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Browsing 5 posts in cosmetic dentistry.

The Biology of Smiling

Happy young blond girl with missing front teethWhy do we have teeth?

We’ve got teeth for chewing, that’s for sure. And chewing means you’re getting more nutrition out of the food you consume. So that makes sense.

We also need teeth for speaking. If you’ve ever talked to a 7 year old who was missing some front teeth while waiting for their new ones to come in, you may have noticed that some of their “sss” sounds and “fff” sounds were a little off.

But what about smiling? Do we smile only as a side effect for having this awesome chewing and speaking apparatus?

The first question you might ask might be, “do any other animals smile?” The answer to that question is “kind of.”

Since people can communicate with the spoken or written word, we rely less on “nonverbal” communication than other animals. But any husband who’s ever asked their noticeably angry wife “what’s wrong?” and gotten the answer “nothing” knows…words don’t always communicate the complete meaning.

Animals communicate in a wide variety of ways. From the song of the humpback whale to the intricate dance of one bee explaining to its hive where the best flowers are, animals are amazing communicators. Often, parts of their body have become specialized to communicate. Take a beaver’s flat tail. When alarmed, one beaver can tell many other beavers of danger just by smacking that flat tail on the water. If you’ve ever heard that noise, you can see how effective it is!

Dogs and other ca800px-Do_not_take_his_bonenines are amazing nonverbal communicators. They have a body that’s perfectly designed to communicate with members of their pack and even the humans that come into their social circles. They’ve got tails that can wag, expressive ears, hair that can stand up or lay flat and they’ve also got long, noticeable teeth that can easily be displayed! However, if you’re seeing a dog’s teeth, you probably understand that they’re smile doesn’t mean the same thing as your grandmother’s!

It seems that our reaction to a smile is universal. In other primates, baring the teeth is usually a sign of aggression. Yet, when the teeth are shown while held closer together, it’s a sign of submission. A kind of nonverbal “hello, friend.” In humans, these kind of facial expressions seem to be instinctual. Infants can recognize a smile as soon as they can focus their eyes and even at this age the smile is associated with pleasure. Amazingly enough, human beings who were born blind and have never seen another smile are hard wired to smile themselves when they are happy and feeling pleasure.

Clearly, in humans smiling is built into our DNA. Teeth aren’t just for chewing and speaking. Teeth are for SMILING! If you aren’t happy and confident about your smile, I want to help! The team at Mead Family Dental can help you achieve the smile you’ve always wanted. We offer interest free payment plans that can fit most any budget. Give us a call at (989) 799-9133 or email me at and we’ll get you smiling again!

Did this post make you smile? Did it make the hair on the back of your neck stand up? 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 I always answer my own emails!

There’s no such thing as a cosmetic dentist

No, really. There are plenty of general dentists that love doing cosmetic dental work. There might even be dentists that limit their practice to esthetic cases. However, a dentist cannot be officially designated a “cosmetic dentist” or “cosmetic specialist.”

Dentistry actually has 9 recognized specialties.

  • Public Health Dentistry: this field of dentistry is involved in the assessment of dental health needs and improving the dental health of populations rather than individuals.
  • Endodontics: deals with the tooth pulp and the tissues surrounding the root of a tooth. They perform root canal treatments and retreatments.
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery: these dentists treat a wide spectrum of diseases, injuries and defects in the head, neck, face, jaws and the hard and soft tissues of the oral and maxillofacial region. Oral surgeons remove injured or diseased teeth, treat oral cancers and deal with temporomandibular joint problems.
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology: is the study and radiologic interpretation of oral and maxillofacial diseases. They are trained in reading and interpreting x-rays of the head and neck.
  • Orthodontics: focuses on the straightening of teeth and modification of midface and mandibular growth.
  • Prosthodontics: specializes in replacing missing teeth using crowns, bridges, implants and removable prostheses.
  • Pediatric Dentistry: specializes in treating dental diseases in children and adolescents.
  • Periodontics: specializes in treating the supporting tissues of the teeth such as the gums and the bone that surrounds the teeth.
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology: specializes in the diagnosis of less common dental and head and neck diseases.

