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Browsing 45 posts in prevention.

no symptoms ≠ no problems

"Jokey smurf thought nothing of the filling that fell out last week. He wasn't as Jokey when his cheek swelled up."

“It didn’t hurt, Doc. So I didn’t come in…”

I hear this from patients. A lot!

Many dental problems actually don’t hurt. A couple examples:

  • gum disease: Usually doesn’t hurt, even with advanced loss of bone around the tooth. Teeth can often become loose with little to no pain.
  • early tooth decay: Painless. Tooth decay can often advance almost all the way to the nerve of the tooth with little or no pain
  • broken teeth: a relatively common problem called “cracked tooth syndrome” actually hurts before the tooth breaks, but feels better once the tooth actually breaks!

In fact, by the time you have real pain with a tooth, it’s probably reached the point where the fix is more difficult and more expensive.

“O.K. Doc. I hear you. Tooth problems don’t always hurt. So, if it doesn’t hurt, how do I know I have a problem?”

That’s a good question. When a patient isn’t having any problems we would say that don’t have any symptoms. But they may have signs of trouble that they aren’t aware of.

 Symptom:  “a departure from normal function or feeling which is noticed by a patient, indicating the presence of disease or abnormality. A symptom is subjective, observed by the patient, and not measured.”

Sign: “A dental sign is an objective indication of some medical fact or characteristic that may be detected by a dentist during a dental examination…”

So, how does a patient know if there are any signs of problems? They need to go to the dentist. Regularly. Ideally they go to a dentist that they trust and that they’ve developed a relationship with over a period of time. A dentist uses symptoms (from the patient) as well as signs (collected by examination) to find problems. Ideally, problems are found when they’re very small and need minimal treatment. The best way to make sure problems are found early is by scheduling regular checkups with your dentist. Every six months is the minimum that I would recommend.

Some patients should be seen more often than every 6 months. Who are these patients?

  • Patients who have “unstable” periodontal disease: If there’s advanced bone loss and we’re not sure that we’ve arrested the disease process we’ll want you to come in more often. Every three months is preferred.
  • Patients with a high rate of decay: If you’ve had multiple cavities in the last year I’m going to want to check you pretty often. I’m also going to want to help monitor your diet (less pop, more xylitol gum) and probably will recommend fluoride varnish treatments every three months, or even more often.
  • Patients on a lot of medications: multiple medications often means a dry mouth. Dry mouth is a huge risk for tooth decay.
  • Patients with a history of head and neck radiation: radiation treatment for cancer can cause your salivary glands to produce much less saliva. This is a huge risk factor for tooth decay and these patients should be seen every 3 months or more often for preventive care.

“Aren’t you just trying to scare us into coming in more often?”

We go to any length to get you to make an appointment at Mead Family Dental

No. But if that’s what it takes, I’ll put on my Ghostface mask.

The bottom line is this…just because it doesn’t hurt doesn’t mean that everything is fine. You should be seeing your dentist at least every 6 months. Plus, you should make an appointment immediately if you have any of the following:

  • a broken tooth: Whether it hurts or not, this needs to be seen and treated. A broken tooth that doesn’t hurt is a time bomb waiting to ruin your weekend, your vacation or a good night’s sleep. Broken teeth seem to know about Murphy’s Law and usually become a problem when your dentist isn’t in the office.
  • a food catcher: Do you have a spot between your teeth where food always gets stuck? These “food traps” can and should be treated. This is a great place for a cavity to start.
  • lost crown or filling: As much as you’d like to believe (and so would I) that all dental work lasts forever…it doesn’t. A crown or filling that comes out is a none-to-suble hint that there’s a problem. This needs to be seen!
  • trauma: Did little Billy bump his tooth on the coffee table? Did Dad take a softball to the chin?  Teeth that have been bumped can sometimes act up. Even if everything feels O.K., you should have your dentist take a look.

Make sure to let your dentist know if you do have symptoms. A patient’s description of the problem is the first step in determining a diagnosis. If your dentist isn’t listening to your concerns and symptoms, speak up or find another dentist!

Did find this post helpful? 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!


How many times do you want to fix it?

I recently saw a patient with a broken tooth. The tooth had a big silver filling in it and a piece of the tooth had fractured off. This is the most typical dental emergency visit that I see in my practice. Usually it’s a molar tooth. Usually there is a big filling in the tooth that had been in service for years and years. Often it doesn’t hurt, or it hurt to bite on the tooth before it broke, but after it broke the tooth actually feels better.

