• Safety Tips for Bleaching Your Teeth

    Everyone seems to want a brighter smile, and teeth whitening is a great option for boosting your confidence. If food and drinks have stained your pearly whites, you may be tempted to rush to the drug store and pick up the first over-the-counter whitening product you find. However, while side effects from whitening products are rare, you should follow these tips before bleaching your teeth to ensure your safety.

    See Your Dentist First

    If your teeth appear stained, don’t assume you need to bleach them. It’s possible a good teeth cleaning will restore the sparkle to your smile. During an oral exam, your dentist will also check for cavities and gum issues, which should be treated before bleaching your teeth.

    Know What to Look for in Over-the-Counter Teeth Bleaching Products

    At-home whiteners most often use carbamide peroxide in concentrations ranging from 10 to 20 percent. Carbamide peroxide is hydrogen peroxide with urea added. This product remains active for up to 10 hours at a low enough acidity level that enamel etching is not a concern.

    Start with a product containing 10 percent carbamide peroxide. If the whitener doesn’t bother your mouth, but you don’t see the results you want, try another over-the-counter product with a higher concentration.

    Follow the Directions

    When you choose an at-home teeth bleaching kit, it’s your responsibility to follow the instructions on the package. Don’t leave the gel or strips on your teeth longer than advised or you could experience tooth sensitivity and sore gums. Also, avoid drinking soda, sports drinks or other sugary/acidic beverages for several hours after whitening to prevent etching your teeth.

    Consider Professional In-Office Teeth Bleaching

    At-home whitening kits are inexpensive and widely available, but that doesn’t make them the best choice. Professional in-office teeth bleaching can lighten your smile up to eight shades in a single 45-minute visit. Combined with professional-grade take-home treatments, patients see an average improvement of 11 shades. In comparison, over-the-counter whitening requires daily 30-minute applications for more than two weeks to achieve a six-shade improvement.

    In-office whitening uses LED light-activated technology to maximize results in the shortest amount of time without causing tooth sensitivity. It’s effective both for people who simply want to lighten their smile and for patients with severely discolored teeth.

    Know When Not to Bleach Your Teeth

    Whitening isn’t right for everyone. Keep these factors in mind:

    • Pregnant women and nursing mothers should postpone teeth bleaching.
    • Whitening doesn’t affect composite, ceramic and porcelain materials. This means if you decide to brighten your natural teeth, you may be left with darker-colored fillings, crowns and
    • Translucent teeth don’t respond well to whitening. A tooth-colored composite placed on the lingual side of a see-through tooth is a more effective way to improve its appearance.

    Zen Dental Center in Seattle offers Philips Zoom in-office teeth bleaching for safe, professional results. To learn more about this treatment, or to schedule an appointment, please contact us at 206-324-1100 today.

  • How to Find a Dentist Near Me in Four Steps

    Did you recently move to Seattle? Perhaps you changed insurance providers, or maybe you’re fed up with your current dentist and want to find a new one. Use this guide on finding a dentist near me to help you choose an office you feel comfortable and happy with.

    Answer Some Basic Questions

    The first step is to consider how your new dentist can meet your lifestyle and dental care needs. Ask yourself these questions as you begin your search for dentists near me:

    • Is the location convenient? Most patients want a dental provider that’s close to their home, work or the kids’ school.
    • Are the office hours convenient? Make sure you have the option to set appointments before or after work/school or during your lunch break.
    • Does the dentist offer the services you need? For instance, can the dentist care for everyone in your family? And if you have a dental emergency, will you be seen promptly?
    • Do you prefer a specific spoken language? Zen Dental Center has staff members who speak English, Spanish and Japanese.

    Start Searching In-Network

    It’s important to choose a dentist in your specific network. This means finding one that accepts your insurance, which might include Premera Blue Cross, Delta Dental or other carriers.

    Take advantage of the tools on your insurance provider’s website to help you search for in-network dentists. For example, Delta Dental’s Find a Dentist and Premera Blue Cross’s Dental Care Tool make it easy to browse for dentists near me in Seattle.

