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Browsing 9 posts in life is tough on teeth.

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!

 

athletic mouth guard season

"Where's your mouth guard?"

When most people think of summer in Michigan they picture sunny days spent at the lake, outdoor concerts and the smell of recently cut grass. Michigan summers are the reward for the punishment that is Michigan winter.

When I think of Michigan summers I think of getting hit in the face with a softball. Or maybe getting an elbow in the incisor while playing basketball. And summer always leads to fall football season, which sometimes leads to broken teeth. I know, I’m kind of weird. But summer is definitely the season of dental sports trauma.

Sports trauma is one of those things that athletes don’t want to think about. I routinely talk to high school aged kids that play sports and almost none of them use a protective mouth guard unless they are required. Most athletes will never experience an “orofacial injury” while playing sports. The problem is that if it happens, it’s really bad news. According to the National Youth Sports Foundation for the Prevention of Athletic Injuries:

  • Tooth and other dental injuries are the most common type of head and neck injury sustained during participation in sports.
  • A tooth knocked out (complete avulsion) while playing sports is likely to cost $20,000 or more to replace over a lifetime
  • Fixing a tooth or teeth that are broken but not lost during sports will likely create expensive problems that will need to be dealt with over the athlete’s life.

Am I using scare tactics? You betcha! I have treated patients who have needed extensive dental work to fix problems that could have been prevented. They all wish that they had been wearing a mouth guard when they got nailed with that baseball!
I know what you’re thinking. Wearing a mouth guard sucks. They’re bulky and annoying. They make you drool. They look silly. I would agree with you if you’re talking about the store bought “boil and bite” mouth guards. They’re awful. A custom made, lab fabricated dental mouth guard that is appropriately trimmed and adjusted is a whole different story.

"I've got one for every outfit!"

We have mouth guards made in a lab. We use a super accurate impression material to make a model of your teeth and then have a lab fabricate a mouthguard of ideal thickness. A thicker mouth guard offers more protection, but that needs to be weighed against comfort. If it’s not comfortable, you won’t wear it. Since different sports require different levels of protection, we can make a mouth guard in varying thicknesses depending on whether you’re boxing or playing tennis. Whatever sport you play, we’ve got you covered. More importantly, we can get all different colors and styles, add straps for football and even fit patients in braces!

The bottom line is that you should be wearing a mouth guard if you’re playing sports. Most athletes are pretty sure it couldn’t happen to them. I know a few that used to think that. They wear mouth guards now!

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 alan@meadfamilydental.com. I’m happy to answer any questions and appreciate your input! If you are looking for a mouth guard (or even a new dentist!) in Saginaw, MI I’d like to help!

How long will this last?

So there I sit, next to my patient. I’ve removed their temporary crown and am getting ready to place our beautiful new porcelain crown. It’s finely adjusted and exquisitely polished. We’re ready to rock and roll. Then…the question.

“Doc, how long is this crown going to last?”
“How long do you think it should last?” I ask.
“I don’t know. For as much as it costs, it should probably last forever!”

I’ve had some variation of this conversation many times before. I’m asking the patient to spend a bunch of time and money for the work I’m placing. Why shouldn’t it last forever? Or at least a really long time?

In a perfect world, the dentistry that I place will last forever. In this same perfect world, you wouldn’t have to change the oil in your car. Or replace your roof. Or change the filter in your furnace. Or mow your lawn.

Actually, that crown we just placed would love to switch places with your roof. The conditions that your roof has to put up with are a cake walk compared to your crown. A little snow, wind and rain and some gradual temperature changes? Pffffft. Nothing to it!

Let’s do the math.

Let’s say you chew each bite of food 10 times before you swallow it. (A very conservative estimate, but it makes the math easier) Then let’s say each meal you eat has about 20 bites.

You just used that crown 200 times while you ate lunch. Multiply that by 3 meals and you’re working on 600 times per day. If you don’t eat snacks. And don’t even get me started on chewing gum!

So yeah, you use your teeth for chewing a lot. But most restorations will handle everyday chewing pretty handily. Leaving out the unpopped popcorn and olive pits, chewing isn’t the real problem. The real problem is the environment that we’re placing this crown in.