General dentists are allowed to perform procedures within any of the specialties, if they choose to. However, as of right now a dentist cannot “specialize” in cosmetic dentistry. Kind of confusing, right? Let me explain a little more.

Let’s say you go to a general dentist with a toothache. The dentist performs some tests, takes an x-ray and determines that your tooth has an infection and will need a root canal. Many general dentists perform root canal treatments in their office while others might prefer to refer root canal procedures to a specialist called an endodontist. Some dentists will choose to do some, but not all of these procedures themselves for  different reasons. Perhaps they don’t enjoy doing them, they don’t find them time efficient or perhaps the tooth is particularly challenging. The endodontist has specialized training in root canal treatments. By choosing to specialize in root canals the endodontist doesn’t spend their time placing crowns or making dentures. They get very good at a very specialized procedure.

So you may wonder why there isn’t a cosmetic dentistry specialty.  My best answer is that cosmetic treatments are often “interdisciplinary” in nature. I’ve treated cosmetic cases where we first sent the patient to the orthodontist, to straighten their teeth and make room for a dental implant. Then sent them to an oral surgeon to place a dental implant. Finally, we whitened the patient’s teeth and restored the implant with a beautiful porcelain crown. The goal of all of this treatment was cosmetic improvement, but it involved a team of specialists organized by me, the general dentist. Some general dentists may have the skills required to do all of the different phases I’ve described. But for now, there’s no cosmetic dentistry specialty.

How can you know if your dentist has skill with cosmetic dentistry? The very best way to know is ask them! Dentists who do a lot of cosmetic dentistry usually take photos of their work. Not only is this a great way to show other patients what cosmetic dentistry can offer them but it helps them see what they can do differently or better for the next time. Dentists who enjoy doing cosmetic cases usually take a lot of continuing education classes in order to learn new and cutting edge techniques. Be sure to ask your dentist if they’ve taken courses on cosmetic dentistry.

And remember, cosmetic dentistry isn’t limited to super expensive veneer cases! Orthodontics (braces) and whitening can give a really dramatic result with little or no “drilling.” Replacing stained fillings or replacing silver fillings can lighten the color of your smile, too. Dentures can make a huge cosmetic difference for some people even though most people don’t really think of dentures as “cosmetic dentistry.”

Would you like to improve your smile? I’d be happy to take a look. I don’t charge anything for a cosmetic consultation. I can take a look and give you some ideas about what we could do to improve your smile. I’m also always available for second opinions at no charge! We place beautiful cosmetic restorations every day at Mead Family Dental, but remember…I’m not a “cosmetic dentist!”

Did you like this post? Would you like to share it with friends? You can click on the heart shaped icon next to the title of this post and automatically share it on Facebook, Twitter or Google+! Or you can leave a comment by clicking the “ballon” shaped button next to the title. Or send me an email at I’m happy to answer any questions and appreciate your input! If your looking for an improvement in your smile in Saginaw, MI I’d like to help!

The space between

This beautiful young patient told us that she's had a space between her front teeth for so long she didn't know what to expect if we were to close it. (click image to see full size)

The space between preop The space between postop

So we went ahead and closed the space and lengthened the teeth and we like the result!  This result was obtained using minimally invasive techniques and very little tooth structure removed.  

Do you have any cosmetic dental concerns?  We'd be happy to take a look and give you some ideas about what we can do to improve your smile!  Email me at or call the office for a complimentary cosmetic dentistry consultation!  We're here to help! 

Tooth whitening at the mall…have you seen the light?


Have you ever gone to a mall and seen the kiosks for tooth whitening?  They are almost always cheaper than the tooth whitening at your dentist’s office and they do use that blue light that they used on “Extreme Makeover.”  Why not give it a try?

