Keep in mind that acidic foods can weaken the enamel on your teeth and take the right measures to prevent spiking pH levels.

Most important, don’t forget to wait to brush at least one hour after you eat!

Still have questions? Call our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office and schedule an appointment with Dr. Lapsi.

Fantastic Elastics

August 4th, 2021

If you already wear traditional braces, you know all about these helpful little rubber rings. But if you are new to the world of braces, you might like to know just what kind of elastics are available and what they can do for you.

  • Ligatures: Alignment Assistance

When you get your braces, the brackets you’ve chosen will be bonded to your teeth. Once they are attached securely, an arch wire will be threaded through the brackets to provide consistent gentle pressure, moving your teeth into their best positions. But what holds that wire in place? This is where those tiny, colorful bands, called ligatures, come in. Fit snugly around the wire and the bracket, they keep the wire where it needs to be to move your teeth to a better alignment.

There are also ligatures call “c-chain ligatures,” or “power chains.” These tiny ligature bands are connected to each other, and fit across the brackets in one long strip. This design lets them not only hold your wires in place, but help move your teeth closer together at the same time. They come in a variety of sizes depending on the spacing of your teeth, and might be worn weeks or months as needed.

One thing to remember is that while ligatures are essential, they are not permanent! Every time you have your wires tightened or replaced, you can make this an opportunity to express your personality through your choice of bands. There is a wide variety of color choices available, so take advantage of it!

Show your school spirit by displaying your high school’s colors. Go orange and black for Halloween. Match your ligature tones to your go-to clothing colors. Or, go monochromatic. Match grey or silver bands to your brackets, or choose white or clear bands if you have ceramic brackets. (One word of caution—light colored ligatures can pick up stains from dark foods and drinks. On the other hand, they won’t be around that long!)

  • Rubber Bands: Building Better Bites

While ligatures are the colorful attention-getters in the elastics world, there are other bands that do very important work. When you have a malocclusion, or bad bite, your upper and lower jaws don’t fit together perfectly. We use rubber bands to align your bite correctly and carefully move it into the proper position. This is accomplished by attaching bands to tiny hooks on specially chosen brackets on the upper and lower teeth. The bands usually connect an upper bracket to a lower one, and are specifically placed to correct your unique bite problem.

If you need this type of elastic, you will play a very important part in making your orthodontic treatment work. You will probably need to wear your bands 24 hours a day, removing them only for brushing and flossing. (Talk to us about how to work with your bands when you are eating, playing an instrument, or wearing a mouthguard.) And they need to be replaced several times a day, which is where you come in.

Even if the bands look perfect, after hours of work, they lose the tightness needed to keep moving your teeth to their best position. Bands that are too loose won’t be as effective. On the other hand, doubling the bands is a bad idea because that might apply too much force. Bands come in a variety of sizes and strengths, and yours have been chosen for this specific phase of your treatment. Keep calm, keep to a schedule, and keep a supply of bands on hand in case one breaks, and everything will work out.

If this sounds like a lot of confusing information, don’t worry! Dr. Lapsi will supply you with the right bands for your treatment, clear instructions on where and how to place them, and practice time for putting them in. You’ll probably need a mirror at first, but you’ll become an expert in no time.

If you ever have questions we can help you with, contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office immediately. We are here to guide you through the process and help you with any problems you might have. Wearing your bands consistently and correctly will help you achieve your beautiful smile in the shortest time possible. And that’s an accomplishment that is truly fantastic!

Let’s Be Perfectly Clear!

July 28th, 2021

One of the most common reasons for choosing clear aligners is that they are just that—clear! You can achieve a healthy, beautiful smile without the more obvious wires and brackets of traditional braces. But if your aligners are noticeably stained well before it’s time to replace them, you can be facing days or weeks of self-conscious smiles.

Luckily, this problem is preventable. Let’s look at some of the common causes of aligner discoloration and how to avoid them.

  • Beverages that Stain Teeth Stain Aligners

You take your aligners out to eat, of course, but do you always remember to remove them when you drink a beverage? Red wines, coffee, tea, dark juices, and sodas don’t just cause enamel staining—they can discolor your aligners as well. Even worse, drinking an acidic or sugary drink with your aligners on gives that acidic, sugary beverage an opportunity to bathe your teeth in acids and sugar over a period of time. Keep your aligners (and your enamel) protected by removing them when you drink anything other than water, and brush your teeth before you replace them. If you absolutely can’t remove aligners, a straw will reduce the risk of staining.

  • Soaking in Mouthwash

Mouthwash is a way to keep your teeth and mouth fresh-smelling and free from bacteria. You also want your aligners to stay fresh and bacteria-free. So, what could be the problem in giving your aligners a good soak? Well, sometimes a colorful mouthwash can stain your aligners to match! If you’re not a fan of tinted aligners, talk to us about the safest ways to use mouthwash with your appliance.

  • Using Harsh Cleaners

There are products specifically made for aligners which will keep them their cleanest and clearest. Harsh cleaners and even toothpastes can be abrasive, leaving visible scratches or cloudiness. We’re happy to recommend the best and safest cleaning products for your aligners.

  • Inadequate Cleaning

Plaque, that bacteria film that can stick to your enamel and around your gum line, can also stick to your aligners. If you notice a white film on your appliance, it could be plaque. Thorough and regularly scheduled cleanings are essential. Talk to us about the best schedule and methods for keeping your aligners not only clear, but sanitary.

What if, despite taking precautions, your aligners do get stained? If your aligners are new, we might be able to offer you some suggestions to get you through the next week or so. If you are almost ready for your next set of aligners, you might have no problem waiting. But the simplest solution to stained aligners is prevention.

Talk to Dr. Lapsi at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office about how to keep your aligners looking their best—and least visible. Whether it’s diet suggestions or the most effective soaking and cleaning techniques, we have the answers to ensure your brightest, most confident smile. After all, isn’t that one of the reasons you chose clear aligners?

Spot Check

July 21st, 2021

After all your hard work, and months of orthodontic treatment, the big day is finally here—your braces are coming off! What you want to see: beautiful, straight teeth perfectly aligned to create a comfortable, healthy bite. What you don’t want to see: a collection of whitish spots dotting the enamel around your gum line or outlining the spot where your brackets used to be.

What are these spots? Can they be removed? And, most important, how do you avoid them?

Decalcification

Those white spots are caused by decalcification, or the removal of the minerals, especially calcium and phosphorus, that strengthen our enamel. How does this removal take place? When bacteria and plaque remain on the teeth, they produce acids that eat away at these minerals. The result is a weakened, discolored white spot in the enamel. Unfortunately, because many orthodontic patients don’t brush thoroughly around their braces, decalcification is an all-too-common problem.

Treating Decalcification

You might need cosmetic dentistry to eliminate or reduce white spots on the enamel. In some cases, they will fade over time, or teeth whitening can help. In more stubborn cases, tooth bonding or veneers can cover the affected enamel.

Preventing Decalcification

But, obviously, prevention is always better than treatment. Here are some of the ways to keep your enamel healthy and looking its best:

  • Brush thoroughly after every meal.

Getting rid of the bacteria and plaque on your enamel and around your gum line will greatly reduce your chances of decalcification—and cavities. Brush after every meal, and talk to us about the best products and techniques for cleaning your teeth and appliances. And be sure to spend the extra time you’ll need for brushing around your braces.

  • Floss

Even though it can be more difficult to floss with brackets and wires, it’s essential for removing plaque. We have suggestions for special flosses designed for braces wearers, and how best to use them. A water flosser can be helpful for reducing plaque if other flossing methods aren’t working.

  • Use fluoride toothpaste

Fluoride actually helps remineralize our teeth, replacing the important minerals that have been lost to acid attacks. We might also suggest remineralizing toothpastes or a fluoride rinse.

  • Watch your diet

Acidic foods increase the acidity levels in your mouth, sugars give bacteria the fuel they need to produce acids, and sticky foods allow bacteria to remain on teeth and braces longer. We’ll give you suggestions on the best foods to keep your teeth healthy (and your braces intact) while you’re undergoing treatment.

  • Have your teeth cleaned regularly

Your dental professional will be able to remove plaque and tartar that home brushing has missed.

  • Work with us!

If we let you know that you need to spend more time on your cleaning routine, or that you need to be more thorough when you brush and floss, take our suggestions to heart. We are happy to show you the most effective way to clean around your braces. Dr. Lapsi can recommend the best dental products for your specific needs. We can suggest rinses and toothpastes that will help. We’ll let you know how much time you should spend brushing and how often.

If you have any questions at all about keeping your teeth and braces their cleanest, we are here to help. Always feel free to talk to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills team about concerns you might have about decalcification, discoloration, or any other potential problems. We are want to make sure that when your braces come off, you have every reason to smile!

My child has autism. What should we expect at your office?

July 14th, 2021

At Excel Dental and Orthodontics, we know that as many as one in 88 children today have some form of autism, a complex brain disorder that affects a child's ability to communicate or form relationships, and makes a child appear distant, aloof, or detached from other people or surroundings. Autism varies widely in symptoms and severity, and some people have coexisting conditions such as intellectual disability or even epilepsy.

That is why Dr. Lapsi and our team are specially trained to provide dental care to the entire special needs community, including autistic children. We know that a visit to the dentist with an autistic child can be difficult. In addition to the common fears associated with strangers, there are also unfamiliar sounds, sensations, bright lights, and tastes with which your child may not be comfortable. We work with parents to make sure visiting the dentist is not so traumatic for our autistic patients.

Dr. Lapsi and our team also know that patients with autism may be more interested in equipment and instruments than in us. We show our patients every piece of equipment we are going to use in a way that they can understand. We also allow a patient to sit in a parent's lap in the open bay if he or she is not feeling at ease. We want your child to enjoy getting to know us and to be comfortable while under our care.

A pleasant, comfortable visit at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office builds trust and helps put your child at ease for future appointments. Before a visit, we ask parents or guardians to bring their child's favorite toy, comfort item, music, or other coping device their child requires. We have a caring and compassionate team and know how to help autistic children acclimate themselves to a dental environment. We may not get everything done at the first visit, but we are able to schedule several appointments so that your child can get used to our office, the dentist, instruments, and our staff.

Children, especially those afflicted with autism, are not born with a fear of the dentist, but they can fear the unknown. Our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics genuinely cares for our patients beyond their teeth, and are more than happy to discuss any concerns you may have, as well as answer questions about your child's ongoing dental treatment. Please give us a call to learn more or schedule an appointment with Dr. Lapsi.

Summer Dental Health? Get into the Swim of It!

July 7th, 2021

On a sizzling hot day, there’s not much that makes us happier than heading to the water for a quick swim, some gentle laps, or even a rousing game of water polo. And this being a sizzling hot dental blog, we are happy to offer some tips on how to make your summer swim good for your dental health as well as your mental health!

  • Mouthguards

You might use your mouthguard all the time—for biking, or basketball, or skiing. But in the pool? Absolutely! Anyone who has played water polo knows what a physical workout it is. Elbows! Hard tosses! Collisions! And it’s not just pool sports. Water-skiing on the lake, surfing in the ocean—anywhere humans and solid objects are involved, tooth and jaw injuries are possible. Don’t spend valuable summer hours tending to a cracked or broken tooth as a result of sports accidents.

And, unlikely though it seems, even hanging by the pool can be hazardous to your smile. Hard concrete edges wait to greet surfacing divers. Slippery cement and tiles surrounding the pool are the downfall of many a swimmer running to jump back into the water. Be aware of possible dental dangers, and use a mouthguard as a great proactive way to avoid them.

  • Swimming Pools & Chlorine

Ah, the smell of chlorine! We all want to know that swimming pools are as clean as they can be, and one method of keeping them that way is with the addition of antimicrobials to the water. But too much exposure to chemicals can cause enamel erosion, or even a condition called “swimmer’s calculus.” Swimmer’s calculus is recognized by a hard, brownish, tartar deposit that appears on the front teeth of swimmers who spent a lot of hours in the pool. It’s a cosmetic problem, but one that’s difficult to get rid of without a professional cleaning. If you’re a competitive swimmer, or simply someone who spends many hours a week in treated water, give us a call if you notice hard-to-remove discoloration or tooth sensitivity.

  • Retainers

Different people have different opinions on whether or not your retainer should be exposed to the chlorine in pool water. (Or the salt in saltwater or the bacteria in lake water.) Ask us for ours! But you’re best off leaving it in your bag or locker, anyway, because retainers can be easily lost in the water. They might be able to survive a swimming pool, but a lake or ocean rescue is very unlikely. Just remember to put your retainer in a case, in a safe spot, and replace it when you’re out of the water for the day.

Enjoy your time on the water, and don’t forget to schedule an exam with Dr. Lapsi and a professional cleaning if you haven’t been in the office for a while. If you do have a dental problem or an accident, give our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office a call immediately. We want to make sure you dive in to summer fun with a healthy, beautiful smile!

A Helpful Site on Orthodontics

July 1st, 2021

As you are undergoing orthodontic treatment, our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics would like to point you to a helpful website. Our friends at the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) have lots of important information about everything relating to braces, including myths and facts of orthodontics, tips for a better orthodontic experience, and cool webisodes about orthodontics.

Check out AAO today and feel free to contact us at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office if you have any questions.

Dr. Lapsi and our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics hope this information helps you!

The Importance of Regular Dental Checkups

June 23rd, 2021

When was the last time you paid Dr. Lapsi a visit? If you're like many people, chances are it was more than six months ago. We hear the reasons why people neglect regular dental visits all the time: lack of money or quality dental insurance, busy schedules, and fear. However, your twice-yearly checkups are so important for your dental health and for your overall health as well.

You may brush your teeth twice a day and even floss, and your teeth may feel fine, but regular dental checkups with Dr. Lapsi aren’t about addressing problems and reacting — they are about cavity prevention. No matter how much you brush and floss, there is still a chance that food or other debris can get lodged between your teeth, and there is also a chance that food and beverages can wear down your tooth enamel in between visits, making your teeth vulnerable to decay.

In addition to a thorough teeth cleaning and polishing, these regular visits 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. 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. A deep cleaning twice a year by our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics is the best way to hit all the spots you may have missed with brushing and flossing and prevent any problems that may have gone unseen.

Make sure your teeth get the professional attention they deserve! If you’re overdue for your next cleaning, please give us a call to schedule an appointment at our convenient Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

Why You Should Avoid Energy and Sports Drinks

June 16th, 2021

In a world where everything moves so quickly and teens and young adults find themselves pulling “all-nighters” or working long hours, energy drinks have grabbed the spotlight. You’ll have one (or three) and suddenly you have the drive you need to keep going.

The same can be said for sports drinks. It’s common for people to have one even when they’re not engaged in any strenuous physical activity, which is what they were designed for. People will drink them simply because they’ve grown to love the taste.

Although they might taste great and boost your energy, there’s a serious down side to consuming energy and sports drinks on a steady basis. Studies have shown that these drinks contain so much acid that they start to destroy your teeth after just five days of consistent use.

The acid in these drinks destroys your tooth enamel, which makes your teeth more vulnerable to bacteria. This can progress to staining, tooth decay, and hypersensitivity.

That’s why Dr. Lapsi and our team want to encourage you to try to limit the amount of sports and energy drinks you consume. If you do enjoy either or both of these drinks, you should make it a habit to rinse your mouth with water immediately after consumption, and brush your teeth about an hour later, after the period when acid has a softening effect on your enamel has passed.

If you feel like you’re already experiencing the side effects of heavy energy and sports drink consumption, visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, and our team can provide solutions for how to prevent further damage from occurring. It’s never too late to change a bad habit!

Tooth Extraction and Braces

June 9th, 2021

Perhaps you’ve heard from parents or older relatives what braces used to be like years ago—obvious, uncomfortable, hard to clean, and with inevitable tooth extractions to start off the whole lengthy process.

Today, brackets are much smaller and wires are more pliable. You can even choose ceramic brackets or clear aligners for an almost invisible effect. New tools make cleaning your braces easier than ever. And new braces technology means that treatment is often shorter. But what about extractions? Are they still inevitable?

For orthodontists like Dr. Lapsi, the objective is saving teeth. And modern practices and technology have made this goal more attainable than ever before. There are several ways that modern treatment procedures can help avoid extractions.

  • Early Intervention

We recommend that children visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office for an orthodontic evaluation by age seven. Because a child’s jaw is still forming at this age, early intervention can lead to orthodontic treatment that expands the jaw in order to make room for permanent teeth, or starts correcting bite problems before they become more serious.

  • High-Tech Planning

Today’s technology allows us to map out the progression of your treatment before we begin. Scanners, X-rays, and computer programs help us to design a treatment plan which will accurately predict how best to move your teeth and correct your bite, taking into account the size and development of your teeth and jaw.

  • Surgical Options

By the time you reach your late teen years, the jaw bones have stopped growing and it’s no longer possible to expand them without surgery. Oral surgery can treat serious jaw problems that impact your teeth and bite, usually as part of a combined treatment plan designed by your orthodontist and your oral surgeon.

Because we always work to keep teeth intact—using these methods and others—you can be sure that, if we recommend extraction, it is absolutely necessary. What could make an extraction necessary?

  • Severe overcrowding. Sometimes, there’s just not enough room in the jaw for all of your teeth.
  • A tooth or teeth that prevent us from correcting a problem with your bite.
  • Wisdom teeth. Usually, orthodontic work takes place before a patient’s wisdom teeth start to erupt. If yours do make an appearance before or during treatment, we can adapt our treatment plan accordingly.
  • An extra tooth. It’s rare, but an extra, or supernumerary, tooth sometimes develops, and your jaw is not designed to accommodate extras!

It’s important that you talk to Dr. Lapsi about every step of your treatment, including extractions. We want you to understand the treatment plan which will give you your best outcome. If we recommend extraction, it is because this decision is the best way to achieve a healthy bite and alignment, creating your beautiful smile—and protecting it—for a lifetime.

Water Features

June 2nd, 2021

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”!

Digital X-rays

May 26th, 2021

Modern orthodontic technology has changed the way you wear braces. Brackets are smaller and come in a variety of shapes and colors. Wires are more efficient. Clear aligners can eliminate the need for brackets and wires altogether. And your high-tech advantages don’t stop there—today’s digital X-rays make creating your treatment plan even more convenient and efficient.

Why Are X-rays Necessary?

Beautifully aligned teeth and a healthy bite are the visible result of your orthodontic work, but there’s a lot going on above and below the surface that needs to be discovered and taken into account before your treatment even begins. X-rays help Dr. Lapsi evaluate:

  • The size, shape, and position of your teeth, including impacted teeth and wisdom teeth
  • The size, position, and health of your roots throughout treatment
  • The size and shape of your jaw bones, and how they affect your teeth alignment and bite
  • Your progress during different phases of treatment
  • The most effective type of retainer for protecting your beautiful smile after treatment.

How Do X-rays Work?

Traditional X-rays, or radiographs, make use of film just like traditional cameras. When you have an intraoral X-ray, for example, the film is sealed in a moisture- and light-proof packet, and placed inside the mouth to capture images of specific teeth and the bone around them.

The X-ray machine is aligned precisely with the film and an exposure is taken. The image at this point is latent, and won’t show on the film, because, just like photo film, traditional radiographs need to be chemically processed before they produce a visible image.

Digital technology, on the other hand, uses an electronic sensor instead of film. For an intraoral digital X-ray, a small sensor is positioned in the mouth just like a film. When the X-ray is taken, a digital image capture device produces an image which is formed by a matrix of pixels instead of a photo-like film exposure. This format allows the image to be sent directly to a computer for immediate display without requiring processing.

Even though these methods seem very similar, digital X-rays offer some significant advantages over traditional films. Let’s look at how they compare, more or less.

  • More Diagnostic Advantages

A traditional X-ray is a fixed image. It cannot be modified or enhanced. Here the digital X-ray offers a clear advantage in evaluating your teeth and the bone structure surrounding them.

Just as you can enlarge certain types of images on your computer without blurring or losing detail, a digital X-ray uses computer software to magnify images while keeping their details sharp. They can also be enhanced through brightness and contrast applications to make details stand out even more.

There is even digital subtraction radiography software available that can be used to compare recent images to older ones, removing (“subtracting”) all the similarities in the two images to display only the changes in the two—even small changes—that have taken place over time.

  • Less Exposure to Radiation

Modern technology means traditional X-rays expose patients to less radiation than ever before, but digital X-rays have significant advantages here as well. Radiation exposure can be reduced by an additional 10%, 20%, or more with a digital radiograph.

And while all types of dental X-rays expose you to very little radiation, it’s always best to reduce exposure whenever possible.

  • More Convenient for Sharing and Transmitting

If you need to share your X-rays with another dentist or physician, digital technology allows you to simply have them e-mailed to another office or multiple offices. You no longer need to worry about preserving physical copies, either.

  • Less Waste

Unlike traditional X-rays, digital X-rays don’t need to be processed, so you save time in the office. And while the processing time is not significant (usually several minutes), if you need to repeat some X-rays for a clearer picture, or require different images for several teeth, this time can add up.

Digital X-rays are also more eco-friendly.  The fact that they don’t need to be developed means that the chemicals used to process traditional films are no longer necessary—which also means that there is no need to dispose of chemical waste products afterward.

Our goal is to provide you with the safest, most efficient, and most effective treatment possible. Digital X-rays are an important tool for orthodontists, helping us to provide you with the best treatment plan possible. If you have any questions about digital X-ray technology, contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office. We’re happy to explain the science—and the benefits—behind this high-tech diagnostic tool.

Is periodontal disease genetic?

May 19th, 2021

One of the most enjoyable parts of looking at family pictures is finding resemblances. You have your father’s brown eyes and your grandmother’s curly hair. You’ve got your aunt’s basketball height and your cousin’s freckles. But some similarities might not be so appealing—could one of those be a family tendency toward gum disease?

Studies have shown that periodontal disease appears to have some kind of genetic component, especially for serious diseases and those that appear early in the patient’s life. Aggressive periodontitis, for example, a relatively uncommon disease which causes rapid bone loss around certain teeth, is often more common among members of the same family. Other studies suggest there might be a genetic link between our immune response and the development of chronic periodontitis. So far, however, the link between genetics and gum disease is still under investigation.

We do know that environmental factors are an important trigger for gum disease. Failure to brush and floss, smoking, diet, stress, medical conditions such as diabetes—all can influence the health of our gums. The best way to overcome these factors is your own proactive approach! Thorough brushing and flossing, regular checkups and cleanings, proper nutrition, and avoiding smoking are all time-tested ways to keep your gums and teeth healthy. If you have a medical condition, proper treatment and medication will also help protect your oral health.

During your examination with Dr. Lapsi at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, please tell us about any family history of periodontal disease, your own gum care routine, and any habits or conditions which might influence your health. We can tailor treatment and offer suggestions for prevention based on a thorough knowledge of your medical history. We have many options available today for preventing and treating gum disease. Let’s make sure all your family albums are filled with beaming smiles—that’s the most appealing resemblance of all!

Time to Brush Up on Brushing and Flossing

May 12th, 2021

If your child has just gotten braces, chances are it’s a good time to brush up on dental hygiene! Why now? What’s different? And how can you help? Let’s take a few minutes and explore these timely questions.

Brushing and Flossing Are Especially Important with Braces

There’s no getting around it, it’s harder to clean teeth with brackets and wires. But it’s essential to pay attention to dental hygiene. When bacteria and plaque start building up, your child is at risk for gum disease, cavities, and tooth discoloration.

  • Gingivitis

This early stage of gum disease is the result of gum irritation caused by plaque. The gums become red, swollen, sore, and can bleed or start to recede. With proper brushing and flossing, gingivitis can be eliminated, along with the risk of developing more serious gum disease.

  • Tooth Decay

One of the major reasons for cavities is the erosion of enamel caused by oral bacteria. These bacteria feed on sugars from our diet and produce acids that attack the tooth’s surface. Plaque, formed by a mass of these bacteria, sticks around brackets and the gum line, putting your child at risk for cavities near his orthodontic work—which might require removing wires and brackets to treat.

  • Demineralization

When acids attack teeth, they remove the minerals from our enamel. This demineralization eventually leads to cavities, but in its early stages can cause white spots to appear where the mineral structure has been weakened. Braces wearers are at special risk for demineralization, especially around brackets and near the gums, where plaque can be missed while brushing.

Time for New Brushing and Flossing Techniques

Even if your child has always done a wonderful job of brushing and flossing, braces provide a new challenge for getting teeth their cleanest. Unfortunately, plaque buildup around the brackets and the gum line is all too common in orthodontic patients. Dr. Lapsi can recommend some tools that make the cleaning process easier and more effective.

  • Toothbrushes

Manual brushes are available with small, soft-bristled heads designed especially for braces wearers. If your child still has problems getting rid of plaque and food debris, an electric toothbrush might be helpful. And remember, encourage your child to be thorough but gentle for the sake of both braces and gums.

  • Flossing with Braces

Flossing can be challenging for children at any time, but especially with braces. We’ll show you how floss threaders work, and how special flosses designed just for braces can fit under wires. This might also be a good time to invest in a water flosser. Your help demonstrating how to floss even with brackets and wires blocking the way will be appreciated by your child and your dentist!

  • Products Just for Braces

Interproximal brushes are tiny cone-shaped brushes designed to fit around brackets and wires and between teeth. We can also suggest special toothpastes and rinses to help fight plaque and prevent cavities from developing. Ask us about what to shop for to make both of your lives easier.

You Can Help!

  • Teamwork—Works!

When your child first gets braces, practice brushing and flossing together. Our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills team will be happy to show you both the very best techniques for keeping teeth their cleanest and healthiest. Especially for young children, your help will make sure those techniques are learned and used.

