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Browsing 18 posts in taking care of your teeth.

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 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.


What I learned from Brett…

"I can skip flossing 2 days each year. Sweet."

Last week I saw my friend Brett Kessler give a lecture. He’s a dentist in Denver, Colorado and among other things, he’s an expert on the treatment of patients who suffer from “meth mouth” due to their use of methamphetamine.

At one point in his lecture he mentions that bringing this person back to a healthy dental condition is a shared responsibility of the dentist and patient.

The dentist is responsible to understand the patient’s dental health, to diagnose dental problems and to perform excellent dentistry. The patient is responsible to take care of their mouth, to let the dental office know if they’re having problems and to come back for recalls so the dentist and dental team can see how they’re doing.

I thought to myself, “these rules aren’t just for those with meth mouth! This goes for every healthy dentist/patient relationship.”

Brett went on to say, “I won’t take responsibility for a patient’s dental work or dental health who isn’t taking care of their mouth.”

Dr. Brett Kessler

All I can say is..he’s got a point.

Many of my patients are only in my office a couple times in a year. We’re cleaning most patients’ teeth and getting a look 2 days out of 365. If you’re having some work done, it might be a few more than that. But what about those other 360+ days out of the year?

I guess I could come to your house a few times a day to brush and floss for you, but honestly, I think you’d get sick of seeing me. Also, you really can’t afford me. So instead of having me be your personal dental preventive steward, I’d refer you to some posts that I’ve written on taking care of your mouth.

Come see us a few times per year. We’ll give you a new toothbrush and some floss. We’ll show you how use them. You can count on us to be your biggest dental cheerleaders!

But you’ve got to do your part.

Just ask Dr. Kessler!

What did you think of  this post? Would you like to share it with friends? You can click on the heart shaped icon next to the title of this post and automatically share it on Facebook, Twitter or Google+! Or you can leave a comment by clicking the “ballon” shaped button next to the title. Or send me an email at I always answer my own email and I appreciate your input! If your looking for an improvement in your smile 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 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!

Every day things


So we’ve determined that you probably don’t floss. There’s no shame in this. You understand there’s a problem, you’re willing to change. As long as it’s easy.

It is.

“How can this be?” you ask. You just finished telling me that most people don’t floss. Now you’re saying it’s easy?

Yeah. Kind of. Flossing is definitely tougher and more time consuming than brushing. Or at least the way most of us brush. The old “20-seconds-scrubbing-like-you’re-cleaning-tile-grout” routine is a cake walk. You should actually spend more time and be more gentle, but that’s a post for another day.

This video describes the “how to” as well as any video I’ve seen.

One thing that this video does not suggest strongly enough is how gentle you need to be when sliding floss between the teeth. Many people have tight contacts between their teeth. To avoid a painful and sometimes bloody experience you need to use a gentle “sawing” motion when sliding the floss into a tight contact. If you let it snap, it’s going to hurt, it might bleed and you’ll decide you don’t like to floss. Go very slowly at first. Excruciatingly slow. Until you get the hang of it and know where your tight contacts are, take your time.

We’ve described how to floss correctly, but we haven’t made it easy for you to floss yet. It needs to be as normal and regular as jumping in the shower, right? So what is Mead’s magic solution to make it this easy?

Keep your floss in the shower.

Most people have a showering ritual that they go through every day. If you can add flossing to this ritual, you’ve got it made! So leave a spool of floss on the same shelf you keep your soap and shampoo. It will be just one more thing you do before your done showering.

I suggest flossing first. “Why?” you ask. Well, we’ve already discussed that flossing is pretty gross. You need to rinse your mouth and wash your hands afterward because your goal is to remove the remnants of bacteria slime from in between your teeth. So if you floss first, you’ll get the nastiness out of the way. You can rinse your mouth and wash your hands and get on with the rest of your routine.

If you’ll do this I promise you that it will become a habit. If you can make it a habit, you will have healthier teeth and gums and all of your interaction with the dentist will be happy and cordial with a lot less needles and drills.

Let me interject that I recommend brushing your teeth before you jump into the shower and rinsing with an over the counter fluoride rinse after you’re done, too.  If you shower in the morning before breakfast and coffee you need to hold off on the fluoride rinse. You shouldn’t eat or drink anything for 30 minutes after using an OTC fluoride rinse.

So there you have it. You can make flossing a habit using this little trick. It’s how I did it and I’ve had patients tell me that it’s worked for them.

Did you make this work? Do you have another way to help make flossing a habit? I’d love to hear how! Comment on this post or email me at and I’ll be sure to get back to you! Would you like to become one of my patients? Email me or call the office at (989) 799-9133. I promise we’ll take good care of you and treat you really well. That’s what this Saginaw dentist does!

You probably don’t floss…

Floss (1)

You probably don’t floss every day.

I don’t say this to be cruel. It’s just that research suggests that 60-90% of people don’t floss every day. So statistically I’m dead on. My experience as a dentist seeing real mouths and teeth most days makes me think that reality is closer to 10% floss daily. Or less. The same studies suggest that most everyone brushes daily.

Let’s be honest. Flossing is disgusting. You get stuff (anaerobic bacteria and their lovely smelling by-products) on your hands. If you aren’t careful, you can make your gums bleed. If you have active gum infection you might notice that your gums bleed when you brush, too. But even healthy gums can bleed if you’re not pretty good at flossing. And yes, I’m suggesting that you can become better at flossing with practice. Guaranteed.

On the other hand, when you brush your teeth you have delightful, minty breath whether you do a good job or not. Toothpaste makers have seen to that.

Minty, fresh goodness or bloody, smelly hands. Is it any wonder which one is more popular?

Note to floss companies: try to sell flossing as very sexy and people will floss more. Or tell people it will make their teeth whiter. (future headline: “Saginaw dentist sells out to floss producers!”)

So, yeah. Flossing isn’t as rewarding to you as brushing. Worse, it’s harder. But it’s really important. The places where floss reaches are all the places that your tootbrush can’t. And those places are probably the ones that need the cleaning the most.

Let’s break it down. Brushing a couple times a day but not flossing is pretty much like taking a shower every day but making sure not to wash your feet and armpits. I know. Nice visual. But totally true.

Are you one of the 50% that doesn’t floss? I hope I kind of grossed you out. If so, mission accomplished on my part.  So what should you do about it?

  1. read tomorrow’s post where I make flossing every day totally simple and straight forward.
  2. make an appointment for a cleaning at Mead Family Dental where you will be treated REALLY nicely, have an awesome cleaning and exam.  Plus, if you act now…you’ll receive at no extra charge…floss!  That’s right!  You can get some for the house, some for the car.  You’ll have some wherever you need it!  Call us at (989) 799-9133 or email me at
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