Happy Halloween!

I got to thinking about Halloween over the weekend. It is a very unique holiday.  How you view and celebrate depends on so many factors.  Your age is a big factor of course, but your community, your social group, your family background and even the weather factor in to how you will spend Halloween.  On top of that, Halloween has evolved over the years.  Even year to year the popular costumes change and what is socially acceptable or politically correct varies also.

As a child, my Halloween involved a simple costume (pirate, hobo, football player) and a planned route to maximize candy! My friends and I would meet at one side of town and cover as many streets as possible until we got to the other side of town.  Our small town was laid out in a grid making planning this route fairly simple.

High school and college involved parties and more elaborate costumes. Back then politically correct wasn’t a term yet, and many of the college costumes proved that.  When I first moved to Wayland, Halloween parties with new friends were a social event I looked forward to every year.

As a newly-wed, the couples costume was the most important thing. Then, as a parent, Halloween became all about showing off your child in their adorable costume.  After that, it was mostly about worrying if it would rain or snow, or how to get that winter jacket under the power ranger costume.

Today there is trunk trick or treating, Haunted Halls in schools and the Halloween weekend is just as important as the day itself. I see photos of parties on Facebook, and see the costumes of kids and adults.  Thinking about it makes me a little sad.  Sara and I haven’t dressed up in years.  We are moving to the country and may never get trick or treaters again.  Sara makes the occasional costume for a grown child of grandchild, but I think Halloween may be passing us by.

It’s a shame that a holiday with so many wonderful memories now may go by virtually unnoticed. Well, maybe I won’t let that happen. I will wear a costume at work and embrace Halloween.  I will provide candy and donuts for employees and patients.  I will make sure it is a fun day at the office.   After all, Halloween and all that candy is job security!!

Thanks for Reading,

Dr. Bruce

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It’s Almost October!

October means so many things to our office. Saturday October 1st is the Wayland Chamber Community Expo.  We will be participating again this year.  Come check out our booth right inside the door of the Middle School gym.

Personally, October 1st brings bow season.  I will probably be out in my stand watching for deer before expo even starts this Saturday morning.

Professionally, October brings National Dental Hygiene Month. Normally this is where I would brag about how wonderful our hygienists are, but I’m leaving that up to you!  Go to our Facebook page at:  https://www.facebook.com/WaylandFamilyDentistBruceSexton/ and let everyone know who your favorite hygienist is: Carrie, Heather, Jenn, Rebekah, or even Jill or Diane.  Let your hygienist know she is appreciated.

Being a hygienist is an interesting job. They are dedicated to helping you have healthy teeth and gums.  The hardest part for them is getting patients to follow the path to oral health.  Patient compliance is the biggest challenge faced by hygienists.  Over 50% of the households in America NEVER buy floss.  Contrary to recent media hype, flossing is the single best thing you can do to keep your gums healthy.

So, I am challenging you! Honor your hygienist and follow their directions.  Floss!!!  Once you get in the habit, it takes less than a minute one time a day!  Do it for Carrie! Buy the electronic toothbrush they have been recommending for years!  A Sonicare or an Oral B mechanical brush will clean your teeth up to 40% better than you can!  Do it for Heather! Invest in a Waterpik!!  We see amazing results from this machine.  Do it for Jenn! Take an interest in your oral health.  Listen to the numbers from your perio exam.  Ask questions when you don’t understand.  Respect the fact that your hygienist is working for you and with you to make YOUR mouth healthy.  Do it for Rebekah, Jill, Diane or whoever your hygienist is.  They work hard for you, work a little harder for them.

The next time you visit your hygienist, thank them for their interest in your problems. Listen to their advice.  Then get off your butt and follow their recommendations.  You owe it to yourself and to your hard working dental hygienist.

Thanks for Reading,

Dr. Bruce

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There’s something in your teeth!

Do you have one of those annoying little spots where you always get food stuck? Perhaps you have an area where the stringy things like beef and chicken pack themselves into.  If you can’t get up from a meal without taking some of it with you, you may have a bigger problem than you think.

If food is packing in there, so is plaque and bacteria. Unless you are an Olympic worthy flosser, this situation is a time bomb waiting to go off.  First your gums can become inflamed.  This red, spongy, bleeding tissue makes it easier for bacteria to thrive.  In addition to gingivitis, this bacteria can cause loss of bone support and receding gums.  This is periodontal disease, and it will progress until treated.

You could be one of the lucky ones and have a low level of periodontal causing bacteria. In that case, you more than likely have an abundance of decay causing germs.  This means the food trap is allowing these bugs to attack the teeth on either side of the space.  This decay often is hard to detect until it has caused some very large cavities. These food trap cavities often involve so much tooth structure that crowns are needed and sometimes teeth are not repairable and must be extracted.