Mall whitening does use the same chemical (hydrogen peroxide gel) as dentist office whitening. Actually, over-the-counter whitening strips like Crest Whitestrips also use this ingredient.  We all use hydrogen peroxide because it works.  However, I can think of a few problems that can be avoided if you whiten your teeth at the dentist’s office.

  • Some people aren’t good candidates for whitening.  If you’ve had fillings, crowns or bridge work on your front teeth whitening might not be a great choice for you.  Often it can be a great choice in combination with a well thought out treatment plan from your dentist.  Will the folks in the mall tell you this?
  • Whitening causes sensitivity.  If you whiten you will probably notice cold and sometimes sweet causing some pain.  This is normal due to the chemical process that goes on when you whiten and is usually not long lasting.  There are treatments prior to and after whitening that can reduce this sensitivity significantly.  Your dentist can best help you with this.
  • Who is going to help you if you have a problem?  Can the folks at the kiosk see you for follow up treatment, apply desensitizers or help you?  Before you have whitening done in the mall ask them if there’s a number you can call if you have an emergency.  Then email me a photo of their face after you’ve asked them. 🙂
    • FYI…if you or anyone you know ever has a problem with whitening whether it was done at the mall or a dentist’s office I am HAPPY to help.  I’m available to treat emergencies at (989) 488-7665.  Just because I think mall whitening is unwise I will NEVER say I told you so!
  • The light doesn’t do anything.  Peer reviewed research has proven over and over again that the light does nothing to enhance the whitening process.  Mall kiosks aren’t the only ones who have decided to use this marketing technique.  Many dentists have paid a fair amount of money for bleaching lights that don’t do anything, but they will use them to market the service.  This is dishonest.  Period.
  • The people running the kiosks aren’t dentists.  They are not trained to diagnose or treat dental conditions.  The technicality that they cite for being able to do bleaching without proper training is that they never apply the whitening chemicals to the teeth.  They simply fill the trays and hand them to their “patients.”
  • The chemicals that are used to whiten teeth are serious.  They aren’t dangerous when handled properly but they can cause burns to the lips and gums.  The protocols for in office bleaching at the dentist office focus on reducing this risk by isolating the teeth from the lips and gums.
  • In-chair whitening alone yields less dramatic results.  Most of the dramatic whitening (and sensitivity) from “in chair” bleaching comes from dehydrating the teeth.  “In chair” can jump start good results, but long lasting whitening is going to require that you add “in home” trays.  The best trays are custom made by a dental office.

Why do people choose to do whitening in the mall?  My best guess is because of the cost.  Whitening in the dental office can be expensive.  We charge $440 for whitening.  This includes pre-appointment impressions for densensitizing/whitening trays, an in-chair whitening treatment (if you choose) and at home whitening supplies along with any follow up treatment you might need.  But if you mention that you read about whitening on our website and you can get the same whitening for $299*!

Teeth_whitening_420-420x0  Did I mention that our in chair whitening treatment allows you to watch television while you whiten and enjoy our sparkling personalities?  Also, you won’t have to wear silly orange glasses.

Tell me what you think!  I would love to know your thoughts on this entry or the website as a whole.  Feel free to comment here or email me at

Closing the gap

This long time patient wanted to see if we could close the space between her two front teeth before her wedding.

Before logo

In the past we had talked about placing porcelain veneers to improve her smile.  Her request:  “Could we just close the gap a little?”  So we decided to try something a little simpler and a little bit more conservative. We decided to place a directly bonded tooth colored material.

With no tooth structure removed, no numbing and just a few minutes of work we were able to come up with a result like this.

After logo

Cosmetic dentistry doesn’t have to be painful, expensive or time consuming. With the right materials and know-how sometimes we can achieve a result like this with minimal fuss.

Are you interested in fixing your smile?  We’d love to help!  If you have dental questions feel free to email me at  Better yet, make an appointment for a free cosmetic evaluation by calling (989) 799-9133.  We’d love to serve all of your oral health care needs!