  • Make Time for Cleaning

Your child’s before-braces routine might have meant brushing two minutes each morning and two minutes at night. But thorough cleaning around brackets and wires might take a bit longer. (And, with braces, it’s best to brush after every meal rather than the common twice-a-day routine). Be available, at least at first, for a quick check to make sure braces and teeth are their cleanest. And you may have to help with removing and replacing bands until your child gets the hang of it.

  • Be Prepared!

Whether it’s a day at school or an overnighter with friends, be sure your child has a kit filled with cleaning supplies ready to take along. A toothbrush, floss, an interproximal brush, toothpaste, a mirror—with these necessities, your child can keep on top of any cleaning emergencies.

For younger children especially, learning how to keep teeth and braces their cleanest can take some time. Be patient, be prepared, and be willing to help, and you and your child will have a new routine mastered—in no time at all!

Which toothpaste should I use?

May 5th, 2021

Toothpastes come in many forms and boast different flavors, benefits, and endorsements. All are designed to remove surface bacteria and prevent the buildup of plaque that can cause tooth decay. With so many choices, Dr. Lapsi and our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics know that selecting the right toothpaste can be intimidating. After all, some benefits are welcome bonuses, while others are absolutely essential. So how can you know which toothpaste is best for you?

ADA Seal of Approval

While all toothpastes must first be approved by the Food and Drug Administration for sale to consumers, the American Dental Association puts these products through further rigorous tests for safety and effectiveness. Toothpaste that boasts the ADA Seal of Approval can be trusted to do exactly what it claims.

Fluoridated

Fluoride is an essential ingredient in a daily toothpaste. It helps to protect the tooth from decay by removing plaque and strengthening the enamel. Although fluoride is found in many public water supplies, many people are deficient in it due to the consumption of bottled water instead of tap water. All toothpastes with the ADA Seal of Approval contain fluoride.

Other benefits

If a toothpaste meets the ADA’s standards and contains fluoride, the next step is to clear it with your dentist. This is especially true if you decide to use a whitening toothpaste, which often contains abrasives to remove surface stains. Though abrasives are an effective aid in tooth whitening, they may not be recommended if you have weak tooth enamel.

Specialty toothpastes

In certain situations, Dr. Lapsi may suggest or prescribe specialty toothpaste, depending on your oral health needs. For example, patients who are prone to tooth decay and cavities despite frequent brushing and flossing may benefit from prescription-strength fluoridated toothpaste to help prevent the weakening of tooth enamel. Others who suffer from tooth sensitivity may benefit from the use of desensitizing toothpaste. Talk with Dr. Lapsi if you think a specialty toothpaste could be right for you by scheduling an appointment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office.

The Benefits of a Bright Smile

April 28th, 2021

Having a nice, bright smile can affect the way you look, and in turn, improve how you feel about yourself. With the help of Dr. Lapsi to provide you with a whitening treatment, you won’t have to be afraid to show your smile any longer.

It’s been shown that the first thing people typically notice is a person’s smile. Though many people don’t like to admit it, humans often judge others first on their looks.

Over time, your teeth may become stained from foods and beverages. Teeth-whitening techniques can be an effective solution to restore confidence in your smile and your life. Our team is here to help you regain your smile with brightened teeth that have been affected by wear.

Your smile can affect:

  • Personal and work-related relationships
  • Job interviews and meetings
  • Success dealing with customers and potential clients
  • Your confidence and general happiness
  • Overall outlook on daily interactions

Regaining confidence in your smile can be helpful in all these areas of your life and more. If you think your smile has been holding you back, it may be beneficial to restore your white teeth with the help of Excel Dental and Orthodontics.

If you’re interested in enhancing your smile, feel free to reach out to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office and we will be happy to go over the whitening options we provide.

Canker Sores and Stress

April 21st, 2021

Canker sores are painful lesions that form in the soft tissues of the mouth, usually along the inner lips, under the tongue, and along the cheek walls. They are usually small and round, and take on a white or yellow hue. Though most are generally harmless and tend to heal on their own within a week or two of appearing, canker sores can be very irritating.

Only about one in five people develop canker sores. Of those who do, many develop them recurrently as a result of external factors. Though canker sores have been connected to allergies and hormonal changes, many people who are prone to developing canker sores find that their outbreaks are stress-related.

A combination of emotional stress and fatigue can be a perfect storm for the development of mouth sores. Some people say they are not under stress when canker sores form, but the sores appear several days after a stressful event or situation instead. Managing stress, reducing anxiety, and getting plenty of sleep may help prevent canker sores from forming and ensure that existing ones heal more quickly.

What to do if you develop canker sores

Do not be alarmed if you develop a canker sore. They are not contagious and are not harmful to your health. Over-the-counter oral numbing products can be used to manage pain, as can ice chips. Canker sores may heal faster if you apply milk of magnesia to them daily and avoid spicy foods that could irritate them.

You should contact your doctor if you find that your canker sores are unusually large or persist without healing for several weeks. Our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics also recommends seeking out professional treatment if you experience extreme pain or a fever develops in association with a canker sore outbreak.

For more information about canker sores, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Lapsi, please give us a call at our convenient Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

Dental Emergencies in Children

April 14th, 2021

Dental emergencies are bound to come up when you have young children. Dr. Lapsi and our team want to you to be prepared in case you run into a difficult situation. Problems can vary, from minor gum irritation to knocked-out teeth. Take a look at the different possibilities and how you can handle them.

Teething

Depending on the age of your child, there are common things to watch for when it comes to his or her teeth. Starting from a young age, your son or daughter may experience teething pain. This starts at about four months and can last up to three years.

Teething may cause your little one to become irritable and more prone to drooling due to tender gums. This is very common in young children who are teething, and can be alleviated by giving them a cold teething ring or by rubbing their gums with your finger.

Teething pain is as normal as your child’s first set of teeth falling out. On the other hand, if a baby tooth is knocked out in a forceful accident, make sure you bring him or her into our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office to check that other damage hasn’t occurred in the mouth. On occasion, permanent teeth may grow in before baby teeth have fallen out. This may not cause any discomfort, but Dr. Lapsi should make sure the teeth are growing in properly. Catching teeth that are coming in incorrectly can prevent issues from arising in adulthood.

Gum Issues

If you’ve noticed your child’s gums bleeding often, this could result from a number of things. Bleeding gums may be an early sign of periodontal disease, which is caused by poor oral hygiene when it appears in children. Excessive gum bleeding can also occur when children brush their teeth too hard, or suffer an injury to their gum tissue.

If bleeding is continuous, rinse your child’s mouth with warm salt water and apply light pressure to the area. If you become concerned about the amount of blood, contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office and we will schedule an appointment for your youngster as soon as possible.

Depending on what type of dental issue your child is experiencing, you should make sure to treat it quickly and properly. If you have questions or concerns about what you can do to help your son or daughter develop better oral hygiene habits, ask Dr. Lapsi for tips during your next appointment.

Don’t forget: As a parent, you can provide the best education to your children on the importance of proper oral hygiene by setting a good example. 

Playing “Tooth or Dare”

April 7th, 2021

Our teeth perform several vital roles for us. We use them to bite and chew, to help form words, to support our facial structure. And never underestimate the power of a smile!

But once you try to expand that job description, you are asking for trouble. Using your teeth for tasks they were not designed for is a game no one wins. What are some of the worst moves you can make? Putting your teeth into play as:

  • Ice Crushers

Crunching hard objects like teeth and ice cubes together can have one of two results—the ice will give, or your tooth will. If your tooth is the loser, you can expect cracks, fractures, worn enamel, and even dislodged crowns and fillings. If you’re tempted to chew on the ice in your drinks, try asking for a straw or using slushy ice instead. (The craving for ice can also be a symptom of other medical conditions—check with your doctor for more on that subject.)

  • Bottle Openers

If ice vs. teeth is a bad idea, metal vs. teeth must be a really bad idea. Those sharp hard metal caps can be difficult to remove even with a bottle opener. Don’t take a chance on chipped, fractured teeth and lacerated gums to get to that beverage faster/work around a lost opener/impress your friends.

  • Nut Crackers

Just because nuts offer more protein than ice doesn’t make their shells any safer to crack with your teeth. Besides the danger of fractured teeth and eroded enamel, biting on whole nuts can produce sharp splinters of shell that can damage delicate gum tissue. By all means, enjoy nuts—they pack a lot of nutrition in a small package. But buy them already shelled, or invest in a nutcracker.

  • Cutting Tools

Teeth aren’t meant to be scissors or utility knives. Even if you are trying to bite through the top of a relatively soft bag of chips, or a piece of duct tape, or a tag that just won’t come off your new clothes, you are putting pressure on your teeth in ways that they are not meant to handle. Don’t take a chance on chips and fractures.

  • A Helping Hand

Using your teeth to hold the straps of your heavy bag, or the leash of your well-trained pet—what could go wrong? How about an awkward fall? Or a squirrel? Or something that might possibly be a squirrel? Any fall or force that applies violent pressure to your teeth and jaw is a potential for dental disaster.

  • Stress Relief

You might grind your teeth or bite your nails whenever you feel nervous. Please find another form of stress relief! Grinding and clenching the teeth can lead to worn enamel, jaw pain, broken teeth and restorations, and a host of other problems. Biting fingernails is not only hard on your nails, but also introduces bacteria into your mouth and can cause damage to your tooth enamel.

If you grind your teeth at night, ask Dr. Lapsi about a nightguard during your next visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office.

This is real life, and you really don’t want to be playing “Tooth or Dare” with your dental health. Use your teeth for what they were designed for, and you’ll take home the grand prize—a lifetime supply of beautiful, healthy smiles.

Ask Us About Invisalign Teen® Treatment!

March 24th, 2021

We know that being a teen is hard, and we know that adding braces to the mix can often elicit a less-than-enthusiastic response. Luckily, teens can now have straighter teeth without the hassle, discomfort, and embarrassment of metal braces!

Dr. Lapsi proudly offer Invisalign Teen clear aligners to our adolescent patients.

One of the main benefits of Invisalign Teen aligners is that they are virtually invisible. They are also removable, which means teen patients are free to eat anything they choose. The aligners are also easily replaceable, should they ever get lost! The best part? They make it easy to keep up with a healthy brushing and flossing routine. 

The aligners are made from a lightweight, plastic material that fits precisely on the teeth. Invisalign Teen treatment has become a popular treatment here at Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills because it helps our younger patients achieve a straight, beautiful smile without undergoing the dreaded metal-mouth.

For more information on Invisalign Teen clear aligners, please feel free to give us a call at our Dr. Lapsi office today!

What's the connection between gum disease and diabetes?

March 17th, 2021

People who have diabetes are usually familiar with many of the other health risks they face, including damage to the nerves, eyes, heart, and kidneys. But did you know that if you have diabetes you also have a much greater chance of developing gum disease? It's true, and like other diseases related to diabetes, the risk potential severity of gum disease is directly related to how well blood sugar is controlled.

The Causes

In diabetics, there are two primary mechanisms that increase the risk of developing gum disease, also called periodontal disease:

  • Bacterial growth: Bacteria love sugar including the glucose found in blood and bodily fluids. Elevated levels of sugar in saliva can provide a very hospitable environment for bacterial growth. The risk may be elevated if your gums bleed.
  • Circulatory changes: In diabetes, the blood vessels become thick, making it more difficult for blood to carry oxygen to the gums and to carry away harmful waste products. This decrease in circulation can weaken the mouth's natural resistance to decay. If you smoke, circulation can become even more compromised, significantly increasing your risk of periodontal disease.

Preventing Gum Disease

If you're diabetic, the number-one key to preventing gum disease is to make sure you do all you can to keep your blood sugar under control. In fact, studies show diabetics who have excellent control of their blood sugar levels have no more risk for gum disease than those who don't have diabetes. Here are some other tips to keep your gums healthy:

  • Floss your teeth gently, curving the floss so it can gently reach just below your gum line to remove plaque and food particles. Rinse your mouth when you're done flossing.
  • Use a soft-bristle brush to brush teeth twice daily, using small circular motions. Avoid pressing too hard on tooth surfaces.
  • Brush your tongue gently to remove germs that can hide there.
  • Use an anti-bacterial mouthwash to kill germs that are hard to reach.
  • Keep track of how well your blood sugar is controlled and let Dr. Lapsi know at each visit.
  • Be aware that having diabetes may mean it takes you longer to heal after undergoing oral surgery.

Most importantly, be sure to visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office for regular checkups and tell Dr. Lapsi about your diabetes so you can be sure to get the care you need. Follow these steps, and you can enjoy healthy teeth and gums for years to come.

Snacks that are Healthy for Your Body and Your Braces

March 10th, 2021

You know the school day’s over when you hear these seven little words: “I’m home! Is there anything to eat?”

And before your child got braces, you had the answer: simple, tasty snacks that provided not only an energy boost, but nutritional elements to help build strong teeth and strong bodies. But now whole carrot sticks and unsliced apples are out. Nuts and crunchy peanut butter? Not in your pantry. Hard cheeses and crunchy whole grain crackers? Also off the shopping list.

Because any foods that are crunchy, chewy, or hard to bite into can damage brackets and wires, it’s time to freshen up your go-to snack list. Luckily, Dr. Lapsi can recommend many healthy and braces-friendly choices when children need something to tide them over until dinner.

  • Fruits and Vegetables for Vitamins and Minerals

Soft fruits like berries, melon, and bananas provide essential vitamins and minerals while going easy on your child’s braces. Make it a blended smoothie for a cool treat—you can even add a healthy handful of spinach or kale without interfering with that fruity taste. If your child still loves apples and carrots best, keep them on hand—but remember that thin slices are the only way to go.

  • Dairy Delivers Calcium

Cottage cheese, string cheese, and other soft cheeses provide essential calcium and vitamin D. Yogurt in all its many flavors is another great option.

  • Meats Provides Protein

Lean meats such as thinly sliced ham, chicken, or turkey provide flavor and protein, and don’t require the chewing that bologna, roast beef, and salami do. And nothing packs a protein punch like eggs—hard boiled, deviled, or diced up in egg salad.

  • Grains, Legumes, and Vegetables for Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates—the “good” carbs—are important sources of energy for our bodies. Snacks such as hummus with soft whole grain pita wedges or blended black bean dip and soft crackers are a delicious, energizing option.

You are constantly looking for ways to make your children’s lives better. Mix and match any of these foods for a snack that’s not only good for their braces, but good for their teeth and bodies! Let us know your child’s favorite snack the next time you visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

Dangers of Thumb Sucking

February 24th, 2021

It’s common for children to suck their thumb at a young age. Dr. Lapsi and our team want you to understand the potential issues that can surface down the road if the habit isn’t broken early on.

It’s normal for infants to explore the function of their mouths by putting objects like their thumbs inside it. You shouldn’t be concerned if your baby regularly sucks his or her thumb. For infants who are still growing their baby teeth, thumb sucking can help with stimulating growth and development of their baby teeth.

Thumb sucking is not a problem among infants because they generally do it to sooth and comfort themselves. Problems can occur of kids continue the habit when their baby teeth begin to fall out, around six years of age.

If you have a young child whose adult teeth are starting to come in, that’s when thumb sucking can start to be a problem. Most children stop thumb sucking between the ages of two and three years. According to the American Dental Association, if thumb sucking continues as adult teeth come in, this can lead to problems involving improper alignment of teeth and growth of the jaw, gums, and roof of the mouth.

It may also affect your child’s speech after that, by causing a lisp or other speech impediments. As a parent, you may need to begin to regulate and intervene if thumb sucking starts to become a bigger problem for your child.

How to Stop Thumb Sucking

  • Provide comfort to your child if thumb sucking happens when he or she is anxious.
  • Limit thumb sucking initially to bedtime or naptime.
  • Employ positive reinforcement for good behavior.
  • Talk with your child about the potential problems that come from this habit.
  • Distract your son or daughter with activities such as fun games any time you notice it starting.
  • Involve your little one in choosing methods for stopping, like positive rewards.
  • Have Dr. Lapsi talk to your child to reinforce concerns about thumb sucking.

Don’t forget that thumb sucking is a common habit that many children indulge in, and it should not be a concern right away. If you’re worried about your child’s thumb-sucking habit, start to address the issue as soon as possible.

The above techniques can help to reduce the amount of time your child sucks a thumb. Dr. Lapsi and our team are here to help you if you have any questions or concerns about this habit.

Feel free to call our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office and we will be happy to help you and your child.

Hey, Metal Mouth, Hey, Train Tracks! Six Funny Comebacks for People Who Wear Braces

February 17th, 2021

Brace-ism: believe it or not, it’s a concept. The Urban Dictionary defines brace-ism as “acting mean to people who have braces on their teeth.” Phrases like metal mouth, brace face, and train tracks are common jokes uttered by gap-toothed fools who like to make fun of people with braces.

While ignoring these comments and taking the high road is the best thing to do, there’s nothing wrong with having a few clever retorts and quick-witted comebacks up your sleeve.

  1. The next time someone calls you train tracks, break into an obnoxious train imitation, with lots of toot-toot and chuga-chuga-chuga. Finish off your crazy locomotive impersonation with some sort of deafening train horn. That’ll keep the bullies at bay.
  2. “It’s better to be a brace face than a space case.”
  3. Counter with a ridiculously childish joke that makes the schoolyard tormentor feel even smaller than he already is. “Oh. Yeah. Why did the deer need braces? Because he had buck teeth. Hahaha.” Top it off with an exaggerated eye roll.
  4. “Yeah, my brother tells that joke. He’s six. You guys should hang out.” That’ll stop the haters dead in their tracks. Or would that be train tracks?
  5. Here’s one from the sarcasm grab bag. “Well, I’m just glad there’s a way to fix what’s wrong with my face.”
  6. “I can’t wait to discuss this formative moment at our ten-year class reunion, when my teeth are razor-straight and you’re wearing adult braces.”

 

The Start of Valentine’s Day

February 10th, 2021

Valentine’s Day, also known as Saint Valentine’s Day, has been said to originate with a Catholic priest named Valentine several thousand year ago. Valentine defied the emperor at the time by secretly marrying men and their brides after the emperor had made it illegal to marry. Emperor Claudius II did this because he wanted as many single young men to fight in his war as he could get.

Valentine disobeyed the emperor’s edict by continuing to marry couples until he was sentenced to death. Before his execution, he sent a letter to a secret love and signed it “From your Valentine.” Dr. Lapsi and our team have come up with some suggestions on how you can celebrate this Valentine’s Day, whether you have a valentine of your own or not.

Valentine's Day Ideas

  • Enjoy a tasty treat. There are plenty of options when it comes to cooking and/or baking on Valentine’s Day. Make your significant other his or her favorite meal or sweet treat, or make your own favorite dish to enjoy on this day. Oh, and be sure to make enough for leftovers!
  • Make a personalized card. Instead of buying a card from the grocery store, take the time to make your own for a loved one. People love handwritten notes, especially when it’s from someone special. If you’re single this Valentine’s Day, make a card for fellow single friend to brighten the day and remind the person that he or she is also loved.
  • Watch a movie. We all know there are plenty of romance movies out there. Put on your favorite romantic comedy, or pick up your significant other’s favorite movie to watch together. Even better, if you’re single, pick up your own favorite movies to watch to pass the time this Valentine’s Day.
  • Do nothing! We all know Valentine’s Day can sometimes get a lot of hype. If you’re worried about not making a reservation in time, don’t feel like planning an extravagant night out, or simply not in the holiday mood this year, spend your day sitting back and relaxing.

Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate love and spend quality hours with the people you care about the most. Whether you’re in a relationship or single, take some time today to appreciate those you love in your life.

We wish you a happy Valentine’s Day celebration and look forward to seeing you at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office during your next appointment.

Smile with Invisalign Teen®!

February 3rd, 2021

Invisalign Teen is designed with today’s youth in mind. These clear, removable orthodontic aligners can straighten your teeth without the need for metal wires and brackets. Unlike traditional braces, Invisalign Teen aligners are comfortable, nearly invisible, and removable, which allows you to remove them as you eat your favorite foods and brush and floss your teeth. Invisalign Teen motivates teenagers to enjoy life without restrictions while promoting better overall dental care.

Key features of Invisalign Teen

Teenagers are constantly on the move and require special options when it comes to their braces. Invisalign Teen utilizes the same technology as Invisalign for adults; they consist of a series of clear plastic aligners that gradually move the teeth. Extra features designed especially for teens include:

  • Blue wear-indicators on the aligners that gradually fade from blue to clear to help you, and our team, gauge wear time
  • Aligners designed to compensate for the growth of molars and new teeth
  • Customization to fit your mouth correctly and comfortably
  • Removable and nearly transparent to ensure you can eat with freedom and smile with confidence
  • Six free individual replacement aligners in the event that your aligners become misplaced or lost

Conditions improved by Invisalign Teen

Between 70 and 80 percent of adolescents in the United States require braces, according to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). Invisalign Teen uses advanced technology to treat a broad range of orthodontic conditions. These include overbite, underbite, crossbite, widely-spaced teeth, and overly crowded teeth. Injuries and tooth and jaw problems may also require the use of braces to correct jaw and teeth alignment problems.

How does Invisalign Teen work?

Like any orthodontic treatment, Invisalign Teen requires a customized treatment plan created by Dr. Lapsi. Generally, each set of aligners is worn for approximately two weeks and removed when you brush, floss, eat, and drink. Your teeth will gradually move with the series of aligners, which typically ranges from 18 to 30 aligners in total. You’ll visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office every eight to ten weeks to check your progress and make any needed adjustments.

Invisalign Teen introduces a whole new way to make your smile straight without the unappealing look and hassle of traditional metal braces. This revolutionary method of correcting smiles is being used by teens everywhere, including right here at Excel Dental and Orthodontics, to straighten their teeth with confidence.

Educational and Entertaining Enamel Experiments

January 27th, 2021

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. Lapsi know how your experiments turned out the next time you visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

Invisalign Teen®: What Parents Should Know

January 20th, 2021

Parents want the best for their teens and often ask us about the perks of Invisalign Teen clear aligners compared to traditional braces. Invisalign treatment is a style of braces that skips the usual metal and wires, and uses a clear, thermoplastic material to create removable aligners instead.

Aligners are custom-made for each patient and replaced every two weeks to attain gradually straighter teeth.

Is Invisalign treatment as effective?

As long as your child wears the aligners as directed, the answer is yes: they are just as effective as traditional braces. A small blue spot on the back of each aligner will fade after two weeks of proper wear. This enables Dr. Lapsi to tell whether the child is wearing the aligners.

Can Invisalign aligners be removed?

The recommended amount of time to wear Invisalign aligners is at least 20 hours a day. They can be removed for up to four hours per day to eat, brush teeth, play sports, or play musical instruments. This makes brushing and flossing easier and helps maintain good oral hygiene!

How long does treatment take and what is the cost?

Each patient is different. Dr. Lapsi can determine how many months your child may expect to wear the series of aligners after a consultation.

Typically, your teen will wear Invisalign clear aligners about as long as traditional braces The cost is also similar to that of other traditional braces; however, there is no set fee. The cost will depend on your child’s unique orthodontic needs.

Overall Success

Invisalign Teen treatment has had remarkable success, and patients love having straighter teeth without the embarrassment of metal braces. As your son or daughter becomes more confident, the patient will actually be more likely to keep up with the treatment and complete it sooner.

Speak with Dr. Lapsi today to learn more about the benefits of Invisalign Teen treatment. Give our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office a call!

 

Is dairy crucial to my child's oral health?

January 13th, 2021

Healthy eating, combined with regular physical activity, plays a vital role in your child’s health and well-being. Dairy foods are naturally nutritious, packed with ten essential nutrients that help your child feel good for life. But did you know that dairy is also great for your child’s dental health? Our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics will tell you that, in addition to providing large amounts of much-needed calcium, dairy products also help fight cavities! Dairy products have a specific role to play in dental health as they contain a unique combination of special anti-decay nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, and the protein, casein. Cheese is especially useful, as eating a small piece of cheese after consuming sugary foods or drinks can help protect teeth and reduce the risk of tooth decay.

If you’d like to know more about the importance of dairy products in your child’s diet, or about any aspect of your child’s dental health, feel free to ask Dr. Lapsi at your next appointment!

Going Green for the New Year

January 6th, 2021

Does your list of New Year’s resolutions for the coming months include reducing your ecological footprint? If so, let’s ring in the year with some basic—and some innovative—dental ideas to help you meet your goal.

  • Conserve Water

This is probably the easiest –and most cost effective!—item on our list. If you leave the water running while you brush, you are watching gallons of water go down the drain every day. Luckily, toothbrushes rely on wrist power rather than water power. Wet your brush before you begin, and use water only as needed to rinse. You’ll save hundreds of gallons of water every year.

And while we’re near your sink, if you like to rinse after brushing and flossing with disposable plastic cups, consider using compostable paper products or a regular drinking glass that you can clean after using.

  • Biodegradable/sustainable /recyclable toothbrushes

Some brushes promise to be completely compostable, with handles manufactured from sustainable woods or bamboo, and heads fitted with biodegradable boar bristles. Investigate before you buy, because boar bristles aren’t for everyone. Some users complain about the taste, and boar bristles are harsher than the soft bristles we recommend to protect your enamel and gums. Organic bristles are also more prone to bacteria growth.

If you prefer the consistency and texture of regular synthetic bristles, or wish to avid animal products, you can still opt for a brush with a handle of sustainable wood or bamboo. These brushes also offer PBA-free bristles, bristles made largely from castor oil, or bristles that use natural ingredients in combination with synthetics.

And don’t forget recycling as a possibility to cut down on your plastic use. Toothbrushes are available with handles made from recycled plastic. And once you’re finished with them, these brushes can be recycled again.

