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Mail-Order Braces: Gambling with Your Smile

Mail-Order Braces: Gambling with Your Smile


New, DIY dental aligners that you can order by mail without having to visit an orthodontist may sound like a good idea initially, but in fact there are many risks to consider when attempting to take orthodontic treatment into your own hands. If you’re thinking about ordering DIY aligners by mail, we urge you to take a few minutes to read the following information beforehand.

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The Purpose of Orthodontic Treatment

The goal of orthodontic treatment is to straighten the teeth and restore a straight and healthy smile. Dental aligners, fitted by qualified orthodontists, do a great job of achieving this, but the treatment requires a full set of x-rays in addition to a thorough examination of the condition.

Over the course of treatment, your dentist or orthodontist will gradually fit you with new aligner trays as your teeth gradually shift into their new places. It may take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years to complete the full orthodontic treatment, and many patients must continue to wear retainers even after treatment is completed.

Your dentist or orthodontist will monitor the entire process to ensure that each new aligner fits perfectly and accomplishes the goal of straightening the teeth gradually. If any complications should arise, your orthodontist is there to address them, and make any necessary adjustments to keep things marching along smoothly.

Why DIY Aligners are Risky

Orthodontists and dentists are specially trained in the problems that cause teeth to become crooked or misaligned, which is why conventional dental aligners such as Invisalign require the supervision of a qualified oral health professional.

These devices are designed to shift the position of your teeth, while also affecting the connective tissue, gums, and bone that are attached to the teeth. This is why it is so risky to undergo any treatment designed to manipulate the teeth and bones without consulting a qualified dentist or orthodontist.

If anything should go wrong during your treatment, without an oral health professional to identify and address the problem, you risk doing damage to your teeth and bone.

How Much Can You Save by Choosing Mail-Order Aligners?

The hype is that you can save tons of money by foregoing the services of a professional and ordering the aligners yourself. But the truth is, the presumed savings don’t really add up, particularly if you end up causing damage to your teeth that will then have to be repaired by an orthodontist anyway.

In fact, even if this doesn’t happen, the supposed savings associated with DIY aligners aren’t all that much, when you take into consideration the possibility of not getting a perfect mold the first time and having to order the molds more than once.

What many lay people don’t realize is that taking molds of teeth requires some degree of training and experience, and even in the best orthodontic offices, professionally trained dental assistants can make mistakes when taking these molds. Luckily, if this happens at the doctor’s office, the molds are retaken without any extra cost to you, until a satisfactory mold is obtained that will ensure an effective treatment.

Now imagine you trying to do this for the first time on your own at home with no one to show you how it’s done. The likelihood of botching things up is high, and this could cost you extra money that you never bargained for.

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But really the most important reason to seek professional care when straightening your teeth is the fact that you only have one smile, and it deserves the best possible care and protection. This can only come from a qualified dentist or orthodontist and not from an anonymous, DIY mail-order service.

If you are thinking about ordering braces or dental aligners by mail, you should first consult a dentist to see if orthodontic treatment is recommended for you. Steve S. Kim, DDS is a full-service dentist serving patients in the areas of Torrance, & Gardena, CA.

Oral Health as a Reflection of General Health

Oral Health as a Reflection of General Health


All dentists know that oral health is one of the chief indicators of a person’s overall general health, and it is important for patients to realize this as well. The mouth is the gateway to the entire body, and if problems arise in the mouth, they can easily travel into the digestive system, bloodstream, and other areas of the body, causing problems in one’s general health.

There are many clues to be found in a person’s mouth that can indicate potential problems in other areas of their body.

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Because the mouth, like all organs, depends on the proper functioning of certain bacteria in the correct ratio and balance to one another in order to remain healthy, any imbalance in the bacteria of the mouth can lead to similar imbalances in the digestive tract and other areas of the body.

Additionally, problems in the mouth such as tooth decay, caused by the proliferation of harmful bacteria accumulated between teeth and beneath the gum line, can also lead to serious infections, periodontal disease, and eventually produce serious bone loss, and further problems caused by a collapse in the structure of the lower face.

For this reason, in addition to a healthy diet that limits the ingestion of refined sugar and sweets that may stick to the teeth, proper dental hygiene, including regular brushing and flossing, and regular dental checkups, are essential to maintaining general good health. Regular dental cleanings are especially essential, in order to thoroughly remove the buildup of dental plaque caused by the accumulation of harmful bacteria in the mouth.

The American Dental Association recommends brushing after every meal, and flossing at least twice daily. Professional dental cleanings should ideally be performed two to three times yearly, depending on a person’s age and any oral conditions they may have.