    Ask for Recommendations

    With a few in-network dentists in mind – ones with conveniently located offices and all the right dental services for your family – ask around to see if any friends and neighbors have recommendations. Find out who they visit for dental care and whether they’re satisfied with the services they receive. Experiences of people you know can help you make a good decision for your family.

    Call or Visit Dentists in Seattle

    The American Dental Association suggests calling the dentists on your list to conduct a short interview. Better yet, you can schedule a visit to the office to see the facility in person and meet with the dentist and staff before making your final decision. Bring a list of questions along with your dental records if you have any specific questions about the services you’ll require going forward. Some questions you might want to ask include:

    • Will you explain ways to help my family avoid dental problems?
    • How does your staff handle dental emergencies outside of regular business hours?
    • Are fees presented up front? Do you offer payment plans?
    • What is your policy for missed/canceled appointments?

    Above all else, you want to partner with a dentist who can improve your overall oral health and wellness at an affordable price. To learn more about how Zen Dental Center can take care of you, please contact us at 206-324-1100. We accept Premera Blue Cross, Delta Dental and many other insurance plans.

  • 5 Questions About Dental Exams

    How long has it been since your last dentist appointment? If you’re overdue for a dental exam, you might have developing tooth or gums problems that you’re unaware of. Learn the answers to the top five questions about dental exams to help you realize why they’re so important.

    How often should I visit the dentist?

    The American Dental Association recommends seeing the dentist every six to 12 months. Ongoing treatment for periodontal disease and other conditions may require dental exams and cleanings three to four times a year.

    What are some signs it’s time to schedule a dental exam?

    If you stray from the recommended dental exam schedule, you put yourself at risk. Don’t ignore the symptoms of tooth and gum problems! Schedule a dentist appointment right away if you notice:

    • Sensitivity to hot and cold
    • Puffy, red or sensitive gums
    • Gums that bleed when you brush or floss
    • Persistent bad breath or an unpleasant taste in your mouth
    • Pain or swelling in your mouth, face or neck
    • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
    • Symptoms of dry mouth
    • Your jaw pops or is sometimes painful to open and close
    • A sore in your mouth won’t heal

    Should I go to the dentist even if I’m not having any symptoms?

    Yes. Dental appointments help you catch problems early so you can begin treatment before potentially painful complications arise. A healthy mouth promotes a healthy body. After all, gum disease is linked to diabetes, stroke, heart disease and other seemingly unrelated health conditions. Preventative dental exams and X-rays can also save you money in the long run by avoiding the need for restorative procedures, such as fillings, root canals and tooth implants.

    What happens during a dental exam?

    A visit to the dentist begins with a discussion of your recent medical history, including any procedures you’ve had and medications you’re taking. You may also receive X-rays, depending on your treatment plan.

    Next, an experienced dentist and hygienist conduct a thorough teeth cleaning. Even if you brush and floss every day, professional cleanings are necessary to prevent cavities and gingivitis. The cleaning process involves using a metal scaler to scrape plaque and tartar from your teeth and along the gum line. Your teeth are polished with a paste and flossed to remove any residual buildup from between your teeth.

    The final step is to check for cavities, gum problems and other potential issues. If anything needs to be addressed, the staff will discuss your treatment options.

    How can I keep my mouth healthy between dental exams?

    To increase the chance of getting a thumbs up from your dentist at your next appointment, remember to do the following:

    • Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes.
    • Floss once a day.
    • Consider switching to an electric toothbrush.
    • Avoid candy and sugary drinks.
    • Stop smoking.

    To schedule your next dental exam with a qualified Seattle dentist, please contact Zen Dental Center at 206-324-1100.

  • What is Gum Disease?

    Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an infection of the soft tissues surrounding your teeth. Tens of millions of American have this dental problem, many of whom don’t even know it. Learn more about gum disease so you can seek periodontal care in Seattle if necessary.

    Stages of Gum Disease

    Dental professionals divide gum disease into three stages:

    • Gingivitis is characterized by gum inflammation. At this early stage, you can reverse gum disease because connective tissues and bone have not yet been affected.
    • Periodontitis is the second stage of gum disease. Pockets begin forming between your teeth and gums where germs feed on food particles and plaque builds up. The damage to the supporting fibers and bone is irreversible, but with proper care, you can prevent further damage.
    • Advanced periodontitis is the final and most severe stage of gum disease. By now, the supporting structures around the teeth have been destroyed, and the teeth begin shifting and loosening. Without aggressive treatment, some teeth may fall out while others may require extraction.

