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Browsing 17 posts in taking care of your teeth.

#Istandwithfloss

Recently the Associated Press dropped this bombshell about a practice that every dentist and hygienist has been recommending forever…flossing. The AP states:

It’s one of the most universal recommendations in all of public health: Floss daily to prevent gum disease and cavities.

Except there’s little proof that flossing works.

Apparently the federal government has been recommending flossing since 1979 in a Surgeon General’s report as well as the “Dieteary Guidelines for Americans.” However, anything that the federal government recommends is required to have an adequate evidence base to be considered.#Istandwithfloss

It turns out that flossing hasn’t really been researched very much. In order for the federal government to recommend something it has to be able to point to a pretty serious body of research. Earlier this year the federal government removed it’s recommendation for flossing with little fanfare. After the AP requested the evidence the feds used to recommend flossing…they caved.

If you take a look at the research base, they’re right to have caved. The best studies on flossing that they have are not convincing. They kind of had to remove the recommendation to be consistent with their standards. I understand what they did and cannot fault them.

Here’s the thing…there will be no rush to research flossing. The research design would be difficult and expensive and I doubt that there is the will for it.

All this said…#Istandwithfloss.

I can hear what you’re thinking: “Mead, you claim to be interested in evidence and science! How can you possibly recommend flossing to patients if the federal government retracted their recommendation! The science says it’s no better than brushing alone!”

Let me explain myself.

Everyone’s teeth are covered with a layer of gunk called biofilm. It doesn’t matter how well you brush them and floss them, they’ve got biofilm on them. When dentists and hygienists accuse you of not taking care of your teeth they call this biofilm “plaque” and they get all bent out of shape that you have lots of it on your teeth. We’ve been instructing patients to do their very best to remove this plaque from their teeth for as long as we’ve been in the profession.

The goal is to remove as much of the biofilm as you can.

So you brush. And that can remove a lot of the biofilm. But there are places your toothbrush can’t get to. What is a person to do? The research says flossing doesn’t work.

So I guess you should just leave that gunk sitting in between your teeth, right?

Do me a quick favor. Grab a long piece of floss and wrap it around your fingers. Slide that floss in between a few pairs of teeth, wrap it in a “c-shape” and gently stroke up and down. Then take that floss out and take a good hard look at it. Is it clean as a whistle or does it have a bunch of gunk on it?

If you’re like virtually every patient I’ve seen, it will have a little gunk on it.

So why do #Istandwithfloss?

The problem is the research, not the flossing. Maybe the design of the studies hasn’t been adequate. That’s a huge problem in medical research. Often times we think we’re measuring one thing when we’re not measuring that at all. You’ll notice that the evidence hasn’t recommended against flossing either. Flossing has been an accepted recommendation by dentists and hygienists for so long that it is no longer a hotbed of research inquiry.

Getting back to what a dentist or hygienist should recommend to patients: if our goal is to remove as much biofilm from our teeth and gums as possible, flossing does that. I don’t actually need peer reviewed research to observe that.

There is a word that I really like. That word is “plausible.” Plausible is defined as:

(of an argument or statement) seeming reasonable or probable.

The idea that flossing helps remove biofilm, which in turn helps reduce a person’s risk for cavities and gum disease is plausible. An idea that is plausible, even if it doesn’t have tons of great evidence, is worth keeping around.

Flossing is not expensive nor is it risky. It observably removes biofilm from in between the teeth that brushing cannot always get. And even though our current level of evidence does not allow the federal government to recommend flossing, it is still likely a worthwhile effort.

That’s why #Istandwithfloss.

 Did this make you feel plausible? Do you feel like flossing? 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!

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 alan@meadfamilydental.com. I always answer my own emails!

Fortify Your Walls

Old defense walls of Carcasson castle, FranceI’ve been reading a lot of George R. R. Martin books in the last year or so. He’s the author of the series that has been made into a very popular HBO television show, “Game of Thrones.” This Saginaw dentist can’t speak for the TV show, but the book series is enthralling!  The series of books is set in a middle age world of kings, knights and lords all scheming for power and status. Some of the most dramatic sequences of the book series take place during onslaughts against highly fortified castle walls. The lords can fend off most attacks in the comfort of their castle, so long as their castle walls hold up.

The enamel of your teeth is much like those castle walls. Many foods we eat either contain acid or are composed of nutrients that oral bacteria can convert into acid. These acids attack your teeth in the same way that Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons may some day strike at King’s Landing. The flame of the dragons’ breath will weaken the castle’s outer wall, making it more susceptible and eventually breaking holes into the wall.

The outer layer of your teeth is called enamel. It serves as the outer armor of the tooth, protecting the soft, vital parts of the tooth from harm. Your enamel is incredibly strong…in fact it’s the hardest substance in the human body. It’s made up of crystals of calcium phosphate called hydroxyapatite (HA). Enamel is very durable, but it’s not indestructible. It’s crystalline structure is susceptible to acid. The acid in our mouth can actually soak into the enamel crystals and eventually  break them down, which can form cavities. As long as the damage isn’t too great, you can repair these crystals by remineralizing them with calcium phosphate naturally found in saliva.