Prompt treatment of dental problems as they crop up, such as filling in cavities and correcting malocclusions and other orthodontic problems, also translates into an overall healthier mouth that is easier to keep clean and healthy. When the teeth are overcrowded or crooked, it becomes much more difficult to remove harmful bacteria that can lead to oral problems, and if cavities are left unattended, the harmful bacteria may spread to the bone tissue beneath the gum line, affecting the dental root and surrounding bone.

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Also, when tooth decay produces the loss of a tooth, a whole series of problems may crop up in the underlying bone tissue, eventually leading to serious bone loss and the potential loss of other teeth, creating a vicious cycle. These problems may be prevented by the insertion of dental implants.

Advanced bone loss resulting from tooth loss, tooth decay, gingivitis, and periodontal disease, if left untreated, may become a serious problem that can be far more difficult to treat than these more minor issues, also requiring more expensive, as well as more invasive, treatments.

For state-of-the-art dentistry, including preventive care, regular checkups, and solutions such as dental implants, contact Dr. Steve S. Kim, a dental implant dentist with over 13 years’ experience serving the South Bay community in Torrance, Palos Verdes, Carson, and Hawthorne, and neighboring areas in California.

Why Dental Implants are the Best Option for Tooth Loss

Why Dental Implants are the Best Option for Tooth Loss


Maintaining healthy gums and teeth is essential to good health and a positive self-esteem, not only for the purpose of maintaining healthy oral function, such as chewing and speaking, but also to mitigate the risk of advanced periodontal disease and bone loss. Bone loss in the lower jaw is a serious problem that can cause a slew of oral and general health problems, as well as contributing to an aged appearance due to the collapse of the bone tissue that supports the structure of the lower face.

Fortunately, new technology exists that utilizes dental implants to restore proper oral and jaw function, as well as improving the patient’s physical appearance. In the South Bay area of California, including Palos Verdes, Carson and Hawthorne, as well as nearby communities, Dr. Steve S. Kim, a dental implant dentist who specialized in Prosthodontics at Boston University’s Goldman School of Dentistry, provides top-quality dental implants for local residents.

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How do Bones and Teeth stay Healthy?

In order to remain healthy and strong, bone tissue requires continuous pressure and stimulation, which is typically achieved when a patient has a healthy, normal bite with every tooth properly in place. This stimulation is normally provided by normal oral function such as chewing, as well as normal, random contact between the upper and lower teeth that occurs fleetingly over the course of each day.

This stimulation, delivered through the periodontal ligament that attaches teeth to the underlying bone structure, triggers the alveolar bone, a sac-like structure surrounding each tooth, to regenerate tissue and remain healthy and dense. This ongoing pressure also stimulates the underlying bone tissue to constantly rebuild itself.

What Happens when a Tooth is Lost?

Once a tooth is lost, the system that maintains healthy bone structure is immediately affected, as the reduction of bone stimulation begins to cause a gradual reduction of bone density in both the alveolar and the basal bone structure, or jawbone.

Many patients have experienced as much as a 25% reduction in the width of the alveolar bone within the first year after losing a tooth, and a reduction in bone height of about 4 millimeters in the few years following the tooth loss.

Once the density of the alveolar bone is reduced, the basal or jawbone also becomes affected, resulting in a collapse of the upper and lower jaw structure, which and causing the soft tissue in the face to appear lax and sunken, with sagging jowls and a drooping appearance in the lower face. The surrounding gum tissue is also affected by receding bone, and gums will begins to recede as well, creating a sunken and drawn appearance in the mouth, with teeth appearing to look longer as their roots begin to show. This in turn leads to loosening of the teeth, further tooth loss, and a vicious cycle that can quickly escalate.

Recent surveys have reported that approximately 70 percent of adults in the U.S. are missing a minimum of one tooth, with a majority of those over the age 60 reporting a minimum of 9 lost teeth, and some 30 million reporting at least one full arch of teeth missing. As the population of senior citizens in the U.S. increases, the number of adults missing at least one full arch of teeth is expected to jump to about 38 million by 2020.

For decades, the only tooth replacement options available for patients with missing teeth were the Fixed Pontic Denture (FPD), also referred to as a ‘fixed bridge’ or ‘false replacement,’ or the use of removable full or partial dentures. Neither of these treatments offers the benefits that dental implants offer.

Replacing Lost Teeth with a Fixed Bridge

FPDs have been the most commonly used treatment for people who are missing one or a few teeth. An FPD or fixed bridge is typically secured in place by utilizing the adjacent teeth on either side of the gap as abutment teeth. A crown and/or bridge may be crafted to replace the missing tooth or teeth, and attached to the abutment teeth. This solution provides improvements to the facial appearance as well as restoring speaking and chewing function.