    Causes of Gum Disease

    These factors increase your risk of developing gum disease:

    • Failing to brush and floss daily, which leads to plaque buildup at the gum line
    • Smoking
    • Never seeing the dentist (a professional cleaning is the only way to remove tartar, the hard substance that plaque turns into if not removed promptly)
    • Having diabetes or certain illnesses such as AIDS
    • Experiencing hormonal changes
    • Taking medications that decrease saliva flow
    • Having a genetic predisposition

    Symptoms of Gum Disease

    You might have gum disease if you experience these warning signs:

    • Red, swollen gums
    • Receding gum line
    • Lingering bad breath
    • Tender gums that bleed when you brush or floss
    • Sensitive or loose teeth
    • Painful chewing
    • Pus in the pockets between your teeth and gums

    Treatments for Gum Disease

    Your dentist may recommend a combination of treatments to reverse or control your gum disease:

    • Keep up with good daily oral hygiene to prevent plaque buildup, including brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and flossing once daily.
    • Quit smoking.
    • Schedule more frequent dental check-ups to ensure your condition doesn’t worsen.
    • Have intensive cleaning procedures performed called scaling and root planing. This cleans excess tartar deposits below the gum line and restores the shape of your gums to protect the roots of your teeth.
    • Schedule gum surgery involving skin and bone grafts to treat advanced periodontitis and help save your teeth.

    You can treat your gum disease at Zen Dental Center, a leading provider of periodontal care in Seattle! Our expert team of tooth and gum care professionals will diagnose and expertly treat your condition for the best results possible. We also accept most forms of dental insurance, including Aetna, Delta Dental and Premera.

    To speak with a friendly member of our staff about your oral health concerns, please contact us by calling 206-324-1100 today.


  • How to Teach Your Kids Good Dental Hygiene

    Of all the dental problems that can affect a child, which one do you think is the most common? You guessed it – cavities. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly 50 percent of children have one or more cavities by the time they turn five.

    You may shrug at this finding with the false assumption that baby teeth don’t matter because they fall out anyway. However, decayed baby teeth can negatively affect the growth and eruption of permanent teeth. Plus, if your child doesn’t have good habits at a young age, he or she is more likely to suffer dental problems in the future.

    Now that you recognize the importance of good dental hygiene in children, here’s how to instill healthy behaviors that reduce the chance of cavities.

    Teach Proper Tooth Brushing Techniques

    As soon as your child’s first tooth erupts, make it a habit of brushing every morning and night. For infants, this means rubbing a clean, wet washcloth over your child’s teeth.

    Starting at age three, you can begin using a pea-sized amount of kid’s fluoride toothpaste on a child-sized toothbrush. Encourage your child not to swallow the toothpaste, but know that ingesting this small amount won’t cause any harm.

    Help your child hold the toothbrush and demonstrate how to brush the front, top and back of each tooth. Continue to supervise tooth brushing until your child can do it alone, usually between six and eight years old.

    Teach Which Foods Cause Cavities

    Diet is a significant factor in your child’s overall dental health. Teach that sticky, sugary foods linger on the teeth for hours and wear away at the enamel, causing cavities. You can use this information to encourage your child to eat healthier. After indulging in caramel, toffee, gummy bears, juice or soda, teach your child to brush as soon as possible or at least swish with water to wash away the sugar.

    Teach About the Importance of Dental Checkups

    At-home dental care is important, but nothing compares to a professional cleaning at the dentist’s office. Strive to take your child to a kid-friendly dentist starting at age one. Then, return once every six months or as recommended by the dentist for on-going check-ups and cleanings.

    Practice What You Preach

    The best way to get your child on board with these dental hygiene tips is to lead by example. If you expect your child to brush every morning and night, you had better do the same. If you serve apple slices explaining that candy is bad for your teeth, don’t sneak candy when your child isn’t looking. And if you require your child to visit the dentist every six months, you should follow suit.