  • Biodegradable dental floss

This is another innovative take on dental supplies, and one that offers lots of new options. Regular dental floss is usually made from waxed nylon. Biodegradable floss, on the other hand, can be made of silk or plant materials, and coated with beeswax or plant-based wax. Some of these biodegradable flosses even come in refillable or compostable packaging.

  • Organic toothpaste

If you’re incorporating organic foods into your diet, you know that organic options are more easily available than ever before. And now there are more organic toothpastes available, as well. Natural toothpastes can be found which are vegan, fair-trade sourced, and preservative- and artificial ingredient-free.

Before you buy, though, do discuss your choices with Dr. Lapsi. Why? Because many natural toothpastes are formulated without fluoride, a mineral shown to prevent cavities in study after study. Which leads us to . . .

  • See Your Dentist Regularly for Checkups and Cleanings

Along with your daily dental hygiene routine, don’t forget to make regular appointments for examinations and professional cleanings at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office. Dr. Lapsi can help you discover the best ideas for products and practices which are good for you and good for the planet, for a lifetime of natural, sustainable smiles.

Healthy Resolutions for Healthy Teeth

December 30th, 2020

Every January 1st, you have your resolutions ready. No more nail biting. Lose ten pounds. Stop smoking. None of us are happy about those annoying bad habits we’ve picked up over the years. But if nothing else has helped you keep your resolutions, maybe seeing how they can improve your oral health will give you some extra willpower.

  • No More Nail Biting

You can easily see how nail biting affects your fingernails, but its effects are more than cosmetic. The pressure this habit puts on tooth enamel can lead to cracks, chips, and enamel erosion. Nail biters have a greater risk of bruxism, or teeth grinding. (More on that below.) And the transfer of germs from fingers to mouth and mouth to fingers is a vicious circle that can lead to illnesses and infections in both fingers and mouth.

  • Cut Down on Junk Food

Sugars and carbs help pack on the pounds, no doubt. Did you know that they can also help create cavities? Sugar is a favorite food for oral bacteria, which allows them to produce acids which attack and weaken tooth enamel. And carbs? They convert easily to simple sugars. Choose nutritious snacks and beverages, and you will keep those teeth healthy. You might even lose a few pounds!

  • Lower the Volume

If your partner complains about sleepless nights thanks to your nocturnal teeth grinding, or your friends ask you to quit chewing on that cup of ice while they’re trying to watch a movie with you, listen to them! (If you can hear them over the grinding and chewing.) Bruxism can fracture teeth, cause headaches and jaw problems, and might even lead to loose teeth. Chewing hard foods can have the very same effects. Too much pressure from any source can damage your teeth. Grinding, chewing ice, crunching down on hard candies—any habit that’s loud enough to annoy others could be a warning to be more careful of your teeth.

  • Don’t Put That in Your Mouth!

Helping you eat and chew nutritious foods—of course. Smiling—absolutely. Ripping off a piece of duct tape, tearing open a potato chip bag, holding your dog’s leash while you look for your keys, opening a tight bottle cap—no, no, no, and really no. Fractures and chips are common injuries when you use your teeth as tools. Your teeth have a crucial job to do, but that job description never includes “scissors” or “nutcracker” or “bottle opener.” Take that extra minute and find the tool you need!

  • Drink in Moderation

Along with all the other consequences of over-indulging, too much alcohol in your diet can be bad for your oral health. Alcohol, especially paired with sugary drinks, helps create that acidic environment that leads to weakened enamel. More than that, it’s dehydrating. Without sufficient hydration, we don’t have the optimal saliva production we need to fight cavities. After all, saliva helps wash away food particles and bacteria, neutralizes acids, and strengthens enamel through remineralization. Ring in the New Year—moderately!

  • It’s Time to Quit

Cigarettes, pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco—there is no tobacco product that is healthy for your body or your teeth! We’re all familiar with the discoloration tobacco can cause, but it also has serious oral health consequences. Oral cancer, gum disease, early tooth loss—all these conditions have been linked to tobacco use. Today there are more methods than ever before to help you quit. Make this your year!

You don’t have to wait for the New Year to start working on healthier habits. If you’d like to tackle teeth grinding, banish nail biting, stop smoking, or work on any other habits that can damage your health and your teeth, talk to Dr. Lapsi at your next visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office. And, don’t forget—resolving to see us twice a year for a checkup and a cleaning is a resolution that’s extremely easy to keep!

What's the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist?

December 23rd, 2020

Orthodontists and dentists both help patients improve their oral health, but in different ways. Dentistry is a broad medical specialty that deals with the teeth, gum, nerves, and jaw, while orthodontics is a specialty within dentistry that focuses on correcting bites, occlusion, and the straightness of teeth. One important difference is that all orthodontists like Dr. Lapsi are dentists, but not all dentists are licensed orthodontists.

How are they similar?

The main similarity between a dentist and orthodontist is that they both focus on oral care. An orthodontist can work in a dental office and provide the same care as a dentist. So in this respect, they are quite similar. They are both considered doctors, and deal with the teeth and gums.

How are they different?

There are more differences than similarities. An orthodontist requires additional schooling as a dental specialty; the situation is similar to a doctor who obtains additional schooling to become a surgeon. Another difference is that orthodontists specialize in helping patients with the alignment of their teeth, improving their bite, or fitting them for corrective braces and devices. If a patient has an overbite, a dentist will refer him or her to an orthodontist.

Dentists typically encourage good oral hygiene and provide services related to:

  • Tooth decay
  • Root canals
  • Gum disease
  • Crowns
  • Bridges
  • Veneers
  • Teeth whitening

Orthodontists are dentists that specialize in the alignment of teeth, and provide services related to:

  • Misaligned teeth
  • Crowded teeth
  • Overbite
  • Underbite

What an orthodontist can help with

Orthodontists help with crooked teeth, but they assist patients with other issues as well. These include overbites and underbites, crossbites, spaces between teeth, overcrowding of teeth, and the treatment of temporomandibular disorders (TMD). Additional problems with the jaw also need to be treated by an orthodontist.

While a dentist may be trained to provide orthodontic care in addition to extractions, TMJ treatments, and fillings, trusting your smile to an orthodontist can better balance the different procedures you require.

To learn more about the difference between dentists and orthodontists, or to schedule an initial consultation with Dr. Lapsi, please give our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics a call at our convenient Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office.

When It Come to Chewing Gum, Be Choosy!

December 9th, 2020

Why do you chew gum? Perhaps because it’s a habit that comes with some healthy benefits. Chewing a stick or two reduces the urge to snack between meals. It’s a substitute for behaviors like nail biting that you’d like to change. It might even give you fresher breath after those tuna sandwiches in the cafeteria.

And, as it happens, chewing sugarless gum actually offers a few dental benefits as well! The act of chewing increases saliva production. Saliva washes away food particles, neutralizes acids in the mouth that can damage enamel, and even bathes the teeth in essential minerals that help strengthen weakened enamel. We’re talking about sugar-free gum here, of course, because regular gum will just bathe your teeth in sugar—no one’s idea of a dental benefit!

So why not open that pack and enjoy? Because, despite the many positive reasons you can think of for chewing gum, sometimes gum can have a negative impact on your braces.

  • A Sticky Situation

Keeping your braces clean can be a bit of a challenge. That’s why you have special toothbrushes, flosses, and interproximal brushes to get rid of food particles that stick around after you eat. And, while any food can get caught in your braces, sugared gum, because it is so sticky, can stick to appliances much more easily and much more thoroughly than even sugar-free gum. You might be able to remove gum residue with regular brushing and flossing, but, worst case scenario, you might be looking at gum firmly stuck in the brackets or between the brackets and wires.

  • Gumming Up the Works

Chewing gum can also affect your treatment time if the action of chewing causes your arch wire to bend. When your wire isn’t providing the proper shape or the right amount of tension, your teeth won’t get to where they need to be as quickly and efficiently. No piece of gum is worth discovering at your next appointment that you haven’t made any progress for weeks due to a damaged wire. And since chewing gum can also lead to loose brackets and bands, you might wonder if this sticky habit is ever worth the trouble it can cause.

  • Something to Chew Over

Before you decide, talk to Dr. Lapsi! Chewing sugarless gum increases saliva production, which can help wash away food particles from your mouth and your braces. As an added benefit, the action of chewing for a few minutes after an appointment has been shown to reduce the discomfort of an adjustment. Because today’s braces are stronger and more durable, and sugarless gum much less likely to stick to them, we can let you know if chewing gum might be acceptable or even desirable depending on your specific treatment plan and your appliance.

Talk to us at your next appointment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office about gum chewing, and we’ll give you the very best recommendations for keeping your teeth healthy, your braces clean, your appliance intact, and your treatment plan on track. Even if gum needs to be off the menu for a while, what you’ll get in return—the best and fastest path to your beautiful smile—will be well worth it!

Five Easy Ways to Prevent Gum Disease

November 25th, 2020

Gum disease can be painful and lead to missing teeth if you don’t treat it properly. However, there are plenty of things you can do to lower your risk of getting gingivitis and periodontitis. Here are five easy ways to prevent gum disease.

1. Brush your teeth.

Basic oral hygiene is the first line of defense against gum disease. The reason is due to the way gum disease progresses. There are bacteria in your mouth that produce a sticky substance called plaque. Plaque can build up and form tartar. Together, plaque and tartar lead to the painful symptoms of gum disease. You can remove plaque from your teeth with regular careful brushing, but you can’t remove the tartar with your regular toothbrush. So, it’s best to brush at least twice a day, or after each meal, to continuously remove plaque from your teeth. Also floss your teeth and use mouthwash to prevent the bacteria in your mouth from having anything to eat.

2. Stop smoking.

Smoking is a major risk factor for gum disease. Your risk of getting gum disease if you’re not a smoker is one-seventh the risk of someone who does use tobacco. It’s also worth quitting smoking even once you do get gum disease, since treatment is less effective when you’re using tobacco.

3. Eat right.

Gingivitis is a bacterial infection, and a strong immune system helps fight it. Many nutrients are essential for a well-functioning immune system. For example, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, such as citrus fruits, broccoli, and strawberries, for their vitamin C, which is an antioxidant. Vitamin E, which is another antioxidant, is in nuts, plant-based oils, and wheat germ.

4. Visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office regularly.

You might not be able to detect that you have gum disease, even if you watch for symptoms. Dr. Lapsi can detect signs of gum disease before you do.

5. Catch it early.

Since only we can remove tartar once it forms, keep watching for signs of gum disease. They include sensitivity while brushing your teeth or when eating hot, cold, or sugary foods, painful or bleeding gums, and loose teeth. You might also notice that you have bad breath for no reason. Make an appointment with at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office if you think you may have gum disease.

Invisalign Teen® Treatment Benefits

November 18th, 2020

Many teens want straighter teeth but dread a mouth full of metal. Because of that, Invisalign Teen treatment has become a popular choice among teens. It produces great results without the hassle of traditional braces.

If you’re like most teens at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, you love hanging out with your friends, and you don’t want to look different or have to watch what you eat. If you’re unsure about the benefits of Invisalign Teen clear aligners, we’re here to explain some of the perks.

You can eat what your friends eat

Invisalign Teen aligners can be removed easily for meals and snacks, so you can eat just like you normally would. You don’t need to worry about food getting stuck in your braces or a bracket popping off. Unlike with braces, you can enjoy the following foods with your friends during Invisalign Teen straightening treatment:

  • Popcorn at the movies
  • Trail mix with dried fruit ribs and chicken wings
  • A peanut butter sandwich, apples, and carrot sticks

You can take care of your teeth more easily

Since Invisalign Teen aligners are removable, you won’t have to worry about finding tooth decay once your braces are removed. You can brush and floss your teeth as you normally would, just by taking the trays out of your mouth.

People won’t know you’re wearing them

We’ve saved the best for last: Invisalign Teen aligners are nearly invisible. Chances are, the only people who will know you’re getting your teeth straightened are the people you tell yourself!

Getting straighter teeth can be a massive confidence-booster in the long run. With Invisalign Teen clear aligners, the treatment isn’t that bad! Learn more at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office.

Invisalign Teen® Benefits

November 11th, 2020

You can probably see how teeth straightening can make your smile more attractive, but you might be wary of how Invisalign Teen treatment works. If you’re like most teens at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, you love hanging out with your friends, and you don’t want to be different, watch what you eat, or worry about how you look. Invisalign Teen has several benefits over traditional metal braces that can make your treatment easier.

People won’t know you’re wearing them.

Invisalign Teen consists of clear trays that are virtual impossible for others to see. Chances are, the only people who know that you are getting your teeth straightened will be your family and any of your friends whom you choose to tell. You won’t need to answer to “Tinsel Teeth” and “Metal Mouth” as some of your classmates with metal braces do.

You can eat what your friends eat.

You take your Invisalign Teen aligners out of your mouth for meals and snacks, so you can eat just like you normally would. You don’t need to worry about food getting stuck in your braces or leading to a bracket popping off. Unlike with braces, you can enjoy the following foods with your friends during Invisalign Teen straightening treatment:

  • Popcorn at the movies
  • Trail mix with dried fruit when you’re hanging out together
  • Ribs and chicken wings at a party
  • Eating a peanut butter sandwich, apple, and carrot sticks for lunch

You can take care of your teeth more easily.

It would be a shame if you took the trouble to straighten your teeth and then found out that you had developed tooth decay while wearing braces. This is less of a problem with Invisalign Teen aligners because they are removable. You can brush and floss your teeth as normal just by taking the trays out of your mouth.

Getting straighter teeth can be a serious confidence-booster in the long run, and with Invisalign Teen, the treatment isn’t that bad. You can wear these clear aligners without letting people know that you’re straightening your teeth, and they won’t interfere with your diet or dental hygiene.

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.

Is orthodontic treatment just for straightening teeth?

October 28th, 2020

A lot of patients ask us why Dr. Lapsi and our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics work tirelessly to give our patients straight teeth. Of course it’s nice to have a smile full of evenly-aligned teeth, but did you know that straightening your teeth can keep them healthier as well? Straight teeth lead to better oral hygiene, increasing your chances of keeping your own natural teeth for a lifetime!

Straight teeth are also less prone to decay, because they collect less plaque, that sticky colorless substance that forms on our teeth. When you visit Excel Dental and Orthodontics for your initial consultation, Dr. Lapsi will examine all aspects of your teeth, face, smile, and jaw.

If you’re wondering whether your teeth might cause problems because they are out of alignment, please give us a call to set up an initial orthodontic consultation at our convenient Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office. Dr. Lapsi can help you decide whether or not you will benefit from orthodontic treatment.

Questions? Give us a call, ask us below or on our Facebook page!

Dental Insurance Benefits

October 21st, 2020

Dental insurance can be a great addition to your health care plan, but the way benefits are calculated can also make it a confusing one. If you have dental insurance, you might be wondering how you can make the most of your benefits. Let’s look at some of the important things to remember about taking advantage of your dental insurance.

  • Know Your Benefits

Figuring out what insurance will and won’t pay for, what percentage of a procedure is covered, what the insurance company considers an allowable fee, when you have covered your deductible for the year—these calculations are often bewildering. It’s helpful to call our office and check with your insurance provider to learn the final cost of any treatment, and how much, if any, will be covered by your insurance.

  • Use Your Benefits

Don’t lose benefits you have paid for! If you have not used your benefits, the time to do so is before the end of the insurance period (which may or may not be the end of the calendar year). When your dental plan re-starts, you will be paying for these unused benefits all over again. Similarly, if you have used your insurance and covered your deductible for the year, it makes sense to schedule your appointments before a new year brings a new deductible amount you will have to meet.

If you qualify for a certain number of preventive services such as check-ups and cleanings, you should always take advantage of this benefit—not only to find possible dental problems, but to prevent them.

And, if you have set up a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) to cover medical and dental expenses for the year, be sure to use the money in the account or you might lose it at the end of your year’s coverage. Many dental procedures are covered by an FSA—talk to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills team and your provider for details.

  • Possible Tax Deductions

If you are paying for your own dental insurance, you might be able to take advantage of the deduction for medical and dental premiums and expenses on your taxes. If your employer pays for your insurance, if you take the standard deduction, or if you spend less than a certain proportion of your income on health costs, these expenses are most likely not deductible. Be sure to check with your tax preparer or with the IRS for latest information on dental and medical deductions.

Finally, you should never put off urgent dental work because of insurance considerations. At the same time, you should be able to take full advantage of any dental insurance plan you have purchased, because you deserve to get every benefit you have paid for. Dr. Lapsi and our team are here to help you work with your insurance company in any way we can. Our goal is the same as yours—insuring dental health for you and your family!

Your First Orthodontist Visit

October 14th, 2020

If you’ve never been to an orthodontist before, you might be wary of what to expect during your first visit. Your dentist may have recommended an orthodontic appliance if it could improve the state of your oral health. More often, you may suspect that you or your child should have orthodontic work done if the time is right financially.

Understanding the various options your orthodontist can perform will be helpful to know before your appointment.

Your initial appointment usually lasts at least an hour. It’s common that diagnostic work will need to be done. This might include getting X-rays so Dr. Lapsi can better understand the overall structure of your mouth. A quick mold of the mouth may also be taken if braces are a possibility.

Your first appointment is intended to find out how we can efficiently give you a great smile! Here’s a list of common questions you might ask during your first visit:

  • Is now the right time for treatment, or should it wait?
  • What is the estimated length of time for the treatment?
  • How much should I expect to pay? What are the payment options?
  • What can I do to prevent or minimize pain?
  • Is it likely that I will wear extra appliances in addition to braces to correct my overbite, underbite, or other problems?
  • Are there specific foods I will need to avoid?
  • Will braces prevent me from playing my favorite sport or musical instrument?
  • How can I keep my teeth clean with braces?
  • How often will I be expected to come in for checkups and other appointments?

Don’t be afraid to ask these and other questions before you or your child commits to getting braces. Dr. Lapsi and our team are happy to answer any of them before or after your visit.

Once you’ve had your initial consultation, our team will be here throughout the entire process if any problems arise. We look forward to seeing you at your first appointment in our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

Fall’s in the Air? Think Fall Dental Care

October 7th, 2020

Whether you already miss the sun’s bright rays, or can’t wait for some cool, crisp weather and colorful leaves, summer is making way for fall. And the change of seasons might mean it’s time for some adjustments to your dental care routine.

Fall’s in the Air, and You Can Feel It

You might enjoy the brisk weather and the cool autumn breezes, but you’d enjoy fall much more without the tooth sensitivity that cold weather can bring. Sensitivity can be the sign of a cracked tooth, gum disease, or even something as simple as too-energetic brushing. If you’re experiencing sensitivity outdoors or with hot and cold foods, don’t give up your nature walks and hot cider! Give Dr. Lapsi a call, and we’ll get to the root of your problem.

Fall Sports

The baseball mitts, surfboards, and water skis have been retired for the year, but that won’t stop you from enjoying exercise and team sports. And while you’re keeping your body healthy, remember to keep your teeth and jaws healthy as well. A mouth guard is an essential piece of equipment for any autumn contact sport like football or soccer, and is also a good idea for biking, skateboarding, and other physical activities where a fall or a collision is a possibility.

Fall Feasts

‘Tis the season for sugary Halloween treats, bountiful Thanksgiving desserts, and those over-the-top holiday lattes. By all means, celebrate the season. And celebrate your dental health (and your overall health) as well by enjoying these treats in moderation.

Why not take this opportunity to explore some of autumn’s more nutritious seasonal offerings? Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, and apples are part of a fall harvest of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and other nutrients that help keep our teeth and gums their healthiest. (And if the pumpkins and apples make their way into pies, no one will complain.)

Fall Semester

Many schools require a dental exam before the start of the academic year. If you haven’t made an appointment for your child, now’s the time to do it! And don’t forget a professional cleaning to remove plaque and tartar. Nothing starts a school year off better than entering the classroom with a bright, healthy smile.

And don’t forget to call our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office for your own regular checkup if it’s that time of year. Spring, summer, winter, fall—it’s always the right season for taking care of your dental health!

Do you suffer from sleep apnea?

September 30th, 2020

At Excel Dental and Orthodontics, we know our patients love a good amount of rest each night in order to be energized for the day and week ahead. After all, without enough sleep, exhaustion during the day is the most immediate consequence.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that could be an indicator of serious health problems. The most common symptom is loud snoring, but the condition is characterized by breathing that repeatedly starts and stops throughout the night, leaving you feeling tired in the morning. Other serious effects from sleep apnea could be potentially dangerous to your health if left unaddressed, a great reason to visit Dr. Lapsi.

Besides losing precious hours of sleep, sleep apnea also elevates the risk of heart attack and stroke, and may cause other conditions such as depression, irritability, high blood pressure, memory loss, and sexual dysfunction.

Anyone can develop sleep apnea, but it is more common among middle aged adults who are overweight. Dr. Lapsi can help you determine the cause and suggest possible treatment.

A common treatment for sleep apnea is an oral device that is designed to help keep the airway open. By bringing the jaw forward, the device opens the airway and discourages snoring. Dr. Lapsi and our team are experienced in sleep apnea appliances, and can prescribe a fitted device, as well as monitor its success each time you visit.

A continuous positive airway pressure mask, also known as a CPAP, is among the other treatment options you may opt for. A mask is fitted over the mouth and forces oxygen through the throat while you sleep, and the pressure holds the soft tissue and throat muscles open.

If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office. Our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics can help you return to getting a better night’s sleep.

Just What Is Plaque?

September 23rd, 2020

From the time you were small, you’ve been warned about the dangers of plaque. Why? Because:

  • It’s an unpleasant film that sticks to your teeth
  • It causes cavities
  • It causes gum disease
  • It can cause extra problems when you wear braces

And really, do we need to know much more than this to motivate us to brush? But if you’re in a curious mood, you might be wondering just how this soft, fuzzy film accomplishes all that damage. Let’s take a closer look at the sticky problem of plaque.

How does plaque form?

We live with hundreds of species of oral bacteria, most of which are harmless, and some of which are actually beneficial. But when our oral ecosystem gets out of balance, problems can occur. For example, without regular and thorough brushing and flossing, we start to build up plaque.

Plaque starts forming within hours of your last brushing. And even though plaque fits the very definition of “seems to appear overnight,” this biofilm is actually a complex microbial community with several different stages of development.

  • It starts with saliva.

Saliva is vital to our oral health, because it keeps us hydrated, washes away food particles, neutralizes acids in the mouth, and provides minerals which keep our enamel strong. Saliva also contains proteins, which help form a healthy, protective film on the tooth surface. This film is called a pellicle.

  • Bacteria attach to the pellicle.

There are species of oral bacteria that are able to attach themselves to the pellicle film within hours of its formation. As they become more firmly attached, they begin to grow and divide to form colonies, and are known as the early colonizers of the plaque biofilm.

  • A complex biofilm forms.

If you’ve skipped brushing for a few days (please don’t!), you’ll notice a fuzzy, sometimes discolored film on your enamel—that’s a thriving plaque community, and it only takes a matter of days to go from invisible to unpleasant.

If you’re not removing plaque regularly, it can harden further and become tartar. And once you have tartar buildup, you’ll need the care of a dental professional to remove it.

  • What happens if we ignore plaque and tartar?

We get cavities and gum disease.

How does plaque cause cavities?

  • The bacteria in plaque, like all organisms, need nutrients.

Our normal oral environment and the food in our everyday diets provide the nutrients plaque needs. And, as we mentioned above, certain types of oral bacteria convert these nutrients into acids. Foods such as carbohydrates, starches, and sugars are most easily converted into acids, which is why we recommend that you enjoy them in moderation.

  • The biofilm promotes acid production.

Within the plaque film, anaerobic bacteria (bacteria which don’t use oxygen) convert sugars and starches into acids. As the plaque film becomes denser, it blocks acid-neutralizing saliva and oxygen from reaching these bacteria close to the tooth’s surface, creating an ideal environment for the bacteria to produce their acid waste products.

  • Acids attack enamel.

The sticky nature of plaque keeps these acids in contact with tooth enamel, where, over time, acids dissolve minerals in enamel, weakening the mineral structure of the tooth.

How does plaque cause gum disease?

  • Bacteria cause inflammation and gingivitis.

The bacteria in plaque irritate the delicate tissue of the gums, which causes an inflammation response which can leave your gums swollen, red, bleeding, or tender. This early form of gum disease is gingivitis. Fortunately, good dental care and careful brushing and flossing can usually prevent and even eliminate gingivitis.

  • Plaque and tartar can lead to periodontitis.

When plaque and tartar build up around and below the gumline, the gums pull away from the teeth, leaving pockets where bacteria collect, leading to infection as well as inflammation. Infections and constant inflammation not only harm gum tissue, they can destroy the bone supporting the teeth. This serious gum condition is periodontitis, and should be treated immediately to avoid further infection and even tooth loss.

How does plaque affect orthodontic patients?

  • Plaque collects around your braces.

Braces provide plenty of spots for plaque to hide from your brush. If you aren’t extremely diligent with your brushing and flossing, plaque collects near brackets, wires, and bands—all those spots that a brush and floss find difficult to reach.

  • Plaque promotes demineralization

The demineralization process we mentioned above can cause white spots on teeth (decalcification), where minerals have dissolved. Sometimes these spots can be treated, and sometimes they are permanent. They can become quite sensitive, and may lead to cavities.

Careful brushing and flossing around your braces will help eliminate the plaque that can cause demineralization near brackets. Ask Dr. Lapsi about the tools and the brushing and flossing techniques which will give you the best results.

How do we fight plaque?

From the time you were small, you’ve learned how to fight plaque:

  • Brush at least twice a day for two minutes, and be sure to brush all of your tooth surfaces and around the gumline.
  • Floss to remove plaque from between the teeth and near the gumline.
  • See your dentist as recommended for a thorough professional cleaning.

