Why Doesn’t My Insurance Cover This? | Alhambra Dentist

One of the most commonly asked questions is, “Why doesn’t my insurance cover this?” There is no such thing as dental Insurance. The term insurance means protection against loss.

Dental plans do not insure the patient against loss of any kind. That is why dental plans never include the word “insurance” after their name. Dental plans do not fully insure you for the expenses needed to keep you in good dental health for life.

Dental plans are merely a collection of benefits determined through negotiation between the dental plan representatives and employers. These benefits are based on what the employer can afford to pay. Therefore, the higher the premium paid by the employer, the better your benefits will be. These benefits will help defray the cost of treatment covered by the plan.

If a dental procedure is not covered, it means that the premium paid by your employer does not allow for this procedure to be covered. Again, your dental plan does not insure you against loss of dental health. If you allow your dental coverage to determine your dental treatment, you can place your teeth at risk of inadequate treatment, lack of treatment altogether or recurrence of a disease. Your dental plan cannot be held responsible for the loss of your teeth as a result of lack of treatment or under-treatment.

The good news is that most standard procedures needed are likely to be covered at least to a certain extent. The actual amount covered for a particular procedure depends on what your dental plan decides is the “usual, customary and reasonable” (UCR) fee for that procedure. The bad news is that UCR’s vary greatly among dental plan carriers. Sometimes the same carrier has different UCR’s for different policies. Some plans cover very little, while others cover more. Your dentist, however, can generally estimate the amount that would be covered based upon previous experience and can help you negotiate the complicities of dental plans.

Sometimes the amount of benefits covered is lower than what the patient expects; this is due to the fact that the annual maximum of most dental plans is $1000 to $1500. This annual maximum was adopted in the 1960’s and has been the standard for approximately 50 years. Inflation over 50 years has eroded the value of the annual maximum. Nevertheless, this amount of benefits is still substantial and should be properly and intelligently utilized. For example, your dentist may offer you the option of postponing some non-urgent treatment until the next calendar or contract year so that you can take advantage of the next year maximum. No matter what kind of plan you have, your dentist is likely to recommend that you not leave that yearly benefit unused when treatment is necessary.

If you believe a procedure should be covered better than estimated, inform your employer of the problem. Your employer can most effectively correct the problem for you because the employer is paying the monthly premiums and has the option of not renewing the contract at the end of the contract period (generally November). Engaging the help of your employer or your personnel department would probably be the most effective way to address the issue. In the meantime, if you want to proceed with a procedure that is not covered but find it hard to afford it, discuss the problem with the dental office staff. Most offices offer extended payment plans, sponsored by financial institutions that offer no interest or relatively competitive interest rates.

There is nothing more important than a healthy smile. However, keeping your smile white and beautiful will sometimes require a financial commitment that might be temporarily uncomfortable, but remember that a smile is the universal language and “when you give someone a smile, the world smiles back.”

If you would like more information about dental insurance, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Conquer Tooth Decay with Sugar? | Alhambra Dentist

Yes! A new kind of sugar, called xylitol, when incorporated into chewing gum, can not only prevent tooth decay, but may also help “re-mineralize” or heal small cavities that have not penetrated the enamel, according to an article published in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA). This article states, “The evidence is strong enough to support the regular use of xylitol-sweetened gum as a way to prevent caries, and it can be promoted as a public-health preventive measure.”

To understand how xylitol can prevent tooth decay it is important to understand how cavities are formed. Sugar does not directly cause cavities. Rather, sugar introduced into the mouth is converted into acid by bacteria (e.g., Streptococcus mutans) in dental plaque. The increased acidity of the plaque causes “demineralization” of the enamel, which is the highly mineralized, hard covering layer of the crown of the tooth. The reason xylitol is effective in preventing cavities is that its chemical properties does not allow microorganisms to convert it into acid. Furthermore, unlike common sugars, xylitol does not decrease the pH (increase acidity) in dental plaque that would result in more acid formation. In fact, chewing xylitol gum has been shown in some studies to lower plaque formation. Other studies seem to indicate that regular use of xylitol gum can “re-mineralize” enamel undergoing the initial stages of chemical breakdown.