An FPD may last from 10 to 15 years, but problems may develop with FPDs over time, causing the need to have them replaced or modified several times during the = patient’s lifetime. Because FPDs rely on the strength of the adjacent abutment teeth, the pressure applied to these teeth may cause them to become weaker over time, as well as becoming more prone to tooth decay or microscopic fractures.

While 20 percent of FPDs fail after 3 years of use, and some 50% of FPDs will fail after 10 years, over 99 percent of implants last a minimum of 10 years, and in many cases, for the remainder of the patient’s life, making dental implants more cost-effective than fixed bridges over the long-term.

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Removable Full or Partial Dentures

Dentists around the world have used removable dentures for decades, to improve a patient’s physical appearance and restore some degree of normal oral function. Removable dentures, however, fail to protect against bone loss. In fact, when dentures fit too loosely, slipping and shifting constantly in the mouth, they may actually contribute to accelerated bone loss by transferring crucial pressure from the underlying bone structure to the bone surface, which gradually wears away bone tissue, while also wearing down the gums and oral membranes. As more bone is gradually lost, dentures tend to fit more loosely, reducing blood supply to the gums, and weakening rather than properly stimulating the underlying bone structure by transferring the needed pressure to the wrong areas. Additionally, patients who wear removable dentures often report a reduction in normal oral function and the need to avoid hard or chewy foods.

Dental implants are about twenty times more effective at preventing the development of underlying bone loss than removable full or partial dentures, since they behave like natural teeth, applying ongoing daily pressure on the basal bone tissue, while the titanium also strengthens and reinforces the bone.

How Dental Implants Prevent Further Bone Loss

Dental implants provide a much more effective, attractive, and healthy alternative to removable dentures as well as false replacements.

Dental implants are screws made of titanium, a biocompatible material that easily fuses with human bone tissue, that are attached to the supporting bone structure to provide support and strength to the alveolar bone as well as the basal bone structure. These screws are then covered with a porcelain or ceramic crown that may be removed and replaced if ever necessary, without affecting the implant itself.

Because dental implants are screwed directly into bone, they don’t require the use of abutment teeth, leaving adjacent teeth intact, which reduces the risk of buildup of harmful oral bacteria around those teeth, which can also lead to periodontal disease and further bone loss.

Dental implants can be used to replace a single tooth, or multiple teeth. Even patients who need to replace the entire upper or lower arch of teeth may improve their oral health and appearance with dental implants.

Combining Dental Implants with Other Options

A dental implant bridge may be constructed by using implants instead of abutment teeth to replace missing teeth. Another option would be to use implants as anchors onto which a removable partial denture may be attached to ensure a tighter and better fit, while also transferring needed pressure to the underlying bone structure, providing increased comfort, and restoring normal oral function. Dental implants look and feel more natural because they look and behave like natural teeth.

Fortunately, today’s implant dentistry provides more effective and longer lasting tooth replacement options than ever before. Dental implants can restore almost 100% of normal, healthy, oral function, which contributes to improved overall health.

If you live in the South Bay area of California, and want to experience the best in state-of-the-art dental care, as well as a dentist with extensive expertise and experience in the area of dental implants, contact Dr. Steve S. Kim. A dental implant dentist with over 13 years’ expertise and experience in serving the South Bay area in Torrance, Palos Verdes, Carson, and Hawthorne, as well as nearby communities in California.

What Exactly is Cosmetic Dentistry? Procedures to Help You Smile Happier & Healthier

What Exactly is Cosmetic Dentistry? Procedures to Help You Smile Happier & Healthier


Have you recently looked in the mirror and noticed that you are unhappy with the look of your smile? Often, patients find themselves unhappy with the way their teeth look because they may be chipped, worn down, discolored, or even misaligned.

Fortunately, a smile makeover can dramatically improve and change the way your teeth and smile look. Cosmetic dentistry is offered here in our Torrance, CA office and you can benefit from it.

Dr. Kim is an experienced cosmetic dentist who can work closely with you to develop a treatment plan that addresses and corrects your concerns. Below, we will talk about some of the different cosmetic procedures you can have performed to help you get the smile you have always dreamed of.

If you have any questions or you would like to schedule an appointment with us, now is the time to call Dr. Steve S. Kim DDS.

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Types of Cosmetic Dentistry Procedures Available

Do not hesitate to call our office with any questions you may have or to schedule an appointment or consultation.

