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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.

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