Are Water Picks Worth the Cost?

Thinking of switching to a Waterpik, but not sure if it’s worth your money? We’ve done the research for you! Read on for a quick comparison between the water flosser and the traditional string floss that’ll help you decide which is the best fit for you.

waterpik vs traditional dental floss, what is best?

Strengths Of A Water Flosser

Water flossers usually run anywhere between $20 and $100. There are many models on the market, coming from different brands and offering different functionalities. The Waterpik, in particular, has earned an American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance, making it a trusted choice. There are a variety of reasons why people are choosing to incorporate this technology into their dental care routine. Some benefits include:

  • Proven Effective:

    Studies have shown that Waterpik can and does work to remove plaque and reduce gingivitis by cleaning between the teeth. Some studies have also shown that it can reach deep areas that traditional floss can’t get to.

  • Encourages Flossing:

    For those people who just can’t stick to a flossing routine, this device can change that. Many feel that a water flosser is easier, more interesting, and even fun to use compared to traditional floss.

  • Great For Braces & Limited Mobility:

    For people with braces and limited mobility or dexterity, string floss can be difficult, even impossible, to maneuver. Waterpik offers a solution, a flossing method that keeps the hands out of the mouth and is just plain easier to use. Waterpik also suits mouths with bridges, implants, and crowns.

Why Stay with String Floss?

Listed here, the benefits of a water flosser look pretty good, but that doesn’t mean that traditional string floss is completely eclipsed. This manual method is still effective, and it’s price-point and portability make it an appealing option. For whatever reason, if you decide against the addition of a Waterpik to your bathroom shelf, you can still feel good about using string floss. And if you do add a water flosser to your routine, it’s always a good idea to keep string floss on hand.

Our Team At Spanaway Family Dentistry Can Advise

We’re here to help you choose the best interdental cleaning method for your personal needs. If you’re thinking about adding a Waterpik to your dental cleaning arsenal but you’re on the fence, talk to us! We can help you decide whether or not it’ll be a worthwhile investment for your personal dental needs.

Contact Us Today!

What Is Phantom Tooth Pain?

Have you ever felt pain in your tooth, but that tooth is no longer there? If you’ve experienced this sensation, you may have phantom tooth pain. Here, we’ll explain what phantom tooth pain is, what the symptoms are, what causes it, how to diagnose it, and how you can treat it.

girl holding her jaw with both hands experiencing phantom tooth pain

What Is Phantom Tooth Pain?

Also known as atypical odontalgia or atypical facial pain, phantom tooth pain is the chronic, constant pain in your mouth where you have recently had dental work done, specifically if you’ve had a tooth extracted or pulled and there is no longer a tooth there. As time goes on you could even feel pain moving to other parts of your mouth or jaw. This sensation is most commonly associated with a phantom limb syndrome, where people who have had a limb amputated still feel pain where their limb used to be. Phantom tooth pain is a similar sensation and is a neurological issue, not a physical one.

What Causes Phantom Tooth Pain?

As mentioned above, phantom tooth pain is thought to be a neuropathic pain disorder and occurs when a patient undergoes an extraction, root canal, or other similar dental procedure. It is believed that, even when the tooth is removed, nerve endings continue to send messages that it feels pain to the patient’s mind. Without treatment, the error in processing between the brain and nerves mean that phantom tooth pain will remain.

What Are the Symptoms of Phantom Tooth Pain?

A persistent aching or throbbing tooth pain at the site of an extraction or other dental work is the main symptom of phantom tooth pain. This can be a mild pain to a severe one and can spread throughout your mouth and even to your jaw. Phantom tooth pain is different than normal tooth pain because with normal tooth pain there is a specific cause for the pain such as a knocked out tooth, gum disease, or tooth decay, and can be overcome with a simple treatment by a dental professional.

How Do You Diagnose Phantom Tooth Pain?

With phantom tooth pain there are no external signs of pain and there is no one identifiable cause for the pain so it can be difficult to diagnose it. The only real way to determine whether the pain is associated with phantom tooth pain is by a dental professional observing the patient over a period of time and working through other issues to make sure it’s not caused by any other underlying dental issues. It is not uncommon for those with phantom tooth pain to experience misdiagnosis.

What Is the Treatment for Phantom Tooth Pain?

Because it is not a physical issue, phantom tooth pain is often treated with medication such as antidepressants, anticonvulsants, narcotics, and NMDA receptor antagonists. Your dental professional might also suggest other treatments like nerve stimulation and acupuncture.

If you think you’re experiencing phantom tooth pain, contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Contact Us Today!