Unfortunately, teeth break. There’s a lot of reasons for that. Every time a dentist removes tooth structure to place a filling or remove decay, the tooth is weakened. Many (perhaps most?) people grind their teeth to some extent. Some people have stomach acid problems. Your teeth have to put up with a lot of abuse and some of them have been in your mouth since you were six years old! Have you ever had a car last that long? A house? Really, it’s no wonder that I see broken teeth so often.

So how do we fix a tooth like this? Generally, the two options to fix a broken tooth are a filling of some sort or a crown or onlay. A filling is a “direct” restoration, which means it is placed by the dentist directly into the patient’s mouth. A crown or onlay are made outside the mouth (by a lab or a CAD/CAM machine) then cemented or bonded in place. In many cases each of these solutions can work. There are pros and cons to each approach. I usually evaluate treatment options against three criteria. 1) How predictable is the fix, 2) how durable is the fix and 3) how expensive is the fix. Continue Reading…

3 easy resolutions

It’s the time of year for resolutions again. The problem with resolutions is that they’re usually too hard to keep. We usually ask too much of ourselves or they don’t really fit into our lifestyle.

So instead of resolving to eat nothing but lettuce for the entirety of 2012 or reducing your carbon footprint by 95% you might try one (or all) of these.

Start small. Make the whole resolution thing nice and easy. You’ll feel better about yourself and then maybe next year you can resolve to swear off using the letter “S”. Or whatever makes you feel good.

All of us at Mead Family Dental wish you and yours a wonderful and prosperous new year. If you’re looking for a dentist in Saginaw or just have any questions for me, feel free to drop me an email at We’re looking forward to serving you in 2012!

Like a gift card from a control freak

"I haven't been to the book store because I haven't had a gift card..."

Bookstore employee: “Hi, how can I help you?”

Customer: “Well, I haven’t been to the bookstore in a long time because I didn’t have a gift card. But my employer bought me a gift card, so I’d like to buy some books! I was thinking of getting the latest Stephen King novel.”

BE: “Oh, I’m sorry. Your gift card won’t allow hardcover fiction titles. They only allow for paperback. We do have several of his older titles in paperback, though.”

C: “Hmmm. O.K. Well, maybe I could try something in nonfiction. Maybe Freakonomics or The Tipping Point?”

BE: “Again, I’m really sorry. This gift card can only be used to buy boring nonfiction. Interesting nonfiction isn’t covered by your gift card.”

C: “Jeez. O.K. So, maybe I’ll just get this magazine then.”

BE: “That’s fine. Your total is $6.95.”

C: “Wait. Um. I’d like to use my gift card. Can I do that?”

BE: “Your gift card has a deductible. You can’t use it for purchases under $50. So, is that cash or credit?”

Dental “insurance” isn’t really like insurance at all. Insurance is meant to protect you against unpredictable calamity to yourself, your family and your stuff. For the most part, dental care is something that can be planned for and isn’t “calamity based.” A lot of dental care consists of regular maintenance which is distinctly different than a heart attack, a car accident or a flood…events that normally are covered by insurance.

Dental benefits are a lot like a gift card. Your dental benefits give you a certain amount of money to be used toward dental care in a given year. Most plans don’t allow you to carry over an unused amount to the next year, so it’s “use it or lose it.” The incentive to the patient is to use their “insurance” to the fullest.

So, if the insurance companies know that they’re obliged to give each subscriber $x/year when the premiums received are less than this amount, how can they make money? They have several strategies.

  • The insurance company knows that a certain number of people are not going to use the benefits that their employer paid for. Many people won’t see the dentist even if they have a “gift card” that will help pick up the bill. To the insurance company, this is free money.
  • Most insurances have strict control over what they will allow patients to use their benefits for. Some policies won’t allow you to use your dental benefits for tooth colored fillings. Some policies won’t allow x-rays each year. These limitations control costs by requiring the patient to pay more “out of pocket” for them if they decide they would like to have the service done.
  • Some insurances cover nothing on really valuable dental services. Dental implants are the best treatment for missing teeth that dentistry has to offer. Most dental insurances will not allow you to use your benefits for the surgical placement of an implant, even when they will allow you to spend your benefits on a less conservative treatment like a bridge or a partial.
  • Some insurances require that the patient pays a certain amount out of pocket before being allowed to use their dental benefits. This is called a deductible and is one more way to discourage subscribers from using their benefits.

So if dental benefits are like a gift card, the gift givers are control freaks! I’m not claiming that dental benefits have no value. People with little or no dental problems will do great using their dental benefits. But like a gift card, dental benefits may not cover all of what you want or need for dental care. The mistake that many patients make is to believe their dental needs are in some way related to how much money they have on their gift card. If you’ve got a gift card for $15 in the bookstore, you’ll be able to pick up a couple magazines, but you’ll probably have to kick in a little if you’re looking to pick up the latest John Grisham hardcover.

