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My dirty little secret

A couple of days ago a friend was complaining to me that he had gotten something stuck between his teeth. He’d had lunch at a barbecue joint and wouldn’t you know it he had some brisket jammed between his molars. He was looking for a toothpick or a straw to get it out because it was kind of uncomfortable.

If you’ve ever suffered the same fate you’ll know what I’m talking about. It isn’t necessarily painful, but it’s a kind of persistent pressure that doesn’t really let up until you get whatever is jammed in there out. There are a lot of nerve endings in the gums and the tissues that support the teeth that tell you brain, “hey, something funny is going on here.”something stuck between my teeth

So I whipped out the floss that I carry in my pocket and rescued him. It took him about to seconds to snap the offending piece of brisket out and he was good to go.

“I’m lucky you’re a dentist,” he said as if it’s a given that dentists don’t go anywhere without floss, a toothbrush and maybe a spare dental mirror for good measure. The reality is my dirty little secret.

In a perfect world, the contacts between your teeth are tight enough that normal chewing doesn’t wedge food between them. Too tight makes it so flossing to remove plaque and food debris is difficult or impossible, but too loose means food can become impacted. Food impaction is an inconvenience to be sure, but it can become a problem. A spot where food impacts is more prone to decay simply due to the fact that you cannot remove the debris. The bugs (and by bugs, I mean bacteria) that sit there will metabolize the sugars in the impacted food into acid. When the pH of that part of the mouth reaches a critical level (5.5 to be exact) then the enamel of your teeth will start to dissolve. The longer impacted gunk sits there, the greater the chances that the pH can drop into dangerous levels and cause cavities.

Impacted food can also cause gum problems. I’ve spoken with periodontists (gum specialists) that have removed popcorn kernels from gum abscesses. People with gum disease are more prone to food impaction because their teeth are slightly more mobile than those without bone loss around their teeth. The bottom line is that places where food gets impacted are at greater risk for cavities and gum disease.

Why do we have spots where food gets stuck? Well, some people have naturally loose contacts between their teeth. As I mentioned, people with gum disease are definitely more likely to get stuff stuck in their teeth. If you have a broken or badly decayed tooth they will often be a spot that holds food debris. Finally, dental restorations like fillings or crowns can have inadequate contacts and be a risk factor on their own.

How do we fix it? Well, if you have naturally loose contacts between your teeth I’m not going to “fix” them if they don’t have disease. Those folks need to be extra careful in their brushing and flossing habits. Contacts that are particularly annoying to a patient can usually be “closed” in a minimally invasive fashion if the patient chooses. But if the loose contact in question is caused by decay or worse, the tooth is broken, we better fix it pretty fast!Dental floss

Dentists probably floss more often than regular folks, but there is no law that requires dentists to carry floss. I carry floss because I have two very loose contacts. Both of them are caused by restorations that have opened up over time. I need to get them fixed and I’ve been procrastinating. That’s my dirty little secret. It may surprise you that dentists are like other human beings…some of us put off treatment that’s necessary, too. But that’s no excuse! Let’s unite in our commitment to close open contacts! No more food impaction!

Did this make you feel ashamed? Do you feel differently about dentists? I’d love to hear about it! You can share any Mead Family Dental post with a “Like” on Facebook, a “+1″ on Google+ or you can even “Tweet” it with Twitter! All you need to do is hover over the heart shaped button next to the title of the post. Or you can leave a comment by clicking on the balloon shaped icon next to the title.

If you’re looking for a dentist in Saginaw, we’re always happy to accept new patients! You can request an appointment online or call the office at (989) 799-9133. And, as always, you can email me at alan@meadfamilydental.com. I always answer my own emails!

 

Don’t hold it against us

The story of Cecil the lion broke yesterday. I think the story is tragic on several levels.

Let me get this out of the way. I think it’s deplorable that someone would want to trophy hunt a lion. My understanding is that it is legal if properly permitted. So I don’t believe it’s criminal. But I believe it is a horrible thing to do. You may disagree with me and I respect your opinion, but you’re not likely going to sway me on this one.

Here’s the problem. Every story I’ve seen about Cecil the lion leads with the fact that the hunter who killed him is a dentist. It seems important to the media coverage that he’s a dentist. In fact, it’s making a lot of dentists I know kind of defensive.

You may be interested to know that dentists aren’t monolithic on the topic of trophy hunting lions. In fact, I think you’ll find most of them feel strongly that it’s a terrible idea. But apparently it’s a very important part of this breaking news that the guy who killed Cecil the lion is a dentist. Why would this be?

Wild male lion portraitFirst, most people think dentists are overpaid. Most of the news stories describe the amount the hunter paid to hunt and kill Cecil the lion. Most of the accounts I’ve read claim that he paid over $50,000 for the privilege. Of course it’s not very far from that to “if he’s got $50,000 to spend on that then he makes too much money.” Perhaps there is an argument to be made that dentists are overpaid, but it’s patently unfair to make that argument in the context of this story. This is one guy. One guy who (in my opinion) chose to do something very stupid and reprehensible with his time and money. The fact that he spent a ton of cash to go kill a lion has nothing to do with the price of your crown and it doesn’t mean that dentists get paid too much.

Secondly, many people have had bad experiences with dentists. I can say with confidence that every dentist I know tries their hardest to make the experience as painless and comfortable as possible, but it’s not always possible. If you have an abscessed tooth, they often times hurt. And it’s not our fault that they do. It’s mostly yours. We do our very best to get you out of pain. But unfortunately, dentists get associated with that pain. All dentists carry this burden with them.

But that doesn’t make us bad people. It makes us the people that try to help you when you’re in a bad situation. Dentists can be bad (or more often, very good) people. But it’s completely separate from our profession.