What if you could magically rebuild your castle’s walls with bricks that were much stronger than the ones it was originally built from? Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could repair your enamel with something that made the already resistant crystals even stronger?  Well, you can! Actually, you probably already are but you just don’t realize it.

 

"All hail fluoride!"

“All hail fluoride!”

Topical fluoride found in toothpaste, mouth rinses and varnishes placed at your dental office is the magical ingredient we’re looking for. Using topical fluoride supercharges the natural process of remineralization (repair of acid attacked HA crystals). When the enamel incorporates fluoride into the HA crystals it’s actually stronger and more resistant to tooth decay than regular HA crystals. This is why most toothpastes contain fluoride and why dentists will often recommend prescription strength fluoride rinses and varnishes for patients who experience a lot of tooth decay or have reduced saliva flow. Each time you’re brushing your teeth or swishing a fluoride rinse, you should realize that you’re fortifying your defenses against the next siege!

Did you find this post fortified? Did it make you want to gargle with fluoride rinse? 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 alan@meadfamilydental.com. I always answer my own emails!

 

Punching tooth decay in the face

Everyone knows that tooth decay is caused by bacteria in your mouth. The bad bacteria eat the sugar that you ingest and poop out acid onto your teeth. This acid eats holes in your teeth and those holes are the cavities that dentists fix. That’s what we’re good at. Fixing cavities. We do it all day long.

Does your dentist just find cavities and fix them? Or does your dentist punch tooth decay right in the face? I do!

“Take that, tooth decay!”

How do it do it? I destroy that bad bacteria and support the good bacteria. It’s almost like the bacteria are those aliens from “The Avengers” and I’m like the Hulk. Or maybe the Captain America. Yeah. Probably more like Captain America.

But instead of a gamma ray enhanced strength or a shield made of vibranium, I use chemical warfare. Specifically, I use the Carifree system. Carifree is different than any other toothpaste, mouth rinse or dental hygiene tool I’ve ever seen. Carifree kills bad bacteria with a strong antimicrobial. But the products also treat the pH of  your mouthremineralize tooth structure that’s started to break down and even provide a source of Xylitol. All these different things contribute to a healthier, less decay-prone environment in your mouth.

Removing decay and fixing cavities is called the “surgical model.” When you have a filling it’s actually a micro surgery on your tooth. Treating the bacteria and the biofilm on the surface of your teeth and gums is sometimes called the “medical model” of tooth decay treatment. When you use a system like Carifree, it’s actually medicine to treat the bacteria on the surface of your teeth that cause decay. Most dentists aren’t familiar with this “medical model” and limit their treatment to surgical interventions. By adding the the medical model to a high risk patient, we can effectively limit how much “surgery” we need to do in the future.

Do you have new cavities each time you have your teeth cleaned? Are you tired of having to have cavities treated? Let us help you fix your tooth decay problem. Come see us and we’ll team up to punch tooth decay in the face!

Did you find this post heroic? Spine tingiling? 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! Especially ones that want to punch tooth decay in the face! 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!

 

Cleanings are overrated

“I wash my car every week. I never miss. The thing is spotless! But I’m NOT going to change my oil.”

I had a patient that recently presented for a cleaning. For regular recall appointments we do a thorough examination at least once per year. And by “thorough examination” I mean having me come in with my very geeky 6x magnification glasses and ridiculous headlight and look over the teeth, the lips, cheeks, tongue, inside, outside up and down. This patient explained that since she no longer had dental insurance that she did not want to have an exam. She just wanted a cleaning. She was O.K. paying for a smooth, minty feeling that lasts for a day or two. But she didn’t want to see the doctor.

I completely understand about trying to save money. Dental care is expensive. It feels even more expensive because it’s the kind of thing that people don’t want to pay for. If I’ve got to pay for it, I’d rather buy a new cell phone or some new shoes. I don’t know a lot of people that walk into the office just itching to hand over hard earned cash.

The problem is that if the patient really wants to save money, she ought to skip the “cleaning” and keep up with the exams! If she wants to spend less money at the dentist’s office, her best bet is in prevention. Polishing your teeth doesn’t actually prevent problems. Polishing removes the biofilm on your teeth, but a biofilm re-develops in a matter of minutes. Polishing your teeth and making them minty fresh is more like the bow on a gift box. It’s nice and it feels good, but it’s not really the point.

We should probably stop calling those appointments cleanings. The hope is that patients are doing a good job cleaning their teeth every day. A better name for those appointments is recall or preventive maintenance. 6 month recalls (and 4 month or 3 month) are about catching problems when they’re small. Recalls are like the “regular maintenance” that your car requires. The hygienist spends a bunch of quality time removing any buildup of tartar and plaque, but they’re also taking a hard look at all of your teeth. Then, when I come in the hygienist lets me know if she has seen any areas that she’s concerned about. When I’m doing an exam I look at everything (teeth, gums, lips, cheeks, tongue, etc.) under high magnification so I can diagnose problems.