    If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s dental hygiene, or if it’s time to schedule a dentist appointment for anyone in your family, please contact Zen Dental Center in Seattle by calling 206-324-1100. As a family dentist, we provide excellent oral care to kids and adults alike.


  • How to Tackle Dental Anxiety

    Many people feel a little stressed about visiting the dentist, but true dental anxiety is different. You might feel tense or have trouble sleeping the night before a dentist appointment. Your nervousness may escalate while you’re in the waiting room, and the sight of dental instruments in the exam room increases your anxiety even more.

    If these feelings sound all too familiar, now’s the time to tackle your dental anxiety. Otherwise, you might use your fear as an excuse to cancel appointments, which could put your oral health at risk. Work with your dentist to overcome your anxious feelings, and you’ll be well on your way to healthier teeth and gums.

    Tell your dentist about your apprehension

    As many as 40 million Americans experience dental anxiety, so you’re certainly not alone. When you set an appointment at Zen Dental Center, let us know you’re feeling nervous. We’ll answer your questions and set your mind at ease about your upcoming dental exam or cleaning.

    Bring a friend or family member with you

    There’s nothing childish about wanting moral support at the dentist. Schedule an appointment back-to-back with your significant other, so you can go together, or ask another friend or family member to accompany you.

    Discuss pain control techniques

    Fear of pain and traumatic experiences in the past are two common reasons for dental anxiety. Fortunately, advancements in “pain-free” dentistry make it easier to get procedures done with less discomfort. Ask your dentist about:

    • Local anesthetic
    • Topical anesthetic
    • Electronic anesthetic
    • Laser drills, a more pain-free way to prepare cavities for filling
    • Nitrous oxide (laughing gas)
    • Intravenous (IV) sedation
    • General anesthesia

    These pain control techniques can give you the confidence you need to set your next appointment.

    Focus on your breathing

    When you sit down in the big chair, think about taking slow, deep breaths. This helps keep your oxygen levels up and your stress level down.

    Listen to some music

    You can drown out the sound of the dental drill by listening to some tunes with headphones on. Just be prepared to pause your music any time the dentist needs to provide instructions.

    Use hand signals

    Since it’s difficult to talk while dental tools are in your mouth, agree upon hand signs you can use to communicate during a procedure. For instance, if you need the dentist to stop for any reason, you might raise your left hand. This helps you feel more in control during your visit.

    At Zen Dental Center, we want you to feel comfortable visiting our office for routine teeth cleanings and check-ups. Many of our patients have overcome dental anxiety thanks to our friendly and experienced staff. We’re always willing to adjust the care we provide to ensure your complete comfort. To learn more about us, or to schedule an appointment with our Seattle dentist, please contact us at 206-324-1100 today.

  • FAQs about Teeth Whitening

    Do your yellow teeth make you feel self-conscious when you smile? If your pearly whites really aren’t that white, you have the option of brightening your smile with teeth whitening. Learn more about your options and whether teeth whitening is right for you.

    What are my teeth whitening options?

    There are many ways to make your teeth whiter, with varying degrees of effectiveness. Your choices include:

    • Whitening toothpaste (makes teeth about one shade lighter)
    • Over-the-counter whitening rinse (takes about 12 weeks to lighten teeth by about one shade)
    • Over-the-counter whitening strips and trays (lightens teeth by two to three shades)
    • Prescription-grade whitening trays (Zen Dental Center offers Philips Zoom NiteWhite take-home whitening trays to lighten teeth by three or more shades)
    • In-office teeth whitening (Zen Dental Center also offers Philips Zoom in-office teeth whitening to lighten teeth by up to eight shades in just 45 minutes)

    We recommend a combination of in-office teeth whitening and three weeks of at-home tray whitening to lighten your smile by an average of 11 shades!

    Does in-office teeth whitening work for everyone?

    Yellowed teeth respond best to any form of teeth whitening. Brownish-colored stains react less effectively, and blue-gray staining caused by tetracycline may require several in-office treatments or six months of home treatments to achieve the desired results.

    Grayish, purple-hued or very dark stains may not be treatable with teeth whitening. In these cases, you may want to brighten your smile with veneers, bonding or crowns.

    How long do the effects of teeth whitening last?

    Whitening is not permanent, but you can prolong the effects of in-office whitening up to a year or more by following these tips:

    • Quit smoking.
    • Avoid foods and beverages that stain your teeth, including coffee, tea, wine, soda, acidic foods, candy and dark-colored berries.
    • Brush your teeth (or at least rinse with water) immediately after consuming stain-causing foods and drinks.
    • Brush your teeth at least twice a day, and floss at least once.
    • Use whitening toothpaste once or twice a week to help maintain the effects of in-office whitening.

    Is teeth whitening safe? What are the risks?

    Many prescription-grade and in-office whitening products have received the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance, including the products available at Zen Dental Center. They don’t damage tooth enamel, existing fillings or tooth nerves. Just be aware that the ADA does not approve any over-the-counter whitening products.

    While rare, the most likely side effects of teeth whitening include temporary tooth sensitivity and gum irritation. To reduce these problems, try these tips:

    • Wear whitening trays twice a day for half the allotted time.
    • Skip whitening for a couple of days.
    • Use toothpaste made for sensitive teeth.

    Does insurance cover the cost of teeth whitening?

    No. Teeth whitening is considered cosmetic, so most dental insurance plans don’t cover the cost.

    Ready to brighten your smile? Contact Zen Dental Center at 206-324-1100 to schedule an in-office teeth whitening appointment today!

  • Eating with Dentures

    The decision to get dentures doesn’t just improve your smile – it also opens the door to eating all your old favorites, like chewy steak, crisp corn on the cob and gooey pastries. But something unexpected might be setting you back: chewing with your dentures feels different than before, and your mouth reacts to this “foreign object” by producing more saliva.

    These problems will subside after a little while, but in the meantime, use these tips for eating with dentures so you can confidently join your friends for all-you-can-eat ribs.

    • Prepare for temporary loss of flavor: Your brain is focused on your new dentures, which can overpower the signals it receives from your taste buds about the food you’re eating. Once you get used to your dentures, your mind will turn its attention back to your taste buds, and flavors should return to normal.
    • Use caution with hot foods and drinks: New dentures can make it difficult to sense hot temperatures, so be careful not to burn your mouth on a steaming bowl of soup or cup of coffee.
    • Hold off on the steak for now: There’s no doubt you can eventually enjoy any food you want, but eat soft items for starters, such as pudding, eggs, cooked vegetables, fish and ground meat.
    • Ease into chewier foods: When you feel ready to try something like steak, cut your bites into extra small pieces to make chewing easier.
    • Divide and conquer: Separate the contents of each bite so you chew half on the right side and half on the left. This keeps the pressure even on both sides of your dentures.
    • Try denture adhesive: If your dentures don’t feel secure while eating, talk to your dentist about using adhesive. Your two primary options include paste and powder, either of which may work well for you.

    Zen Dental Center is your home for custom-fit removable dentures. This could be your best option if tooth implants aren’t right for you. Whether you need full dentures or partial dentures, we’ll outfit you with the restorative dental products you need to smile confidently and enjoy the foods you love. Our custom-fit options ensure a comfortable appliance tailored precisely for your mouth. If for some reason you ever require a denture adjustment or repair, we also provide these services at our Seattle office.

    To learn more about our restorative dentistry options, or to schedule a consultation, please contact Zen Dental Center by calling 206-324-1100 today.

  • Different Types of Toothbrushes

    Every time you meander down the dental care aisle, you might be overwhelmed by your options. There are so many types of toothbrushes – how do you decide what’s best? Learn more about your options and which ones we recommend here are Zen Dental Center.