Be proactive. If you have any questions, talk to us at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office about the best way to keep plaque at bay. We can show you the most effective ways to brush and floss, recommend anti-plaque toothpastes and rinses, even suggest plaque-revealing tablets if you’re missing some trouble spots.

We’ve only brushed up on some plaque basics, because there is a lot more to discover about this complex biofilm. Happily, even with all there is to learn about plaque’s growth and development, it’s reassuring to know that getting rid of it is quite simple—with just a soft-bristled brush, some dental floss, and a few minutes of your time each day, you’re on the way to a healthy, happy, plaque-free smile.

Invisalign Teen® Treatment: Creating confident smiles for teens

September 9th, 2020

These days, fewer and fewer braces show up in school yearbook photos. Invisalign clear aligners have become a popular choice for our adolescent patients because it enables them to display metal-free smiles while straightening their teeth!  

Dr. Lapsi can help you determine whether Invisalign treatment is right for you, but below are a few reasons why so many teens are choosing it today.

More Free Time

Invisalign Teen aligners require fewer appointments, which is pretty important to teens who value their free time. Invisalign treatment gives you straight teeth without having to miss activities or skip hanging out with your friends. It’s a win-win!

Eat, Brush, and Floss Easily

Traditional braces can make eating, brushing, and flossing both difficult and tedious. Invisalign aligners are easily removable for all these important activities, and give you freedom to live your life as usual.

Metal-Free Braces

Possibly the best perk of Invisalign aligners is that you can’t see them! The Invisalign system uses a clear plastic device that fits directly over the teeth. This means no metal parts to mar the appearance of your smile, so your Invisalign aligners will straighten while allowing your pearly whites to shine through. People don’t even have to know you’re straightening your teeth with Invisalign aligners.

To learn more about Invisalign Teen treatment, feel free to reach out to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

 

Football Season? Practice Dental Defense

September 2nd, 2020

It’s finally football season, and whether you’re on the field, at the game, or watching at home with friends, it’s time to work on some defensive dental strategies.

Taking the Field

If you’re playing team football, you already know just how important your mouthguard is. So important, it’s actually part of every uniform. But if your gridiron is the local park or your backyard, you need protection, too! Amateur sports cause a significant percentage of dental injuries every year, and that’s a statistic you don’t want any part of. A store-bought or custom-fitted mouthguard from our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office will help protect your teeth and jaw in case of a fall or collision. If you have a player in braces, a mouthguard is especially important.

In the Stands

Cheering your team on with stadium food in hand is a time-honored game tradition. But some of those options are offensive players. How to hold the line? Cut back on foods that are loaded with sugars and simple carbs, as these are the preferred diet of cavity-causing bacteria. And if the food sticks to your teeth, that gives these bacteria extra time on the clock to produce enamel-damaging acids. Unfortunately, a lot of stadium food falls into these categories. Giant pretzels, soft drinks, chips, caramel corn—sticky, sugary, sticky, sugary, and sticky. But you don’t need to deprive yourself completely. Enjoy in moderation, and hydrate with water to increase saliva (which has many tooth-strengthening qualities) and to wash away food particles.

Home Field Advantage

For most of us, the best seats in the house are right in our living rooms—and our kitchens. Buffalo wings! Chips and salsa! Brats and sauerkraut! However tasty, these snack favorites have something else in common—acidity. Just as the acids produced by bacteria affect our enamel, so do the acids in our foods. Add sugars and simple carbs like sodas, chips, and fries to the party, and you have an enamel blitz attack. There are plenty of dental-healthy snack options available, such as vegetables with hummus dip, or cheese and whole wheat crackers, to add some variety to your menu. If you do eat acidic foods, don’t brush immediately after, since acids weaken tooth enamel, and brushing then can cause enamel erosion. Instead, rinse with water and brush after thirty minutes. You might miss part of the half-time show, but it will be well worth it.

Give some of these tips a try for a winning football season. On the field, at the snack counter, in your TV room, you can enjoy the game a little more by knowing that, when it comes to your dental health, you’re providing complete zone coverage.

Dental Sealants for Baby Teeth?

August 26th, 2020

Perhaps you’ve heard your friends talking about dental sealants, and how well they prevent cavities. And as soon as your child’s permanent molars come in, you absolutely plan to make an appointment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office for this treatment. But should you also be concerned with your child’s baby teeth? Could they benefit from sealants too?

Even though those beautiful baby teeth are going to be replaced with permanent teeth, they should still be protected. Primary teeth help with speech development, enable your child to develop proper chewing and eating habits, and serve as place holders so that permanent teeth can erupt in the correct place. That’s why you’ve been so careful to help your child brush and floss twice daily, and make regular visits to our office for exams and cleanings.

But some teeth are just harder to keep clean with regular brushing than others. Primary molars, just like permanent ones, have depressions and grooves on the chewing surfaces. These grooves collect bacteria and food particles that are hard for bristles to reach, providing a perfect opportunity for cavities to develop in those little molars.

Cavities are not the only problem which can affect primary teeth. Because baby teeth have thinner layers of protective enamel, a cavity can actually reach the pulp (the center of the tooth) more quickly, leading to pain and potential infection.

While baby teeth can be treated, with fillings, restorations, and even stainless steel crowns, preventing tooth decay is always our first, best choice. And dental sealants are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association as one of the most effective ways to prevent cavities in both baby teeth and adult teeth.

Dental sealants are safe and effective.  Sealants are thin coatings (usually a plastic resin or other dental material) that cover a molar’s grooves and depressions, making it impossible for bacteria and food particles to collect there. Applying them is a simple, pain-free process.

Each tooth will be examined first. If we find any signs of decay starting, we will gently treat that area before applying the sealant. After the tooth is cleaned and dried, an etching solution will be brushed on to the surface area being sealed. This etching roughens the surface so that the sealant will hold to the tooth more effectively. A thin coat of the sealant is then painted on and hardened under a curing light.

That’s all there is to it! Sealants typically last from three to five years, and some last even longer. Keep up your regular careful brushing and flossing, and we will monitor the condition of the sealants at each exam.

Talk to Dr. Lapsi about dental sealants. We’ll let you know if your child can benefit from the procedure even before those baby teeth give way to permanent ones. It’s never too early to prevent tooth decay!

What Your Braces Rubber Band Color Says About You

August 19th, 2020

However you may feel about having to wear braces, choosing the color of your rubber bands is sure to bring a smile to your face. Whether you want to express your creativity, coordinate your braces with your outfits, or show some serious school spirit, decorating your mouth with colorful bands takes some of the stress and self-consciousness out of wearing braces. So what do your rubber band colors say about you? Look no further than our rubber band horoscope.

Red. You’re intense and forward thinking, and that you won’t back down no matter how big the challenge. Red is also the color of the heart, so red rubber bands indicate that you’re a caring, loving person.

Blue. Blue means you’re chill – as cool as a cucumber. You’re one cool customer, as the saying goes. You’re relaxed and calm, even when your mom says you can’t chew any gum or eat popcorn because of your braces.

Green. Look at a traffic light and green means go, right? So you’re the type of person who’s always on the move. Go, go, go! It also means you’re generous and kind. Green is the color of nature and spring, so it says you love Mother Earth. Perhaps you even recycle. Green is the color of good luck.

Orange. You’re daring and wild, flamboyant and fun. Orange may indicate you’re an artist or a drama student. It says you have a big personality and that you don’t care what other people think about you. However, orange is also the color of balance and energy. And being flamboyant and fun takes a lot of energy!

Purple. You’re the creative type, for sure. You beat to a different drummer and think outside the box. It says you're mysterious. Purple is the color of royalty, and when you wear your purple rubber bands you are royally cool.

Color Combinations

What if you can’t choose just one color? Well, you can decorate your teeth with alternating colors. You can choose the colors of your favorite sports team or holiday colors like red and green. If you’re still stumped as to what colors to choose, ask Dr. Lapsi or a member of our team. We can let you in on all the trends our other patents are sporting at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

Understanding Cavities

August 12th, 2020

Getting a cavity seems like delayed punishment for eating that special dessert every weekend or for the few days you forgot to floss. When you are doing everything right with minimal exception and a cavity is diagnosed, it is discouraging. Knowing how cavities form and what causes them is valuable in knowing how to prevent them. In this blog post, Dr. Lapsi will help you understand cavities!

A cavity is not a one-time event. It is actually a symptom of a disease called caries. Tooth decay is a result of an active infection and condition in the mouth. There are ingredients to this infection, which include bacteria, acid, your tooth, and a food source. The main bacterial culprit is S. Mutans. Bacteria live in a housing structure called biofilm. This offers them protection, food, and an ideal replicating environment.

Biofilm can be healthy if there is a balance of good bacteria. When you have caries, the numbers of “bad” bacteria increase and produce an environment where they thrive and therefore cause tooth decay. A main indicator of this is a pH measurement of your saliva.

Several factors can influence the biofilm pH. Foods and beverages all have different pH levels. The lower the number, the higher the acidity. Since acid promotes tooth decay, a beverage like soda will promote a cavity. Water, being neutral, is a good choice to promote healthy oral pH. Healthy eating can still cause cavities. Here is an example of a highly acidic, yet traditionally healthy meal:

Toast with store-bought strawberry jam, and a cup of cottage cheese topped with fresh cranberries.

Instead, here is a better choice, which involves mixing acidic healthy foods with alkaline (non-acidic) foods to reduce the overall pH:

Toast with almond butter, and Greek yogurt topped with fresh blueberries.

The first example will result in a very low pH in the mouth and even in the rest of the body. The second meal mixes highly acidic blueberries with an alkaline Greek yogurt. Dairy products from cows are highly acidic. Toast is acidic because of the yeast and almonds are alkaline.

A natural buffer is saliva. Whenever mouth breathing or medications compromise the saliva flow, the pH is going to drop and caries can go rampant. Getting a cavity is not just about the sweets or forgotten flossing sessions. It is about the pH levels and bacterial management.

For more helpful tips about how to avoid cavities, contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office.

How long after my braces come off should I wear my retainer?

August 5th, 2020

Braces are an investment in your smile. When your teeth reach a desired straightness, you’ll have a beautiful smile, but it’s important to keep it that way! You can accomplish this with a retainer provided by Excel Dental and Orthodontics.

A retainer is a small, custom-fit device that reinforces the new position of your teeth after your braces are removed. But for many patients, especially the youngest ones, wearing a retainer may seem like an annoyance. So exactly how long after your braces come off should you wear your retainer?

Graduation of Wear Time

When we remove your braces, Dr. Lapsi will evaluate the condition of the bone structure surrounding your teeth and determine how well it is adjusting to the new position of your teeth. For the first few months, we may require you to wear your retainer both day and night, except during meal times and for brushing and flossing.

As the bone and gum tissues adjust to your new smile, we may determine that you need to wear your retainer only at night. After about one year of wearing the retainer every night, you may be able to take a couple of nights off each week.

However, we do not recommend ever stopping permanently. To best secure the position of the teeth, especially through future extractions and oral health changes, wearing your retainer a few nights a week will be necessary for many years.

Considerations

If you are concerned about your appearance when you wear a retainer, there are many that can be worn discreetly. You could choose a clear plastic one that is less obvious during the months immediately following removal of your braces. When you change to night wear only, clear wire retainers are available for minimal visibility as well.

Another option is a lingual retainer. It is placed on the back sides of your teeth so no one will ever know it is there! Lingual retainers are also permanent, so there’s no risk of losing them.

Remember, wearing your retainer is an investment in your smile. If you fail to wear it consistently, the tissues that support your teeth will be unsupported, and you may begin to experience noticeable shifting. You’ve worked hard to get that beautiful smile — your retainer will let you keep it! Remember to call our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office if you have any questions about your retainer!

Taking Charge of Your Dental Health

July 29th, 2020

Now that you’re a teenager, you have a lot more responsibility and independence. Choosing high school classes and electives. Getting a driver’s license. Landing your first job. And those new responsibilities extend to your dental health as well!

  • Braces

If you’ve just gotten braces, you might feel a bit overwhelmed. Learning how to brush and floss effectively, attaching rubber bands several times a day, keeping track of your hours if you’re wearing clear aligners—it can seem like a lot. But you can do it! With time and practice, caring for your braces will become just another part of your daily routine. Dr. Lapsi and our team are here to make sure you have all the information and tools you need to succeed. The most important thing to remember is that the better you follow our instructions, the quicker and more effective your orthodontic treatment will be.

  • Retainers

If you’ve successfully completed your orthodontic treatment, dealing with your retainer should be a piece of cake! We will give you clear instructions on how long each day you should wear your retainer. Sticking to this schedule is really important--if you don’t wear the appliance as directed, you can undo some of the progress you’ve worked so hard to make. And when you’re not wearing your retainer, be sure it has a safe life outside your mouth. Keep it in a protective case, and keep it someplace where the puppy/the washing machine/the cafeteria trash bin won’t find it.

  • Mouthguards

If you have a mouthguard for sports or athletic activities, wear it! Whether you have an over-the-counter device or a custom fabricated guard, it won’t do you any good hiding in your locker. A mouthguard cuts down on tooth and facial injuries caused by falls, physical contact, or other accidents that might happen in your active life. And if you wear braces, ask about a mouthguard designed to fit around them. These custom devices protect your braces and your mouth.

Finally, remember that sticking with your dental routine—two minutes of brushing morning and night and thorough flossing each day—will keep your gums and teeth healthy throughout your teen years. And, if you have any questions about your dental health in general, or a specific dental concern, give our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office a call! We’re here to work with you for a lifetime of beautiful smiles.

The Link Between HPV and Oral Cancer

July 22nd, 2020

Cancer has become a common word, and it seems like there is new research about it every day. We know antioxidants are important. We know some cancers are more treatable than others. We know some lifestyles and habits contribute to our cancer risk.

Smoking increases our risk of cancer, as does walking through a radioactive power plant. But there is a direct link to oral cancer that you many may not know about—the link between HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) and oral cancer.

This may come as a shock because it has been almost a taboo subject for some time. A person with HPV is at an extremely high risk of developing oral cancer. In fact, smoking is now second to HPV in causing oral cancer!

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, “The human papilloma virus, particularly version 16, has now been shown to be sexually transmitted between partners, and is conclusively implicated in the increasing incidence of young non-smoking oral cancer patients. This is the same virus that is the causative agent, along with other versions of the virus, in more than 90% of all cervical cancers. It is the foundation's belief, based on recent revelations in peer reviewed published data in the last few years, that in people under the age of 50, HPV16 may even be replacing tobacco as the primary causative agent in the initiation of the disease process.” [http://www.oralcancerfoundation.org/facts/]

There is a test and a vaccine for HPV; please discuss it with your physician.

There are some devices that help detect oral cancer in its earliest forms. We all know that the survival rate for someone with cancer depends greatly on what stage the cancer is diagnosed. Talk to Dr. Lapsi if you have any concerns.

Please be aware and remember that when it comes to your own health, knowledge is power. When you have the knowledge to make an informed decision, you can make positive changes in your life. The mouth is an entry point for your body. Care for your mouth and it will care for you!

Make Your Braces Bands Work for You!

July 15th, 2020

Well, of course, they already are working for you—as an essential part of the alignment process. Rubber bands, also known as elastic ligatures, are used to secure the wires inside your brackets. But bands can be more than functional. Since the ligatures around each bracket are replaced when you visit our office, why not use that opportunity to choose a new color scheme as well?

  • Make a Statement

Bands offer a chance to coordinate your braces to an interest, team, or event. Are you a swimmer? Maybe cool blues and turquoises appeal to you. Batman forever? Black and yellow. (That will work for beekeepers, too.) Have a favorite sports team? Choosing team colors will support your team with every smile. Love your school? Show your spirit by wearing bands in your school colors. Favorite time of year? Celebrate by selecting festive bands in holiday colors.

  • Suit Your Mood

Fiery reds and oranges, tranquil blues and greens, millennial purples and pinks, or exuberant neon—you know that there are just some colors that suit your personality. Showcase that personality with your choice of band color. And if your mood changes, choose shades that express a completely different side of you.

  • Coordinate Your Colors

Match your bands to your eye color, your makeup, or the clothing colors you choose most often. If there’s a color profile that works for you, make your bands a part of it. If you don’t want everything matching, complement your coloring or clothing with a different but coordinating shade for a cohesive effect.

  • Keep a Low Profile

Most adults will stick with a monochromatic set of bands, and this might be a look that appeals to you as well. Grey and silver bands will blend nicely with silver braces. If you have clear or white brackets, you might want to test out which bands will be least noticeable. Clear bands can become discolored, and white bands can make teeth look darker. If there’s a band which mimics your own tooth color, this will be the choice for you.

  • Make Color Theory Work for You

Certain colors and tints bring out the best in your tooth color and work with your skin tones. White and yellow bands might make teeth appear duller, and any shade combination that resembles food particles (greens, browns, and black) is probably not a look you’re going for. Have fun with a color wheel and decide which colors you find most flattering.

Make your bands more than a tool—make them an accessory. There are so many colorful options available that you are bound to happen on a color scheme that just suits you. And if you change your mind? Change it up during your next visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

The Connection Between Your Mouth and Your Heart

July 8th, 2020

At Excel Dental and Orthodontics, we know your dental health is closely connected to your overall health. We also know that the mouth can oftentimes be the first place to show signs of other bodily health issues.

Studies have shown possible links between periodontal (gum) disease and heart disease, and researchers have found that people with gum disease have an elevated risk of suffering from a stroke or developing coronary artery disease. Believe it or not, an estimated 70 to 80 percent of North American adults currently have some form of gum disease.

Gum disease, which affects the tissues that surround and support the teeth, is an infection caused by a sticky film of bacteria called plaque that forms on the teeth, mainly along the gum line. In its early stages, called gingivitis, gum disease can be treated by Dr. Lapsi and often reversed.

To help keep your mouth and heart healthy, we’ve provided following tips to help prevent problems before they arise:

  • Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day. Make sure you brush gently beneath the gum line around each tooth.
  • Floss at least once a day.
  • Have a dental checkup and cleaning twice a year, or as recommended.
  • Eat a healthy diet. This includes avoiding foods with a high concentration of sugars or starches and consuming more fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid tobacco and copious levels of alcohol. If you smoke, quit. And remember, heavy drinking dramatically increases the risk of developing mouth and throat cancer.

Don’t put off your next visit to Excel Dental and Orthodontics any longer! If it has been a while since your last visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, please give us a call!

Protect Your Enamel from Dental Erosion

June 24th, 2020

We know that the foods we eat and drink can have a definite impact on our smiles. Staining is an unhappy side effect of many of our menu favorites. That’s why we sip red wine through a straw, rinse with water after a slice of blueberry pie, and cut back on the coffee and tea after a single cup (or two—we’re not perfect!). And sugar is the fuel for cavity-causing bacteria, so we try to substitute water for soda, or replace the hot fudge sundae with grilled fruit. And we always brush carefully after indulging.

So far, so good. But while we’re saving our brilliant smiles from stains and decay, let’s not forget one other source of diet-related damage—acids. Acidic foods and beverages can actually erode the surface of our enamel, leaving our teeth more vulnerable to sensitivity and discoloration.

What Is Dental Erosion?

Enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies—stronger than bone—but it is not indestructible. And acids are one of the major causes of enamel damage. (In fact, it’s the acids produced by bacteria that lead to cavities.) Luckily, our bodies are designed to protect our enamel. Saliva helps clean the teeth by washing away food particles and it neutralizes acidity as well. But a diet that’s too heavy in acidic foods can undo all this good work and upset the healthy pH balance in our mouths.

Why is this a problem? Because acidic environments actually cause the minerals in our enamel to break down, a process known as “demineralization.” This weakening of the enamel leaves teeth more sensitive to heat and cold. It can even lead to discolored teeth, as thinner enamel allows the brownish-yellow dentin underneath the enamel surface to become visible.

Are You Aware of Acids?

We can immediately guess at some of the most acidic foods. Citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes in their many culinary forms, anything pickled in vinegar, coffee, tea, wine—these foods are certainly acidic, but also a regular part of many a healthy diet. You don’t need to avoid these foods altogether, but it’s best to enjoy them as part of a meal or enjoy them sparingly. And balance out some of these high-acidity foods at mealtime with low-acidity choices like bananas, bread, and dairy products.

Other sources of damaging acids might surprise you. Studies have linked sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks to higher levels of tooth erosion. The combination of citric acid, phosphoric acid and/or carbonation raises acidity levels in the mouth. And because we tend to sip them all day long, it’s like a continuing acid bath for our enamel. Water is always a healthy alternative for hydration, but if you do indulge in a soda or sports drink, rinse with water after drinking. And don’t swish—just swallow.

Won’t Brushing Help?

Yes, but watch your timing. Because the acids in foods weaken enamel, brushing right after a big glass of orange juice or a soda can actually be even more abrasive for tooth surfaces. We recommend waiting anywhere from 20-60 minutes to brush. This gives your saliva the chance to not only wash away acids, but to “remineralize” your teeth, bathing them in the phosphate and calcium ions that strengthen enamel.

If you notice any of the symptoms of dental erosion, including pain, sensitivity when you eat or drink something hot, cold or sweet, or yellow discoloration, talk to Dr. Lapsi during your visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office about what you can do to help protect and strengthen your teeth. Unfortunately, our bodies can’t produce new enamel. By avoiding foods that stain, by reducing sugars that lead to decay, and by limiting the acidic foods that erode our enamel, we give ourselves the best opportunity for a lifetime of beautiful, healthy smiles.

Are there foods that whiten teeth?

June 10th, 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 Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office a call and we’ll be happy to suggest other options. Until then, bon appétit!

Why Professional Cleanings are Important

May 27th, 2020

Regular dental cleanings and checkups at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office are an excellent way to ensure everything is A-OK in your mouth. There’s a reason the American Dental Association recommends a professional cleaning every six months!

Here’s what you can usually expect during your visit with Dr. Lapsi:

  • Head and neck examination: The dentist or dental hygienist will look for anything out of the ordinary. He or she will check your lymph nodes and lower jaw joints (also known as TMJs).
  • Dental examination: The dentist or hygienist will check for any signs of gum disease, tooth decay, loose or broken teeth, or damaged fillings. We’ll also check your bite, the contact between your upper and lower teeth, and the condition of any dental appliances you’re wearing. Sometimes we’ll also take a set of X-rays.
  • Dental cleaning: Plaque and tartar will be removed and the dentist or hygienist will polish your teeth. Your teeth and gums will be flossed, and we’ll also make recommendations about proper brushing and flossing technique if we think you need them.

When you visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office regularly, we’ll be able to compare the status of your teeth and gums from one appointment to another. That ensures we will be able to tell where you’re doing great in taking care of your teeth, and if needed, where you’re doing not so well.

If you’re in need of serious help, we might recommend more frequent visits. But remember, the most important factor in your oral health is how you take care of your teeth and gums at home between appointments.

We strive to help our patients achieve and maintain radiant, healthy smiles! If you'd like to know more about exams and cleanings at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, or what you need to do at home to maintain an effective oral health routine, please let us know.

Radiation and the Safety of Dental X-Rays

May 20th, 2020

It is not uncommon to be concerned about your safety when you have dental X-rays performed. Putting on a heavy lead vest may make you apprehensive. The benefits of dental X-rays far outweigh the risks when safety procedures are followed and the number of X-rays is limited to the required number.

About Dental X-rays

Intraoral X-rays are the most common, and include bitewing X-rays. These allow Dr. Lapsi and our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics to detect caries (cavities) and check the health of your bone and root structure. Extraoral X-rays provide the information we need to monitor your jaw and temporomandibular joint (TMJ), as well as look for impacted teeth and tooth development.

X-ray Safety

A set of four bitewing X-rays exposes you to about 0.005 mSv (millisievert) of radiation, which is equal to the amount of radiation you receive in an average day from natural sources. A panoramic X-ray exposes you to about twice the amount of a bitewing. In both cases the risk is negligible and worth the diagnostic benefits.

Guidelines from the American Dental Association are offered for individuals who are not at high risk for cavities. Children in this group should have X-rays every one or two years. Teenagers should have X-rays every one-and-a-half to three years. Adults can go two to three years between X-rays. If you are at higher risk, yearly X-rays are not harmful and can save your teeth.

No matter what type of X-ray you are having, it is extremely important to tell Dr. Lapsi or one of our technicians if you are pregnant or may be pregnant. If you are concerned about the number of X-rays you are having done, or about any radiation you are exposed to, please give us a call at our convenient Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office and talk to us about your concerns.

When Does an Underbite Need Surgery?

May 13th, 2020

When does an underbite need surgery? The short answer is: when Dr. Lapsi and our team recommend surgery as the best way to give you a healthy, functional bite. But let’s take a longer look, and see just why your doctors might come to that conclusion.

  • First, what exactly is an underbite?

In a perfect bite, the upper and lower jaws align, well, perfectly. Upper teeth overlap lower teeth very slightly, upper and lower teeth meet comfortably, and jawbones and joints function smoothly. When the alignment is off, it causes a malocclusion, or “bad bite.”

When we talk about an underbite, or Class 3 malocclusion, it means that the lower jaw protrudes further than the upper jaw. This protrusion causes the bottom teeth and jaw to overlap the upper teeth and jaw.

  • What causes an underbite?

Sometimes an underbite is caused by childhood behaviors while the teeth and jaw are developing, including tongue thrusting or prolonged thumb-sucking and pacifier use. (Working to stop these behaviors before they affect tooth and jaw formation is one of the many good reasons children should have regular visits with their dentists and pediatricians.)