Xylitol tastes almost the same as sorbitol-sweetened gum (sugar-free gum). Xylitol, according to the JADA article, is more beneficial “in terms of reducing caries risk than does sorbitol-sweetened gum.” Sorbitol-sweetened gum is a “low cariogenic sweetener” rather than a “non-cariogenic sweetener”, such as xylitol.

Xylitol contains only 2 grams of sugar in two sticks of gum. Substituting some xylitol products in the diet can significantly reduce caloric intake. Consider the fact that the average consumption of all sugar is 141.5 pounds per capita in the U.S. in 2003. Much of the sugar intake has come in the form of sodas and juices, both of which have replaced milk and formula in the diets of infants and young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics has strongly opposed the practice of manufacturers of sodas and juices in contracting with school districts for the sole right to stock vending machines in the schools, known as “pouring rights.”

Another interesting discovery is that the regular use of xylitol may interrupt the transmission of cavity-causing bacteria from mother to child, according to a study from Finland. It was reported that there was a “significant reduction in the colonization of mutans streptococci” in the saliva of the infants in this study which involved 195 mother-infant pairs. The cavity rate of the children in the xylitol group was 70% lower than the other groups.

It is recommended by some dental experts that it is beneficial to have a regimen of chewing xylitol-sweetened gum three to five times a day for minimum of five minutes to inhibit plaque accumulation and chemical breakdown of enamel. In combination with regular home care and visits to the dentist, xylitol can be a beneficial adjunct to maintaining your smile for a lifetime. Check with your dentist as to whether xylitol may be right for you.

If you would like more information about cavity prevention, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Snoring Treatable by Dental Device | Alhambra Dentist

A physician, Dr. Smith (not his real name), mentioned at his dental visit that he snores heavily and that recently his condition has been diagnosed as obstructive sleep apnea. Dr. Smith said that he had read that a certain kind of dental device can treat this condition and wanted to know whether he is a suitable candidate.

Sleep apnea occurs where there are episodes of cessation of breathing lasting 10 seconds or longer during sleep. The failure to breath triggers the brain to awaken briefly in order to reinitiate the breathing process. These arousals are so brief that they generally go unremembered. But the results of these frequent interruptions are daytime sleepiness, which may lead to disruption of work and social life. Difficulties with concentration, memory are some of the other symptoms. Severe sleep apnea may lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, heart attack and stroke.

Sleep apnea is estimated to affect about of 10% men between the ages of 30 to 50, but also has been found in both sexes of all ages. The most frequent form of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, in which the cessation of breathing is most often caused by excessive relaxation of the muscles at the back of the throat.

Dr. Smith was aware that medical remedies include the use of continuous positive airway pressure (C- PAP) which involves the use of wearing a mask over the nose and mouth. Air from a compressor forces air through the mask to keep the airway open. Surgical procedures involve the excising of excess tissue at the back of the throat, such as enlarged tonsils and adenoids. However, Dr. Smith cannot sleep with the C- PAP mask and does not want surgery. He was interested in the mandibular advancement appliance that has been used to treat obstructive sleep apnea.

This dental device consists of two retainer-like plastic covers. One fits over the upper teeth and the other over the lower teeth. These two retainers are joined together by “connectors” which maintain the lower jaw slightly more forward than normal. By advancing the lower jaw (mandible) forward, the diameter of the throat is increased. More importantly, even if the muscles at the back of throat relax, the throat is prevented from collapsing. This forward placement of the mandible can prevent the blocking of breathing found in obstructive sleep apnea.

A mandibular advancement device was made for Dr. Smith. A subsequent polysomnograph (sleep study) confirmed that while Dr. Smith was wearing the oral device, he had no apnea episodes. His “oxygen saturation rate” was back to normal and he felt great. The snoring has greatly diminished to where it is almost unnoticeable to his wife. He has continued to wear this kind of appliances for the past four years.

