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

Posted in Information | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Information, Personal | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

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:


Posted in Information | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Information | 1 Comment

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

Posted in Information, Personal | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

April Fools: Or is it?

My blog this month was going to be an April Fools’ Day scam. I was going to write about all this cool technology that was coming in dentistry that would make dental visits better.  Then I started thinking.  The best stuff I could come up with is technology that has or may become a reality in our lifetimes.

At a recent career day at the Wayland Middle School I told the students that almost everything in dentistry has changed since I went to dental school. Materials are better, stronger and easier to use.  Techniques are faster and more comfortable for the patients.  Computers have revolutionized dentistry.  Everything including scheduling, billing, filing insurance claims, patient records, x-rays, patient communication, transferring of patient information and business accounting all depend on computers.  Even lab work can now be done electronically by scanning teeth and sending the file to the lab where laser and CAD-CAM technology take over fabrication.

Air abrasion allows us to fill small cavities without anesthesia or drilling. We even have OraVerse which counteracts the anesthetic allowing that numb feeling to disappear faster.  Intra-oral cameras, ultrasonic scalers, white fillings and decay detecting scanners have made dentistry easier, faster, more comprehensive and more comfortable.  Our VELscope device even allows us to save lives by detecting cancer earlier than ever before.

So what does the future hold? How about vaccines for decay and gum disease?  These are caused by bacteria, and scientists are currently trying to develop the perfect inoculation that could be given to children and eliminate cavities and periodontal disease.  How about growing a new tooth?  Stem cell research has been promising.  Cells can be made to grow tooth structure.  Planting these cells and getting them to grow and erupt as a tooth is something that the future could hold.

Just let your mind run wild. How about a rinse that kills gum disease bacteria while leaving the rest of your oral system in tact?  How about a gel that dissolves decay but leaves healthy tooth structure in place?  How about a material that bonds so strongly to teeth that broken teeth can be repaired without crowns?  How about a substance that dissolves necrotic nerve tissue making root canals faster and far less traumatic?  How about robots that perform your dentistry?

O.K. let’s not go too far!

You can see that dentistry continues to grow and change. The scary appointment you had as a child can now be a comfortable, enjoyable experience.  Years from now, who knows how easy dental treatment will become?  I only know that things will get better and better.  No Fooling!

Email us your ideas for the future of dentistry. We will post the best ones on our Facebook page.

In the meantime, watch out for April Fools’ Day pranks and thanks for reading.


Dr. Bruce

Posted in Information | Leave a comment

It’s Dental Assistant Recognitinon Week!

Dental Assistants are the unsung heroes of any successful dental office. In my dental practice I have an amazing team that works hard to keep our busy practice running smoothly. Each person has an integral part in our office dynamic. While each job is vital, this month I am singling out the dental assistants, mostly because March 6-12 is Dental Assistants Recognition Week!

The business team greets you at each visit and assists you as you check out. They are the ones interacting with you on the phone. Chances are the hygienists spend the most time with you. They get to see you for at least 2 hourly sessions each year. However, you will probably don’t interact with the assistants nearly as often as everyone else. They may only cross your path when you are in my chair. This is usually when you need clinical treatment and you may be apprehensive, nervous, or down right scared. This is when most people are least likely to want to have a pleasant chat.

This is where the dental assistant shines! They dive in and make you, as the patient, feel comfortable. They are warm and friendly and enjoy spending time with you. They try to get your mind off what you are most worried about and reassure you that everything will be easier than you anticipate. They will answer your questions. They know everything about the procedures, and they seem to explain it so simply. The dental assistant is there to make sure your dental appointment is the absolute best it can be.

Even before you arrive they are working hard for you. They review each appointment ahead of time. They clarify any questions about the treatment. They then set up the room so that everything is ready and can go as smoothly as possible. As they assist during the procedure, they work quickly, calmly and efficiently. They adapt and alter the treatment sequence when the situation dictates. Afterward, they explain the treatment done that day, give you instructions for post-operative care, enter the treatment into the computer system and escort you to the front while answering all of your new questions. Afterward, they hurry back and clean the room for the next patient.

My dental assistants also triage emergencies, take x-rays, deal with lab cases, take impressions, do intraoral digital scanning, make and seat temporaries, help the hygienists, sterilize instruments, set up trays and do a variety of other things to help the practice and the patients.

I truly appreciate how awesome my dental assistants are. I could not function without them. Nor would I want to. Get to know my marvelous assistants on our web page: and please join me on Facebook this coming week to recognize and thank Mary, Judy, Melissa, Jessica and Lisa for the outstanding job they do for all of us!

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Bruce

Posted in Information | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment