Sung Lee Orthodontics

Specializing in Orthodontics for Children & Adults (in italic serif font)

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Puyallup, WA 98373
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(253) 864-4840

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What happens if I have an orthodontic emergency while I'm on vacation?

August 17th, 2022

At Sung Lee Orthodontics, there are a few things we want to remind you of when you're on vacation, so that a day with friends and family won’t be spent dealing with an orthodontic emergency. Firstly, we are here for you whether you are in town or out of town on vacation. Give us a call and we may be able to address the problem over the phone. Second, if we are unable to help you fix the problem over the phone, we will help you find an orthodontic practice in your vacation area that can help you.

If you experience problems reaching our office, we suggest going online and searching for orthodontic practices in your area. Most orthodontists will lend a helping hand to another orthodontic patient and get them out of pain or discomfort.

If you have braces, whether they are metal, ceramic, or lingual, Dr. Sung Lee and our team suggest steering clear of the following foods to avoid broken brackets and/or wire distortion while you are on vacation:

  • Chewy, sticky, or gummy food
  • Apples, pears and other whole fruits (cut fruit into thin wedges before consuming)
  • Bagels and hard rolls
  • Bubble gum
  • Corn on the cob
  • Hard candies
  • Hard cookies
  • Pretzels
  • All varieties of nuts, including peanuts, almonds, and cashews

Finally, if you have clear aligners and you lose your tray, don’t worry! Simply put in either the previous tray or the next tray and contact us as soon as you get home!

Follow these tips and you can have a worry-free vacation!

At what age should my child have an orthodontic evaluation?

August 10th, 2022

You may have noticed that kids seem to be getting braces and other orthodontic care a lot earlier these days. There was a time, only a decade or two ago, when braces were mainly seen on teenagers, but that is beginning to change. If you’re wondering when to bring your child to our Puyallup, WA office for an orthodontic evaluation, the answer actually has several parts.

The Telltale Signs

If your child has a very crowded set of adult teeth coming in, or if the permanent front teeth came in very early, these are signs that your child should see Dr. Sung Lee, regardless of age.

The Dental Age

Barring signs of trouble or early adult teeth as mentioned above, the time that your child needs to be seen for initial orthodontic evaluation depends not so much upon your child’s actual age, but on what is known as a “dental age.”

The dental age of the patient might be entirely different from his or her actual chronological age; for example, an eight-year-old could have a dental age of 13. It is part of Dr. Sung Lee and our staff’s job to determine the dental age and then make appropriate recommendations for the resolution of orthodontic issues if they are emerging.

The Official Recommended Age

The American Association of Orthodontists officially recommends that kids should see an orthodontist for the first time between the ages of seven and nine. Even if the child does not have all his or her permanent teeth, the teeth growth pattern can usually be predicted quite effectively by an orthodontist.

This allows for a proactive response to emerging problems, and this is the reason that some younger children are now getting orthodontic devices earlier in life. If a young child has serious orthodontic issues emerging, Dr. Sung Lee can usually address the problems immediately and then follow up with another round of treatment when the child has all the adult teeth.

Heading Back to School? Save Some Room in Your Backpack!

August 3rd, 2022

If you’re heading back to classes in the next few weeks, you’re probably getting your gear together now. So let’s talk about some of the items you can pack to make orthodontic care easier during school hours.

  • Dental-Healthy Food

Watching what foods you eat is especially important now. If you’re carrying your lunch or snacks in your pack, you want to be sure that they’re approved for braces and aligners.

If you wear braces, avoid foods which are sticky, chewy, or crunchy. They can stick to your teeth (making it easier for cavities to develop) or cause damage to your brackets and wires (making repairs necessary). Your orthodontist will give you a list of braces-friendly foods.

If you have clear aligners, even though you’ll remove them to eat, that sticky rule still applies. You don’t want food trapped in your aligners if you can’t brush right after eating, because that food is also food for the oral bacteria which cause cavities.

Bringing a water bottle with you is a great idea if it’s hard to brush after eating. Rinsing with water is a good way to get rid of loose food particles, and staying hydrated helps maintain normal saliva production—which also helps wash away food debris.

  • Toothbrush, Toothpaste, and Floss

It’s best to clean your teeth after every snack and meal if at all possible. A travel-sized brush, toothpaste, and dental floss or picks designed for braces will help you get rid of any unwanted dental leftovers. And a small mirror can help you discover any lingering food particles.

It’s especially important now to practice careful hygiene, so be sure to wash your hands before and after cleaning your teeth or appliances.

  • Your Aligner or Retainer Case

Whenever you take off your retainer or aligners to eat, you should always have your case handy. Cases make sure your appliances stay off germy desk and table surfaces—or worse, floors—and protect them from breakage. A case is also a good way to make sure your retainer doesn’t accidentally end up in a trash bin after lunch.

Again, before and after you handle your braces, aligners, or retainer, be sure to wash your hands carefully.

  • Dental Wax & Extra Bands

Sometimes a wire comes loose or a bracket irritates the inside of your cheeks or mouth. In this case, dental wax is a great way to protect yourself from irritation and injury. And if a band is lost or breaks, it’s always good to have a spare (or two) handy. As always, handwashing rules apply!

  • Your Mouth Guard

If your afterschool activities involve contact sports, a mouthguard is always a good idea, and especially when you wear braces. Dr. Sung Lee can create a custom guard which will protect your teeth, your delicate mouth tissue, and your braces from many impact injuries.

  • Your Orthodontist’s Phone Number

One important item that takes up almost no space in your backpack, locker, or phone is the phone number for our Puyallup, WA office. If your braces are damaged, or if your aligner or retainer is lost or broken, we will let you know what to do until you can safely visit the office in person.

Talk to our team about how to care for your braces or aligners while you’re at school, and talk to your school about how you can manage your dental care safely during school hours.

Common Malocclusions

July 27th, 2022

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

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

  • Crossbite

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

  • Crowding

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

  • Open bite

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

  • Overbite

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

  • Overjet

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

  • Spacing

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

  • Underbite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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