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4 Simple Tooth Care Tricks that Dentists Don’t Want You to Know About

"I could tell you, but I'd have to kill you..."

“I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you…”

If you’ve ever spent any time in a dentist’s office you know they’re always wanting you to come back. “Let’s make another appointment for a filling” or “we’d like to make an appointment for your 6 month cleaning!” They must think you’re made out of money or something. Who’s got time for that?  It’s like they think you don’t have a life to live or something. Here are 4 simple tooth care tricks guaranteed to make it so you need to see the dentist less!

  • Drop the pop: If you wanted to design a perfect food to cause tooth decay, then pop would be it. Soda is a perfect storm of fizzy acid in the drink and sugar that bacteria in your mouth can turn into acid.  Whether you call it “pop,” “soda” or “Coke”, one thing is for sure: regular drinkers of the stuff get cavities. It’s as simple as that. If you regularly drink a lot of pop (2 or more cans a day, or even a single can over a period of time) you’ll probably get cavities. And cavities mean expensive visits to the dentist. 
  • Dentists aren’t the only thing that fix cavities: Dentists want you to think that they’re the only ones who fix cavities. But that’s just plain wrong. The cavities that a dentist sees don’t start out as huge craters in your teeth. They start out as teeny tiny spots of decalcification on the surface of your enamel. These tiny spots can fix themselves if you have a) healthy saliva flow and b) regular exposure to fluoride. This means regular brushing with a fluoride toothpaste or night time “swish and spit” with a fluoride rinse. “Wait a minute,” you’re thinking. “So you’re saying that I can heal my own cavities?” Yes. You can heal your own cavities. Provided that the cavities are small enough and you have a healthy flow of saliva. It also helps if your saliva isn’t filled with acid from your diet. Remember the soda thing from above?
  • Who gets gum disease?: This is a complicated question with a pretty simple answer. Smokers get gum disease. It’s probably the most significant risk factor. There are other risk factors for gum disease which include how well you take care of your teeth, what specific bacteria are present in your mouth and your particular immune system. But when you look at people that get referred to periodontal specialists you’ll see a great majority of them are smokers. So if you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, you’re probably going to suffer from gum disease if you don’t already. And that means a lot more face time at your dentist’s office.

    "I am PSYCHED about flossing!"

    “I am PSYCHED about flossing!”

  • Strings attached: So pop drinkers and smokers are much more likely to need to see the dentist…are there people who are much less likely to see them? The answer is an emphatic “yes!” People who floss daily don’t have as many dental problems as people who don’t. Because people who floss regularly are removing bacterial plaque and food debris (YUM!) from a much greater surface area than brushing alone. This reduces the risk for tooth decay and gum disease and it also makes you feel good about yourself. Actually, it makes you feel like you’re better than people who don’t floss, which makes you feel good about yourself. True story.

So there you have it. 4 simple tooth care tricks that will keep you out of the dentist’s chair. You’ll notice that I didn’t say 4 easy tooth care tricks. I said simple, which is distinctly different than easy. It’s hard to break addictions like smoking and pop drinking, but I can promise you it’s very worthwhile! Developing regular brushing and flossing habits is tough, too. But if you can make the effort, you’ll definitely spend less money and less time in your dentist’s office. I did tell one little lie, though. Dentists really do want you to know this. It’s just that whenever the headline says, “tricks that they don’t want you to know about” then people read it. So…sorry for the lie. But not really.

Did you find this post sarcastic? Did it make you feel a little tricky? This dentist in Saginaw, MI would 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 Saginaw dentist, 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!

Pop cavities

Ice cold, delicious and full of acid. Also sugar.

It’s like this…drinking a lot of pop can cause cavities. The more pop you drink, and the slower you drink it, the greater your chances of getting cavities.

I’ve written about this before. A lot, actually. In fact, many of my patients get sick of me telling them about it. But hey…I’m a doctor. I’ll bet diabetics get tired of hearing their physician tell them that they need to lay off the M&M’s and donuts, too.