Can Dental Implants Cause Headaches?

If you’re considering having one or more teeth restored, dental implants might be a great option for you. Some patients ask about possible disadvantages to getting this treatment done, including the myth that they may cause headaches. We want to give you a breakdown of information on this common and effective procedure. No one should miss out on a gorgeous smile because of misinformation!

hands holding dental implants demonstration model

What’s a Dental Implant?

We offer many services at Spanaway Family Dentistry, including dental implants, and we are enthusiastic to offer you this choice for improved confidence and dental health. This standard procedure is a great way to get your smile back. A titanium post will be placed in the space of your missing tooth. Dental implants fuse with the bone to become permanently fixed. This creates a strong, sustainable tooth that feels as natural as your own teeth. There are several advantages to having dental implants. They are attractive and look more natural than removable fixtures. With proper care, they should last you a lifetime, without needing updates or repairs. They are also a healthier choice than leaving empty root space, which can lead to dry sockets and bone loss.

The Facts

Dental implants should not cause headaches. Having an experienced dentist will ensure proper placement of the implant, and the titanium rod should integrate nicely into the structure of the mouth because of its biocompatibility. Titanium is the metal commonly used in prosthetic surgeries and has proven to be safe and strong. However, it is possible for those with metal allergies to have a reaction. This may cause a headache, among other symptoms. Please let us know if you’re allergic to any type of metal before undergoing this procedure.

Other causes for a headache might be TMJ, or a chronically tight jaw. With any surgery, there are risks. If you have a headache or fever after your surgery, this could be a sign of infection, and we’d like you to let us know. But chronic headaches are not a result of getting dental implants. Please don’t let this scare you from improving your smile. We are extremely familiar with this surgery, and you are in great hands if you choose to get implants with us.

If you’re interested in learning more about getting dental implants, contact us today to schedule a consultation! It’s time to get your smile back!

Contact Us Today!

How to Reduce Dental Anxiety

Many people are troubled with dental anxiety. Somewhere between 9 and 20 percent of all adults suffer from dental anxiety so severe that it extends into the territory of being a phobia. Those with dental phobias might even avoid going to the dentist!

At Spanaway Family Dentistry, we never want our patients to experience dentophobia, fear of dentists, so we have compiled a list of suggestions for you to manage your dental anxiety before it becomes a paralyzing phobia.

girl with dental anxiety

How to Reduce Dental Anxiety:

1. Talk to the Team!

The sooner you let the friendly team at Spanaway Family Dentistry know that you’re feeling anxious about your appointment, the sooner that we can work together to help you feel more at ease. Drs. Lee, Kim, and the whole team are happy to explain every step of your dental treatment. As in any relationship, good communication is the basis of trust.

If your case of dental anxiety is extremely serious, our office is proud to offer sedation options to help you manage your anxiety, from oral sedation to nitrous gas, otherwise known as laughing gas.

2. Distract Yourself

If the noise of a traditional dental appointment causes anxiety, consider wearing headphones to give yourself something else on which to concentrate. Our Spanaway office equips all of our treatment rooms with televisions; this entertainment helps the time fly by! Try keeping your hands occupied with a stress ball or a small board game. Use visualization techniques to imagine yourself in your happy place to help you feel more relaxed.

3. Mindfulness

The trend of mindful meditation has swept the corporate world, and whether or not you’ve encountered it in your work life, at Spanaway Family Dentistry we believe it has a place too! Start this technique by counting your breathing; inhale and exhale for the same number of counts and repeat this five times. This will help you to center your focus and concentrate less on your anxieties.

Mindfulness experts also recommend a mindfulness exercise called the body scan. This method involves concentration and awareness on each of the separate body systems, like the respiratory system, with its breath, lungs, and rhythm, as well as the senses. As your attention moves from one area to the next, focus on releasing the tension by way of exhaling slowly.

Whether your dental anxieties are causing you to avoid your bi-yearly checkups with Spanaway Family Dentistry or you would like to feel more comfortable with your more mild dental anxiousness, don’t wait.

Contact Us Today!

5 Reasons You Should Think About Avoiding Corporate Dental Practices

Today’s dental patient has a lot of options when it comes to choosing a dentist. We appreciate the opportunity to serve the Tacoma community, and we take pride in the work we do. As a small, privately owned dental practice, we feel that corporate dental practices might not be the best choice for all patients. In fact, we believe that small and privately owned establishments offer more to the community at large. Here’s why:

trust written in the sand

1. Business Is Personal

At Spanaway Family Dentistry, we are committed to providing customized service for every patient. We’ve been told again and again by our patients that we create a comfortable and caring atmosphere that eases stress. We can do this, in part, because we are not a corporate dental practice. We aim to design an environment that feels like home. Some corporate offices might feel like just that- a corporate office. For us, business is personal. And you’ll feel that when you come in for a routine cleaning or an urgent visit.