  • Your new crown will have to tolerate temperatures ranging from 150-170 degrees F (hot coffee) to 20-30 degrees F (ice cream). Sometimes within seconds of each other.
  • Most crowns will have to tolerate acid attacks throughout the day.
  • Your crown will be almost constantly covered with bacterial biofilm that resists efforts at removal.
  • Many crowns will find that their owners grind their teeth throughout the night while they are sleeping.
  • Some crowns will need to resist bad habits of their owners like ice chewing and lemons sucking.

The bottom line is, the mouth is a pretty tough place for this beautiful new crown to have to survive!

What’s a realistic estimate for a crown or filling to hold up? The unsatisfying answer: it really depends. In a person who avoids sweets and sodas, who takes exquisite care of their mouth (brushing and flossing), who doesn’t take any medications that might dry their mouth, who doesn’t grind their teeth at night and sees a dentist regularly in an effort to catch problems while they’re still small…you could easily see a restoration last for 15-20 years or longer. Regular wear and tear, even in the most “low risk” patients will probably do in any dental work placed if you live long enough.

How can you make your dental work last as long as possible?

  • Brush 2-3x a day with a soft bristled brush and floss once a day.
  • Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless mints after meals to stimulate saliva flow. Preferably flavored with xylitol.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Avoid sugary foods and reduce between meal snacking.
  • Keep up with regular dental appointments. At least twice a year and more if you have risk factors like taking medications or having conditions that create a dry mouth.
  • If you have problems, get to the dentist for treatment right away!

So, back to my conversation with my patient.

“Doc, how long is this crown going to last?”
“How long do you think it should last?” I ask.
“I don’t know. For as much as it costs, it should probably last forever!”
“The only way I know how to make this crown last for that long is to store it in box. In a really safe place.”
“Um. O.K. Let’s just put it on the tooth and I’ll try to take care of it.”
“Alrighty then!”

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 alan@meadfamilydental.com. I’m happy to answer any questions and appreciate your input! If your looking for a dentist in Saginaw, MI I’d like to help out!

This is how you should drink pop…

If you’re going to drink pop, here’s how you should do it.

I’m only kidding a little bit here.  Let me explain.

Pop has all kinds of acid in it.  Different pops have higher or lower pH, but all of them have a lot of acid.  Your teeth already have to deal with acid on a regular basis because sugars that you eat can be turned into acid by the tooth bugs that are already there.  Adding a bunch of sugary and acidic soda just makes it that much worse.

So stick with me here.  Each time you take a sip or a gulp of soda, the acid in it is attacking your teeth. Your saliva takes a certain amount of time to buffer that “acid attack” whether you just sipped or drank a whole can.

So do the math.  If it takes you an entire afternoon to sip yourself through a can of soda, you are having an almost constant acid attack for hours at a time.  If you drink like the guys above, then you have one acid attack and then your saliva can bring your mouth’s pH back to a normal healthy level.

Yes, you’re reading this correctly…this Saginaw dentist is giving you permission to guzzle.  Or better yet, have water instead.

Questions or comments about this post?  Email me at alan@meadfamilydental.com.  I always answer my own emails!

(Note to reader…do yourself a favor and do not search YouTube for “chugging.”)

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 alan@meadfamilydental.com.  We’ll give you a dental office experience that you’ll want to tell your friends about!

And now, a word from your tongue…

“Hi…this is your tongue.  I know we don’t really talk very much.  I’m usually too busy chewing, talking or tasting things, but I’ve just got to get this off my chest, so to speak.

You know that tooth on the lower right that had a little piece break off?  Of course you know that you need to have it looked at, but you just haven’t had time.  Anyhow…you’re not thinking about it, but that happened more than a year ago.  Just a little FYI…that kind of thing won’t get better on its own. Actually, they have a way of getting worse.  Usually they don’t hurt until a holiday or vacation.  I sure would appreciate it if you have a dentist look at that thing.  It’s really tearing me up.

Oh…and while you’re there you could have the upper left checked out, too.  The molars are complaining constantly about getting food packed in between them.  Neither one of them wants a root canal although the uvula and I think that would be hilarious!  Molars are such whiners!

One other thing.  I’ve always wanted you to know that you’ve got great taste.  HA!  Get it, I’m your tongue and you’ve got great taste!  I slay myself!

O.K.  So get that stuff checked out, alright?  Thanks!”

Has your tongue been talking to you?  We can help with that!  Call (989) 799-9133 today and we’ll get you in to take a look right away.  Your tongue will thank you!