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Comfortably Numb

One of the amazing things about dentistry is that dental procedures are overwhelmingly outpatient surgeries.tooth pulled anesthetic extra

You might be thinking, “surgery? I’m just having a filling done! What’s this about surgery?”

Well, having a filling done is actually a small surgery on your tooth. You come to the office, I administer your anesthesia (aka: numb your tooth) and then do the surgery. Since most procedures are done in a matter of an hour or so, that’s pretty quick surgery! Compared to other types of surgery, dental procedures are piece of cake. Mostly because dentists are experts at local anesthesia. And even though having a numb lip and/or tongue is a bit of a drag, it sure beats feeling what the dentist needs to do to restore teeth.

Local anesthetic is an important part of delivering comfortable dental care. Luckily, it’s a very safe drug that can be used without concern on most patients. It works by temporarily blocking the pain signals from a stimulus (aka: someone drilling on your tooth) to your brain. The signals are still sent, but when the anesthetic is in place, these signals never make it to your brain. Local anesthetics can do this without affecting your ability to drive a car or sedating you. Which means dental procedures can be quick and painless!

local anesthesia diagramEvery dentist will tell you that some patients are more difficult to get comfortably numb. According to Dr. Stan Malamed, the guy who wrote the book on local anesthesia (no, really. He wrote THE book on it!), as long as you get local anesthetic close to the nerve, it will block the conduction of nerve signals. So what’s happening when we have a patient that isn’t getting completely numb?

First, we may have not put the anesthetic close enough to the nerve. It’s almost always on the lower teeth that we cannot get a patient completely numb. This is often due to the dentist attempting to block the large nerve that runs through the jaw. This is called an inferior alveolar nerve block and if you’ve ever had one, you’d probably remember it. When done correctly, it numbs your entire jaw from your back teeth all the way to your very front teeth on one side of your jaw. It also often makes your tongue, lip and gums numb. It’s a lot of numb! It also happens to be the most difficult and inconsistent injection for the dentist. The nerve canal runs differently in each person, so sometimes we don’t place the anesthetic close enough to the nerve and we don’t get complete anesthesia. Furthermore, some people have extra nerves coming from the tongue side of the jaw. So even if we’re successful with our nerve block, we may not have placed anesthetic in all the right spots.

Secondly, inflamed and infected tissue doesn’t always allow anesthetic to pass into the nerve and thus block conduction of pain signals. I’m less confident of my ability to get a patient comfortably numb on a very inflamed or infected tooth.

So, we can get patients comfortably numb most of the time. But what about the times when we can’t? What if we could “supercharge” our anesthetic to get more patients numb more consistently? Well, funny you should ask!

Local anesthetic solutions are relatively low pH. Which is to say they are acidic. Anyone who has read this blog knows I’ve talked a lot about acidity and pH, but it’s usually in reference to the acid produced by bacteria and in foods that can cause tooth decay. In a previous blog post I explained pH in this way:

pH is a measurement of acidiy or alkalinity in an aqueous (water based) solution. A solution that is high in acidity has a low pH and a solution that is more alkaline has a higher pH. pH is measured on a 14 point scale with 0 being the lowest pH (most acidic) and 14 being the highest pH (most basic or alkaline). A pH of 7 is considered neutral, neither majority acid or alkaline. This 14 point scale is logarithmic, which means that each number on the scale is 10 times higher or lower than number above it or below it. For instance, a substance with a pH of 3 is 10 times more acidic than a substance with a pH of 4 and 100 times more acidic than something with a pH of 5.

The low pH of anesthetic is what can cause a burning sensation when anesthetic is being injected. Furthermore, the molecules of anesthetic actually cross the membrane of nerves more easily if the solution is at a higher pH. You’re probably asking yourself “why don’t we make the pH of anesthetic higher so it doesn’t burn and it’s more effective?” It’s a great question with a simple answer. The chemicals that we use to raise the pH of anesthetic (aka: “buffer” the anesthetic) aren’t stable for a long time. If you’re going to buffer local anesthetic for patient use, you actually have to add the buffering agent right before you use it.