Most underbites are genetic, however, and tend to run in families. It’s estimated that from five to ten percent of the population has some form of underbite. The lower jawbone (mandible) might be overdeveloped, the upper jawbone (maxilla) might be underdeveloped, both bones could be affected, or, sometimes, tooth size and placement might cause an underbite. These irregularities in jaw shape and size and/or tooth crowding are not something that can be prevented, and require professional treatment.

  • Why? What’s the problem with an underbite?

Even a minor underbite can cause difficulties with biting and chewing. A more severe underbite can lead to speech problems, decay and loss of enamel where the teeth overlap, mouth breathing and sleep apnea, persistent jaw and temporomandibular joint pain, and self-confidence issues.

  • Can’t my dentist treat my underbite?

Most probably not. A very mild underbite can be camouflaged cosmetically with veneers, but this does not address the cause of the underbite, and will not work for moderate or severe underbites.

  • Can my orthodontist treat my underbite?

Dr. Lapsi will create an underbite treatment plan after a detailed study of each patient’s individual dental and skeletal structure. Treatment options will vary depending on the cause of the underbite, its severity, and even the patient’s age.

Early intervention is especially important for children who show signs of an underbite. That’s why we recommend that children visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office by the age of seven.

If an underbite is caused by tooth misalignment or crowding, braces can reposition the lower teeth. Sometimes extractions are necessary to make room for proper alignment.

If the cause is due to jaw structure, children’s bones are still forming, so treatment can actually help correct bone development. Palatal expanders, headgear, and other appliances are various methods of encouraging and guiding bone development.

But braces and appliances aren’t effective for every patient with an underbite, and especially in patients (usually those in their late teens and older) when the jawbones are already fully formed. In this case, we might suggest coordinating treatment with an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

  • What does an oral and maxillofacial surgeon do?

An oral surgeon has the training, experience, and skill to help correct an underbite by surgically reshaping and repositioning the jawbone. This corrective jaw surgery is called orthognathic surgery.

  • What will happen during orthognathic surgery?

Your treatment will be tailored to your specific needs. Two of the common surgical procedures for treating an underbite involve repositioning the upper jaw to lengthen it and/or reshaping the lower jaw to shorten it.

Bone is sometimes removed or added, small bone plates or screws are sometimes used to stabilize the bone after surgery—your surgeon will let you know exactly which procedures will give you a healthy, functional bite. The surgery itself is most often performed under general anesthesia and requires a brief stay in the hospital.

  • How will my orthodontist and oral surgeon coordinate my treatment?

Correcting a Class 3 malocclusion can take time. Your oral surgeon will work together with Dr. Lapsi to analyze the interrelationship of teeth, bones, and joints to determine dental and skeletal problems, and will develop the best treatment plan possible to create a healthy alignment.

  • So, when does an underbite need surgery?

Sometimes, a minor underbite can be corrected with braces and appliances alone. A serious underbite, however, will often require the specialized skills of both Dr. Lapsi and an oral surgeon.

And, while it’s not the primary purpose of surgery, corrective jaw surgery and orthodontics can also make you happier with your appearance and boost your self-confidence. Achieving a lifetime of beautiful, comfortable, and healthy smiles—that’s the answer to your question.

Why should I have my child’s wisdom teeth removed?

April 29th, 2020

The wisdom teeth are the last of the permanent molars to emerge from the gums. This can occur as early as age 17 or as late as 21. Though some teens and young adults experience a completely normal tooth eruption with ideally aligned molars that pose no health threat, this is not the case for everyone.

According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), wisdom teeth must meet specific criteria to avoid a required extraction. These guidelines include:

  • Completely erupted and non-impacted
  • Completely functional
  • Painless
  • Free of decay
  • Disease-free
  • Capable of being properly cleaned

If one or more of your child’s wisdom teeth do not meet these conditions, we recommend scheduling an appointment with Dr. Lapsi; an extraction may be necessary.

Impacted wisdom teeth

One of the most common reasons for extracting a wisdom tooth is due to impaction. An impacted wisdom tooth is one that has not erupted and will not fully erupt from the gums. Usually this occurs because there is not enough room for the tooth to emerge. Impaction can be painful and can also lead to infection if left untreated. According to the AAOMS, roughly 90 percent of the teen and adult population has at least one impacted tooth. Extracting an impacted wisdom tooth early can help prevent future complications, such as periodontal disease, infections, and damage to neighboring teeth.

Extracting fully erupted wisdom teeth

Even if your child’s wisdom teeth are fully erupted, Dr. Lapsi and our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics may recommend removing them as a preventive measure. Fully-erupted third molars often interfere with a healthy bite. This can lead to problems with tooth and jaw alignment and may also contribute to the development of headaches. Your child’s wisdom teeth may also be more prone to tooth decay and gum disease, because their location in the back of the mouth makes them more difficult to reach for brushing and flossing.

To learn more about wisdom teeth, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Lapsi, please give us a call at our convenient Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

Helpful Retainer Habits

April 22nd, 2020

We’ve probably all seen that unhappy kid or frazzled parent sifting through trash for a lost retainer. If we’re really unlucky, we might have been that unhappy kid or frazzled parent sifting through the unpleasant remains of third period lunch hour. But getting tossed isn’t the only risk these appliances face. Read on for ways to keep your retainer (and your parent!) happy.

  • Keep Your Retainer With You

Always carry a retainer case. If you automatically put your retainer in its case when you’re eating, you are much more likely to remember it then if it has been wrapped up in a napkin on your lunch tray. And, if the worst happens, much more likely to recover it in one piece.

Choose the brightest colored case you can live with, so you will have an easier time locating it if need be, and discuss how to label the case to get it back safely to you--just in case.

  • Keep Your Retainer Intact

You might think if you put your retainer in your backpack, or purse, or saxophone case, or athletic bag, it will be safe. It will not. Retainers are designed to be tough enough for everyday wear, but being tossed on the floor while inside a backpack is not everyday wear. Always put your retainer back in its (brightly colored) case before packing it away.

Retainers can warp if they are exposed to heat, so keep them away from potential heat sources like stoves, microwaves, and washers and dryers. Even your car dashboard can become hot enough to warp your retainer. And never use boiling water to clean them.

Finally, your dog might find your retainer to be the #bestchewtoyever, so be sure to put it in a spot pets can’t reach when you’re not wearing it.

  • Keep Your Retainer Clean

Just like plaque can build up on your teeth, minerals and calcium can build up on your retainer. Different types of retainers require different cleaning methods, so talk to Dr. Lapsi about how to keep your retainer clean and bacteria-free. We will be happy to give you instructions on the best way to take care of your particular appliance. And don’t forget to clean your case regularly!

Accidents will happen, of course. If your retainer is lost or damaged, call our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office as soon as possible. We might be able to fix minor damage, and, if needed, we can replace a lost retainer quickly.

Your time in braces is over, but your teeth are still stabilizing in their new, healthy positions. Wearing your retainer regularly is the final step in producing the beautiful smile you’ve worked so hard for. Keep your retainer clean, keep it safe, and keep it with you, and you can enjoy that smile now and for years to come!

Is Invisalign Teen® right for my child?

April 15th, 2020

Straightening your teeth with traditional braces used to be something of a public affair. While traditional teeth-straightening methods yielded high-quality results, it was also essentially impossible to wear them undetected as you went about your day. The visibility of braces could be especially troubling to teens in the high-stress environment of high school and even during the early years of college.

With Invisalign Teen, Dr. Lapsi and our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics will tell you that many of those concerns are no longer as relevant as they once were. Because Invisalign Teen aligners are constructed out of a plastic that is both smooth and clear, in all likelihood friends and family members won’t even realize the teen is wearing them. The smooth and clear plastic also makes the aligners much more comfortable than traditional braces, which means the teenaged user won’t have to deal with something large and obstructive in his or her mouth.

Additionally, the Invisalign Teen aligners are specifically made to be removable when the need arises. Your son or daughter won’t have to worry about getting food stuck in the alignment trays because they can be pulled out before a meal and popped back in afterwards. Invisalign Teen wearers can remove the aligners before brushing, which allows them to make sure their teeth are free and clear of all obstructions.

Invisalign Teen aligners also allow wearers to keep doing all the activities they have previously enjoyed. If your teen plays sports, for example, he or she won't have to worry about a mouth filled with metal brackets getting injured during play. If your teen plays an instrument, he or she won’t have to worry about traditional braces affecting normal playing techniques. The aligners will remain both comfortable and convenient during all of those activities and more.

If your teen is concerned about physical appearance and worried that braces will adversely affect his or her life for a year or more, Invisalign Teen treatment with Dr. Lapsi is definitely the right choice. Teens don’t have to be shy about their smile, won’t have to change any of the activities they normally do, and will still get all the benefits of straight teeth when the process is completed.

For more information about Invisalign Teen, or to schedule an initial consultation with Dr. Lapsi, please give us a call at our convenient Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office today!

Five “Don’ts” When You Wear Aligners

April 8th, 2020

Choosing clear aligners was a great decision on your part! Straight teeth and a healthy bite? Subtle, almost invisible aligners? 3D technology custom-designed just for you? All the positives we’ve come to expect from your choice of orthodontic treatment.

So, don’t sabotage your good work! Here are five negative habits that will prevent you from getting the most out of your aligners:

  1. Don’t forget to keep them clean

One of the reasons you chose clear aligners is because they are nearly invisible. But careless cleaning habits can leave them discolored, scratched, or cloudy. Soaking in colored mouthwash can stain aligners. Using abrasive cleaning products or brushing with a heavy hand can cause scratches. And failing to keep aligners clean can lead to a buildup of cloudy plaque. Talk to us! We know all the best products and practices to keep your aligners their most sanitary—and most invisible.

  1. Don’t eat with your aligners in place

Aligners are simply not meant to be used while you eat. Chewing puts too much stress and pressure on them, and can lead to aligner damage and even breakage. Because you will be wearing your aligners for most of the day, planning ahead for your meals is key. One bonus: it’s a great way to eliminate unconscious snacking.

  1. Don’t let foods or drinks stain your aligners

It’s great that you take your aligners out to eat, but do you remember to brush before you replace them? Foods like spaghetti sauce and blueberries that stick to your enamel can stain your aligners. And it’s always best to remove your aligners before drinking a beverage. If a drink can stain your teeth, it can stain your aligners. Red wines, dark juices, colas, and, of course, coffee and tea can cause discoloration. Another thing to consider? Food particles in the trays can not only stain your aligners (and your enamel), but keep your teeth in contact with the acids and sugars that lead to cavities.

  1. Don’t run hot

Aligners are formed using heat, so it makes sense that heat can de-form them as well. Drinking hot beverages with your aligners in place can change their shape—and even subtle changes will affect your progress. Since warped aligners might have to be replaced, save the piping hot beverages for those times you’re not wearing aligners. It’s best not to clean them with very hot water as well.

  1. Don’t forget to wear them

Aligners need to be worn approximately 20-22 hours each day. If you’re not putting in the required time, you’re delaying your progress. If you’re having trouble with scheduling meals or activities, talk to Dr. Lapsi when you visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office. We have suggestions.

But let’s not just dwell on the negatives. We like to focus on the positive, too, so here’s the one item on your “Do List” that will absolutely make your aligner experience the best it can be:

Do follow our recommendations!

Clean your aligners with the proper tools and products—and clean your teeth and aligners after every meal and snack. Remember that water is the only guaranteed problem-free beverage. Don’t expose aligners to heat or eat with them in place, because they can be warped or damaged. And be sure to wear them as long as you need to each day—this will keep your treatment on track and on schedule.

Enjoying a future filled with beautiful, healthy smiles? That’s not just a positive—it’s a happily-ever-after!

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

April 1st, 2020

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 Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills 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. Lapsi 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!

Smoking and Dental Implants

March 17th, 2020

Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to replace a missing tooth with an implant. While an implant will restore the appearance of your smile, you also know that there are many reasons that an implant will improve your health, too.

A missing tooth causes structural problems as well as cosmetic ones. Remaining teeth can shift to fill the gap, leading to wear and bite problems. Without the stimulation of biting and chewing, bone tissue under the lost tooth gradually shrinks and is resorbed. The shapes of our jaws, cheeks and lips can be affected. Replacing a lost tooth with an implant can not only restore the appearance of your smile, but maintain it.

And implant procedures have a very high rate of success. Implants are made of materials compatible with the body, and surgically placed in the jaw to act as anchors for replacement teeth. The implant will actually integrate with the bone growing around it for strong, stable, and long-lasting support. After the time it takes for the implant to integrate and the area around it to heal, a crown, designed to match your own teeth perfectly, will be securely attached to the implant post.

What can you do to help the healing process? Follow our instructions carefully. Dr. Lapsi will give you suggestions for the time immediately following the procedure as well as instructions on the importance of keeping the area clean while healing takes place. And one very important favor you can do yourself? If you smoke, this is the time to stop.

Studies have shown that smokers have a significantly increased risk of dental problems and implant failures, and there are several theories as to why.

  • Smoking slows the healing process. Some studies indicate that smoking impairs blood flow in the gums, so that less oxygen and fewer nutrients are delivered to healing tissue.
  • Smokers tend to be more vulnerable to gum disease.
  • Smoking has been linked to a weaker immune system, so it’s harder to fight off an infection or to heal from one.
  • More marginal bone loss around implants is seen in smokers than in non-smokers.
  • Peri-implantitis, an inflammation of the gum tissue around the implant that can lead to bone loss and implant failure, is also more common in smokers.

Now that you have decided on a dental implant at our office, make one more decision to ensure the success of the procedure. Talk to us about ways to quit smoking before your implant, and how to reduce the chance of smoking-related complications. We know that quitting can be difficult, but your improved smile—and your improved health—are worth it!

Symptoms That Could Mean You Need a Root Canal

March 10th, 2020

Every tooth packs a lot of layers in a very small area. The outer, visible part of our tooth, the crown, is covered in protective enamel, and the lower root area is protected by a similar substance called cementum. Inside these very hard layers is dentin, a hard but more porous tissue which surrounds the pulp. In this central pulp chamber, we have the blood vessels which nourish the tooth and the nerves which send our bodies signals from the tooth. And if one of those signals is persistent tooth pain, you may need a procedure called a root canal.

There are a number of reasons that a tooth may cause you pain, including:

  • Fracture—a cracked or broken tooth can allow bacteria to enter the pulp chamber and cause inflammation and infection
  • Cavity—an untreated cavity can leave an opening where bacteria can reach the pulp of the tooth, and again lead to infection
  • Gum Disease—bacteria can attack from the root area of the tooth if gum disease has become serious
  • Injury—an accident or injury to a tooth can damage the nerve or the blood supply which nourishes the pulp
  • Abscess—if infection is left untreated, an abscess may form under the root

While a damaged tooth may sometimes be symptom-free, usually there are signs that the pulp has been injured or infected. What symptoms should lead you to give us a call?

  • Persistent pain in the tooth
  • Long-lasting sensitivity to heat or cold
  • Gum tissue adjacent to the tooth that is sore, red or swollen
  • A cracked, broke, darkened or discolored tooth
  • A bump on your gums that persists or keeps recurring—this might indicate an abscess

A root canal is performed by a trained dentist or endodontist. After an anesthetic is used to numb the area, the damaged tissue, including pulp, blood vessels and nerves, is removed from the pulp chamber and each root. The inside of the tooth is then cleaned and shaped, and filled and sealed with a temporary filling. The tooth is filled again permanently, usually on a second visit, and might require a crown in order to protect it from further damage.

The most painful part of a root canal is far more often the time spent suffering before the procedure than the procedure itself. Delaying action when a root canal is necessary can lead to infection, abscess, and even tooth loss. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, please give our office a call!

The Purpose of a Dental Crown

March 3rd, 2020

A dental crown, otherwise known as a cap, covers an infected tooth and can vary in function, depending on the position of the tooth. Crowns cover all the visible parts of a tooth and vary in size, appearance, and functionality.

A crown can be used to protect a weak tooth from breaking, hold together an already broken or worn tooth, cover the tooth with a large filling or dental implant, hold a dental bridge in place, or support a cosmetic modification.

Several types of crowns are available, depending on the tooth to be treated. Stainless-steel crowns are used on permanent teeth, usually as temporary measures in children because they’re more cost-effective for baby teeth that naturally come out over time.

Metal crowns are another option that includes gold alloys, or base-metal alloys. Metal crowns are notable for their ability to withstand biting forces, rarely break or chip, and therefore offer the best results in terms of normal wear and tear.

Porcelain fused to metal crowns most closely resemble a normal tooth and are a good choice for front or back teeth. Other, less common types include all-resin, all-ceramic, all-porcelain, and zirconia crowns.

If you’re getting a crown, you can expect a few things during your visit with Dr. Lapsi. Crown placement usually requires two appointments. The first entails preparation to get an impression of the tooth, shape it, and place a temporary crown. The impression is sent to a lab where a technician makes the crown to be fitted.

During the second appointment, the high-quality porcelain crown is placed on the problematic tooth.

If you notice any signs of discomfort in your mouth, always let Dr. Lapsi know by calling our office. We will determine which type of crown is best for your tooth to give it the added strength it needs. Crowns can be very helpful for your oral health if you have any teeth that need extra support.

What are the benefits of visiting a dentist regularly?

February 24th, 2020

Your regularly scheduled dental checkups with Dr. Lapsi 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. Lapsi 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 Excel Dental and Orthodontics, 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. Lapsi 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 Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

What is a palatal expander?

December 4th, 2019

If Dr. Lapsi and our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics have recommended a palatal expander, you might be wondering what it is and how it will help you. A palatal expander is a small appliance fitted in your mouth to create a wider space in the upper jaw. It is often used when there is a problem with overcrowding of the teeth or when the upper and lower molars don’t fit together correctly. While it is most commonly used in children, some teens and adults may also need a palatal expander.

Reasons to get a palatal expander

There are several reasons you might need to get a palatal expander:

  • Insufficient room for permanent teeth currently erupting
  • Insufficient space for permanent teeth still developing which might need extraction in the future
  • A back crossbite with a narrow upper arch
  • A front crossbite with a narrow upper arch

How long will you need the palatal expander?

On average, patients have the palatal expander for four to seven months, although this is based on the individual and the amount of correction needed. Several months are needed to allow the bone to form and move to the desired width. It is not removable and must remain in the mouth for the entire time.

Does it prevent the necessity for braces?

The palatal expander doesn’t necessarily remove the need for braces in the future, but it can in some cases. Some people only need braces because of a crossbite or overcrowding of the teeth, which a palatal expander can help correct during childhood, when teeth are just beginning to erupt. However, others may eventually need braces if, once all their permanent teeth come in, they have grown in crookedly or with additional spaces between.

If you think your child could benefit from a palatal expander, or want to learn about your own orthodontic treatment options, please feel free to contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

Dentistry around the World

November 27th, 2019

From the clinical perspective, dentistry is similar around the world. Dentists, like Dr. Lapsi, go to school, obtain a license, and work hard to prevent and treat tooth decay, gum disease, oral infections, throat or oral cancer, tooth loss, and other conditions that might limit a person’s ability to smile, bite, chew, or speak. The quality of dental care, however, and the payment method for dental services varies between nations.

Dentistry throughout the World

Developed countries have more dentists per capita than do developing nations, according to the World Health Organization. There is one dentist for every 150,000 people in Africa, for example, as compared to about one dentist for every 2,000 citizens of an industrialized nation. The lack of dentists in developing nations means that dental care is restricted to pain management and emergency care.

Dentistry often reflects the cultural views of a nation. Some cultures acknowledge only the functional aspect of teeth, so dentists focus on preventing tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss. Other cultures emphasize aesthetic appearances, so dentists there provide cosmetic procedures in addition to essential oral care.

Each nation imposes its own education and licensure requirements for dentists but most require some college before four years of dental school. The graduate must then pass local or national exams to practice in that region. European schools and standards are similar to the United States.

From the business perspective, dentistry varies between nations. In the United States, a dentist presents to the patient one bill that includes all of the treatment costs, such as the dentist, his assistant, tools, and labs. This allows the dentist to charge a single, easy-to-pay fee for individual procedures, and gives him an opportunity to mark up items and make a profit.

Across much of Europe, a dentist presents two bills to her patient – one for the dentist and another for the lab. This approach may stem from a cultural belief that profiting from healthcare is unethical and that healthcare should be available to consumers at actual cost; public dental clinics and subsidies ensures all citizens have access to dental care, regardless of ability to pay. In most cases, the government is both overseer and provider of dental care.

While the role of the dentist is nearly the same in every country – to ensure the oral health of the citizens – dental care is different in each nation. Regardless, you can rest assured that the care you receive at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office is held to the highest standard.

How effective is whitening toothpaste?

November 20th, 2019

The American Dental Association encourages you to brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste to prevent dental problems such as tooth decay, bad breath, sensitive teeth, and gingivitis.

Beyond these health effects, frequent brushing of your teeth with a high-quality toothpaste can keep your teeth white. If you desire a whiter smile without in-office bleaching at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, use of a whitening toothpaste is a great option for you.

Why Consider Whitening Toothpaste

Whiter teeth are more attractive and can help you feel confident in your smile. Having a whiter smile and greater self-assurance can send the message that you take care of yourself and are confident in your abilities.

How Whitening Toothpaste Works

Although every toothpaste has whitening properties because they all help to remove food particles from your teeth, the American Dental Association says whitening toothpaste must contain certain chemicals that help remove stains.

Unlike bleaching products, which contain carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide, whitening toothpaste only cleans the enamel rather than changing the color of your teeth. To obtain the benefits of whitening toothpaste, you need to use it regularly.

The Effectiveness of Whitening Toothpaste Varies

Due to individual variations in the color of your teeth, certain people are more likely than others to achieve the desired results with whitening. Teeth that are tinted grayish are unlikely to respond well to bleaching, while brown teeth may sometimes respond, and yellowish teeth are most likely to become pearly white in response to bleaching.

If Dr. Lapsi and our staff believe that bleaching is not a viable option for you, proper oral hygiene and the use of a whitening toothpaste are your best bets for keeping your teeth as white as possible. In addition, avoid using tobacco products, and rinse your mouth after drinking coffee.

Will my child benefit from early orthodontic treatment?

November 13th, 2019

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, orthodontic treatment for children should start at around age seven. Dr. Lapsi can evaluate your child’s orthodontic needs early on to see if orthodontic treatment is recommended for your son or daughter.

Below, we answer common questions parents may have about the benefits of early childhood orthodontics.

What does early orthodontic treatment mean?

Early orthodontic treatment usually begins when a child is eight or nine years old. Typically known as Phase One, the goal here is to correct bite problems such as an underbite, as well as guide the jaw’s growth pattern. This phase also helps make room in the mouth for teeth to grow properly, with the aim of preventing teeth crowding and extractions later on.

Does your child need early orthodontic treatment?

The characteristics and behavior below can help determine whether your little one needs early treatment.

  • Early loss of baby teeth (before age five)
  • Late loss of baby teeth (after age five or six)
  • The child’s teeth do not meet properly or at all
  • The child is a mouth breather
  • Front teeth are crowded (you won’t see this until the child is about seven or eight)
  • Protruding teeth, typically in the front
  • Biting or chewing difficulties
  • A speech impediment
  • The jaw shifts when the child opens or closes the mouth
  • The child is older than five years and still sucks a thumb

What are the benefits of seeking orthodontic treatment early?

Jaw bones do not harden until children reach their late teens. Because children’s bones are still pliable, corrective procedures such as braces are easier and often faster than they would be for adults.

Early treatment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office can enable your child to avoid lengthy procedures, extraction, and surgery in adulthood. Talk with Dr. Lapsi today to see if your child should receive early orthodontic treatment.

What are dental sealants, who should get them, and how long do they last?

November 6th, 2019

Dental sealants are an excellent way to protect children’s teeth from tooth decay by coating them with a thin plastic material. Their teeth look and feel like normal, but they are protected from plaque build-up and decay early on. Dr. Lapsi and our staff recommend sealants as a preventive measure for children before any decay appears on their teeth.

Who should get dental sealants?

Dental sealants are intended for young children as soon as their first teeth come in. Decay is most common in the molars, so taking your child to Excel Dental and Orthodontics for sealants right when you see the molars grow in gives your child the best chance to fight tooth decay.

A child’s first set of permanent molars grow in between ages five and seven, while the second permanent molars come in between 11 and 14 years of age. Some teens and adults who don’t have tooth decay may get sealants as well, but it is less common.

How long do dental sealants last?

Once the sealant has been placed on the teeth, it lasts up to ten years. Expect to have Dr. Lapsi check the sealant at every visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, which should be twice a year. We will look at the sealant and determine if it needs to be replaced.

What is the process of getting sealants?

Applying sealants is a simple, pain-free procedure that is done quickly at Excel Dental and Orthodontics. There is absolutely no effect on the tooth structure from sealants.

For starters, the teeth are cleaned carefully, then dried with an absorbent material. A mild acid solution is applied to them to roughen them slightly. This is done so the sealant can bond properly to the teeth. Then the teeth are rinsed and dried, and the sealant material is painted on and dried with a special light.

Molars are susceptible to decay early on, which is why sealants are an important treatment to get for your children’s first set of teeth.

What is a palatal expander?

October 30th, 2019

Orthodontists like Dr. Lapsi recommend a first orthodontic visit and evaluation for your child around the age of seven. We will evaluate your child’s jaw and facial development and make sure that there is enough room in the mouth for the permanent teeth when they arrive. One of the recommendations we might make for early treatment is the use of a palatal expander. If you are unfamiliar with this device, let’s take a closer look at why it’s necessary and what exactly it does.

Why do we recommend the palatal expander?

There are two dental arches, composed of the upper and the lower teeth, in your child’s mouth. This arch-shaped design is meant to accommodate all the permanent teeth. Further, when the upper and lower teeth meet, they should result in a healthy occlusion, or bite.

Sometimes, the upper dental arch is simply too small to accommodate all of your child’s permanent teeth, leading to crowding, extractions, and impacted teeth. Also, a too-narrow arch can result in a crossbite, where some of the upper teeth bite inside the lower ones. An improper bite can lead to problems such as TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder, improper wear and stress on teeth, certain speech difficulties, and other potential complications. The palatal expander was designed to prevent these problems from occurring.

What is a palatal expander and how does it work?

The expander itself is a device that increases the size of the upper dental arch. Before your child’s bones are finished growing, the space between the two bones of the upper palate is filled with cartilage. This tissue is flexible when children are young, but gradually fuses solidly into place by the time they are finished growing (usually in the early to mid-teens). If the arch can be widened to accommodate the emerging permanent teeth, or to reduce malocclusions, this improvement can also affect the need for, and length of, future dental work.

There are several types of expanders available at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office. These are custom-made appliances, commonly attached between the upper teeth on each side of the jaw. The two halves of the device are connected with a screw-type mechanism that can be adjusted to widen the upper palate and dental arch with gentle pressure. This is a gradual process, with small adjustments usually made once or twice a day to slowly move the bones further apart. As weeks go by, you will notice a successful change in the spacing of the teeth. Your child might even develop a gap in the front teeth, which is normal and will generally close on its own.

If you would like more detailed information, talk to Dr. Lapsi about the palate expander. We can tell you what to expect from this treatment if we think it is best for your child’s unique needs, and how to make it as easy as possible for your child. Our goal is to provide your child with the healthiest teeth and bite possible, always making use of treatments that are both gentle and effective.

What did the first dentures look like?

October 23rd, 2019

Remember hearing about George Washington and his wooden choppers? Not his tools for cutting down cherry trees, but his false teeth.

Actually, George’s teeth were made of ivory but were so stained that they appeared to be made out of wood. You might think those were the earliest dentures. In fact, the history of false teeth goes back centuries before President Washington.

Ancient Times

The earliest known dentures consisted of human or animal teeth tied together with wires. Examples of such dentures have been found in Egyptian and Mexican archeological sites. Other ancient peoples use carved stones and shells to replace lost teeth. These early dentures were probably made for cosmetic purposes. The materials they used were not likely to stand up to the pressure placed on teeth during eating.

The earliest surviving set of complete dentures were actually made out of wood (sorry, George). They were found in Japan and date back to the 16th century.

Human and animal teeth continued to be popular materials for dentures until the 20th century in some parts of the world. But the difficulty obtaining healthy teeth (and the risk of disease from unhealthy teeth) led dentists to search for other substances.

Modern Era

In the 18th century, dentists began using porcelain, ivory, gold, silver and even rubber as tooth substitutes. Dentures made with these substances could be used in eating. They were often ill-fitting, however, which may explain why George Washington looks puffy and glum in many portraits.

Porcelain and metals were the most popular denture materials until about 1950, when plastics and resins were developed. Tough and durable, these materials make up most of the dentures Dr. Lapsi and our team use today.

Still, what goes around comes around. Researchers at the University of Texas are looking at using human teeth for dentures once again. Only in this case, the researchers hope to use biotechnology to spur the growth of new sets of teeth to replace those lost over a lifetime.

Generic Clear Aligners vs. Invisalign®

October 16th, 2019

You may have a talent for home repairs. You may be able to rebuild your computer. You may even be able to put together a whole room of furniture armed only with flat-box kits and an Allen wrench. But, please—don’t try do-it-yourself orthodontics!

Now that generic clear aligners are available, you might consider giving them a try to save some money. But is straightening your own teeth really a good idea? Before you are tempted, let’s look more closely at the products and the dental science involved.

Invisalign®

  • Invisalign clear aligners are used by orthodontists and dentists with experience in custom treatment for your smile. A 3D image of your teeth will be captured by the iTero Element® scanner. Using special software, your doctor can map out each projected shift in your teeth, and even show you a projection of your finished smile!
  • Your Invisalign aligners will be tailored to fit your teeth precisely using the 3D scan and 3D printing. They are made from SmartTrack® material, a product specifically engineered for a perfect, comfortable fit. Invisalign aligners are even trimmed to fit your individual gumline to prevent irritation.
  • When your first sets of Invisalign aligners arrive at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, Dr. Lapsi will check for fit, answer any questions you might have about use and care, and let you know what to look for and what to expect. Your progress will be monitored with visits every six to eight weeks. (And for parents of teens, Invisalign aligners can offer blue “compliance indicators” to let you know they are being worn the 20-22 hours a day necessary for the best and fastest results.)

Generic Aligners

  • You might be required to make a putty mold of your own upper and lower teeth, which is not the easiest thing to do well, and to take selfies of your teeth.
  • The aligners will be sent to you in the mail. They are generally made of hard plastic with generic gumlines. There will be no one to tell you if the aligners fit properly.
  • They are sometimes less expensive because there is no in-person medical supervision. A dental professional working for the company will look at the model created from molds you submit, and recommend a series of aligners to correct the problems he detects by looking at the model and your selfies. This supervisor will not be able to assess the overall dental health of each patient to make sure teeth and gums are healthy and ready to start treatment, and will not be able to tell if the teeth are moving properly or improperly once the aligners are in use.

Finally, while generic aligners may potentially have some success in minor tooth straightening, they are not created to deal with complex bite issues or malocclusions.  In fact, using generic aligners with no supervision can cause more serious dental problems than a patient started with.

Sure, sometimes a do-it-yourself project turns out well. But your teeth and bones are too important for home improvement. When it comes to creating a beautiful, even smile and balanced, comfortable bite while making sure of your dental health, it’s always best to trust a professional like Dr. Lapsi to provide you with gentle, tested, and successful care!

Can sealants benefit you?

October 9th, 2019

Molars are difficult to reach when brushing your teeth because they’re full of crevices, caves, and pits that can provide the perfect environment for decay. Sealants are the perfect fix for this.

Sealants are a plastic-like protective solution that bond to the edge of the tooth. The treatment protects you against cavities and could save you from complicated dental issues in the future.

The process for placing sealants is painless and quick. First, Dr. Lapsi will clean the tooth with a baking soda spray. An acid etch is applied in order to “roughen up” the surface of the tooth and re-mineralize the area. The area is dried with an alcohol-based liquid and the sealant is placed on the grooves of the tooth. A special light then hardens the liquid into a plastic-like material.

Although sealants can last several years, they need to be examined semi-annually to check for breakage. Any cracks or breaks in your sealant can put your tooth at high risk for decay, and repair of sealants is a quick and painless task.

Children often receive sealants, but people of all ages can benefit from them. Adults who have especially deep canyons on their teeth are good candidates for sealants.

An investment in dental sealants can prevent tooth decay and complicated dental problems later on. It’s a no brainer! Call our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office today to speak with us about getting sealants on your teeth.

What should I ask during my orthodontic consultation?

October 2nd, 2019

If you have been thinking about undergoing orthodontic treatment to straighten teeth or correct jaw alignment, the first step is scheduling an orthodontic consultation at Excel Dental and Orthodontics. During the consultation we will actively listen to your concerns and address all of your questions, as well as discuss a treatment options that would best suit you or your child's situation.

Here are the top five questions that most patients want answered during their initial orthodontic consultation:

  • Can I benefit from orthodontic treatment, and if so, how long will it take?
  • How frequently will my appointments be scheduled?
  • Can I expect any pain when getting braces? (Ask Dr. Lapsi about the ways we address pain management).
  • Will I need to have teeth extracted, headgear, expansion appliance, etc.?
  • How much will it cost and what payment options do you offer?

Visit our website for more answers to your questions prior to your initial consultation. Dr. Lapsi and our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics are happy to answer all your questions and concerns, and excited to explain all aspects of your treatment plan, as well as the expected outcome. We believe your orthodontic experience should be comfortable, hassle-free, and most importantly, leave you with the smile you've always wanted.

Invisalign® and Invisalign Teen® Make You Smile

September 25th, 2019

Many adults and teens in our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office would love to have their teeth straightened but are unwilling to go through the long and often embarrassing process of wearing traditional metal braces. Invisalign® and Invisalign Teen® clear aligners offer the perfect solution: They’re the most advanced clear aligner systems in the world!

If you’re considering getting braces, there are several reasons why you might want to consider Invisalign clear aligners. Here are some of them:

  • You can eat whatever food you like, without worrying about it catching in wires or breaking brackets.
  • People won’t likely be able to tell you’re wearing them!
  • The aligners can be removed at any time.
  • You can brush and floss as you normally would, which helps to maintain better overall oral health.
  • Invisalign aligners are made of a smooth BPA-free plastic and are more comfortable to wear than traditional braces. You’ll need to visit our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office less often: only once every six weeks or so.
  • With Invisalign Teen, you’ll receive up to six replacements for lost or broken aligners.

Before starting treatment, you’ll have a consultation with Dr. Lapsi to see if Invisalign or Invisalign Teen treatment is right for you. After that, you’ll have X-rays, pictures, and impressions taken of your teeth.

That information will be used to make the 3D models of your teeth that let Dr. Lapsi see how they will move throughout the entire treatment and approximately how long it will take.

You’ll receive your aligners based on the treatment plan we recommend. You’ll get a new set of aligners every two weeks. All you need to do is wear your aligners 22 hours a day and you’ll be on your way to a straighter smile in no time!

Ask a member of our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills team for more information about Invisalign clear aligners today!

Orthodontics: From Tooth Fairy to Retainer

September 18th, 2019

You might be surprised to learn that Dr. Lapsi and our team recommend an orthodontic appointment even before your child has had that last visit from the Tooth Fairy. In fact, orthodontic assessments at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office can be beneficial at many stages of your child’s life. Let’s look at some of the reasons why.

The Right Spaces

There’s a reason why we recommend that every child see an orthodontist by the age of seven. If there’s room enough in your child’s mouth to accommodate all the permanent teeth that will be arriving soon, you’re good to go. But if it looks like there won’t be enough space for those adult teeth, there are solutions we can offer to make the transition from baby teeth to adult teeth a smoother one.

  • If your child’s mouth is small, the permanent teeth might have too little room to fit in when they arrive. We may recommend gently enlarging the upper dental arch with the use of a palatal expander. This device will provide room for the adult teeth, and could potentially shorten second phase treatment time.
  • Too much space can also be a problem. If a child loses a baby tooth too soon, too much space between the remaining teeth can cause them to shift out of position, leaving the wrong spot open for the adult tooth to come in. We might recommend a space maintainer so that there is no shifting of the teeth, and there is room for the adult tooth to erupt in its proper spot.
  • If there is a bite problem, early treatment can prevent more serious problems down the road.

If no treatment is necessary immediately, we can monitor the development of your child’s teeth and bite during periodic visits.

(Stay in) The Right Places

Once your child has achieved that perfect smile, it’s time to maintain it. Teeth actually move and shift throughout our lives, whether we have had orthodontic treatment or not. But with orthodontic treatment, the bone tissue and ligaments around the teeth remodel over time to hold the teeth in their new and improved positions. That’s why it’s often important to wear a retainer constantly for several months after the braces come off, as bone and ligament become a firm, strong anchor for the newly aligned teeth and bite.

But there’s no one expiration date on retainers! Worn nightly as needed, they help teeth stay securely in their new positions for a lifetime of beautiful smiles.

Healthy Smiles Mean Happy Faces

If you think your child is ready for any phase of orthodontic work, give us a call. We will be happy to make sure there is ample room for permanent teeth to erupt in their proper spots even during the baby teeth years. If braces are indicated at a later date, we will analyze any potential alignment and bite problems and present all of your treatment options. Finally, after the orthodontic work is completed, we want to make sure your child knows the best way to maintain that beautiful smile with conscientious retainer wear.

If you have any concerns about your child’s teeth or bite, even before the permanent teeth arrive, give our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office a call. Early treatment can often prevent future problems and might even lead to faster orthodontic results. At each stage of your child’s growth, we are here to provide your best options for healthy, happy smiles.

Xerostomia: Big Word, Common Problem

September 11th, 2019

Xerostomia might sound like a serious and rare condition, but it’s more common than you think. If you’ve been feeling like your mouth is constantly dry, you may already be having your first encounter with it.

Xerostomia refers to when you have a dry mouth due to absent or reduced saliva flow. Now you might assume this is not a big deal, but a lack of saliva can threaten your dental health or worse, because it can be a sign of a bigger overall problem.

Some of the more common symptoms to watch for are a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, a burning sensation on the tongue, and of course, a significant lack of saliva. Because xerostomia entails a reduction in saliva, you have less of a buffer between your teeth and the food you eat, which makes you more vulnerable to cavities and tooth decay. It also means that food is more likely to get stuck in your mouth.

So what causes xerostomia? There can be many different culprits. One of the most common causes involves medication. If you’re taking antidepressants, muscle relaxers, anti-diarrhea medicine, anti-anxiety medicine, or antihistamines, this could be the reason for your xerostomia.

Dry mouth may also be a warning sign for other health issues. These can include lupus, diabetes, thyroid disease, arthritis, or hypertension. Patients that receive any kind of chemotherapy might also experience xerostomia as a side effect of their treatment.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of dry mouth, there are several things you can do:

  • This may seem obvious, but you should drink generous amounts of water. If you’re taking any of the medications known to cause xerostomia, a glass of water before and after administering the medication could be helpful.
  • Avoid heavily caffeinated drinks, since they will dehydrate you further.
  • Opt for a mouthwash that contains little to no alcohol.
  • Consume excessively sugary or acidic foods in moderation, if at all.
  • Try adding a humidifier to your room while you sleep, to add moisture to the air you’ll be breathing.

As always, stay on top of your brushing and flossing routines, and if you feel you might be suffering from xerostomia, please let Dr. Lapsi know during your next visit to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office. We’re happy to recommend products we’ve found to be successful in treating xerostomia.

Does my child need two-phase treatment?

September 4th, 2019

Two-phase orthodontic treatment involves two separate and distinct periods that your child receives orthodontic treatment. It allows your son or daughter to begin early treatment of bite and jaw problems, in order to reduce the dental issues he or she experiences later on.

Two-phase orthodontic treatment with Dr. Lapsi can improve how well the second phase of the treatment works and helps to make room for permanent teeth. Overall, two-phase treatment helps to position the teeth and the jaw for an attractive profile. Our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics recommends that you bring your child to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office at the age of seven or eight, so that Dr. Lapsi can determine if early (Phase-One) treatment is necessary.

Phase-One

Phase-One orthodontic treatment is known as early treatment. It begins shortly after your child’s first orthodontic examination, usually around age eight or nine. The main goal of Phase-One orthodontic treatment is to help make room for permanent teeth, which reduces crooked teeth as a result of overcrowding. It treats the jaw and bite growth, and issues like crossbite or underbite. This can reduce the need for your child to undergo extractions.

Phase-Two

Phase-Two orthodontic treatment is when braces are placed on the upper and/or lower teeth. The purpose is not just to correct spaces or misaligned teeth, but also to correct overbite or underbite concerns. Phase-Two usually begins around age 11 or 12, and the braces are worn for an average of two to three years, depending on your child’s unique needs. Some children have fewer issues and wear braces for little more than a year, while others need them for up to four years.

Signs your child needs two-phase orthodontic treatment

If your child exhibits the following signs, he or she may be a good candidate for two-phase orthodontic treatment:

  • Losing baby teeth early, before five years of age
  • Problems with biting or chewing
  • Sucking the thumb after age five
  • Evidence of a crossbite, where the teeth don’t come together when opening or closing of the mouth
  • Teeth are crowded at age seven or eight
  • Protruding teeth on the top or bottom

Not all children need to have early treatment, but if your child shows any of these signs, you should bring him or her to us for an evaluation at Excel Dental and Orthodontics.

Dental Infections

August 28th, 2019

Dr. Lapsi and our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics will tell you that dental infections can be very serious; sometimes, they develop into a life-threatening situation. Cavities are caused by acid-generating microorganisms that deposit themselves on teeth surfaces. Over time, acid erodes tooth enamel, compromising tooth strength. The major culprit or cause of cavities is sweets, but even diet soda plays a substantial role in tooth erosion, largely because the phosphoric acid it contains alters the oral pH. Cavities can pave the way for other, more serious infections to develop.

Types of infections

Pulpitis

Pulpitis is an inflammation of the tooth pulp. It typically occurs when cavities get deep enough to allow infection to reach the pulp. When this happens, bacteria travel through the pit or fissure that the cavity created. It can also develop from a fractured tooth. The symptoms may include moderate pain that comes and goes. Pain may intensify when cold liquids touch the pulp.

Periodontitis

Periodontitis is a consequence of chronic gingivitis, which occurs when the supportive bone structure of the tooth erodes, causing the periodontal tooth ligament to detach from the tooth. Kids between the ages of 12 and 17 and adults over age 30 are most likely to develop this disease. In severe cases of periodontitis, a periodontal abscess may form. Symptoms of the infection typically include redness, sensitivity to touch, and swelling.

Pericoronitis

Pericoronitis is an infection that occurs when food particles and other microorganisms get trapped under gum flaps. It typically happens when impacted wisdom teeth erupt. Pain at the site of the infection is a common symptom. You should try to prevent food particles from lodging in the gingivitis flaps.

Dental abscesses

A dental abscess is one of the most serious dental infections anyone can get. It begins at the base of the tooth, but without treatment can spread rapidly. When the abscess is more severe, the bacteria spread, often very rapidly, and cause severe facial swelling, pain, and discomfort.

The best way to minimize the risk of developing a dental infection is by practicing good oral hygiene, making sure that food or other particles aren’t trapped between the teeth for too long, flossing, using oral rinses that bear the ADA seal of approval, and seeing the dentist regularly. If or when there are any symptoms of infection, even if the only symptom is pain, be sure to visit the dentist. Early intervention may prevent the infection from escalating into something far more severe, painful, and costly to treat.

To learn more about dental infections, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Lapsi, please give us a call at our convenient Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

How Long Do I Need To Wear Retainers?

August 21st, 2019

Once you get your braces off, you want to make sure your smile remains straight! This is where retainers come in.

Once your braces come off, you’ll be fitted for a retainer provided by Dr. Lapsi to keep those teeth in place. A retainer is a custom-fit device that sits in the mouth and reinforces the new position of your teeth. Wearing it may be annoying at first, but it’s an essential part of the process of keeping your teeth in place over the long term.

For the first few months after your braces are gone, Dr. Lapsi will tell you to wear your custom retainers all the time, except when you’re eating, drinking, or brushing. You have the option of having a clear plastic retainer made if you’re concerned about your appearance.

Eventually, we will recommend that you only have to wear the retainer during each night for a full year. After that, you may take a couple nights off from wearing them each week. In order to preserve the position of your teeth for as long as possible, we don’t recommend that you ever fully stop wearing your retainers.

If you’re concerned about forgetting to wear your retainer, and worried that your teeth may shift, a lingual retainer could be a good option for you. This gets placed on the back of your teeth and is not readily visible.

These retainers are permanent, but they could cause issues for you down the road if you don’t maintain good oral hygiene. Plaque and tartar can build up around these lingual bars, which is why we don’t usually recommend this as a primary choice.

Wearing your retainer is extremely vital after your braces come off. Without your retainer to keep them in place, the teeth you’ve taken so long to fix may begin to shift again. Getting braces is quite an investment, which is why you should keep wearing your retainer long after the braces have come off.

If you have questions or concerns regarding your retainers, contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office and we can address any problems you may have.

Dental Veneers

August 14th, 2019

Are you looking to improve the appearance of your front teeth? Dental veneers are widely used to improve the appearance of front teeth and are a much more conservative option than a full dental crown. Veneers can be used to improve the appearance of staining, large gaps, large fillings, chipped teeth, or overall shape. Veneers are a thin covering over the front and biting end of the tooth used to restore the beauty of a smile. Over the years we have helped many patients who opted for veneers and now have the confidence to smile again.

Dental veneers are made in a lab from long-lasting porcelain materials. The shade can be chosen to a desirable color to whiten the appearance of your smile. Dental veneers are usually placed on the anterior, or front teeth, where the chewing forces are not as hard as the back teeth. The process of placing veneers is relatively easy requiring only two dental appointments. In some cases, only one appointment is needed. It depends on the fabrication process.

The first appointment is to “prep” the teeth and take an impression to be sent to a lab to fabricate the veneers. Veneers are fairly conservative in the preparation as it requires a small amount of space to be created on the face (front), bottom, and sides of each tooth to allow space for the veneer to be placed and look natural. You will leave the office with temporary veneers for the next week or two while the permanent veneers are being made.

The second appointment is to place the veneers and make minor adjustments if needed. What a difference it makes in the appearance of the teeth! If you’re interested in learning more, give Dr. Lapsi a call today!

Fluorosis: What is it?

August 7th, 2019

Many people think dental fluorosis is a disease, but it’s not; it’s a condition that affects the appearance of your tooth’s enamel, not the function or health of the teeth. These changes may vary from tiny, white, barely noticeable spots to very noticeable staining, discoloration, and brown markings. The spots and stains left by fluorosis are permanent and may darken over time.

Dental fluorosis occurs in children who are excessively exposed to fluoride between 20 and 30 months of age. Only children ages eight years and younger can develop dental fluorosis. Why? That is the period when permanent teeth are still developing under the gums. For kids, fluorosis can cause significant embarrassment and anxiety about the appearance of their teeth. No matter how much they might brush and floss, the fluorosis stains do not go away.

Many well-known sources of fluoride may contribute to overexposure, including:

  • Fluoridated mouth rinse, which young children may swallow
  • Bottled water which is not tested for fluoride content
  • Inappropriate use of fluoride supplements
  • Exposure to water that is naturally or unnaturally fluoridated to levels well above the recommended levels

One way to reduce the risk for enamel fluorosis is to teach your children not to swallow topical fluoride products, such as toothpaste that contains fluoride. In fact, kids should use no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste when brushing, and children under the age of two shouldn’t use fluoride toothpaste at all.

Dental fluorosis can be treated with tooth bleaching, microabrasion, and conservative composite restorations or porcelain veneers. Please give us a call at our office to learn more or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Lapsi.

How to Avoid Delays During Your Orthodontic Treatment

July 17th, 2019

Our patients at Excel Dental and Orthodontics hate the thought of delaying their treatments and often ask us what they can do in between their adjustment visits to help. Today, Dr. Lapsi and our team thought we would provide some tips on how you can stay on track in regards to your treatment plan time.

The first thing we want you to do is keep your adjustment appointments. Each visit with Dr. Lapsi is carefully planned to move your teeth a specific way in a certain time frame. It’s important to note that missing an appointment can add weeks or months to your treatment time.

Next, we want you to let Dr. Lapsi and our team know right away if your experience any problems with your braces or appliances. A missing wire, rubber band, or broken bracket can delay treatment time, so we ask that you please give us a call right away to report any issues rather than waiting until your next visit.

Make sure you wear your rubber bands as prescribed by Dr. Lapsi. Most, if not all, of our patients will need to wear elastics or rubber bands at some point during their treatment. Not wearing the bands or elastics, or not wearing them enough, can slow down your treatment time. Rubber bands are critical in aligning your bite and are important for the bite-fixing phase of your treatment.

Finally, we want you to maintain good oral hygiene, just as you did before your treatment began. In addition to flossing regularly, we encourage you to brush your teeth several times a day. Not brushing will allow sugar to wear away the cement on the braces, making them less effective in moving your teeth, as well as elevate your risk of developing cavities or tooth decay, which will inevitably delay treatment time.

If you have any questions about any of these tips, or if you have any general questions about your treatment, please give us a call at our convenient Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, or ask Dr. Lapsi during your next adjustment visit!

Emergency Care for Orthodontics

July 10th, 2019

It’s vital to understand the difference between an orthodontic emergency and minor orthodontic issues. Minor issues can be handled the next day, or at your next scheduled appointment. When a real orthodontic emergency occurs, however, you will need to see a doctor immediately.

Emergencies can include injuries to your teeth, jaw, mouth, or face. Whether you have braces or oral appliances in your mouth at the time or not, it’s crucial to fix the problem before it gets worse. If you have an injury that affects an orthodontic appliance, that may need to be replaced or adjusted, depending on the extent of the injury.

You can watch for and address some common minor issues on your own, or wait to have them fixed at your next appointment with Dr. Lapsi:

  • Poking wire
  • Loose bracket
  • Loose elastic band
  • Loose wire
  • Loose appliance
  • Headgear does not fit
  • Lost or broken elastic band
  • General soreness

These minor issues may arise if you eat hard or sticky foods that damage your braces or other orthodontic appliances. Make sure to be extra careful, and avoid brushing your teeth too aggressively to avoid causing damage.

These problems should not be treated as emergencies unless they begin to cause prolonged pain and discomfort. If you notice this happening, contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office and we can provide a solution.

Some at-home remedies you can try can include covering loose brackets or wires with wax. Wax can prevent canker sores from forming by covering sharp metal pieces that poke into your gums. If you have wires that have poked out into your gums, you can use tweezers to push the wires gently away from the direction of the sore area. Always make sure you use alcohol to sterilize anything you intend to put into your mouth.

When you get braces initially, you may notice some soreness of the jaw or small abrasions from your mouth getting accustomed to foreign materials. You should not worry too much about this temporary pain.

A warm salt-water solution can be used to alleviate any swelling or discomfort you’re experiencing. Many drug stores have ointment for canker sores that will numb the area if they continue to bother you. If you notice that your pain or swelling doesn’t get better, schedule an appointment with a medical professional as soon as you can.