2. Clinical Autonomy Means Custom Care

Because we are not a corporate dental practice, we can create custom care for each of our patients. We seek to provide an experience that exceeds your expectations. Not being a part of a larger corporate model means that you can expect prompt, on time scheduling, minimal paperwork, hassle free check-in, and the best in customized care.

3. Support Local Businesses

In an ever-expanding globalized economy, it’s becoming more rare to have the opportunity to support local businesses. We are one example of the benefits that come from patronizing a local business. Dr. Lee envisioned a different kind of dental practice, one that gathered experts in the field of dentistry who were focused on going above and beyond to ensure that each patient is confident in our care. When you buy local, you’re supporting hardworking families in your area and putting money back into your community. You won’t get that with corporate practices.

4. We Value Your Time

Because we are independently owned, we can offer extended hours, ready to serve you anytime between 8am-7pm. We ensure prompt, easy check-in and honor your scheduled appointment time. Many large and corporate practices won’t go out of their way to do this.

5. Flexible Financing

We care deeply about the dental health of you and your family and we’ll do everything in our power to make it work so that you can see us when you need to. We work with each patient to find financing options that suit each individual’s needs. Corporate dentistry will be less inclined to meet you where you need to be in this way.

If you have any suggestions for how we can continue to go above and beyond as a small business, please let us know. We want you to feel a sense of community and care when you are with us. Contact us to schedule your next appointment, and please pass our information along to any friends who may be looking for quality dental care in a small business setting! We appreciate you for choosing Spanaway Family Dentistry.

Contact Us Today

How to Reduce Dental Waste at Home

A hand holds a green orb representing the world with green leaves on top

Our beloved Spanaway is home to some breathtaking parks. All of the nature around us is one of the best parts of living in our area of Pierce County! Just this July, Washington State-based coffee giant Starbucks announced their plans to eliminate the use of single-use plastic straws by the year 2020. Since we have such incredible reminders of the natural world surround us, all of us at Spanaway Family Dentistry are aware of our environmental footprint.

You can make a difference with regard to dental waste every time you brush! Consider these environmentally friendly options the next time you need to replace your toothbrush, run out of dental floss or toothpaste.


Although magazine ads and television commercials for toothpaste often show a whole toothbrush loaded with product, this is definitely not how much you need! Most toothpaste directions only call for a “pea-sized” amount on the brushing surface of a toothbrush. By using only as much toothpaste as you need you are extending the life of your toothpaste tube and limiting the number of toothpaste tubes that you throw in the garbage each year. Some toothpastes are sold in metal tubes (like David’s) which are recyclable.

Whatever eco-friendly toothpaste choice you make, Drs. Lee and Kim encourage you to select a toothpaste that bears the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance. *Be very careful about zero-waste toothpastes, homemade or DIY, made with baking soda. Baking soda is too abrasive for everyday use on your teeth and will erode the teeth’s enamel. Once enamel is worn away, you can’t get it back.


The general rule of thumb for how much floss to use is 18-inches. Most dental floss is waxed petroleum-based nylon and cannot be reused, recycled, or composted. To reduce waste in terms of dental floss, you can opt for silk floss. Natural silk floss, like Radius, is completely biodegradable. Look for nylon and plastic-free floss options in order to limit your dental waste when it comes to floss. You can also look for floss that does not come in a plastic container, like Eco-Dent (There are other options available!).


Drs. Kim and Lee recommend replacing your toothbrush at least every three months. Most toothbrushes are made of non-recyclable plastic and by following dentistry recommendations patients contribute to plastic waste that goes straight to the landfill. Here are your options on how to reduce the impact of your toothbrush-related waste:

  • Buy a plastic toothbrush made from recycled materials.
    Preserve offers toothbrushes made from recycled yogurt containers. These toothbrushes can then be sent back to the company for repurposing!
  • Buy a biodegradable toothbrush.
    Check out Radius, Brush with Bamboo, or Bogobrush! Brush with Bamboo brushes are made from bamboo, Bogobrush uses compostable bioplastic (and has a humanitarian component!), and Radius biodegradable toothbrushes are made of cellulose (plastic generated from wood) and vegetable-based nylon bristles. Do some internet research and check reviews so that you choose a toothbrush that will be right for you.
  • Buy an aluminum toothbrush.
    The Goodwell Company makes a toothbrush handle from recycled aluminum that is guaranteed to last for life. The replaceable heads are also biodegradable.
  • These options to help you reduce dental waste are not perfect, but each little step can add up to a big difference in the grand scheme of things. If you are thinking about making changes to your dental hygiene routines to make it more environmentally friendly, consult with the team at Spanaway Family Dentistry! We’re here to help you make the right choices for the environment and your smile.