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!



The oil change: a dental analogy that just keeps on giving

It seems like I'm always a quart low

I really don’t know how a car works. I’m good with the fact that you need to put gas in it. I can even change a flat tire. But the part where you turn the key and it runs is just plain magic to me. I know, I should probably turn in my man card. I also know you’re supposed to change the oil every x number of miles (3000? 5000?). I spent a fair amount of time in oil change places recently. Both my car and my wife’s van were quite overdue for oil changes, so I finally got over to the oil change place to have it done.

It seems like the mechanic on duty always suggests a barrage of filter and fluid changes in addition to the oil change. The suggestions are always in flashing red letters on the computer monitor helpfully placed next to the driver’s side window. A harried mechanic always manages to bring an air filter over to the window that looks as if it was recently plucked from a sandstorm. It seems like there’s always something more that I should be doing to maintain my car and there’s no such thing as a 10 minute oil change. I go in wanting an oil change and come out with a radiator flush, new wiper blades and the guilt associated with telling the mechanic that I’m not going to have him clean my brake fluid reservoir. My quick $25 maintenance almost always turns into an hour or more costing $200!

Why do I feel taken advantage of? Why do I dread going to get my oil changed? There are a couple of reasons. First, I don’t like to feel stupid. I don’t know how cars work and the oil change places know this. I don’t really know if what they’re suggesting is necessary. Even when I do everything they ask, they always suggest more the next time. It’s a knowledge problem. They know more about the how a car works than I do so I have to trust that they’re being honest and that I really need the services that they’re suggesting. Of course, they’re both diagnosing the problems with my car and selling the “solution.”

"When was the last time you had your teeth cleaned?"

Secondly, I feel guilty when I’ve gone over my mileage. Life is hectic and sometimes I don’t get back before 3,000 miles have gone by. Of course there’s that sticker in my window that reminds me that I’m overdue every time I get in the car, too. On top of that, the oil change places say 3,000 miles, but the manufacturer says 5,000. So which is it?

All of this strikes me as a near perfect analogy to dental checkups. How are you supposed to feel when your dentist tells you that you need a filling but nothing even hurts? Why does it seem like they always want to take x-rays? And you just know that they’re going to give you a hard time about not flossing enough. It seems like every time you come in there’s something else you have to pay for and it’s awkward to constantly tell them “no!”

Dentist’s have more knowledge about teeth and dental problems than patients do. That’s why they’re dentists. So there can be a conflict. Dentists get paid to diagnose and fix problems, just like the oil change places. The difference is that dentists have a code of ethics that they are supposed to follow that means they always put the patient’s best interests first. Does that mean that dentists are always great at it? Not necessarily. But it’s something that most dentists I know aspire to.

Our office wants you to make great choices about your dental care. So we do some very specific things to make your dental office experience unlike a trip to the oil change place:

  • We take a lot of pictures: We’ve got all kinds of cameras (intraoral, extraoral and microscope mounted!) and we take photos for our records. A lot of times a photo can help a patient understand a diagnosis or a treatment better than just a spoken description.
  • We strive for informed consent: We try to explain (in words and pictures) our findings and suggest treatments to solve the problem. On top of that, we explain the consequences of not treating the finding. We’ll make sure you understand what the treatment entails and also what the treatment costs before you choose a treatment.
  • The patient can always say “no.”: This is a big deal. You’re in charge and you always have the final say. Sometimes we dentists get all wrapped up in all the cool stuff that we can do for a patient without making sure it’s what the patient wants to do!
  • We build relationships: Most of our patients have been with us for a long time and we’ve built up a level of trust. We always try to build this same kind of trust with new patients and we understand that this doesn’t happen overnight. Patients need to understand that we’ll be here when you’re ready!
  • we won’t scold you: Many new patients tell us at they’re embarrassed about their teeth and they know it’s been “too long.” We’re just glad you’re here now. Scolding you only makes you feel guilty and it doesn’t help anything. So we won’t.

"No cavities! We'll see you in six months!"

So, the next time I get my oil changed and they recommend that I should have my bearings packed and antifreeze tested I’m going to follow my own advice. I’m going to ask them to explain what the bearings do. I’m going to ask them to show me my antifreeze and why they think it should be tested. And I’m going to make sure I understand (at least a little) what they’re suggesting and I’m going to ask them what the consequences are of not doing it.

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!




Happy “Dental Appointment Tuesday!”

You’ve heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This year I heard all about “Small Business Saturday” and I even did my part by shopping at a great little bike shop in downtown Midland. I’ve decided to start a new holiday tradition: Dental Appointment Tuesday!