When in doubt, contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office if you are unsure or still have questions about an orthodontic problem you’re facing. If the situation becomes an emergency, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with our team, so we can help provide you with a solution.

Orthodontic emergencies should be taken care of promptly whenever they arise.

Summer Sports and Mouthguards

July 3rd, 2019

School’s out and you’ve emptied your gym locker until next fall. But while you’re stowing away the football gear, the basketball warm-ups, the field hockey sticks, and all the other equipment you’ve collected over the school year (that’s where that other shoe went!), be sure to keep one item handy: your mouthguard.

Team and contact sports like football, basketball, and wrestling aren’t the only potential dental dangers. In fact, almost any sport or activity can be made safer when you use your mouthguard.  While you’re keeping active and fit in the summer months, remember to look out for your smile.

  • Sports on wheels

Biking, skate boarding, rollerblading—it only takes one fall to make you realize that roads, sidewalks, and concrete are not ideal landing pads. If you do take a spill, using a mouthguard, along with your helmet, will help protect your teeth and jaw.

  • Court sports

Handball and tennis are not what we consider contact sports, but an unexpected bounce from a ball, or a completely unexpected backhand from your partner, can lead to dental injuries. Ace your workout and wear a mouthguard.

  • Water sports

A fall in the water can lead to a collision with your surfboard or water skis, and water polo often seems to be a game of stamina, accuracy and elbows. Wear your mouthguard on land and sea, and help reduce your chance of dental injury.

  • Team sports

Anyone who has played summer league baseball, softball or soccer knows that occasional contact with other players is pretty much a given. Cushioning your head, mouth, and teeth with a mouthguard will not only protect you, but keep you in the game—and your teammates will appreciate that!

If you already use a mouthguard, keep up the good work! If you don’t, talk to Dr. Lapsi about the importance of protecting your smile with a mouthguard. There are ready-made options available at drug stores and sporting goods shops. These will provide protection to your mouth and teeth, but can sometimes be bulky and uncomfortable and should never be used with braces. If you would like a mouth protector that provides the best fit and comfort, or if you wear braces, we can customize a mouthguard in our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office that will be a perfect fit for your teeth and bite.

Whatever activity you choose, play it smart! Don’t gear up without your mouthguard, and you’ll greet next year’s classes energized, fit, and sporting a beautiful smile!

Not-So-Sweet Sweets: The five worst candies to eat during orthodontic treatment

June 26th, 2019

Sticky, hard, and gooey: these candies fill your dopamine receptors with spasms of sugar-filled joy, but if you’re undergoing orthodontic treatment at Excel Dental and Orthodontics to straighten your teeth, then these sweets are not so sweet. While you may have a Willy-Wonka-sized sweet tooth, there are some candies you’re going to have to avoid while wearing braces.

Here are five bracket- and wire-destroying culprits that Dr. Lapsi and our team recommend leaving on the candy aisle and not put in your mouth, no matter how tempting they may be.

  1. Gum is sticky and stringy. It can get tangled like fishing net in your braces. You don’t want to be that boy or girl trying to pull knots of Wrigley’s out of your braces without being seen.
  2. All chewy, gooey candies need to be avoided. When you’re wearing braces, don’t even think about putting a caramel candy in your mouth. Caramel will not only stick to your braces, making it look as if you haven’t brushed your teeth in a week, but the gooey texture can pull apart the wires, and trigger an emergency visit to Excel Dental and Orthodontics.
  3. Hard candy may seem like a safe choice, but it’s not. What’s the problem? Nobody ever just sucks on hard candy; sooner or later, we bite down on it. Biting a hard candy may cause part of your braces to snap. Furthermore, once the candy is broken into a bunch of little pieces, it’s not uncommon for one of those sugary shards to get wedged between your braces and teeth … and that’s a cavity waiting to happen.
  4. The taffy you enjoy getting at a seaside boardwalk is going to have to go on the back burner. Like caramel, taffy can pull apart and damage your braces. You don’t want to have your expensive orthodontic gear replaced.
  5. Please, just one lollipop? Nope. A lollipop is nothing more than hard candy on a stick. If you can’t have hard candy during orthodontic treatment, then you shouldn't have hard candy on a stick either.

Have any more questions about what you can and can’t eat when you have braces? Please give us a call at our convenient Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office to learn more, or ask Dr. Lapsi during your next adjustment visit!

Post-Procedure Care

June 19th, 2019

As with any surgery, post-procedure care is of utmost importance after getting periodontal surgery. Bleeding, pain, swelling, and other sensations are common and should be expected to a degree. This can manifest as small amounts of blood in your saliva, pain after anesthesia wears off, and swelling around the lips and cheeks. However, these symptoms should start improving after a several days.

Below you'll find recommendations from Dr. Lapsi on what you should do to make your post-procedure experience as quick and painless as possible:

Don't smoke - After your surgery you should definitely not smoke. Smoking will inhibit your body's ability to heal the surgical site.

Don't drink alcohol - If you are taking prescription or over-the-counter pain relievers, don't drink alcohol. And it is a good idea in general to avoid alcohol after surgery, since excess alcohol consumption suppresses immune system function and slows the healing process.

Take pain medication as prescribed or an alternative - Pain is to be expected for at least the first week after your procedure. If you choose to take the prescription medication that is prescribed to you, do so as directed. However some patients have found over-the-counter pain medication works for them. You may also consider natural herbs instead of pharmacological solutions. Try turmeric, arnica, or white willow bark (which is what aspirin is derived from, so the same warnings for aspirin apply to white willow bark.)

Eating with your surgical site in mind - It is best to chew on the other side of your mouth for the first several days so as not to irritate the surgical site. Avoid overly cold or hot foods as well. Softer foods like mashed potatoes, oatmeal, and fruit will be more comfortable to chew.

Avoid brushing the surgical site - You can start brushing and flossing your teeth the day after the procedure but avoid the surgical site.

Don't rinse for the first 24 hours - After the first day has passed you can rinse with a mild mouthwash to keep your mouth, dressing, and surgical site clean.

We're here to answer any questions you have after your procedure and will help you as best we can. Pay special attention to any excessive bleeding or discomfort. Contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office immediately if you have tried addressing the issue on your own but are still having trouble.

How to Floss with Braces

June 12th, 2019

The Excel Dental and Orthodontics team knows that oral hygiene is important, whether you have braces on your teeth or not. But if you are a person who wears braces, caring for your teeth and gums can become somewhat challenging. Without daily oral hygiene practices, you may become prone to cavities and tooth decay during your time in braces.

Naturally, you know that brushing your teeth each morning and night, as well as after you eat, will help keep your mouth healthy and clean during the months you wear braces. But flossing is also an important part of your hygiene routine. Flossing with braces can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. Dr. Lapsi, your general dentist, or your dental hygienist can help you become more comfortable and adept at flossing your teeth during the months you wear braces.

Flossing Tips for Those with Braces

  • Use Tools Provided by Our Office. A floss threader is a small, plastic needle that will help you floss between the wires and your teeth. Thread a 12-to-18-inch piece of floss onto the needle, and use the needle to get the floss easily behind the wires.
  • Flossing Under the Wires. Once the floss is behind the wires, use your hands to manipulate the floss. Move it up and down along the wires to remove food particles.
  • Flossing Between Your Teeth. Floss between your teeth as you normally would without braces. Move the floss up and down between your teeth, using a clean section of floss for each tooth.
  • After You Finish Flossing. Your orthodontist may have suggested that you use a water pik or proxy brush after you finish brushing. Either of these tools will help remove any loosened food particles to ensure that your teeth and braces are clean.

Continue Good Oral Hygiene Habits

Good oral hygiene habits you use while wearing braces will help you achieve the beautiful smile you and the Excel Dental and Orthodontics team have been working toward. Once your braces are off, it may be tempting to slack off on the brushing and flossing. Don’t let yourself fall into any habits that will have a negative impact on your oral health or the attractive smile you waited for throughout the months you wore braces. See your general dentist for regular cleanings, and continue to brush and floss your teeth each day.

Summer Treats for Healthy Teeth

June 5th, 2019

School’s out for the summer, and it’s great to have the kids home. After all, they deserve a break after all their hard work. And you want to keep their vacation happy, relaxing, and fun—without letting them spend those summer months cooling off with sugary treats. What are some of your options for healthy hot weather snacks?

  • Naturally Sweet Treats

Keep a supply of fresh fruit handy for summer snacking. Crispy fruits like apples and Bosc pears actually provide a little scrubbing action for the teeth with their vitamins, and softer fruits such as bananas, berries, and, of course, watermelon, provide natural sweetness along with vitamins and minerals. Yogurt has valuable calcium for strong teeth and the vitamin D our bodies need to use that calcium. Add some fresh fruit to Greek yogurt for added flavor and sweetness—and even more vitamins.

  • Savory Snacks

Cheese is a calcium-rich snack, and crunchy carrots and celery help scrub teeth while providing vitamins and minerals. Do a little mixing and matching by adding some cream cheese to that celery for extra flavor. Serve up hummus and pita chips or cheese with whole grain crackers. They’re great nutritious alternatives to chips and dip.

  • Blender Blast

Summer’s the perfect time to use your culinary creativity and expand your child’s palate with vitamin-rich smoothies. Toss your favorite fruits in the blender with a little juice, non-fat yogurt, milk, or honey, whirl away, and you have a delicious, healthy snack. You can add a few leafy greens for even more nutritional value. There are many easy recipes online for creating homemade smoothies that will please any picky palate.

  • Freezer Favorites

Ice cream is a favorite summer treat, but it can also provide quite a sugar punch. There are many homemade frozen yogurt recipes available online which combine frozen fruit, yogurt, and honey for your own summer celebration, without adding large amounts of sugar. Or choose to stock your freezer shelves with low-sugar fruit pops, store bought or homemade.

  • On Tap

A soda or a sports drink are often the go-to hydration choices in the summer. You might already be careful about handing these drinks out because they can have such a high sugar content. But they can also create a very acidic environment in the mouth, which is harmful to tooth enamel. Water is the safest, healthiest option for hydrating in hot weather, and can even provide some of the fluoride which helps keep enamel strong.

Whatever is on your child’s summer menu, keep up with all those great dental habits you’ve already established. A limited number of snacks—even healthy ones—is best, and be sure to brush after snacking, or rinse with water if brushing’s not an option. And don’t forget to maintain your child’s normal schedule of brushing and flossing, and regular visits with Dr. Lapsi at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office.

Have a great summer, and send your kids back to school rested, relaxed, and with a healthy, happy smile. Then take a moment, relax, and sip that smoothie—after all, you deserve a break after all your hard work!

What is malocclusion?

May 29th, 2019

The term malocclusion refers to misalignment of teeth. You may have been born with malocclusion, so your teeth simply grew in crooked, or the misalignment and crowding of your teeth occurred over a period of time. Either way, not only can malocclusion pose cosmetic issues, but it can have a negative effect on your speaking and eating abilities as well.

Types of Malocclusion

Malocclusion encompasses multiple types and classifications of misalignment issues, including twisting or rotation of the teeth and molars that do not meet when you bite down. In some cases, the top front teeth are pushed outward in an upper protrusion.

In other cases, a misplaced midline results when the front top teeth don’t meet with the front bottom teeth. Transposition occurs when teeth protrude through the gums in a position where another tooth is supposed to be.

Practically any type of crowding or spacing issues, rotation or twisting of the teeth, or bite problem – including overbite, underbite, open bite, or crossbite – is included under the umbrella of malocclusion.

Malocclusion Classifications

There are three classifications of bite or misalignment problem.

  • Class 1 malocclusion: While the bite may be normal, the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth slightly. This is the most common type.
  • Class 2 malocclusion: Known as overbite or retrognathism, class 2 involves a severe overlap of the upper teeth and jaw over the bottom teeth and jaw.
  • Class 3 malocclusion: Known as underbite or prognathism, class 3 occurs when the lower teeth and jaw overlap the upper teeth and jaw. Thus, the lower jaw juts forward.

Causes of Malocclusion

The most common cause of malocclusion is genetics. However, there may be other causes, including the development of abnormally-shaped teeth, lost teeth, or impacted teeth; thumb sucking or overuse of a pacifier as a small child; having fillings or crowns that do not fit correctly; a serious injury that causes misalignment of the jaw; or developing a tumor of the mouth or jaw.

Treating Malocclusion

Orthodontic care at Excel Dental and Orthodontics with Dr. Lapsi is the main treatment available for malocclusion, which includes getting braces, Invisalign, or other corrective treatments. Treatment is ideal not just to have your smile improved, but because it makes the teeth easier to clean and maintain, lowers the risk of gum disease and tooth decay, and can even take pressure off the jaw and teeth.

Think about orthodontic treatment if you (or your child) display any signs of malocclusion. Early treatment of malocclusion during childhood can lessen expensive treatment later on.

Periodontics and Pregnancy

May 22nd, 2019

Periodontal health — which refers to the condition of the structures that support your teeth — is an important part of your oral and overall health. However, periodontal health becomes even more important when you're pregnant. Bad oral health can have detrimental effects on the health of your unborn child and can lead to low-birth weight babies and giving birth to a pre-term baby, according to reports by the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), the European Federation of Periodontology (EFP), and several research studies.

Periodontal disease (gum disease) is a set of chronic, bacteria-induced, inflammatory diseases that attack the gum tissue and in more severe cases, the bones supporting the teeth. Early signs of periodontal disease usually include tenderness, swelling, and redness. Symptoms can also include bleeding gums when flossing or brushing, receding gums, loose teeth, and bad breath. These signs shouldn't be ignored, especially if you're pregnant.

Prevention is the best tool you have to fight periodontal disease. Here are some steps you can take to keep your gums in tiptop shape:

  • Brush your teeth properly twice a day – angle your toothbrush at the gum line to help disrupt the bacterial growth that eventually leads to periodontal disease, and make sure you don't brush too hard.
  • Floss daily and clean behind the back molars on the top and bottom of your mouth.
  • Use antiseptic mouthwash to rid your mouth of the bacteria that can cause gum disease.
  • Get regular checkups at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office to ensure you have no signs of periodontal disease and that your oral hygiene habits are effective.

Dr. Lapsi and our team urge women to care for their periodontal health during pregnancy to avoid complications. If you have any questions regarding periodontal health and how it affects you and your baby's overall health, please contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office for more information.

The Many Benefits of Braces

May 15th, 2019

It’s true that orthodontic braces can give you a beautiful smile. But did you know there are other benefits of having braces than just getting perfectly straight teeth? Dr. Lapsi and our team want you to understand the other positives that can come out of having braces and relate to your oral health.

When teeth are crooked or crowded, it’s hard to brush and floss effectively. When there isn’t enough space in your mouth, bacteria and plaque can build up between these teeth. This can lead to serious issues like tooth decay and gum disease. When braces correct the spacing between teeth, and get rid of the tight spaces, patients are able to brush and floss more effectively and not miss essential areas of the mouth.

Surprisingly, braces can also address speech problems. They can shift problem teeth that may be causing embarrassing speech impediments. When an overbite or underbite gets adjusted, patients can pronounce certain words more clearly.

Spaces between teeth may also cause whistling, which braces can fix by closing off the gaps. Word slurring can also be improved with the help of braces by realignment of the jaw or teeth, which opens room for your tongue to move with greater ease.

Braces can also be helpful in supporting the bones and tissues in your mouth. Braces move periodontal ligaments by stretching the connective tissues and nerves. The bones naturally rebuild once they’re settled in their new spot.

Without support from poorly aligned teeth, gum tissue can erode. Braces help prevent erosion of the gums, and will alleviate pressure from the jawbone by fixing a bad bite over time.

If teeth are misplaced, they may not break down food effectively before it enters your stomach. Teeth aid with digestion when you can thoroughly chew your food. If your teeth are badly placed, braces can straighten them for optimal alignment. Once you can chew properly with the help of braces, your food will be more easily and fully digested.

If you have questions regarding braces and how they can help you, contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office and set up a consultation appointment. Braces can help with many oral health problems, and may save you a lot of money and time in the future.

If you’re not sure whether braces would be worth your time or money, consider the benefits above, and how they add to the value of this treatment. You’ll be getting more than just a beautiful smile!

 

Is Invisalign® Right For You?

May 8th, 2019

When patients ask Dr. Lapsi about who benefits from Invisalign clear aligners, the simple answer is this: almost everyone. Unlike conventional braces, they are removable, which makes eating and cleaning your teeth much easier.

They are molded to fit each patient’s mouth and are practically invisible. Because aligners apply less force in straightening teeth than metal braces, the risk of harm to your teeth is reduced.

Benefits to adults

Traditional braces are associated with children and teenagers. Many adults want to have their teeth straightened but hesitate to wear metal braces. They also worry about having to change their diet and not be able to eat the foods they normally enjoy.

If you are an adult who’s considering braces, our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics will tell you Invisalign aligners is a great option for discreet teeth straightening. Your teeth will be straightened with virtually invisible braces.

The aligners are easily removable when you eat, so you can enjoy any food you normally would consume. You simply clean your teeth normally after eating and you won’t have to worry about getting food stuck in your braces.

If there is a special occasion during which you do not want to have any braces in your mouth at all, you can remove the aligners for up to four hours without causing any damage.

Benefits to teenagers

Dr. Lapsi and our team know that teenagers are often involved in sports and other after-school activities, and generally lead pretty busy lives. If your teen plays a musical instrument, you may be concerned that having metal in his or her mouth will interfere with ability to play. Invisalign aligners avoid the damage that can happen with traditional metal braces.

For sports that require players to wear mouthguards, the expense of specially constructed mouthguards to fit over braces is also eliminated. The aligners can be removed during sports activities and teens can easily wear a mouthguard. Teenagers who play musical instruments simply remove the aligners while practicing or playing in the band or orchestra.

Teenagers routinely have trouble flossing teeth between the wires and brackets of traditional braces, but Invisalign allows for easy dental cleaning. Since Invisalign aligners are removable, brushing and flossing are simpler and more likely to be performed.

For more information about Invisalign or Invisalign Teen® treatment, or to schedule an initial consultation with Dr. Lapsi, please give us a call at our convenient Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

Why Adults Are Choosing Invisalign®

May 1st, 2019

These days, it’s become more common to see adults at our office getting their teeth straightened with Invisalign clear aligners . . . that is, if you can see them! Whether they are seeking to overcome the stigma that “braces are just for kids,” or simply want straighter teeth without a mouth full of metal, Invisalign is an effective and easy solution.

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, from 1994 to 2010 the number of adults 18 and older who request braces increased by 58 percent: from 680,000 to 1.1 million a year. Many adults enjoy how discreet the aligners are and that the user doesn’t need to avoid any foods or make dietary changes the way you would with traditional braces. Also, each treatment is unique to the patient.

With an Invisalign treatment, you can expect to enjoy the following benefits over traditional braces:

  • The total treatment time is more precise with Invisalign because your treatment is modeled by a computer. Traditional braces depend more on an estimate and aren’t as exact.
  • You’ll make fewer trips to our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, since you’re able to change your trays on your own every few weeks or whatever is prescribed.
  • Without brackets to place over your teeth, there’s less risk to the health of your tooth enamel.
  • Invisalign aligners are clear and practically invisible, so most people won’t even know you’re wearing them!

If you’re interested in Invisalign as a treatment option, please let Dr. Lapsi know. We’d be happy to help you on your journey to a straighter, healthier smile!

Ask Us about These Dental Treatments

April 24th, 2019

There are a few dental treatments that Dr. Lapsi and our team recommend for all patients to get if they wish to protect their oral health. Sometimes it’s hard for patients to decide which treatment plan would be best for their teeth. Learn about these three must-have treatments and how they can help protect your teeth in various ways.

Professional Cleanings

First, get a professional dental cleaning every six months. Regular cleanings can protect you from potential gum disease because they enable us to catch it early.

Cleanings also will get rid of plaque and tartar that have collected on your teeth over time. Oral health has been linked to your body’s overall health. We recommend scheduling your appointments in advance: Feel free to contact our practice’s Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills location if you forget when you scheduled your next visit. Our staff will be happy to assist you.

Periodontal Exams

We also recommend that all our patients at Excel Dental and Orthodontics receive a complete periodontal exam each year. You can ask about this during your regular, scheduled cleanings.

It’s a quick and painless procedure in which our hygienist probes each tooth to make sure the bone and soft tissue are healthy. If there’s a sign of infection, we will be able to treat it effectively before painful symptoms kick in.

Many adult patients are unaware that they have periodontal disease, and they may suffer the loss of a tooth if it goes untreated. Make sure you schedule a periodontal exam each year and save yourself a lot of time and pain.

Sealants

We also recommend dental sealants, particularly to protect your molars. Many people assume this treatment is just for kids to prevent cavities, but it can be used for adults too!

Sealants provide a protective barrier on your teeth that can help block against the buildup of plaque in those hard-to-reach areas in the back of your mouth. If you received sealants as a child, chances are they’ve worn off over time.

So if you want to save dental costs over the long haul, we recommend getting sealants again for cavity protection.

Dr. Lapsi and our team hope you take our advice when it comes to your oral hygiene and schedule regular appointments for your dental cleanings. We look forward to seeing you at your next appointment!

Caring for Your Invisalign® Aligners

April 17th, 2019

You’ve selected the Invisalign system because of the many benefits Invisalign offers: comfort, convenience, appearance, and even potentially shorter treatment time! And to add to the good news, caring for your Invisalign aligners is easy and uncomplicated. Follow these simple tips to keep your aligners in the best possible shape as you move through the stages of your treatment.

Stay Clean

  • Always brush and floss your teeth before using your aligners so that bacteria and food particles will not have a chance to collect around your teeth while you wear them.
  • When you brush your teeth, be sure to brush your aligners with a separate soft toothbrush and lukewarm water as well.
  • Rinse your aligners whenever you remove them during the day.
  • Soak your aligners as recommended. Use the Invisalign Cleaning System or ask our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills team for other suggestions to keep your aligners free from odor and bacteria.

Stay Clear

One of the reasons you chose Invisalign is for an almost invisible appearance. Why take a chance on discoloration or scratches that will make the appliance more noticeable? Here are some common mistakes that can affect the color of your aligners:

  • If your aligner has white spots, that might mean plaque build-up. Always rinse your aligner after you remove it and clean it thoroughly night and morning.
  • Brushing with anything other than a soft brush and brushing too hard can cause scratches in the material which might be noticeable. A gentle touch will work to clean and protect your aligners.
  • Eating with Invisalign aligners can cause staining. More important, it can cause the retention of food particles in the appliance, which can lead to dental problems. Finally, aligners are not meant for chewing—they might be damaged or lose their ideal shape even with soft foods. If you are going to be eating or drinking, take your aligners out, give them a rinse, and brush before you replace them. Or stick with water! Water will have no ill effects on teeth or aligners.
  • Only soak aligners in an appropriate solution. Harsh chemicals, colored mouthwashes, and even some toothpastes can dim or discolor the clear plastic.

Talk to Dr. Lapsi about the best products to use and the best methods for taking care of your aligners. After all, making the process of improving your smile as easy and effective as possible is yet another benefit of choosing Invisalign!

Caring for Your Smile after Invisalign® Treatment

April 10th, 2019

You went through a lot of effort and work to achieve your perfect smile. You wore your Invisalign aligner trays, brushed and flossed diligently, and now your treatment is done! What happens now?

In order to keep your teeth healthy and beautiful, you should keep several practices in play.

Retainers

Although everyone’s needs are different, many patients require a retainer after Invisalign treatment. If a retainer is recommended by Dr. Lapsi, use it as directed. Not wearing retainers could result in shifting teeth and potentially ruin your results.

It’s also recommended that you avoid hard, crunchy foods for the first few weeks as your teeth adjust. For younger patients, retainers are normally worn until the wisdom teeth come in or are extracted.

Brushing and Flossing

It should come as no surprise that flossing should still be done every day to remove plaque, which can develop into tartar or calculus. The build-up can lead to gingivitis and gum disease.

Your gums may be more sensitive for a week or two after your orthodontic work is completed. A warm saltwater rinse may relieve discomfort.

Because your teeth have been protected by your Invisalign aligners and are now fully exposed, they may be more sensitive the first few weeks after treatment. If that’s the case, we can recommend a sensitive toothpaste to relieve your discomfort. If your teeth are stained, a professional whitening treatment may be considered.

Regular Dental Checkups

Regular dental exams ensure your teeth stay healthy for life. Professional cleanings, X-rays, and cavity treatment can be addressed by staying on top of your routine checkups.

If you have any questions about how to care for your teeth after your Invisalign program, please ask our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills team. We want you to keep your healthy smile and enjoy the results of your Invisalign treatment.

Top Ways to Ensure You and Your Braces Have a Good Relationship

April 3rd, 2019

You and your braces will become good friends over the coming months or years, so it’s important to get your relationship off to a good start. Consider the following recommendations to prevent rocky times ahead:

  1. Floss, floss, floss. Yes, it’s a pain to floss around your braces, but it's the best way to prevent gum disease and other oral health problems. Ask Dr. Lapsi and our staff for floss threaders to make the chore easier. Just a few minutes per day will ensure that you don’t face significant dental health issues when the braces come off.
  2. Avoid sticky or hard foods. It’s tough to forgo toffee, caramel, gum, and other favorite sticky treats, but your braces will thank you. Sticky or hard foods can break a bracket or wire, so it’s best to avoid them altogether.
  3. Chew with your back teeth. If you’re used to taking large bites with your front teeth, it might be time to switch your eating habits. Taking a large bite of food with your front teeth can leave your braces vulnerable to damage. Instead, cut large foods into pieces and use your back teeth to chew. This is especially important with corn on the cob, which should always be cut from the cob.
  4. Wear rubber bands and headgear. Rubber bands, headgear, and other orthodontic appliances may seem annoying, but failing to comply with wearing them can increase the length of your treatment by months. Wear them now to avoid problems in the future.