You can defend the guy that killed Cecil the lion or you can hate him. But don’t do either simply because he’s a dentist.

Did this make you want to roar? Do you feel differently about dentists? I’d love to hear about it! You can share any Mead Family Dental post with a “Like” on Facebook, a “+1″ on Google+ or you can even “Tweet” it with Twitter! All you need to do is hover over the heart shaped button next to the title of the post. Or you can leave a comment by clicking on the balloon shaped icon next to the title.

If you’re looking for a dentist in Saginaw, we’re always happy to accept new patients! You can request an appointment online or call the office at (989) 799-9133. And, as always, you can email me at alan@meadfamilydental.com. I always answer my own emails!

Why do I always get cavities?


Are you one of those people that has never had a cavity? Or maybe you’re one of those poor folks that seems to have new cavities every time you get your teeth cleaned. Why do different people experience such different levels of tooth decay?

In today’s podcast Dr. Mead talks about risk factors for tooth decay and the things you can change as well as the things you can’t change about your own individual risk levels.

Did you like this podcast? I’d love to hear about it! You can share any Mead Family Dental podcast or post with a “Like” on Facebook, a “+1″ on Google+ or you can even “Tweet” it with Twitter! All you need to do is hover over the heart shaped button next to the title of the post. Or you can leave a comment by clicking on the balloon shaped icon next to the title. Better yet, subscribe to the podcast on your iPhone so you can catch Dr. Mead’s weekly podcast automatically!

If you’re looking for a dentist in Saginaw, we’re always happy to accept new patients! You can request an appointment online or call the office at (989) 799-9133. And, as always, you can email me at alan@meadfamilydental.com. I always answer my own emails!

Cavemen didn’t need hip replacements

If you were born in the paleolithic era, you could expect to live to be 33 years old. The global average life expectancy in 2010 was more than double this number at 67 years. Advances in hygiene, food production, medical care are among the reasons for this and we should all be thankful for this.

Primitive man

His hips are the last thing on his mind.

But on the bright side for the cavemen…they didn’t need hip replacements. If you were 35 years old you were likely the oldest person in your tribe and had probably outlived everyone you’ve ever known. But you hadn’t really lived long enough to wear your joints out.

Fast forward to the United States in the early 21st century and you’ll find that 2.3% of Americans have had a hip replaced and 4.6% have had a knee replaced. More than a million joint replacements will be done this year and that number continues to grow. Hip and knee replacements are surgeries that improve a patient’s quality of life in a big way. And we Americans are all about quality of life!

I want you to picture your lower molars. Your lower “first molars” came in somewhere around 6 years old. So for that same 50 year old we talked about above, these teeth have been tolerating chewing, hot coffee, cold ice cream and the occasional unpopped kernel of popcorn for 44 years. Think about that. 44 years! How old is your car? If you’re like most people it’s probably less than 5 years old and maybe 10 on the outside. But if you’ve got your first molars, they’ve been laboring for you since you were 6 years old!

a molar that could use some help

This molar has a long life to live…if it gets a little help.

Teeth wear out, too. If you happen to be particularly kind to them (avoiding sugary or acidy foods, not grinding your teeth, not chewing ice cubes, not smoking, not drinking super hot liquids followed by freezing cold ice cream, etc.) they may well last your entire lifetime. But if your dentist tells you you’re going to need a crown, don’t feel too bad. Crowns are kind of like the knee replacements of dentistry. Dentists can give that tooth a new life with a procedure that’s a heck of a lot easier than a hip replacement! Even more…if you happen to lose a tooth, we can replace that tooth with an implant that looks and functions almost exactly like the real thing!

If you were a caveman, your first molars would have only had to last about 27 years. And since cavemen didn’t have refined sugars in just about everything they ate, most of them did just fine. You are not a caveman. Your life expectancy is very likely well over 70 years old. You are going to wear your parts out. That’s not disease. That’s the awesome nature of living twice as long as a caveman!

The next time your dentist diagnoses you with a cracked tooth that needs fixing  you shouldn’t be upset at all. Let it be a reminder that you are benefitting from all the advances that the cavemen didn’t have.

And get that crown done. Those molars have to last a long time yet!

Did you find this post all ageless? Lively? I’d love to hear about it! You can share any Mead Family Dental post with a “Like” on Facebook, a “+1″ on Google+ or you can even “Tweet” it with Twitter! All you need to do is hover over the heart shaped button next to the title of the post. Or you can leave a comment by clicking on the balloon shaped icon next to the title.

If you’re looking for a dentist in Saginaw, we’re always happy to accept new patients! You can request an appointment online or call the office at (989) 799-9133. And, as always, you can email me at alan@meadfamilydental.com. I always answer my own emails!

 

A filling or a crown?

Imagine yourself sitting in the dental chair. The dentist comes in and examines your teeth. She looks at the x-rays, takes another look at your teeth and says, “I think you need a crown here.” What is she looking for? How does she know whether your tooth could use a filling or a crown? In episode 2 of “You Know the Drill” I give a little background on how the dentists determines when a tooth a little help, or some big help!

Did you like this podcast? I’d love to hear about it! You can share any Mead Family Dental podcast or post with a “Like” on Facebook, a “+1″ on Google+ or you can even “Tweet” it with Twitter! All you need to do is hover over the heart shaped button next to the title of the post. Or you can leave a comment by clicking on the balloon shaped icon next to the title. Better yet, subscribe to the podcast on your iPhone so you can catch Dr. Mead’s weekly podcast automatically!

If you’re looking for a dentist in Saginaw, we’re always happy to accept new patients! You can request an appointment online or call the office at (989) 799-9133. And, as always, you can email me at alan@meadfamilydental.com. I always answer my own emails!

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