I recently examined a patient who admitted to being a serious on-the-job pop drinker. He told me with no prompting that he was done with pop. He didn’t like how it made his teeth look. So, of course, I took a picture.

"pop cavities" (click to enlarge)

He had a few things going on that are classic for pop drinkers:

  • front teeth: He had quite a few cavities, but they were limited mostly to his upper front teeth. If you think about it, that kind of makes sense. When you sip a highly acidic and sugary beverage what does it hit first? Your upper front teeth. So that’s where the acid and sugar starts to work.
  • “white spot” lesions: This is the chalky, white spotting that you can see on tooth enamel that has been partially dissolved by acid. The good news about white spot lesions is that with some intensive fluoride treatment they can be reversed. However, continued acid and sugar will cause a white spot lesion to turn into a…
  • “pop cavities:” That’s just what I call them. This is the yellowish-brownish hole you can see once the acid has really broken through the enamel of your tooth. The second layer is darker colored and much more susceptible to the acid. Once you lose your enamel, that tooth is a much greater risk to form a pop cavity.
So what can you do if you like your pop so much that you don’t want to stop? I have a couple suggestions:

So, are you a pop drinker? You ought to check out your front teeth in a mirror. Or, better yet, come in the office and let us take some photos. We can take a look at them together on the iPad and see if you’ve got any “pop cavities.”

Did you find this post refreshing? Fizzy? Annoying? 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!

Two minute warning

I recently discussed beverage habits with a young woman who was in to have her teeth cleaned. We found several new cavities. How they looked and where I found them indicated to me that she has some dietary sugar problems. So I launched into my mind reader act.

“So, what kind of pop do you like to drink?”

She looked slightly impressed, but she seemed ready for my question.

“Well, I don’t drink much pop. I do drink a lot of Gatorade, though.”

Boom! There it was. Gatorade was her beverage of choice. I actually hear this a lot. Gatorade can’t be bad for your teeth! Gatorade is for athletes. Athletes are healthy. Plus, Gatorade isn’t fizzy, so there’s less acid, right? No problem.

Gatorade contains 14g of sugar per serving. Which is about half the amount of sugar in my traditional nemesis, Mountain Dew. However, it’s pH is listed between 2.2 and 3.1. Which is similar if not more acidic than Mountain Dew. So Gatorade has less sugar than pop, but is similarly acidic, even though it’s not fizzy.

I talked a bit longer to this patient. I told her that unless she wanted to see lots of me that she was going to need another plan.

She said, “O.K., I’ll just drink water.”

I asked, “do you like water?”


“So why do you drink Gatorade?”

“Well, it tastes better.”

“Here’s the deal. You can drink as much Gatorade as you want, but you have to limit it to 2 minutes a day.”

She looked at me, completely puzzled.

“I know,” I said. “It sounds silly. Having some sugars or acids in the diet is O.K., but you have to limit the amount of time your teeth are exposed to it. If you want to drink a bottle of Gatorade, I’ve got no problem with it. But you have to drink it in 2 minutes from start to finish. You need to set a timer.”

Kelly, my hygienist, jumped in and mentioned, “Gatorade ‘G2’ is sugar free, too. I don’t know about the acid content, but it doesn’t have any sugar.”

“So now you have a plan,” I said. “You get 2 minutes to have any sugary drinks you want. Then you need to chew some sugarless gum. For the rest of the day, you’ll look for sugar free options.”

“I think I can do that,” she said.

So there you have it. If you can change your diet in such a way, you can significantly reduce your risk for developing cavities. Do you need a 2 minute warning?

If you like this post, 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!


Double whammy

Sometimes life isn’t fair. That’s how it works with cavities. As I’ve mentioned before, a cavity is just a hole that acid eats in your tooth.

“Acid, you say?” Yup. Acid is what causes cavities.

“Well,” you say, “it’s not like I eat acid or something. How does this happen? Where does the acid come from?”

That, my friend, is a very good question.

The acid in your mouth comes from two sources. Bacterial acids and dietary acids. Bacterial acids work kind of like this:

  1. you eat something sugary
  2. acid producing bacteria in your mouth grab some of this sugar as you’re eating it
  3. they eat this sugary stuff and produce lactic acid as a waste product
  4. the lactic acid lowers the pH in a local area and begins to break down/eat away tooth structure

The term dentists use for this eating away by acid is demineralization. The acid acts on the hard surfaces of your teeth and leaches out the calcium and other minerals leaving a little hole. This acid attack isn’t simply a one way street. Your saliva acts to repair this demineralization and in most cases is able to fix it before an actual hole in the surface of the tooth forms. However, in some cases where a lot of acid is produced, a hole in the surface of the tooth can form that cannot be fixed by saliva. Once a hole like this has formed it’s irreversible and must be fixed with a filling or a crown.

Dietary acids are the second source of acid in your mouth. Many foods contain acids. Citrus fruit, tomatoes, some beans and nuts can contain some acid. However, the biggest problem for your teeth is acid containing drinks. Sodas, energy drinks and other carbonated drinks contain carbonic and phosphoric acids. These drinks cause a huge whole-mouth drop in pH with every sip. The acid in pop alone can cause serious tooth problems, but many of them also include a LOT of sugar. And you remember what we just said about sugar above, right? (sugar–>bacterial yum yums–>acid production)

That’s why pop is a double whammy. It has a very low pH and it has lots of sugar, which the bugs in your mouth can turn into acid. So be careful with pop. It’s better to drink less of it (or none of it).

Are you a pop drinker and worried about your teeth? If you’d like to find out more or just need a dentist in Saginaw, we’d love help! In fact, we’d like to be your Saginaw dentist! Feel free to call the office at (989) 799-9133, request an appointment online or email me at

The dentist and the apple

One of my top 10 favorite foods is an apple.  I’m partial to Jazz or Honeycrisp.  In fact, you don’t want to be standing between me and a Jazz apple.

Why should you care?  This is the blog of a Saginaw dentist, not a fruit market, right?  Well let me tell you a little story.

I got up this morning early.  I mean really early.  Like 4:30am.  It snowed like crazy last night.  Schools were cancelled and the roads were terrible.  My routine is to get up in the morning and feed the horses.  At the moment we have 12 horses and a miniature donkey that I feed a couple times each day.  Also two dogs.  So it takes a while. And with snow, it takes even longer.

So I knew I was going to be trudging through the snow as well as shovelling, so I needed a breakfast on the go.  And since I’m such a huge fan of apples, it made perfect sense.  I grabbed my apple and hopped in the truck. This is when the trouble started.

When I bit into this beautiful, shiny apple I didn’t have any idea the problem I was about to experience. On the very first bite I felt a heavy pressure and sharp pain by my lower left canine. WOW! It lit up my morning like fireworks!  This is the part where you revel in the irony of a dentist explaining his toothache, so enjoy it!

What had happened to me has probably happened to anyone who’s ever eaten a really crispy apple.  I had jammed a little bit of the skin of that apple right between two of my teeth.  And it really stuck!  It was a ton of pressure on that one little spot and wow did it hurt!  

So what was I to do?  It just so happens that I keep a small spool of floss, just like the ones that we give to our patients at their cleaning appointments, in my truck.  I reached into the center console, grabbed my floss and I was as good as new in 2 seconds flat.

So I had a happy ending to my story.  I tell you this tale because I can offer you a happy ending if you were to ever have such a tragedy.  Come get your teeth cleaned here at the office.  Not only will we treat you really nicely but we’ll look over your teeth and make sure everything is O.K.  If there are problems, we’ll offer you solutions.  We’ll tell you how much it will cost to fix them.  If you’ve got insurance, we’ll help you sort out how much they’ll kick in for your treatment.  If you don’t have insurance, we can help you find ways to save some money on dental care costs.

And most importantly…we’ll give you some floss that you can carry with you.  You know, to help out with those tragic apple accidents.

Give us a call at (989) 799-9133 or email me at  We’ll give you a dental office experience that you’ll want to tell your friends about!