Adults and Braces

March 27th, 2019

Nowadays, many adults are taking advantage of getting straighter teeth with braces. Dr. Lapsi and our team love to help patients create the dazzling, confident smile they’ve always wanted.

Our adult patients usually fall into two categories: some had braces in the past but didn’t wear their retainers, while others are brand-new to wearing braces. Either way, both groups want the same thing: straighter teeth and a beautiful smile!

You will have several options for getting braces, depending on your financial situation and how quickly you would like your treatment to finish. Traditional metal braces are a less-expensive option and can help people who have severely crooked teeth. But many adults may not prefer this option because they dislike the appearance of metal brackets.

If you’re concerned about how you’ll look, we offer clear ceramic braces that aren’t as visible. These are more expensive than metal braces, and patients need to be careful with colored drinks that can stain them, such as coffee or red wine.

Another popular option is a clear aligner treatment called Invisalign®. This type is practically invisible; it uses a series of aligners that are customized to fit your teeth. The process of straightening your teeth can last anywhere from three to 18 months. For people who have extreme bite problems or crowded teeth, a different method may work better.

Don’t hesitate to call our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office today to set up a consultation. Dr. Lapsi will help you choose the best option so you can be on your way to a straighter, more confident smile!

I have fluoride toothpaste and fluoridated water; do I need a fluoride treatment?

March 20th, 2019

Fluoride is a naturally found ion with a history of greatly reducing the incidence of tooth decay in children. However, over the past decade, people have increasingly consumed bottled water, most of which does not contain fluoride, and children are no longer getting the recommended dosage of fluoride. In addition, many areas do not add the optimum amount of fluoride to the town drinking water.

Everyone’s dental needs are different. The amount of fluoride a person needs is determined by age (children), tooth sensitivity, risk for cavities, and medical conditions. When a patient needs additional fluoride it can be applied in a foam or varnish.

Children receive additional topical fluoride because teeth in the early development stages have a higher mineral uptake. The future strength of the enamel depends on this. When a tooth absorbs the fluoride ion, it creates hydroxyapatite, a harder mineral compound than enamel alone.

Those who have a dry mouth from medication also need extra fluoride. A daily fluoride rinse and a semi-annual fluoride varnish treatment are standard. If you are on medicine for high blood pressure, anxiety, diabetes, depression, or cholesterol, you may fit in this category.

Cancer treatments can also greatly impact your oral health. Fluoride varnish treatments prior to, during, and after radiation and chemotherapy can be beneficial. There are other mouth conditions which coincide with cancer treatments which make it difficult to brush and floss daily, and can contribute to an increased risk for decay. An infection during cancer treatment can be especially harmful, which is why preventive measures are important.

Fluoride treatments, administered topically, are highly beneficial in preventing decay. Feel free to call Excel Dental and Orthodontics to schedule an appointment or if you have any questions.

When should my child be seen for an orthodontic evaluation?

March 13th, 2019

Thanks for asking! It really depends on the dental age of the patient rather than their chronological age. Usually a good time to have your child evaluated by an orthodontist is after the front permanent teeth have erupted into the mouth or if there appears to be extreme crowding of the teeth.

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children between the ages of seven and nine should be evaluated by an orthodontist. There are times when an early developmental treatment is indicated to correct situations before they become major problems. In these circumstances the patient will most likely benefit from a second phase of orthodontics when all of their permanent teeth have erupted.

Most full orthodontic treatment begins between ages nine and 14, and lasts from one to three years, with two years being the average. It’s important, however, that children be screened at an early age for Dr. Lapsi and our staff to assess if your child can benefit from orthodontic treatment and when treatment should begin.

We hope this helps, and invite you to give us a call if you have any questions about your child’s treatment at Excel Dental and Orthodontics.

What NOT to Eat after Wisdom Teeth Extraction

March 6th, 2019

Now that you’re having your wisdom teeth removed at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office, you’re probably looking forward to spending a few days on the couch with a cool dish of ice cream in hand. Good! Give yourself time to heal, and choose foods that will be soothing and safe for your mouth as you recover. We’ll provide you with detailed instructions on how to take care of yourself immediately after your surgery, and that includes suggesting the best menu options.

But while you’re making your post-wisdom teeth shopping list, there are several kinds of foods and beverages that should be crossed right off. If it’s small, spicy, sticky, or steamy, put it back on the shelf. Spirits? Not this round. Drinks with straws? Absolutely not. Items like these can undermine your healing and recovery.

  • Small and Crunchy

Any small particles, such as seeds or grains, or items like cookies, crackers, nuts, and popcorn which turn into small particles, can wind up lodged in the surgical site where your tooth was removed. These particles can also interfere with the blood clot that forms to protect the socket as it heals. If the clot is dislodged, there is a chance that a painful condition called “dry socket” can develop.

  • Spicy

Spicy and acidic foods can irritate delicate gum tissue. It’s best to wait until your gums are back to normal before uncapping the hot sauce.

  • Sticky

Sticky, crunchy, and chewy foods can be hard on the extraction site, so stick to a soft diet until you have healed. Now is the time to try all the pudding flavors!

  • Steamy

Piping hot foods and drinks can interfere with the protective clot—ask us about the best time to resume your morning coffee.

  • Spirits

Mixing pain medication and alcohol can be dangerous. Talk to Dr. Lapsi about possible interactions. And some studies have suggested that alcohol use slows healing, so even without pain medication, it could be a good idea to wait until you are healed to toast your beautiful smile.

  • Straws

And last, but by no means least, leave the straws in their little paper wrappers! Any kind of suction brings a real risk of dislodging the protective blood clot that has formed at the surgical site. Milkshakes are delicious, but eat them with a spoon. (And please, no cigarettes!)

Follow our suggestions for a soothing, safe diet, and you will be enjoying your regular menu favorites in no time. So rest, relax, eat sensibly, and enjoy that second bowl of ice cream. Doctor’s orders!

How does whitening toothpaste work and how effective it is at whitening teeth?

February 27th, 2019

Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste that has the American Dental Association seal of approval can help prevent tooth decay and relieve other conditions, such as bad breath, sensitive teeth, and gingivitis.

Beyond these health effects, another motivation for frequently brushing your teeth with high-quality toothpaste is to keep your teeth white. If you want whiter teeth but do not want to undergo in-office or at-home bleaching treatments, you might consider choosing whitening toothpaste for your daily brushing.

Why Consider Whitening Toothpaste

Whiter teeth are more attractive, which can help you feel more confident in your smile. Your smile is also one of the main components of the first impression you make on people in your professional and personal life. Having a whiter smile and greater self-assurance can send the message that you take care of yourself and are confident in your abilities.

How Whitening Toothpaste Works

The American Dental Association explains that all toothpaste has whitening properties because they help remove food particles from your teeth. To carry the American Dental Association seal for whitening, however, toothpaste must contain certain chemicals that help remove stains.

Unlike bleaching products, which contain carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide, whitening toothpaste only cleans the enamel rather than changing the color of your teeth. To obtain the benefits of whitening toothpaste, you need to use it regularly.

The Effectiveness of Whitening Toothpaste Varies

Due to individual variations in the color of your teeth, some people are more likely than others to achieve the desired results with whitening. Teeth that are tinted grayish are unlikely to respond well to bleaching, while brown teeth can sometimes respond, and yellowish teeth are most likely to become pearly white with bleaching.

If Dr. Lapsi and our staff believe that bleaching is not a viable option for you, proper oral hygiene and the use of a whitening toothpaste are your best bets for keeping your teeth as white as possible. In addition, avoid using tobacco products, and rinse your mouth after drinking coffee.

What happens if I have an orthodontic emergency while I'm on vacation?

February 20th, 2019

At Excel Dental and Orthodontics, there are a few things we want to remind you of when you're on vacation, so that a day with friends and family won’t be spent dealing with an orthodontic emergency. Firstly, we are here for you whether you are in town or out of town on vacation. Give us a call and we may be able to address the problem over the phone. Second, if we are unable to help you fix the problem over the phone, we will help you find an orthodontic practice in your vacation area that can help you.

If you experience problems reaching our office, we suggest going online and searching for orthodontic practices in your area. Most orthodontists will lend a helping hand to another orthodontic patient and get them out of pain or discomfort.

If you have braces, whether they are metal, ceramic, or lingual, Dr. Lapsi and our team suggest steering clear of the following foods to avoid broken brackets and/or wire distortion while you are on vacation:

  • Chewy, sticky, or gummy food
  • Apples, pears and other whole fruits (cut fruit into thin wedges before consuming)
  • Bagels and hard rolls
  • Bubble gum
  • Corn on the cob
  • Hard candies
  • Hard cookies
  • Pretzels
  • All varieties of nuts, including peanuts, almonds, and cashews

Finally, if you have clear aligners and you lose your tray, don’t worry! Simply put in either the previous tray or the next tray and contact us as soon as you get home!

Follow these tips and you can have a worry-free vacation!

Team Dark Chocolate

February 13th, 2019

Valentine’s Day is the holiday to celebrate all the treasured relationships in your life. It’s a time to honor love in all shapes and forms with cards, social gatherings, and sometimes even binge eating of sweets.

It's hard to look the other way when grocery stores and pharmacies are invaded with goodies connected to the Valentine’s Day theme, and especially if you’re on the receiving end of some of these sweets. We get it. In fact, we’re all for it!

However, we also support a cavity-free smile. So in the interest of your dental and general health, and because we think it’s genuinely tasty, Dr. Lapsi recommends an alternative to the Valentine treats you may be accustomed to: dark chocolate. 

Yes, Healthy Chocolate Exists

Studies have shown that dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, an ingredient found in the cocoa beans used to make chocolate. Flavonoids can help protect the body against toxins, reduce blood pressure, and improve blood flow to the heart and brain.

By opting for dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate, you get to reap these benefits! Pretty sweet, right? Just make sure to stick to high-quality dark chocolates that have undergone minimal processing.

Dark Chocolate, AKA Protector of Teeth

Not only does dark chocolate provide some nice benefits for your overall health, it also helps protect your teeth against cavities! According to the Texas A&M Health Science Center, dark chocolate contains high amounts of tannins, another ingredient present in cocoa beans.

Tannins can actually help prevent cavities by interfering with the bacteria that causes them. Think of them as scarecrows for bacteria. They don’t always prevail, but isn’t it nice to have them there?

Smooth Never Sticky

Unlike many popular candies, dark chocolate is less likely to stick in the crevices of your teeth. Chewy, gooey sweets are more likely to hang around in your mouth for longer periods of time, which means they raise the odds of your harboring cavity-creating bacteria.

While some dark chocolates have additives like caramel or marshmallow, it’s best to opt for the plain varieties, which are just as delicious. If you’re feeling festive, though, a dark chocolate with caramel is still better than a milk chocolate with caramel, so that’s the way to go!

While dark chocolate has some pretty sweet benefits, the most important thing to remember (whether you go the dark chocolate route or not), is that moderation is key. That being said, we hope you have fun satisfying your sweet tooth and shopping for treats for your friends and loved ones. Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at Excel Dental and Orthodontics!

Orthodontic Care on the Go!

February 6th, 2019

Whether you’re heading out for a day with friends or running from classroom to volleyball practice, you don’t always have the luxury of taking care of your braces or aligners in the comfort of your home. But don’t stress! Here are some suggestions for handy items you can take with you to handle most of the dental situations that might come up.

Basic Care Kit

  • Travel Toothbrush—the perfect size for quick cleanings after a meal on the go. You might want to bring a travel size tube of toothpaste as well.
  • Dental Floss, Threader, and Dental Picks—you don’t want something stuck in your teeth or braces through three hours of play rehearsal.
  • Water Bottle—if you don’t have time to brush, a good rinse will help keep teeth and appliances clean.
  • Small Mirror—to make sure your smile is picture perfect after eating.
  • Our office phone number—just in case. If something happens to your braces or aligners, or if you suffer a dental emergency, call our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office immediately.

For Braces

  • Orthodontic Wax—if one of your brackets is irritating your mouth, you’ll be ready.
  • Braces-Friendly Snacks—soft, healthy foods that will help keep your energy up while keeping your braces intact.

For Aligners or a Retainer

  • Your case! If you need to take your aligners or retainer out, use your case to protect them and keep them from getting lost. You have better things to do after lunch than sifting through a garbage can full of used napkins. Much better things.

All of these items can fit easily in a case or bag in your glove compartment, locker, or backpack. Want more tips? Talk to Dr. Lapsi and our team on your next visit, and let’s work together to make caring for your orthodontic appliances a quick and convenient addition to your busy schedule!

What are the benefits of early orthodontic treatment?

January 30th, 2019

Orthodontic treatment should begin earlier than most parents are apt to assume. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, orthodontic treatment should start at around seven years of age.

Dr. Lapsi can evaluate your child’s existing and incoming teeth early on to determine whether treatment might be necessary or not.

What is early orthodontic treatment?

Early orthodontic treatment usually begins when a child is eight or nine years old. In stage one, bite problems such as underbites and the jaw’s growth pattern are corrected. It can also help to make room in the mouth for the permanent teeth to take their proper places as they come in, which reduces the chance that the patient will require extractions later, due to overcrowding.

Does your child need early orthodontic treatment?

If you notice any of the following characteristics in your son or daughter, you may want to have a chat with Dr. Lapsi.

  • Early loss of baby teeth (before age five)
  • Late loss of baby teeth (after age five or six)
  • Your child’s teeth do not meet properly or at all
  • Your child is a mouth breather
  • Front teeth are crowded (you probably wouldn’t see this until your child is about seven or eight)
  • Protruding teeth, typically in the front
  • Biting or chewing difficulties
  • A speech impediment
  • Your child’s jaw shifts when he or she opens or closes the mouth
  • Your child is older than five years and still sucks a thumb

 

What are the benefits of seeking orthodontic treatment early?

There are many benefits to early orthodontic treatment. One of the biggest is that, because a child’s jaw and bones are soft and pliable, corrective procedures such as braces can work much faster than they do for adults.

Treatment at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office can enable your child to avoid lengthy procedures, extraction, or surgery in adulthood. Early orthodontic care will give your son or daughter a healthy, stable smile.

Top Five Ways to Improve Heart Health

January 23rd, 2019

While there is no definite evidence that if your prevent gum diseases, like periodontitis, that you may be able to prevent a heart condition or heart disease. The only thing experts, like Dr. Lapsi, know for sure is that if you take care of your gums it can lessen atherosclerosis, (build-up of artery clogging plaque) that may result in a heart attack or stroke.

Could periodontal disease cause heart attacks?

Regardless of your oral health, if you're at a high risk for heart disease, you need to take action.

  • Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight.
  • Consume healthy foods and beverages.
  • Exercise several days the week. Walking is a powerful and lightweight exercise and will clear your head while helping your body get or stay healthy.
  • Control any medical conditions you may have such as high cholesterol, diabetes, or high blood pressure.
  • Reduce your stress. Have lunch with a friend, go for a walk in the park, take a bubble bath, mediate, or do whatever you find relaxing.
  • Get a social life. Laughing reduces stress and “feel good” hormones. Everyone needs to feel like they are a part of something: join a book club or any activity where you can interact with other people at least once or twice a week
  • Be sure to get enough sleep. The recommended amount is eight to nine hours a night. It has been proven that a lack of sleep increases your risk for angina, strokes, and heart attacks.
  • Practice good oral hygiene to keep bacteria in check and your mouth healthy.

Contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office if you have questions about your heart and oral health. If you take practice good oral hygiene, both your mouth and your heart will thank you.

Three Signs You May Have Gingivitis

January 16th, 2019

Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, is an early stage of gum disease. If you have gingivitis, it’s important to visit Dr. Lapsi 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. Lapsi 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. Lapsi to keep it in check. Contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office to schedule an exam today!

Electric Toothbrushes vs. Regular Toothbrushes

January 9th, 2019

Convertible or sedan? Downtown or suburbs? Electric or manual toothbrush? As life decisions go, it’s certainly not choosing your next car, or deciding where you want to live. But, even when you are selecting a toothbrush, it helps to make a list of the pros and cons of the contenders before you make that final selection.

  • Efficiency

The most important factor in choosing a toothbrush is finding out which model works best to eliminate bacteria and plaque. And studies have shown that, used properly, both electric and manual toothbrushes do a great job of removing plaque. Some electric models can reach the backs of teeth and the gumline more easily, some manual head designs work better for your individual mouth and teeth, so your particular needs should dictate which style of toothbrush you use. Talk to us about the best methods to brush with your preferred toothbrush, and we’ll let you know if one type of toothbrush or the other might work better for you.

  • Health Considerations

Brushing too energetically can actually harm teeth and gums, causing sensitivity and damage to the enamel and gum tissue. An electric toothbrush should provide a continuous brushing motion without needing any pressure from the brusher. This might be the model for you if you have a too-vigorous approach to brushing, or sensitive teeth and gums.

An electric toothbrush can also be more efficient for older and younger brushers, those with limited mobility, and those with health conditions or injuries that make brushing with a regular toothbrush more difficult.

  • Cost

An electric toothbrush is not a one-time investment. You should change the removable head as often as you change your manual toothbrush (every three to four months, please). But this cost is offset if an electric toothbrush is more efficient in removing your plaque, easier to use, or even if you just prefer it to manual brushing. If you find that you brush better and more often with an electric toothbrush, the added expense is well worth it.

Whichever brush you decide on, the most important part of the brush is the person holding it! A regular appointment with your toothbrush for two minutes of thorough brushing in the morning and two in the evening, daily flossing, and regular visits to our office for checkups and cleanings will keep your teeth healthy and strong no matter which toothbrush you choose.

Questions about your toothbrush choices? Don’t hesitate to ask Dr. Lapsi at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office.

Tooth Protection and Winter Sports

January 2nd, 2019

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 Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills 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.

Things You Probably Didn’t Know About New Year's Eve

December 26th, 2018

It’s no secret that New Year’s Eve is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world. Dr. Lapsi and our team love it too. It’s a fresh start, another year of surviving the crazy world we live in, a time to refocus on the things we want for ourselves, a celebration with those we love … the list goes on.

Dozens of countries welcome the New Year with over-the-top parties and celebrations. Because it’s a public holiday, many offices, businesses, and schools close for the day. As you think about your plans for this holiday, here are some fun facts about New Year’s that might surprise you!

Can you guess what the most common New Year’s resolutions are? You may already have one or two of these on your own personal list. The top five New Year’s resolutions are: to quit smoking, get a new job, lose weight, increase personal savings, and return to school. Just remember that coming up with a concrete plan to reach your goals is the surest way to achieve your resolutions!

About one million people brave the cold to watch the New Year’s Eve ball drop in New York City’s Times Square in person. Yes, that’s one million! This event is one of the most iconic celebrations in the world. People travel from all over just to experience it, but you can watch from the warmth and comfort of your living room.

If you’re not a fan of cabbage, collard greens, black-eyed peas, or ham hocks, you might want to revise your tastes. All these foods are all regarded as lucky fare on New Year’s Day. Unless you’re allergic, of course!

For many people in Mexico and Latin America, eating 12 grapes at midnight is a tradition that brings good luck in the 12 coming months. Most people even make a wish per grape!

Whether you’re celebrating in Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills or traveling elsewhere to observe the holiday, New Year’s Eve is a time to enjoy the company of your friends and family. Don’t forget to send warm wishes to your loved ones, and snag a midnight kiss with that special someone if you can!

I drink a lot of coffee. Could it be hurting my smile?

December 19th, 2018

At Excel Dental and Orthodontics, we know most of our patients enjoy a cup of coffee or two throughout the day. But what many of you don’t know is that coffee can be especially tough on your teeth because tannic acid (the substance that makes the dark color) etches into the pits and grooves of tooth enamel, staining your pearly whites and being generally detrimental to your smile.

Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world, with more than 50 percent of people drinking a cup daily. Other foods and drinks such as wine, chocolate-flavored beverages, and soft drinks can all cause tooth enamel discolorations. A hot cup of Joe, however, goes one step farther: extreme temperature changes in your mouth can cause teeth to expand and contract. This allows stains to penetrate deep into the micro-cracks of your tooth enamel.

Additionally, caffeine is considered a diuretic, which means it causes the body to lose fluids. So when you enjoy coffee or any kind of caffeinated beverage, it slows the production of saliva and causes dry mouth, which can potentially lead to bad breath and even tooth decay.

If you just can't make it through the day without a cup of java, we encourage you to consider these tips to help make sure your teeth stay in tip-top shape:

    • Drink a glass of water with your coffee or rinse with a glass of water after every cup. Not only does it help neutralize and rinse away the acid left behind from the coffee, but it also helps replenish fluids drawn out of your body by caffeine.
    • Chew gum after you drink coffee. Chewing gum will help keep your saliva production up and prevent dry mouth.
    • Enjoy your beverage with a straw so that tannins don’t make contact with your front upper and lower teeth.
    • Switch to decaf. Each cup of regular coffee you drink has an average of 110 milligrams of caffeine. Decaf has the same great taste with only two to 12 milligrams of caffeine.

Dr. Lapsi and our team also invite you to visit our convenient Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office for whitening options. We can help bleach your teeth with proven and professional products. To learn more about whitening options available at Excel Dental and Orthodontics, please give us a call!

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

December 12th, 2018

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. Lapsi 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 Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills 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.

Mouthguard Q&A

December 5th, 2018

Today, Dr. Lapsi and our team at Excel Dental and Orthodontics thought we would talk about mouthguards, what they are, where to get them, and when to use them.

Q: What is a mouthguard?

A: A mouthguard, which is made of soft plastic, is a flexible, removable device that fits in your mouth and is adapted to fit comfortably to the shape of your upper teeth. A mouthguard will protect not only the teeth, but also your jaws, lips, tongue, cheeks, and gums, and should be worn anytime you are participating in full-contact athletic or recreational activities that may result in injury.

Q: How do mouthguards work? Why are mouthguards important?

A: A mouthguard works as a shock absorber to cushion your mouth from the effects of a blow to the face, head, or neck. Mouthguards protect teeth from not only fractures, but also hold the tongue, lips, and cheeks away from the teeth to avoid lacerations. Using a mouthguard as instructed by Dr. Lapsi can lessen the possibility of concussion and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dislocation while you are out on the court or field. Increasingly, organized sports are requiring mouthguards to prevent injury to athletes, and research shows most mouth injuries occur when athletes are not wearing mouth protection.

Q: When should I wear a mouthguard?

A: Whenever you are participating in an activity that involves a risk of falling or head contact with other players. This includes football, baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, and other competitive sports.

Q: How do I choose a mouthguard?

A: Dr. Lapsi and our team encourage you to choose a mouthguard that you can wear comfortably. There are several options of mouthguards you may choose from. First, preformed or what we call “boil-to-fit” mouthguards are found in sports stores. But your best choice is asking us for one during your next visit as we can fabricate a custom mouthguard for you at our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office. A custom mouthguard will be more comfortable to wear and more effective in preventing injuries.

If you have any additional questions about mouthguards, please give us a call or ask us during your next visit!

Suffer from Dental Anxiety? Not a Problem.

November 28th, 2018

If you suffer from dental anxiety, we understand that paying a visit to our office can seem like a nearly impossible mission. Regardless of what the root of that anxiety might be, we’re here to tell you that at Excel Dental and Orthodontics, you have no need to be nervous. Our office is dedicated to making your dental experience as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

One of the best things to do if you experience dental anxiety is call our office in advance to let us know. By notifying us in advance, you give us the opportunity to provide you with the dental care you need in the way you need it.

We can prescribe a relaxation medication for you. During your appointment, we can provide a little bit of laughing gas to put you more at ease, teach you some behavioral techniques for relaxation, and make sure you’re never in the dark about what’s happening.

If dental anxiety makes you feel embarrassed, please be assured that you’re not alone. Studies show that as much as 75% of adults suffer some degree of dental anxiety! It might be helpful to remember that your doctor’s goal is the same as yours: We are here to keep your oral health in check so you can be your healthiest self. We certainly don’t want to make you uncomfortable in the process.

If you have any questions about other ways in which we can accommodate you during your visits, please don’t hesitate to contact our Carlsbad, Mission Viejo, or Laguna Hills office!

How Braces Can Work at Any Age

November 21st, 2018

Are you an adult who is considering getting braces? Perhaps you’ve had them before, but over the years that dental work has been reversed. Or maybe you’ve never had any orthodontic work done, but are considering braces for the first time. In either case, Excel Dental and Orthodontics can help you enjoy straighter teeth, an improved bite, and a more beautiful smile. If you are considering getting braces, here is what you need to know about adult orthodontic work from Dr. Lapsi.

Can braces work for adults?

Absolutely! Braces work for just about anyone. However, there are several different types of braces, and not all of them may work for you. Different types of orthodontic treatments include:

  • Ceramic braces
  • Metal braces
  • Self-ligating brackets
  • Lingual brackets (braces behind the teeth)
  • Invisible braces
  • Rubber bands for bite correction
  • Headgear and other appliances

By scheduling a consultation, we can determine which treatment or combination of treatments would be best for your specific needs.

How do I get started?

Getting braces can be a little bit daunting. At first glance, the process may appear expensive and time-consuming. However, if you take it step by step, getting braces can be a simple and relatively pain-free experience. Here are the first steps you need to take to get on the road to straight teeth:

First, you need information. If you are nervous about getting braces, or are having trouble getting started, learning more about the process can help ease your mind. Here are a few sample questions to ask:

  • What kind of braces do you recommend for my teeth?
  • How long will the treatment take?
  • How often will I need to come in for adjustments?
  • What is the total cost of the treatment? Do you accept insurance? Will you require the full amount up front, or do you have payment plans?