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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!

 

Holding Pattern

"Roger. We have a tooth in trouble. We're going to need a holding pattern. Do you copy?"

“Roger. We have a tooth in trouble. We’re going to need a holding pattern. Do you copy?”

“I can’t do it right now, Doc. That’s just more than I can afford right now.”

I’ve heard this before. A lot, actually. Usually after I’ve shown a patient a photo of one of their teeth that is in trouble. Most times the patient understands my concern at this point in the conversation. We’ve probably just reviewed the digital photos that April and I took and beamed over to the iPad. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and a high resolution photo of a tooth in trouble usually brings the problem home like nothing else. I’ve recommended a crown that costs just under $1000 and it’s not in the patient’s budget.

So what are the options? Sometimes, we can get away with doing nothing for a little while. The teeth often aren’t causing the patient discomfort but often there are signs of tooth decay that can be seen, either with my eyes or when I review x-rays. Doing nothing means we may be letting an active decay situation get worse.

If a tooth could use a crown or an onlay and the patient can’t afford to do it right away, there is often another option. It’s a kind of middle ground between doing nothing and placing a crown.

Imagine you’re a pilot of a jet liner flying across the country toward Detroit Metro airport. It’s late January. You’ve been following the weather forecasts since you left Los Angeles and it looks like southeastern Michigan is getting some snow. You know that you and the other planes heading toward Detroit are going to have to land sometime soon, but you also know that the snow causes delays while they make the runway safe. So what are you going to do?Commercial Aircraft Landing from Bright Twilight Sky

The control tower radios in that they’re putting you in a “holding pattern.” This means that all the planes that need to land at DTW are given flight instructions that keep them close and ready to land, but keep them safely away from other planes. So although they can’t land now, they are in a stable flight pattern and they’re ready to land once the runway is clear.

That sounds a bit like what we need for our tooth in trouble. We know that we can’t do our preferred treatment right now, but we need our tooth to be stable and ready for treatment when the time is right. What we really need is a dental “holding pattern.” Is there such a thing?

Absolutely! In most cases we can remove failing restorations, take out existing decay and place a bonded core buildup that will last for a couple of years, if necessary. It’s not a replacement for our definitive treatment, because this core restoration isn’t as structurally sound as covering the tooth. However, it can often last long enough to allow the patient to scrape up the resources to take care of the tooth.

Is there a down side? Actually, there is. First, you’re going to add about 25% in cost to the overall treatment. A core restoration used as a “holding pattern” is less expensive than a crown, but it does add a few hundred dollars to the complete treatment cost. Furthermore, the less times you need to operate on a given tooth, the better. By placing a holding pattern restoration and then going in to make the final crown, you’re operating on the tooth twice instead of once. There is a risk of damage to the pulp of the tooth whenever we operate, so it’s definitely something to think about.

At Mead Family Dental we strive to give our patients the options they need to keep their teeth as well as their budget happy! This Saginaw dentist understands that life is often about compromise, so we offer ways to help sick teeth even when finances are a problem. Most times, we can put a tooth in trouble in a holding pattern so it’s ready for more definitive treatment when we’re able!

Did you find this post loopy? Did it make you take off and spread your wings? 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!

The Caterpillar Years

Just a little over a week ago I spent my last day in the dental office that I’ve worked in for more than 15 years. In some ways, it felt just like any other day. But when I stopped to think about it, the day had  a certain surreal quality.

“I’m never going to give anesthesia in this office again.”

“This is the last filling I’ll ever polish here.”

“This is the last hygiene exam I’ll ever do in this office!”

Side view of caterpillar on stemTo the best of my knowledge, my “old” office at 3240 Christy Way in Saginaw Township has been a dental office for more than 40 years. Dr. Robert Minnich opened his practice there in 1972 and I purchased the practice from him in 1998. I’ve been working in that office for more than 15 years. I finished moving out of that office two days ago. I did the final vacuum and once-over while the rest of the team was working hard trying to get the new office ready to go for our big opening in a couple of days. I spent a little time thinking about my first 15 years in Saginaw and came to realize that the first office was an excellent laboratory for me to realize how I liked to practice dentistry. These were my caterpillar years. I learned a lot of things about how to be a dentist and what I would do differently if I could.

Monarch butterfly isolated on white with soft shadowThese were good caterpillar years. They helped me to decide what kind of butterfly I wanted to build. And we built it! As of September 3rd, 2013 Mead Family Dental will reopen at 3630 Shattuck Road in Saginaw Township.  As always we’re taking new patients. And as always we’re performing remarkable, high tech dentistry for real people with care and kindness. But now we’re in a facility that’s unique and interesting, just like our practice! I’d like to welcome back our amazing existing patients and invite anyone else who’s looking for a dentist in Saginaw, MI to take a look. We’d love to have you!

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!

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!

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