If you or your spouse suffers from the snoring of the other, there is hope. Visit your dentist. If you also notice that he/she has apnea episodes where breathing stops for 10 seconds or more, please see your physician to rule out sleep apnea. If you have sleep apnea, be sure you follow your doctors’ instructions as to how to deal with this condition. Ask your physician if a mandibular advancement device could be a consideration.

If you would like more information about obstructive sleep apnea, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Virtual Reality Has Become Reality in Dentistry | Alhambra Dentist

For Implants: Dentist Places Virtual Implants into 3D Computerized Image of Your Jaw Then Computer-Generated “STENT” Guides Implants to Place – No Incision Needed

Virtual reality has become reality in dentistry – for dental implants. Virtual reality in the form of 3D imaging is changing the practice of dentistry. With state-of-the art digital imaging, dentists can analyze the anatomy of the patient’s jaw without surgery, which saves time and money and shortens implant recovery time, according to the International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI). ICOI further states that it’s like having the patient’s jaw on the computer screen and helps make implants the most predictable procedure in dentistry today. By incorporating advanced, highly precise computer-guided technology, dental implant surgery has made implant procedures faster, highly predicable and long-lasting with a success rate of 97 percent.

Life-like 3D images are obtained by means of specialized CAT scans. Assisted by specialized software computer systems, the dentist is able to precisely measure volume, shape and density of the bone and location of sinuses. Just as importantly, the precise location and distribution of nerves and blood vessels are also determined and measured with high precision. This eliminates uncertainty about which spots in the jawbone are the right sites for the placement of implants and what angulation of the implant ought to take. In this way the precision of the CT scan and implant surgical planning software gives the dentist a vivid, precise 3D simulation (virtual reality) of the patient’s mouth to pinpoint potential problems and plan the entire implant procedure in advance with confidence.

In planning the procedure, the dentist considers the computerized data and the clinical examination results and general health information of the patient, as well as the subjective preferences of the patient. The dentist then determines which, out of a myriad of types, shapes and sizes of implants, would be the most appropriate and optimal for the best long-term function of the implants. Furthermore, where anterior teeth are involved the dentist will particularly assess and control the cosmetic effect the implant will have on the smile. The dentist may also generate a simulated image of the implant crowns during the consultation appointment. This way the patient can see a virtual reality of the new smile and further indicate preferences in terms of appearance. Based on the totality of information, the final implants are chosen. Then the dentist prescribes a “stent” or a guide that will precisely direct the implants into the correct location at the correct angulation. According to the prescription the implant manufacturer will fabricate this stent.

At the implant placement appointment the stent is used to guide the implants into the exact spot and at the exact angulation that the dentist had pre-determined on the computerized 3D image of the jaw. Generally no incision or cutting or lifting (flap elevation) of the gum is necessary. Rather, the implant is simply inserted, with a minimal disturbance to the site. Most single implants do not take more than one hour. Routinely, healing is rapid and uneventful.

If you have questions regarding your particular needs, consult with your dentist.

If you would like more information about virtual dental implants, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Why General Health Is Important to Dental Treatment | Alhambra Dentist

Nellie, age 42, went for a dental checkup for the first time in ten years. Routine blood pressure monitoring disclosed that her blood pressure reading was abnormally high (180/115). No dental treatment was rendered. She was immediately referred to a physician and was diagnosed and treated for hypertension, high blood pressure. Her physician told her that if left undetected her condition could have led to a heart attack or stroke. She returned for dental treatment after her condition stabilized.

Nellie’s case is the result of the kind of routine screening dentists generally conduct to look for medical conditions that need medical attention. In addition to hypertension, one of the most common medical conditions that are of particular concern to dentists is “mitral valve prolapse,”a malfunction of a heart valve that leads in backflow (regurgitation). These abnormal heart valves are said to be susceptible to bacterial infection that originate from oral sources. In such cases, prophylactic (preventive) antibiotic, such as amoxicillin, should be taken before dental treatment is begun.