For people who don’t have active gum disease, preventive maintenance appointments are about catching dental problems when they’re small. They’re a great way to remind patients the best way to take care of their teeth, and a lovely way to tell them when they’re doing a good job. For people with active gum disease it’s an important part of evaluating the severity of bone loss around the teeth and whether we’ve been able to slow or stop the progression of bone loss.

So next time you make an appointment to spend some time with your dental hygienist, don’t tell everyone you’re off to “have your teeth cleaned.” Let them know that you’re scheduled for your preventive maintenance appointment, but you’re still pretty psyched about that squeaky clean teeth feeling.

Did you find this post well polished? Shiny? 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!

 

 

Preventable

“…to take responsibility for your teeth!”

If you have dental problems, it’s mostly your fault. And if you want to have less dental problems, it’s your responsibility. It’s not the fault of the dental insurance company. It’s not the government’s responsibility. It’s on you. What you eat and how well you take care of your teeth are decisions that you’re in charge of. And you’re in charge of these decisions for your kids. So, will you rise to the challenge?

“Wow, Doc. Kinda harsh.”

Maybe, but I recently saw a PBS Frontline special called “Dollars and Dentists.” Among other things, it accuses dentists of not doing enough to help poor kids with dental care. I’m hearing this more and more and it really irks me. Because 95% of all dental disease is completely preventable.

What I’m saying is that if you’ve never had a cavity, you can choose to keep that perfect record. If you have gingivitis, you can change that. If you’ve had dental troubles, you can stop the destruction and turn it around. And that goes for your children, too.

“Sure, doc. But, what’s the catch?”

There actually is a catch. If  you get a lot of cavities or have gum disease it’s likely that your diet and lack of brushing/flossing have a lot to do with it. You see, tooth decay and gum disease are biofilm infections. Your teeth and anything else in your mouth (crowns, dentures, implants) are covered with a film of bacteria and bacterial products called a biofilm. How much of this biofilm (a.k.a: dental plaque) there is and how healthy it is has everything to do with how much decay and gum disease you experience.

“O.K. Doc, I get the “how much” part, but how can bacteria in my mouth be healthy?”

It sounds weird, but what type of bacteria makes up your biofilm is at least as important as how much biofilm you have. Not all mouth bacteria will cause cavities. In fact, some bugs are actually protective! You pretty much always get your mouth bugs from your mom as a baby. If mom has a lot of cavities or gum disease, you’re probably going to pick up mouth bacteria that are more likely to cause cavities and gum disease. As a child, you rely on mom (and dad) to take care of her own teeth and make sure yours are taken care of as well. Good dietary habits as a child (few sugary snacks, eating sweets only at meal times) can help establish healthy teeth for a lifetime. The problem is that we humans are biologically driven to like sweets, which means we’ll constantly be fighting this impulse!

Once you become in charge of your own health, it’s time to step up. If you’ve been dealt the hand of tough mouth bugs, you’re responsible for changing them! Those who have already experienced dental troubles (cavities or gum disease) need to work even harder on their home care. The very fact that you’ve had dental problems lets us know that you have virulent (bad!) bugs. Brushing and flossing can reduce the number and location of these bugs on your teeth. But how do you change what kind of bugs you have?

Diet has a lot to do with the type of bugs that inhabit your mouth. If your mouth maintains a low pH (acid) for a long period of time, the kind of bugs that can tolerate that environment will become more numerous. What kinds of things keep a mouth acidy? Drinking pop. Specifically sipping pop slowly over a long period of time. Other habits like sucking on hard candies cause this, as well. Bathing teeth in a sugary, acidy environment will not only cause cavities but it creates an environment perfect for the nastier bugs. Changing your dietary habits can make a huge difference on the “environment” you create in your mouth. Reducing sweets, especially pop, as well as reducing how often a person snacks will go a long way to letting your natural defenses change the environment in your mouth. Chewing xylitol gum or mints can also change the kind of bugs you have in your mouth. Dentists can prescribe certain mouth rinses that can actually change the makeup of your biofilm over time as well.

Do it for him!

Your biofilm is your problem. Most people only see the dentist a few times per year. The choices you make on a day to day basis about diet and taking care of your teeth (or not) are the ones that really count. I can’t control what you or your kids eat. We can clean up your biofilm a couple times per year, but it will be back to the same the day after we clean your teeth. The choice is yours. So step up and take care of those teeth!

Did you find this post invigorating? Harsh? 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!

 

 

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 alan@meadfamilydental.com. I always answer my own emails!

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 alan@meadfamilydental.com. I always answer my own emails!

 

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 alan@meadfamilydental.com. We’re looking forward to serving you in 2012!

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 alan@meadfamilydental.com. I always answer my own emails!

 

 

 

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