1. Porcelain Veneers
Porcelain veneers are a great option for any patient who has teeth they are not proud to show off. In fact, veneers are excellent for misshapen teeth, crooked teeth, or even chipped and stained teeth.

A porcelain veneer is a custom-made porcelain shell that is thin and placed on top of your tooth after the tooth is prepared. The shell is held onto the tooth using a dental cement.

2. Teeth Whitening
One of the easiest and cheapest ways for you to recreate a beautiful smile is through teeth whitening. The procedure is simple and done right here in our Torrance, CA office. If you do not have time to sit in the office for the whitening session or you prefer to be at home, we also sell at-home kits for you to use.

Dr. Kim invites you to come in today to discuss teeth whitening as an option. Typically, patients see results up to three shades whiter in their first treatment.

3. Dental Crowns
A cap, or dental crown, is designed to fit over the entire tooth and becomes the surface of the tooth. The cap sits at the gumline and is a wonderful choice for patients with decayed or broken teeth.

The crown is made to form to the shape of the tooth and provide a strong foundation without damaging the tooth any further.

When choosing to have dental crowns placed, you will be able to choose from ceramic, resin, metal, or porcelain fused to metal.

4. Dental Bonding
Dental bonding is like veneers in a sense but is completed in a different manner. If you are having your teeth bonded, a resin, like putty and tooth colored, will be placed on the tooth.

This putty-like material is then activated using a UV light to bond the material to the tooth. Dr. Kim will cut, shape, and polish the tooth once the bonding is in place for a perfect and flawless fit.

Bonding is a great choice for any patient who wants to cover up misshapen teeth, chipped teeth, or even cracks in their teeth.

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5. Tooth-Colored Fillings
If you have ever had a tooth filled, you likely received an amalgam filling, which is the most commonly used and recognized, silver filling.

Today, silver fillings are not as popular and tooth-colored fillings are in. The tooth-colored fillings are much more aesthetically pleasing, and they look natural as well.

Dr. Steve Kim can discuss toot-colored fillings with you at your next appointment!

6. Dentures
There are two main types of dentures to include full and partial.

Full dentures are used to replace missing teeth in the upper and lower portion of your mouth. Full dentures do act as a complete teeth replacement option. The dentures rest on your gums and can be held in place using a dental adhesive.

Partial dentures are like full dentures, except that they are not a full replacement system. In fact, partial dentures are utilized when a patient still has remaining natural teeth. Removeable partials are placed between the teeth that are present to fill in the gap of missing teeth. The partial come attached to a gum-colored base that blend into your mouth well.

7. Inlays and Onlays
Direct fillings, or inlays and onlays, are made from composite materials, gold, or even porcelain. They are used to fill in teeth that have been damaged or are decayed.

The inlays and onlays are created at a dental lab and then placed in the tooth. The filling is referred to as an inlay when the material is bonded within the center of the tooth and called an onlay when the filling covers one more multiple points of a tooth.

8. Dental Implants
You have likely heard of dental implants because they are one of the most popular tooth replacement options. A titanium artificial tooth root is inserted into your jaw bone where a tooth or teeth are missing.

Once the bone heals around the artificial root, the post is secured in place and an abutment and crown can be placed on top of it.

9. Other Options
There are many other cosmetic dentistry options for you to choose from to include bridges, implant-supported dentures, and more. Dr. Kim is a talented cosmetic dentist who can provide you with a consultation to learn more about what option would work best for your situation.

Do not hesitate to call Dr. Steve S. Kim DDS today in Torrance, CA.

Tooth Extractions: What You Should Know

Tooth Extractions: What You Should Know


Tooth extractions cannot always be avoided, and you may find yourself in a position where you are told you need to have a tooth pulled. It can be scary to think you are about to lose a tooth, but the procedure is safe, routine, and common.

Below, Dr. Kim will talk to you more about some of the reasons why you may need a tooth extraction, what you can expect, and whether you should alert the dentist to any concerns.

If you need to have a tooth extracted, now is the time to book your appointment with Dr. Kim in our Torrance, CA office.

Reasons You May Need a Tooth Extraction

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When you think about your adult or permanent teeth, you think about them being there permanently, right? Well, this is not always the case. In fact, your permanent teeth can become damaged due to decay, being knocked with a hard object, and more. This then leads to them needing to be extracted which shortens their life and the amount of time they spend in your mouth.

Below, Dr. Kim will cover some of the additional reasons why you may need to have a tooth extracted.

Crowded Teeth
If you have crowded teeth, you may need to have one or two extracted to make room. This is common and happens most commonly in orthodontic treatment. Since the goal behind orthodontic treatment is to properly align your jaw and straighten your teeth, Dr. Kim may recommend extracting some to achieve this.