Diabetes is sometimes suspected when the patient presents with a family history or diabetes and severe, uncontrolled periodontitis (gum disease). In this case the patient may be referred for a medical checkup and blood test.

Another common problem is that of “dry mouth” (xerostomia). This condition may be associated with such conditions such as diabetes and menopause. But dry mouth is also a common side effect of over 400 commonly prescribed drugs. Patient suffering from dry mouth are especially susceptible to gum disease and dental caries (cavities). If there is no apparent cause for dry mouth, the patient is referred for medical consultation. If it clear that dry mouth is associated with a diagnosed disease or side effects of medications, treatment planning will probably include home application of topical fluoride with gels, rinses and fluoride toothpastes. To reduce risk of gum disease, more frequent deep cleanings, anti-bacterial rinses, topical administration of antibiotics and home application of anti-bacterial solutions.

These are just a few examples of conditions your dentist will be concerned with at your dental checkups. Feel free to discuss any medical issues, even those you suspect may not relate to your dental treatment. You may be surprised at how medical condition affect dental health, and vice verse.

If you would like more information about the ways your general health can affect your dental health, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Denture Problems: Instant Cure with Affordable Dental Implants | Alhambra Dentist

Denture wearers most often have problems with looseness of the fit. In the vast majority of cases this is because, while dentures do not change dimensions, bone and gum do. This soft and hard tissue shrinkage is further accelerated by the forces of mastication and bruxism (common habit of grinding and clenching the teeth). Over time, the gap between the denture and the underlying gum and bone increases. Some patients have the ability to adapt to this looseness, sometimes with the help of denture adhesives. Others develop “denture sores” that persist and simply limit their diet to soft, nutritionally deficient foods. Poor nutrition can lead to a cascade of common health problems, such as obesity, high blood sugar and diabetes, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disorders. Emotional and self-esteem issues are often the result. On the other hand it is amazing how new; well-fitting dentures can elevate the mood and sense of well-being in the patient who had been suffering with ill-fitting dentures.

Recent advances in implantology have allowed denture patients to have existing, functional dentures to be attached to “one-stage, immediate loading implants” in one visit. The best news is that these “mini-permanent implants” are substantially less costly than conventional two-stage implants.

Through a procedure, called “minimally invasive micro-surgery,” your dentist can place an implant that measures 1.8 mm (less than one tenth of an inch) in diameter and one-half inch in length at appropriate locations in the jaw. No incision or stitching is needed. Generally four implants are required for the lower denture and six for the upper denture. Discomfort is minimal and patients generally can eat immediately afterwards.

Where the current dentures are serviceable, there is no need to make new dentures. If necessary it is possible to “reline” the denture when the implants are being done.

There is also welcome news for gaggers or anyone who prefers not to have anything covering the roof of the mouth. With upper implants holding the denture in place, the roof of the denture is no longer necessary, and can be removed.

Discuss your denture needs with your dentist and see whether you are a good candidate for mini-implants. You will be pleasantly surprised at how easy this can be done.

If you would like more information about dental implants, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Junk Drink Alert: Diet Beverages Can Be Detrimental to Your Teeth | Alhambra Dentist

Junk drinks can be detrimental to your dental health. Certain segments of the population, primarily women who intake diet sodas and bottled iced tea, are exhibiting a rate of tooth decay that progresses much more quickly than the general population. This decay is seen around the margins of restorations (fillings) and crowns (caps) where the tooth and restorative material meet. The majority of people with this kind of dental breakdown are generally healthy, between the ages of 12-55, and are concerned with their weight.

It is possible that those who indulge in large amounts of mints, chewing gum and other forms of sticky, sweet condiments become susceptible to rampant dental caries. In the absence of this sort of diet, the prime suspect may be diet beverages – soda and artificially sweetened bottled iced tea.