O.K. Stay with me here. I know it’s easy to get burned out on holiday cheer. However, it’s even easier to forget to keep up with preventive dental visits! Preventive visits (a.k.a.: getting your teeth cleaned) are perhaps the most important way to keep your teeth healthy. If you have your teeth checked a couple times per year it’s much easier to catch problems when they’re small. And remember, small problems are a) less expensive and b) less painful.

So what do you have to do to participate in the holiday extravaganza that is “Dental Appointment Tuesday?” On this Tuesday, November 29th, double check to make sure you have your next preventive dental visit scheduled. If you do, you’ve already had a great Dental Appointment Tuesday! If you don’t have an appointment scheduled, call your dentist to set one up! So there you have it! Celebrating Dental Appointment Tuesday is as easy as checking your calendar or making a phone call. Now you can feel good that you’re doing the right thing for your teeth and your health!

Dental Appointment Tuesday is also a great reminder for those who have dental benefits that run out at the end of the year to make sure you get any work that you were planning on for 2011 scheduled! You’ll have just over a month to get it done, so call your dentist before they run out of appointments!

So here’s to a new tradition! Dental Appointment Tuesday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is a great way to make sure you’re keeping up with preventive dental appointments!

What’s that? You say you don’t have a dentist? Well, we’d love to be your Saginaw dentist! Call the office at (989) 799-9133, click on the “make an appointment online” link above or email me at: I always answer my own email, so feel free to drop me a line with any questions!

Enjoy your holiday season and Happy Dental Appointment Tuesday!


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!


Happy Halloween! (scary teeth and candy eating tips)

Terrified of cavities!

We hope you have a fantastic Halloween! We have a warm place in our hearts for this scary holiday here at Mead Family Dental. Last year we featured Kathy as an undead pirate. I can hardly wait to see what she’s come up with this year!

As a dentist, Halloween makes me think of two things. Scary Halloween teeth and all that candy.

First…check out some of the very cool, very scary Halloween teeth I’ve found.

For those of you who prefer the horrifying monster look we have “minion fangs” found at



“Dental Distortions” ( provides several terrifying options for vampire fans.

For those who prefer their fangs on canine teeth you can choose the “nightslayer” option.





My personal preference has the fangs on the lateral incisors on the “nightbreed” model.




If you prefer a more demonic look I highly recommend the “Lucius” model.





And finally, no discerning trick or treater would want to miss a sweet halloween grill (from



Now, on a more serious note, let’s talk about candy. Halloween is a huge candy holiday. Americans buy 600 million pounds of candy each Halloween. That’s a lot of candy. And that’s some serious potential for tooth decay.

There are some things that parents can do to reduce the risks of decay for their trick or treaters. Here’s a few ideas:

It’s tough being a dentist on Halloween. But it’s my duty to spread the word about how we can reduce the risk of cavities for our little ghosts and goblins!

Did you like this post? Do you have any questions I could answer? Feel free to email me at or call us at the office at (989) 799-9133. This Saginaw dentist is always taking new patients and we’d love to be your Saginaw dental office!

5 things you can do right now to have fewer cavities

The 5th dentist

Are you sick of getting cavities? Would you like to stop worrying about your next dental check up? Would you prefer to see your dentist in the check out line at Meijer more than looking up at them holding a drill in their hand?

Then read this list. And do them. Today.

1) Brush your teeth 3 times per day (morning, lunchtime, and right before bed) with a soft toothbrush. I’m a fan of the Oral B Cross Action Power. But really, any soft bristled brush will do. Also, only hold it with three fingers when you’re brushing. We humans have a tendency to substitute strength and speed for thoroughness. Just remember, these are teeth, not the bathroom tiles. If you’d like a toothbrush and some instructions on how to use it, come in and see us!

2) Chew sugarless gum for 5 minutes (no more) after every meal. Preferably, gum with xylitol as a sweetener.

3) Check your calendar. If you don’t have an appointment for a cleaning then make one. If you’re looking for a dentist in Saginaw, make one with us!

4) Stop drinking pop

5) Start flossing.

If you do these things, you will have less cavities. Period. If you do all of them and you’re still getting cavities, you may feel free to show up at the office and punch me in the arm as hard as you can.

Did you like this post? If you did, I would appreciate it if you’d share it with your 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 “balloon” shaped button next to the title. Or send me an email at I’m happy to answer any questions and appreciate your input. If you are looking for a dentist in Saginaw, MI we would love to see you!

Just because you read all the way to the end of this post…I’m going to give you a bonus 6th thing to help you get less cavities.

6) Read my previous posts about prevention, saliva, chewing sugarless gum and flossing.


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