On chewing gum

Chewing gum can be good for your teeth.  It also can be bad for your teeth and your jaw joint.  Chewing gum will stimulate saliva, which is the major natural defense your teeth have against cavities.

There are two rules that I have for chewing gum.  Two and a half, really.  They are simple and they are to be followed.  Failure to follow them may cause this Saginaw dentist to hunt you down, call you silly names and revoke your license to chew.

  1. Chew sugarless gum.  Preferably containing xylitol.  There are so many foods and drinks that have an insane amount of sugar in them and many of these don’t have good sugarless options.  There are a ton of really good sugarless gums.  They’ll stimulate saliva flow after meals and make your mouth feel fresh but they don’t give cavity bugs anything to eat.  Win-win.
  2. Chew for 5 minutes or when the flavor is gone, whichever is shorter.  The hard core gum chewers hate this.  Your jaw joints suffer wear and tear like any other joints.  I recommend that you don’t overuse them.  I would compare gum chewing all day long with cracking your knuckles.  It’s a kind of nervous habit.  My evidence is completely anecdotal, but patients that are heavy gum chewers often have a “jaw pop.”  It doesn’t necessarily lead to problems or pathology, but it can be annoying.  So don’t chew too long.

2.5. If you have braces or an orthodontic appliance, don’t chew gum.

These are the rules.  You know the consequences.  Chew wisely.

Questions?  Comments?  Do hard core gum chewers want to send me angry emails?  Email me at:  I return all of my own email and would be happy to answer questions!

diet pop, obesity and stroke: evaluating medical claims critically

Recent headlines suggest that those who drink diet soda are more likely to have cardiovascular problems, specifically stroke.  Let's review some of the headlines:

"Diet pop can be hard on your heart"

"Want to have a stroke?  Keep drinking diet sodas"

"Diet Drinks Help Waist, But Still Lead to Heart Problems, Stroke"

"Drinking diet pop might increase risk or stroke"

Diet-soda If you don't look any harder you could walk away with the idea that drinking diet soda will lead to strokes.  And if you're anything like me, this will lodge in your mind until the next sensational headline tells you something else that many people do on a regular basis is unhealthy and damaging.

Does drinking diet soda really make you more likely to have a stroke?  A stroke is damage to the brain due to a temporary interruption of the blood supply.  It's very similar to the damage to the heart during a heart attack.  What exactly is it in diet soda that makes it more likely for a stroke to happen?  According to the articles this same risk isn't found in people who drink regular soda.  So are we to assume that it's the artificial sweeteners?  

This is a perfect example of preliminary "science" prevented as fact used as a scare tactic.  Many news sources have gotten honest about the source of this information, but many others have not.  Retractions or good explanations of the methods don't make headlines, but scare tactics do.  

The correlation between diet soda and stroke was made in a poster presentation at the "International Stroke Conference."  Poster presentations are not the same as peer reviewed medical journals and definitely do not carry the weight of medical consensus.  This misinterpretation is not the fault of the scientists presenting the poster so much as the media drawing unsupported conclusions.  Simply stated, the connection presented has not been studied enough to make the statements that a lot of news sources are making.

Corr-297x300 Most news stories do not bother to mention that correlation isn't the same thing as causation.  There very well could be a correlation between intake of diet soda and stroke, but by no means does that mean drinking diet soda causes strokes.  It's that the individual data points of stroke risk and diet soda intake are often found together.   Perhaps overweight and obese people, who are clearly more likely to have strokes and heart attacks, are more likely to report drinking diet soda because they are attempting to lose weight.  Perhaps there really is some stroke inducing ingredient in diet soda.  The study that is referred to really doesn't make that evident.  There needs to be a lot of research and verification to reach a point where causation of disease can be determined.

The news media and others reporting the "drinking diet soda = greater stroke risk" are jumping the gun.  They're not interested in reality as much as a good story.  A story that might frighten you, but will hopefully be forgotten until the next scary headline.  

Is this ever done in dentistry?  I think it is.  I'll discuss that in another blog soon!