    If you’ve already started your journey towards less dental waste, tell us about your experiences in the world of eco-friendly dental hygiene the next time you come in for your biannual checkup and cleaning!

    Contact Us Today

What Is Organic Toothpaste?

Partially squeeze blue collapsible tube of toothpaste with a white corrugated top against a white background

We all know that there are a variety of organic products on the market, ranging from foods to dish soaps to cleaning agents to toothpastes. However, most people don’t really know what organic means, what ingredients are left out of organic products, how they differ from the regular product, and what benefits they can have. So, when it comes to choosing between regular and organic toothpaste, we’ll give you the scoop so you can make a well-informed decision about which toothpaste is right for you and your family!

What Is Organic Toothpaste?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, organic means that a product is, “relating to or derived from living matter.” So an organic toothpaste is made with all-natural ingredients. These ingredients often include mint (a natural breath freshener), spearmint and peppermint oil, which both have antibacterial properties, and a variety of herbs. While regular toothpaste is safe and American Dental Association (ADA) approved, some people choose organic toothpaste because they prefer natural, holistic products that don’t have any manufactured chemicals in them.

White pot holding a cluster of green mint leaves used in organic toothpaste

Regular toothpaste contains sodium lauryl sulfate and saccharin. Sodium lauryl sulfate is what makes the toothpaste foam and is known for being a skin irritant for some people. Saccharin is a chemical used to create the sweet flavor of toothpaste, which organic toothpastes can achieve without a man-made ingredient.

Does Organic Toothpaste Work?

It’s important to note that toothbrushes are actually what do most of the teeth cleaning and toothpaste is for freshening your breath and eliminating bacteria—which organic toothpaste can easily do. If you choose to use organic toothpaste, you’ll still get the same effect as regular toothpaste, so you won’t have to worry about bacteria lingering on your teeth and causing cavities or getting too close to someone when you speak because of bad breath!

Ask Us for Recommendations!

Whether you’re looking for a new toothpaste for your family or yourself, it’s important to weigh your options and do some research on which one is right for you. If you have any questions about organic toothpaste, contact our office and one of our knowledgeable team members will be happy to discuss your questions.

Contact Us Today

Why Do Teeth Turn Yellow?

If you’re unhappy with a discolored smile, there are quite a few reasons why you may have yellow teeth. Here are six of the top reasons why teeth turn yellow—some of them may surprise you!

1. Diet

Many foods and drinks can actually harm your enamel, making it easier for your teeth to stain. Acidic foods like citrus, candy, berries, and even pasta sauce, as well as drinks like soda and coffee, can all cause wear on your teeth over time. Additionally, sweet and sticky foods promote acid production since that is what plaque feeds on. Consider limiting your intake of these foods and drinks to prevent yellow teeth.

White cup containing brown coffee that stains teeth with a swirl of cream on a white saucer with a silver spoon

2. Fluoride

Fluoride is excellent for your teeth. In fact, it’s necessary to expose your teeth to fluoride in order to have a healthy smile. Fluoride from your toothpaste, drinking water, and mouthwash are enough to protect your teeth from decay. However, if you were exposed to excessive fluoride as a child before your teeth erupted from your gums, you may have stains on my teeth from fluorosis. Make sure your own children don’t swallow their fluoride toothpaste!

3. Certain Medications

Tetracycline and other medications have been known to stain teeth. If you think your medicine is the cause of your tooth discoloration, speak with your doctor.

4. Smoking

Smoking is harmful to your health, and the toxins in cigarettes cause stains on your teeth. Moreover, because smoking suppresses your immunity, it makes it easier for plaque to develop on your teeth and release damaging acid.

Closeup of man smoking an addictive cigarette that causes oral cancer, bad breath, and tooth discoloration

5. Weak Enamel

Many of us just have weak enamel. This makes the dentin, a yellow substance underneath the enamel, appear more clearly, causing your teeth to look slightly more yellow.

6. Genetics

Sometimes the color of your teeth boils down to simple genetics. If your parents or grandparents have discolored teeth, chances are yours are discolored for genetic reasons.