Infection Risk
If you are at a higher risk of infection due to a systematic disease or condition, Dr. Kim may suggest that you have a tooth extracted. This is done in your best interest to avoid the infection.

Periodontal Disease
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a serious condition that leads to tooth loss. Since the disease affects the gum and bone tissue, you may experience loosened teeth, which, if that happens, Dr. Kim will recommend that you have them extracted.

When a tooth experiences decay that eats into the tooth’s pulp, it becomes infected and this can cause serious pain. Often, this type of infection is controlled and removed with a root canal, but when the root canal does not work, the tooth will need to be extracted.

What to Expect When Your Tooth is Extracted

Dr. Kim is an experienced and licensed dentist and oral surgeon, which means he can perform all tooth extractions properly and in a safe environment. If you do need to have a tooth removed from your mouth, you should ONLY work with an expert and licensed oral surgeon.

Before Dr. Kim pulls your tooth, you will be provided with an injection of a local anesthetic that numbs the area around the tooth to be removed. The anesthetic works to eliminate any pain or discomfort that would otherwise be felt. If you have a complicated or impacted tooth extraction, Dr. Kim may opt to provide you with general anesthesia, which will be discussed with you prior to the procedure being performed.

If you have an impacted tooth that needs to be extracted, Dr. Kim will cut away the gum and bone tissue covering the tooth to expose it. He will then use a pair of forceps to grasp the tooth and wiggle it forward and backward until loosened and able to be removed. If the tooth is not able to be removed in one piece, it may be separated into multiple pieces for removal.

Once your tooth has been extracted, you will be given a piece of gauze that is placed into the socket where the extraction took place. This gauze will help stop the bleeding and create a blood clot. If you need to receive stitches, this is the time in which you would.

It is important that you do not suck or smoke for 24 hours as the blood clot needs to stay in the socket. If the blood clot becomes dislodged, you will experience something called dry socket, which is painful. Should it happen to you, you need to call our office immediately.

What Dr. Kim Need to Know BEFORE a Tooth Extraction

A tooth extraction is a safe procedure but there are situations that may require extra precautions. For example, if you are at risk of developing any serious infections, this is something Dr. Kim needs to know. He will likely place you on antibiotics before the procedure and after as well.

Prior to your tooth being extracted, you should communicate with Dr. Kim about your medical history and any supplements or medications you are currently on.

You should also let Dr. Kim know if you have:
• Congenital heart defects
• Artificial joints
• Liver disease
• Impaired immune system
• History of bacterial endocarditis
• Man-made or damaged heart valves

Now That My Tooth Has Been Pulled: What Do I Do?

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Once your tooth has been extracted, Dr. Kim will work with you to ensure you understand the aftercare instructions and what to watch out for. Recovery from your extraction will take up to a few days but most patients can return to work or their normal daily activities within a day.

Below you will find some tips from Dr. Kim about how you can reduce the risk of infection and discomfort as you heal:

• Relax over the next 24 hours and limit your activity until the bleeding subsides
• Do not drink from a straw for the first 24 hours
• Do not rinse or forcefully spit from your mouth for the first 24 hours
• Always eat soft foods until the area is no longer tender
• Do not smoke
• Take any and all prescribed medications as directed

Once 24 hours has passed, rinse your mouth with a salt water solution, which contains 8 ounces of warm water and a half teaspoon of salt

Follow a good oral hygiene routine and continue to brush and floss your teeth as normal
Apply an ice pack directly to the outside cheek of the area where the tooth was extracted to minimize swelling
Use gauze to control bleeding and bite down on the gauze to help allow a clot to form in the socket
Prop your head up when you lie down to prevent bleeding.

Should You Call Dr. Steve S. Kim DDS?

Tooth extractions are considered to be safe and typically do not present any issues, but there are times where you do need to call our office. It is normal for you to experience some pain once the anesthetic wears off and you can take pain medications that were prescribed or over the counter options. Should the pain continue or become severe, call us immediately.

You can expect slight swelling and bleeding over the course of the next 24 hours. It should not be significant and if it is, call us.

You should call our office if you experience:
• Fever
• Chills
• Cough or shortness of breath
• Severe nausea or vomiting
• Excessive discharge from the extraction site
• Redness or swelling

It can take up to two weeks for the new gum and bone tissue to grow into place over the area where the extraction took place, so do not become alarmed. If you would like to discuss dental implants as a tooth replacement option, Dr. Kim would love to hear from you.

Call Our Torrance, CA Dental Clinic Today

Call our office today to book your consultation with Dr. Kim!

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