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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!

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!

 

6 Months from Christmas

iStock_000020505277XSmallDental benefits make us do weird things. No, seriously. Because most dental benefits have a certain amount that they’ll allow each year, patients feel like they need to wait.

“I know I need a crown replaced on the upper right, but what happens if I break a tooth on some popcorn? Maybe I’ll just wait until the end of the year so I know I’ll have my dental benefits left then.”

Since Christmas is 6 months away today, here’s an gift to you. Four reasons why you shouldn’t wait until the end of the year to have your dental work done.

  • Most dental problems don’t get better on their own: It’s human nature to think maybe if we ignore the problem, it will get better. Acting like it’s no big deal that you can’t eat ice cream without almost crying doesn’t fix the problem. Also, broken fillings don’t miraculously replace themselves. You need to get these things taken care of.
  • Summer is pretty leisurely around here: Right now, we’ve got time for you. Lots of people are vacationing and spending time up north. So this dental office is more flexible with appointment times than we are from about October until the end of the year.
  • Most dental benefits are “use it or lose it”: Dental benefit companies understand human nature much better than regular folks. By only allowing a certain amount of benefit per year, they encourage you to wait on treatment. Because, you never know… “Maybe if I just get by until November I can be sure I won’t have an expensive dental emergency that I didn’t plan for.” So, a certain percentage of folks with dental benefits will wait. And some of them just keep waiting. The dental benefit companies love this, because they’ve already been paid their premium, and if you don’t end up using your benefits for the year because you’re waiting…they win!
  • We’re going to be closed between Christmas and New Year: Our office has prided itself on being open through the holidays for years. In fact, I even wrote a poem about it a couple years ago. We’ve been planning and working really hard on our new office this year, so we’re taking some time off in December. Which means our “end of the year rush” time just got shorter. It’s going to be a lot less likely that we can accomodate last minute “I need to use my benefits up” rush this year.

Jingle BellWhat I’m saying is…let’s take care of your dental stuff now. If it makes you feel any better I’ll wear a red and white hat and play holiday music.

Did you find this post merry? Did it make you think of jingle bells and holly? 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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