Professional Teeth Whitening

Teeth can turn yellow for a variety of reasons, but no matter what has caused your teeth to have a stained appearance, we have a few ways you can brighten your teeth safely here at Spanaway Family Dentistry. We offer take-home whitening trays, as well as KoR® bleaching that can whiten your smile dramatically in just an hour. We invite you to utilize these outstanding cosmetic dentistry services today. Contact us to schedule your appointment!

Yes, I Want a Whiter Smile!

The Benefits of an Electric Toothbrush

Headshot of a smiling young woman with brown crimped hair wearing a white Ralph Lauren sweater and a 2-strand necklace

Haven’t used an electric toothbrush yet? Here’s what you need to know about them, and if they really make more of a difference for your oral health than a manual toothbrush.

Electric Toothbrush Basics

An electric toothbrush is a chargeable brush that can pretty much do all of the brushing work for you! Although there are many different types of electric toothbrushes available these days, some mimic the functions of the tools your dentist uses during your cleanings and examinations, and many come with different functionalities such as polishing, cleaning, and whitening all in one brush.

PROS of an Electric Toothbrush

  • Many dentists believe that electric toothbrushes are safer and more effective than a manual toothbrush when cleaning your teeth. After all, proper brushing technique can make or break the state of your oral health, and electric toothbrushes are designed to brush your teeth using small, quick circles and to not be harsh on your gums.
  • Using an electric toothbrush may not guarantee a clean bill of oral health depending on your lifestyle, but it can help you brush your teeth more accurately every time. Most have timers so that you know you’ve brushed your teeth for two minutes at a time!
  • Electric toothbrushes are great options for children and elderly patients who may have a hard time adhering to a proper brushing technique or who experience difficulty gripping a manual toothbrush.

CONS of an Electric Toothbrush

  • Electric toothbrushes are understandably more expensive than manual toothbrushes, but there are different types out there to fit your needs and budget so do your research before buying one. Although some may cost more than you’d like to spend, remember that it’s better to prevent oral health issues than to spend money fixing them in the future.
  • If you travel frequently, you may find it difficult to take your electric toothbrush everywhere with you, but again, there are so many different types of electric toothbrushes available that you may find one that is perfectly portable. If not, you can always take a manual toothbrush when traveling.

Consult with Our Expert Team

If you’re thinking about switching to an electric toothbrush but don’t know where to start, our team at Spanaway Family Dentistry is here to help you find the perfect toothbrush for your smile. Contact us for help improving your oral hygiene routine, or to schedule your next dental cleaning and checkup!

Contact Us

What Causes Cavities?

Jar overflowing with marshmallows, caramel, Oreos, ice cream, and chocolate bits next to a pink striped bag of popcorn

Cavities aren’t just a problem that younger kids face—in fact, most American adults actually have cavities! What is a cavity, how is it treated, and how can it be prevented?

Causes of Cavities

Cavities are small holes of decay in your teeth. This decay can form for a variety of reasons, the most common of which are neglect and diet. Eating sugary and starchy foods and drinking sweet and acidic beverages (think candy, dried fruit, pastries, coffee, and alcohol) can leave your teeth vulnerable to decay since the bacteria on your teeth release tooth-eroding acid when they break sugars down. If you don’t brush and floss your teeth after eating, you’re increasing your chances of harboring harmful bacteria on your teeth.

Symptoms of Cavities

You may not be able to see small, dark holes on your teeth, but if you have bad breath, coupled with tooth pain and sensitivity, you may have a cavity. See your dentist as soon as possible for an examination!

Treatment for Cavities

The primary treatment for cavities is a filling, which is a quick and painless procedure. Your dentist will flush out any remaining decay in the cavity, and then fill the hole with a tooth-like resin for a natural look. No one will ever be able to tell that you had a cavity!

What Happens When You Leave a Cavity Untreated

It’s not a good idea to leave a cavity untreated because as more bacteria collects in the cavity site, the deeper the decay will grow into your tooth. If you let the decay progress, you may need a root canal or a tooth extraction altogether! Aside from decay, you can expect intense pain and sensitivity, making it hard to eat, drink, smile, and talk.

Prevention of Cavities

  • Brush your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes each time
  • Floss at least once a day
  • Drink fluoridated water
  • Visit us twice a year for dental cleanings and checkups to confirm you’re cavity-free

Is It Time for Your 6-Month Checkup?

At Spanaway Family Dentistry, we’re here to help you have your best smile no matter what type of treatment you may need. Contact us to schedule an appointment today!

Schedule My Appointment