At Mead Family Dental, we’re now able to do that. We recently invested in the Onset System, which can effectively buffer anesthetic for more comfortable injections as well as more profound anesthesia that takes effect more quickly. This means more comfortable injections, faster injections and less pain at the injection site after the appointment. If you’re interested in a technical description of how it works, take a look at this video.

We’re pretty serious about patient comfort. We’ve always been pretty confident about keeping our patients comfortable during dental appointments. The Onset System is one more way we’re make sure our patients have a comfortable experience in the office!

Did you find this post numbing? Maybe a little nerve-wracking?? 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!

 

Floss Naked

Curly hairFlossing your teeth can help you have healthier teeth and gums. But flossing has had a bit of a PR crisis. Hardly anyone does it. I think that it’s time to make flossing a whole lot sexier. I suggest that if you want healthier teeth and gums, you should floss naked.

“Really, Doc? You think I’ll floss more by adding sex appeal?”

Well, kind of. Let me explain myself. Flossing is a great habit to develop. However, it’s not easy to get into the flossing groove. It takes a few minutes, it’s kind of disgusting and if you try and do it too fast, it can be kind of painful. Painful and disgusting don’t really lead a person to decide, “hey, let’s make this a habit.”

I’ve found that the easiest way to make something a habit is to add it to an already existing routine. For instance, if your office is on the 6th floor and you decide to take the stairs instead of the elevator. You already know you have to go to your office. So the stairs just become another part of your routine and you benefit from walking up the stairs.

So you’re thinking, “O.K., Doc. What’s the deal with flossing naked?”

Well, taking a shower is already a part of most people’s routine. You get up, you make the coffee, and you jump in the shower. What if you were to add one more step to your shower routine? If you keep your floss in the shower, you mark that task off your list as easily as washing your hair. Plus, it has the added benefit of running water, so the disgusting part of flossing is eliminated. You can floss and then rinse your mouth right in the shower!

Get it? Floss naked!

If you’re contemplating being part of the “Floss Naked” movement, then let me offer you a couple shower floss traytips. Get yourself one of those suction cup shower shelves. You can find them at most stores and pharmacies and they’re very inexpensive. I keep mine slightly higher than the shower head and a little off to the side. It’s easy to grab, but it actually doesn’t get wet. There’s nothing worse than soggy floss.

These simple tips will make it easier for you to make flossing naked a habit.

  • Try a Glide style of floss. These products are designed to be particularly slick. They slide more easily into the contact between your teeth. If you use a gentle back and forth “sawing” motion instead of “popping” the floss into the contact you can avoid a painful laceration of your gums. This can cause bleeding and actually may lead some people with healthy gums to think that their gums are bleeding due to disease. Be gentle on those gums!
  • Make sure you pull out a longer piece than you think you need. This floss is pretty slippery so you need to wrap it around your fingers many more times than you think you should to have a firm hold. Furthermore, you’re in the shower. Your fingers are already wet. Take more than you think you need to get the job done. I promise you, I’m not paid kickbacks by Oral-B or Crest, I’ve just learned by experience.
  • Take your time. Just like brushing, people (including myself) have a tendency to rush this process. The faster you go, the more likely you are to be rough. If you’re in a rush, just skip flossing. Don’t worry, most people never floss at all, so taking a day off now and again is no big deal. Just don’t rush it.
  • When you’re done, place the floss somewhere easy to find and dispose of. I don’t recommend trying to wash it down the drain.
  • Rinse your hands off and your mouth out after you’re done. This is the best part about flossing naked. You don’t have to rinse and spit into the sink.

I know this sounds weird, maybe even a little perverse. Some of my patients look at me like I’ve lost my mind after I explain how great it is to floss in the shower. But after I bug them a little bit and they try it…many admit that it made flossers out of them! Give it a try. Your teeth and gums will thank you!