Sugars in foods are converted into acidic by-products by bacteria found primarily in plaque. The acid breaks down the mineral in the tooth enamel. After sufficient exposure the enamel becomes demineralized and eventually cavities form. But it is not necessary that sugar be present for cavities to form. Acidic compounds present in diet beverages can act directly to produce demineralization of enamel in the absence of sugar. What restores balance to this acidification of the oral cavity is saliva, which neutralizes acids and replenishes minerals leached out by acids. Where there is a steady intake of acidic beverages and foods, saliva may not be able to restore tooth enamel quickly enough. Eventually cavities will form in this kind of acidic environment.

Understanding this casual chain of events should not lead you to completely eliminate diet beverages, nor to go back to regular soft drinks. Moderation is the answer. Rinse your mouth with water or drink water after you have ingested diet beverages. Try not to sip the drinks over a prolonged amount of time and allow your teeth to be exposed to acidic chemical reactions longer than necessary. Use fluoridated toothpaste and rinses. In severe cases your dentist may recommend “custom fluoride trays” by which you can apply fluoride to your own teeth on a daily basis. Fluoride acts to inhibit the demineralization of the enamel matrix. And in the earliest stages of decay, reverse cavity formation.

At your next dental visit, feel free to discuss with your dentist how weight loss may be accomplished without exposing your teeth to unnecessary risk of decay.

If you would like more information about the effects of diet drinks, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Receding Gums Awareness Month Declared for January | Alhambra Dentist

Because January has been declared Receding Gums Awareness Month, it is important that we spread the word of this revolutionary new procedure to patients that are in need of repairing their receding gums, Dr. Chao’s Pinhole Surgical Technique. If gums recession is left untreated, this condition will worsen and lead to more severe dental issues in the future, even tooth loss. In order to combat this issue, the Pinhole Surgical Technique can reverse the issue with little to no pain, making it the ideal option for patients suffering from receding gums.

In this video, Dr. Chris Bowman visits the set of Charlotte Today to discuss the procedure and educate their viewers on the benefits of having it done. Each one, teach one…

If you would like more information about Receding Gums Awareness Month, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Time to Celebrate Receding Gums | Alhambra Dentist

While it isn’t the most talked about subject around, receding gums is something that will likely happen to you as you begin to age. Because it is a natural fact of life, it is important that we all have the knowledge we need in order to obtain the proper treatment. If left untreated, gum recession will begin to cause more issues in the future. Thankfully, January is Receding Gums Awareness Month, so let’s celebrate by taking a deeper look at what you need to know…

What is Receding Gums Awareness Month?

Receding Gums Awareness Month promotes public awareness of the causes of receding gums and related health and aesthetic issues. Although many people perceive that receding gums, or gum recession is an “older” person’s issue, the fact is that receding gums affect people of all ages, even in their teens.

Why was this day created?

Receding Gums Awareness Month creates an opportunity for the public to learn about receding gums and how gum recession can affect a person’s smile and their overall health. With this information people can consult their dentists for advice on treatment options, including the minimally invasive treatment known as Pinhole Gum Rejuvenation®. A new website, www.AskYourDentistAboutPinhole.com provides information on receding gums and their treatment as well as a “find a dentist” service.

Receding gums may be caused by improper or overzealous brushing, gum disease or the natural aging process. A certain percentage of children and adults who undergo orthodontia may also develop gum recession as a side effect of the repositioning of teeth during the orthodontic process.

This month recognizes the new way to correct receding gums without conventional gum grafting surgery. Pinhole Gum Rejuvenation was invented and patented by dentist, educator and inventor John Chao, DDS who has personally trained over 3,000 doctors in the procedure, which is now available across the US as well as Europe, Asia and South America.

How should this day be celebrated or observed?

Receding Gums Awareness Month provides information to encourage the public to seek professional advice if they suspect that they have receding gums. Information is available at www.AskYourDentistAboutPinhole.com Dentists and periodontists may use Receding Gums Awareness Month to increase public awareness of gum recession in their communities and to encourage patients and the general public to schedule dental examinations and possible treatment.

If you would like more information about Receding Gums Awareness Month, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.