    Manual Toothbrushes

    Hand-operated manual toothbrushes are the mainstays of the dental care world. Hundreds of varieties from dozens of manufacturers are available today. You’ll find toothbrushes with the following classifications:

    • Bristle hardness: Soft bristles are appropriate for most people, but medium- and hard-bristled toothbrushes are also available. The advantage of using a harder toothbrush is that it clears away more plaque, but it may irritate your gums and even wear away your enamel if you brush too hard.
    • Head shape: Conventionally shaped toothbrush heads are rounded or squared off. Diamond-shaped toothbrushes tend to be better at reaching the back and sides of your molars.
    • Bristle pattern: Several different bristle patterns are effective at cleaning teeth. Common varieties include wavy, crisscross, tapered and bristles with polishing cups. Your choice should depend on your dental needs and what feels the most comfortable.
    • Handle design: The four broad classes of toothbrush handles include straight, contra-angle, non-slip grip and flexible. The handle you choose should allow you to comfortably reach every tooth surface, including the very back of your mouth.

    Electric Toothbrushes

    Battery-operated toothbrushes take the effort out of brushing. Simply press the button, and the head starts oscillating, rotating or vibrating to clean your teeth effortlessly. Some even have built-in timers to make sure you brush evenly in all four quadrants of your mouth for two minutes of total brushing time.

    There are several types of electric toothbrushes:

    • Rotating brush heads spin all the way around.
    • Oscillating brush heads move from side to side.
    • Dual-head electric toothbrushes combine a rotating and oscillating brush head on a single handle.
    • Counter oscillating brush heads feature bristles that move from side to side in opposite directions.
    • Sonic and ultrasonic electric toothbrushes vibrate at incredibly high speeds with thousands or even millions of oscillations per minute.

    How to Choose a Toothbrush

    Here at Zen Dental Center, we recommend using an extra soft-bristled toothbrush with a diamond-shaped head to help clean those hard-to-reach places. Manual toothbrushes can be effective, but we may recommend an electric toothbrush if you have problems with dexterity or grip strength, or your teeth are prone to staining. Choose the other characteristics of your toothbrush based on personal preference or recommendations from your dentist. And remember to change your toothbrush (or your electric toothbrush head) every three months to significantly reduce plaque buildup.

    Your oral health is important to us! If you have any other questions about choosing a toothbrush, or if it’s time for your next dentist appointment, please contact our Seattle office at 206-324-1100.

  • Dental Issues Associated with Diabetes

    The American Diabetes Association explains that the relationship between diabetes and gum disease goes both ways. Not only are you more susceptible to gum disease if you have diabetes, but, like all infections, gum disease may cause your blood glucose levels to rise and contribute to the progression of diabetes.

    Fortunately, by learning which dental issues are associated with diabetes, you can take steps to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible despite your diagnosis.

    How Diabetes Affects Your Oral Health

    If you have sore or bleeding gums, get infections often, or have lingering bad breath, these are signs your diabetes is affecting your oral health. Some dental issues facing diabetes patients include:

    • Gum disease: Poorly controlled blood sugar puts you at risk of developing severe gum disease called periodontitis. At this advanced stage, your gums start to pull away from your teeth, leaving pockets where germs and pus accumulate. You may need gum surgery to save your teeth. If you do nothing, the infection will attack the bone, and your teeth may loosen or fall out.
    • Dry mouth: High blood sugar causes dry mouth in some patients, which worsens existing gum disease, promotes plaque buildup and leads to cavities. Untreated dry mouth can also cause soreness, ulcers and soft tissue infections.
    • Thrush: This is a yeast infection that can develop in the moist areas of the body, including the mouth. People with diabetes are more likely to develop thrush because high sugar levels lead to ideal growing conditions for yeast.

    Tips for Diabetes Patients to Decrease Dental Issues

    The trick to a healthy mouth for people with diabetes is two-fold – control your blood glucose levels and take good care of your teeth and gums. Here’s what you should do:

    • Follow suggestions from your general practitioner to keep your blood sugar under control. This step alone can relieve many of the dental issues associated with diabetes.
    • Brush your teeth morning and night.
    • Floss and rinse with antiseptic mouthwash once a day.
    • If you wear dentures, remove and clean them daily.
    • Visit the dentist for a cleaning and check-up every six months. Tell your dentist and hygienist that you have diabetes and alert them to any changes in your condition or the medications you’re taking.
    • If you smoke, quit.

    At Zen Dental Center, we care about your oral health! If you have any questions or concerns about the dental issues your diabetes might be causing, please contact Zen Dental Center at 206-324-1100 and schedule a check-up with our Seattle dentist right away.