Did you find this post silly? Maybe a little bare? 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!

 

Ghost of Benefits Past

iStock_000018159844XSmallIt’s that time of year.

“What time of year is that? The time of year when we look forward to family time, turkey, football and gawdy Christmas sweaters?”

Well, yes. It’s that time of year, too. But I was thinking more of the time of year when you realize that you have dental benefits left. Since dental benefits are nothing like real insurance you realize that if you don’t use those benefits before the end of the year…they disappear. Where do they disappear?

Into the insurance company’s pockets!

I’m not trying to be a Scrooge here, but it’s true. Your dental “insurance” company would love it if you don’t come in until after New Year’s Day! That way, the benefits you were entitled to for 2013 are gone and they start the clock ticking on 2014. They’re hoping that maybe you’ll wait until the end of the year next year, too! On top of that, most dental benefit companies require that procedures involving lab work be placed before you can charge the dental benefits. And lab work takes time! You need to get in sooner rather than later to make sure you can be finished!

Christmas shopperThe holiday season is already tough. We’re in the office less in November and December because of the holidays. And you’ve got more stuff going on, too. So…make your appointment now! If you wait much longer, you’re going to run out of time! We’ve still got spots available to take care of your dental needs. But time is running out! Give us a call at (989) 799-9133 or use the “make an appointment online” link above and we’ll find a time for you in between making the stuffing and finding some really bad cologne for dad. Don’t let the ghost of dental benefit’s past catch up with you!

Zombie Teeth

dark front tooth adjustedGather round, children. I want to tell you a scary story. It’s the true story of a tooth. It was a tooth that was long thought to be dead. You see, the owner of this tooth was a 60+ year old man who had bumped it on a manure spreader when he was nine. Over the years, the tooth went dark. It never really hurt him, it just changed color. He got used to it over the years and just thought it was dead.

Then it happened. One dark and rainy night, some 50 years later, something changed about that tooth. He started to notice some feeling in that tooth. Some pressure. It felt different. It didn’t hurt, exactly. But something was different. He went to bed thinking it would go away.

He was wrong…very wrong.

He was awakened from a dead sleep with a sharp pain under his lip. The pain was intense and throbbing. It hurt so bad, he was ready to try and take that tooth out with his bare hands. And his dentist’s office didn’t open for another 4 hours! It was like a horror movie that had come true. The tooth he always thought was dead…had come back to life! And it was haunting him!

Have you ever seen someone with a dark front tooth? It’s relatively common in adults and very common in children. Most often it happens after some kind of trauma. Like a kid that bumps their front tooth on a coffee table or a guy to gets hit in the face with a softball. Sometimes these teeth turn dark. The dark color is actually an indication of the pulp of the tooth becoming necrotic. Necrotic is a fancy term for tissue death. So what we’re really talking about is a dead tooth. 

Necrotic teeth usually become abscessed teeth. An abscess happens when the immune system’s response to the trauma is so heavy that pus actually leaks out of the gum tissues! Although most people are grossed out by talk of pus, it’s pretty important. Pus is simply the dead cells that our immune system uses to cause inflammation, which is a response to infection or a foreign body. Often the teeth do become infected but if the injury is only from trauma, sometimes there isn’t true bacterial invasion in these teeth.

A tooth that has become necrotic needs treatment. It either needs to be removed or it will need root canal therapy. When these teeth aren’t treated, they usually stay chronically inflamed. This chronic inflammation often doesn’t hurt, but it’s almost always doing damage to the surrounding tissues. An untreated tooth with this kind of injury has the potential to become a zombie tooth.

zombie teeth finalZombie teeth are dead and chronically inflamed. They almost never hurt…until they do! It’s like a classic slasher movie. Everyone is relieved when they think Jason or Freddy is dead. But they always come back to life!

Do yourself a favor…if you’ve got a zombie tooth make sure you get in to see your dentist! These teeth have a way of not being a problem until holidays and weekends!