Most people fall somewhere in between. A little inflammation, some tissue recession and often some decay.  Even without all these potential problems, isn’t that spot just plain annoying?  Then tell your dentist or hygienist.    There are so many times in our office that we find a problem area and the patient will say, “Yeah, I’ve been getting food trapped in there for quite a while.”

If addressed early, food traps can often be fixed with minor procedures. Please don’t wait until we find a deep periodontal pocket or a huge cavity under that old filling. Let us know you are getting food caught in there so we can help you.

Unless you enjoy carrying a snack with you everywhere you go?

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Bruce

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The Why!

Why would you want to work in peoples’ mouths? That is a question I hear a lot.  But the same type of question could be asked of anyone.  Why do we do what we do?  The answers vary from person to person.  For some, it’s what their dad or mother did.  For others it’s just the best job they could find.  For the lucky few, it is something they are passionate about.

I got very lucky. A family friend was a dentist, and he steered me toward dentistry.  He had good arguments.  You are your own boss, you set your own hours, you make decent money and you get to help people.  All of that sounded great to a teenage kid from a small town.

The next lucky thing happened at college. I became friends with another student who wanted to go to dental school.  Our discussions solidified my desire to become a dentist.  Entering dental school was a little less scary with a friend at my side.

As I began practicing, dentistry went from something I wanted to do to something I love. I embraced continuing education and I love the fact that dentistry is always changing.  I employed coaches to help me be the best dentist and leader I could be. I hired great people and gave them excellent training.  Being surrounded by awesome people makes every day a good one.

So here I am working good hours, making decent money, in a profession that continues to grow and improve. I have a great team making every day enjoyable and superb coaches keeping us on the right path.  The only boss I answer to is my wife Sara, and I don’t mind that at all.  It’s not a bad gig.

But guess what, none of that is my why. Why do I love dentistry?  Because of the people!  I get to interact with so many people every day.   I get the satisfaction of talking a terrified patient through a procedure and showing them dentistry doesn’t have to be painful or scary.  I get the joy of performing the first filling on a child and having them happy and comfortable the whole time.  This usually astounds mom, which gives me even more happiness.  I love helping people obtain the oral health they want, need and deserve.  Most importantly is the relationships I have formed over the last 30 years.  If I’m having a bad day or things don’t seem to be going right, I spend a few extra minutes chatting, joking and catching up with the patients in the schedule.  This always cheers me up and makes my day better.

I got lucky to land here and I am blessed to call Wayland my home. The people in the Wayland area have been very good to me. They are my “WHY”!

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Bruce

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You are cracking me up!

Your teeth have cracks. It’s a fact.  Most cracks are in the enamel only and very rarely cause problems.  These are caused by temperature changes and biting forces in your mouth.  Most of the time you don’t even know they are there unless they are on a front tooth.

However, some cracks go into the inner tooth structure called dentin. Cracks in dentin are potential problems.  Since most of these cracks do not cause any discomfort or pain, it is important to have a dental professional evaluate them.  In our office we classify cracks into the dentin as low, medium and high risk.

Low risk cracks are straight up and down on the tooth, are not stained and follow the grooves of the tooth. These cracks we make note of and may take a picture in order to monitor it, but treatment is usually not needed.

Medium risk cracks often detour from the anatomy of the tooth. They may run diagonal across a tooth.  They can be associated with an older filling.  They are V-shaped and are wider at the top, and may be stained.  Medium risk cracks need to be evaluated individually.  If there is sensitivity or undermining of an existing filling, treatment is needed.  This treatment may be anywhere from a bite adjustment, to a small filling, to a full coverage crown.

High risk cracks often run diagonally across a tooth. They can emanate from a restoration. High risk cracks can have a halo of darkness around them indicating bacterial penetration (top right image).  Multiple cracks are a red flag, especially if they outline a cusp or biting surface of the tooth creating a wedge of unstable tooth (top left image).  High risk cracks need treatment.  These cracks will get larger over time.  As the cracks progress into the tooth, several things can happen.  The most common result of a high risk crack that is not treated is a broken tooth.  Hopefully that break leaves enough tooth to restore.  This almost always involves a full coverage crown.  The biggest risk is that the crack will proceed into the nerve area of the tooth.  This will cause sensitivity and then nerve damage that requires root canal therapy.  If unchecked, a high risk crack can fracture the tooth in half.  If this happens, the tooth is usually lost.

If we find a high risk crack on one of your teeth we will let you know what treatment we recommend. Often patients are reluctant to proceed because they do not have any symptoms or sensitivity.  Our experience with patients over the years is that these teeth will break at some point.    The problem is we don’t know if it will be tomorrow, next week or next year.  We just know it will break.

So if we start talking about a crack in your tooth, sit up and listen. If you don’t, the next time you see us, we could be explaining why that same tooth has to be extracted.