Did you find this post horrifying? Did it scare you to death? 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!

Three things all parents should know about kids and cavities

Caries teeth decayI’ve been seeing lots of kids at the office lately. For whatever reason, the few weeks before Halloween tend to be full of kids at Mead Family Dental. I’m not sure how that works, but I’m actually kind of glad. It’s a great time to remind kids and their parents how they need to be taking care of their teeth. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of kids with cavities lately which frustrates me a lot. I used to get frustrated with the kids and I now realize that’s a silly strategy. How often do I see a child at my office? Usually twice in a year or maybe a couple more times if they actually need to have cavities addressed. That’s not very much at all.

So who do I need to talk to? Mom and Dad. They’re with their children every single day and that’s who needs to hear my lecture. So, if you’re a parent I have three important things that you need to read.

  1. It’s not normal for kids to get cavities: Cavities are not inevitable! Most communities have fluoridated water supplies which give kids great start toward a cavity free future. Along with this, a healthy diet and good habits can and will prevent tooth decay. In most cases, when kids get cavities it’s because of poor diet or poor habits. Clean teeth don’t get cavities!
  2. Kids that develop cavities will become adults that get cavities: If you, as a parent, accept your child’s tooth decay you are creating a standard. If a parent isn’t bothered by a child’s tooth decay, why should the child be? This will lead to further apathy and will make creating good dental hygiene habits that much more difficult. Parents…do not accept tooth decay in your children. If you can keep your child cavity free until they reach their late teens, you will have given them an amazing gift. Kids that reach that age without cavities are much less likely to experience decay in the future.
  3. You should brush your kids’ teeth until they are 1o years old or older: No exceptions. You need to brush your child’s teeth. Your six year old may be brilliant. Maybe even a child prodigy in a lot of ways but they won’t get their teeth as clean as you will. Who do you think gets your teeth cleaner…you in your mirror or a dental hygienist? Obviously, the hygienist can do a better job because they can see every single surface that needs cleaning. And that is why you need to brush your child’s teeth.

weareadventurers.comI’m O.K. with you and your child “sharing” the responsibility of cleaning their teeth, but you need to brush them first. And completely. Here’s how:

  • Get yourself an inexpensive electric toothbrush. We’re fans of Captain America and Iron Man at my house.
  • Grab their beautiful little head tightly between your non-dominant arm and your body
  • Make sure they open wide. Help them tip their head in such a way that you can see each surface of each tooth. If necessary, you can prop their mouth open or retract their lips with the fingers of your non-dominant hand.
  • Use a fluoride toothpaste as soon as the child can rinse and spit (around 3 or so). There are many non-fluoridated alternatives for children that might still swallow toothpaste.
  • Gently brush each surface of each tooth with your dominant hand. Make sure you can see the brush clean each surface!
  • Have them rinse with water and spit out the excess. If you’re doing it right, especially with an electric toothbrush, there will be a lot of foamy excess.

Once you’ve finished, let the child go through the same motions if they like. How long should you brush your children’s teeth? It may be different for each child. A rule of thumb might be that if you trust your child to wash dishes without you checking the results, you may be able to let them brush their teeth unaided. As much as you want your child to be confident and independent, you really cannot trust that they’re getting their teeth completely clean until they’re older! I see many 15 year olds (or even adults) that cannot or will not clean their teeth effectively. Why should an 8 year old be able to handle it any better? The difference is, that 8 year old is your responsibility as a parent!

Kids rely on their parents for almost everything. Keeping their teeth clean and healthy is no different. You can give your children the gift of a healthy mouth and teeth. But there’s some work that goes along with it. You’re going to have to get your hands dirty. Regular dental office visits are a small part of the puzzle, but frankly the dentist has little influence. Your child’s diet and dental hygiene is a choice you make as a parent. Every. Single. Day. Are you up to the challenge? Your little peanut is counting on you!

Did you find this post harsh? Did it make you feel guilty? 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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