If we have already talked to you about a cracked tooth and you haven’t proceeded with our treatment recommendation, call us today. We are willing to give you a special offer just for reading this blog.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Bruce

p.s. This dentist has an excellent YouTube video on cracked teeth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SaR7x7u9io


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We have beeen remembering all year!

Our VELscope for Vets campaign has been going strong so far in 2016.  In the first quarter of the year we donated over $600 to the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.  If you are not aware, our office is donating 20% of our fees for our cancer screening VELscope exams to this veteran’s facility.  We chose to do this to raise awareness of oral cancer and the need for early diagnosis.

There will be over 45,000 Americans diagnosed with some type of oral cancer this year. In that time, over 8500 people will die from oral cancer.  That is roughly one person every hour of every day.  Over 40% of those people who are diagnosed with oral cancer will not survive 5 years.  This mortality rate is higher than cervical cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, laryngeal cancer, cancer of the testes and thyroid cancer.  The reason for this high death rate is because oral cancer is routinely discovered late in its development, often after it has metastasized to another location.

In its early stages, oral cancer may not be noticed by the patient. It frequently prospers without producing pain or recognizable symptoms.  It also develops in areas that are not easily observed like the back of the tongue, floor of the mouth, tonsils and throat.

Dentists and hygienists are trained to look for and detect oral cancers. At our office this exam is done at every hygiene visit.  While the dental profession does a great job of cancer screening, the high mortality rates continue.  Recently there has been an introduction of several cancer screening devices.  Our research found VELscope to be the best device for our office.

VELscope uses ultraviolet light frequencies to make abnormal tissue look darker than normal tissue. This darker tissue is often below the surface and cannot be seen with the naked eye.  This dark tissue can then be examined and follow-up testing can be done if needed.  All of our new patient exams now include a VELscope exam.  Existing patients are offered an optional exam yearly.  The cost is minimal and the peace of mind is enormous.

As adults we all go through routine cancer screening tests like mammograms, pap smears and prostate exams. Please consider having a VELscope exam yearly.  It may save your life!

And, if you start this year, a veteran will benefit.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Bruce


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Sometimes You Get More Than You Expect!

If you have read my blogs, you know that I take a lot of continuing education classes. I like to stay on top of new products, techniques and ways to make my practice better.  I am required to take an average of 20 hours a year to keep my license.  Since I average 50 hours a year, it is obvious I don’t just do it because I have to.  But even I get tired of it occasionally.

So last year, when the invitation came to attend “The Total Practice Revolution” for two days in Fort Worth, I decided I really didn’t want to go.  I didn’t need the class hours.  I had been to Fort Worth several times.  It would require travel during spring break and I had heard three of the speakers before.

However, the event was being put together by Jameson Management. These people are my coaches and my friends. It was their first effort at an event of this nature.  I started getting pressure to attend.  I finally justified the trip by deciding to go to the seminar and then fly to Florida to see my Dad and my daughter before coming home the next week.

So, a month ago I flew to Fort Worth figuring I would have some social time with my friends and colleagues and maybe pick up a couple new ideas at the seminars. What happened was I had the best two day dental education experience I’ve ever had.

The Total Practice Revolution” was spectacular!  The program was perfectly designed.  Each day included breakfast and lunch which provided time to talk with old friends, meet and talk with other professionals and interact with the speakers and presenters.  We heard four top of the industry speakers.  Chuck Blakeman. Lois Banta, Mark Hyman and Cathy Jameson all had fresh material that was captivating and relevant.  I took more notes for each speaker than I usually do for a whole weekend at other seminars.  Both days included a panel discussion featuring dental experts talking on about a variety of questions we had submitted.  We even had selected vendors available during the breaks to help us in various aspects of our practices.

Throw in a social hour one night and two dinners spent with good friends and it all added up to a perfect weekend. I feel bad for having such low expectations.  I should have known that the Jameson Management Team would present nothing less than a spectacular event.  This team is filled with outstanding individuals who know their stuff.  I am privileged to be able to work with them.  The dozen years I have been coached by them have been the most rewarding of my 32 year career.  They provide guidance, counseling, education leadership and friendship. A great team needs great coaches and I think we have the best there is.

Thanks for an incredible event John and Cathy Jameson, Jess and Carrie Webber, all the presenters, the vendors and everyone on Team Jameson for doing such a fantastic job. A special thank you to my current coaches Beverly Hill, Nancy Miller and Susanne Kimball as well as my former coaches Ryan Webber and Misty Clark.  You have helped me learn and grow beyond my expectations.  Finally, a special shout out to Amy Parrish.  She is the straw that keeps the Jameson drink stirred to perfection!

While I’m at it, I might as well pat myself on the back for attaching myself to such a great group!

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Bruce

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