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What to Know if You Think You Have a Cracked Tooth

July 17th, 2024

You use your mouthguard for sports, wear a nightguard if you grind your teeth, and never bite down on solid objects. But even with all the care in the world, accidents happen. If we break a leg, our bones can regenerate tissue and knit together over time. A cracked tooth, on the other hand, can only be repaired, but will not heal. The right treatment is essential to protect your injured tooth. If you suspect you have a fractured tooth, what should you do?

Sometimes you know right away when you’ve cracked a tooth. A fall off a bike, a blow to the face on the basketball court, a bite of something that turned out to be much harder than it should have been—the results can be instantly apparent. If you have a broken or chipped tooth, call our Pensacola, FL office immediately. If you have lost a piece of your tooth, bring it in with you. Early treatment can not only restore the appearance of your tooth, but might prevent the possibility of infection or damage to the root and pulp.

Sometimes, a fractured tooth is an unwelcome surprise. It doesn’t take one specific incident to cause damage to a tooth. A crack or break can develop over time if you grind your teeth, have a large filling that has compromised a tooth, or have undergone a root canal procedure that has left the tooth brittle.  You might notice a crack or a missing piece of tooth, or experience pain while chewing or sensitivity to heat and cold. If you have any of these symptoms, call us. Once again, the earlier a tooth is treated, the better the outcome.

No matter how you discover an injury, immediate treatment by Dr. James McCreary is the best way to safeguard your healthy smile. Prompt treatment and restoration repair your smile cosmetically, and, in the case of more serious fractures, extend your tooth’s life, prevent further damage, and ward off potential infections of the gum and bone.

We have many options for restoring your damaged tooth, and our recommendations will depend on the type of injury your tooth has suffered.

  • Chips

It is important to bring any broken piece of your tooth with you because sometimes the piece can be reattached. If that is not possible, a small chip might only require bonding with a tooth-colored resin. A veneer is an option for a larger chip, or where a translucent, natural appearance is important. If the chip is deep enough, and there is pulp damage, we might suggest a root canal and a crown.

  • Broken Cusps

A lost cusp is a common result of injury, especially near a filling. If the pulp is unaffected, which is generally the case, a filling or crown can restore the appearance and function of the tooth.

  • Cracks through the Tooth

A tooth cracked from the chewing surface to the root presents a more serious problem. If the crack has extended to the pulp, but remains above the gum line, a root canal and crown can preserve the tooth. If the crack extends below the gum line, however, extraction might be necessary. Early cracks will eventually extend below the gum line, so early treatment is essential.

A tooth can also fracture from the root up. Any crack in the root is a serious matter, and often is not discovered until infection has set in. Extraction is a common recommendation, although some specific cracks near the tip of the root might be treated with endodontic surgery.

  • Split Tooth

Sometimes an untreated vertical crack can lead to a tooth split into two pieces. An endodontist can determine whether any portion of the tooth can be saved, although extraction is more likely.

If you injure your tooth, or have any symptoms of a tooth fracture, call us immediately. Whether you have suffered a chipped tooth, a broken cusp, crown or root fractures, or even a split tooth, prompt treatment is the best way to restore and protect your attractive and healthy smile.

Double Duty

July 10th, 2024

If you play a contact sport, you know about mouthguards. You know about the cushioning protection they provide for your teeth. And not just your teeth—mouthguards also help protect your lips, tongue, and jaw, helping you avoid or minimize many of the injuries caused by collisions.

But you don’t have to be part of the defensive line or face off on center ice to wear a mouthguard. It pays to be proactive with your oral health in any activity where impact is a possibility. Whether you play a team sport, practice gymnastics, ride a bike, ski, skateboard, or participate in other athletic pastimes, there’s almost always the risk of impact—with a ball, with the mat, with the sidewalk, with another person.

So, how do mouthguards protect your teeth and mouth? It’s a combination of materials and design. Mouthguards are made of a strong, cushioning material such as plastic or silicone, which helps absorb and distribute the force of impact, usually in the form of a horseshoe-shaped piece that fits over your upper teeth. The specific design can be tailored to the sport or activity you’ll be using it for.

And now that you’re wearing braces? Working toward an attractive, healthy smile doesn’t mean you can’t be active or find a mouthguard that will work for you. In fact, when you wear braces, mouthguards do double duty—they protect your mouth and teeth, and they protect your braces, too!

Even minor impacts can damage wires and brackets, and damaged braces means more time at the orthodontist and lost treatment time. More important, your guard not only helps protect your brackets and wires from impact injury, it protects your delicate mouth tissue from trauma caused by impact with your brackets and wires.

Because you probably have braces on both upper and lower teeth, the usual mouthguard design might not work for you. To make sure you’re completely protected, you may need a guard that covers both upper and lower arches.

There are over-the-counter mouth guards designed for braces, and even for covering both your upper and lower teeth. These might be one-size-fits-all or fit-it-yourself guards, or models which should be used only after a fitting at our Pensacola, FL dental. While some of these guards are better than others, the best option for your teeth—and your braces—might be a custom mouthguard.

What are the benefits of a custom guard for orthodontic patients? They:

  • Provide a perfect fit around teeth and braces
  • Protect better because they fit better
  • Are designed for easy breathing and speaking
  • Are less bulky
  • Are more durable
  • Fit more comfortably
  • Can accommodate orthodontic adjustments
  • Can be tailored to your specific sport or activity.

Custom mouthguards are more expensive, because they are individually crafted for your teeth and braces, but in terms of effectiveness, they are the best guards out there—because they are individually crafted for your teeth and braces. If cost is an issue, Dr. James McCreary can let you know whether an over-the-counter option might work for you.

An active life should mean proactive dental care. Wearing a mouthguard when you’re wearing braces protects both your body and your orthodontics. Whichever guard option you choose, it’s a good idea to check out the fit with Dr. James McCreary to make sure you’re getting all the protection you need for both when your mouthguard is doing double duty.

Weighing the Facts about DIY Scaling

July 3rd, 2024

The dental section of your local drugstore or favorite online site offers more dental tools for home care than ever before. Little angled mirrors. Tongue scrapers. Gum stimulators. Interproximal brushes. Why, there are even curettes and scalers to help you remove tartar at home.

But should you try do-it-yourself scaling (the technical term for scraping tartar off enamel) at home? Let’s weigh the facts.

  • Tartar Buildup is Harmful

Plaque, a sticky biofilm composed of bacteria, food particles, saliva, and fluids, starts forming within hours after you brush. And within days, if it’s not brushed and flossed away, plaque starts to mineralize, becoming tartar, a hard, rough, yellow or brown deposit that you can’t simply brush away.

Tartar often develops in the places we where we don’t brush or floss effectively. If you run your tongue across the back of your front teeth and feel a rough surface, that might be tartar. If you check out the back of your mouth and discover yellow discoloration on your molars, that might be tartar. If you see brown staining between your teeth or at the gumline, that might be tartar.

Why worry about tartar, especially if it’s not visible? Several good reasons.

  • Tartar provides a rough surface which makes it easier for plaque to stick to teeth, and more plaque leads to more cavities.
  • Tartar irritates delicate gum tissue, which causes inflammation and gum disease. Not only can the gums themselves hurt, swell, or bleed, but they can begin to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets between tooth and gum. These deep pockets become home to harmful bacteria, making gums and the bone supporting your teeth more vulnerable to infection.
  • When gum tissue recedes, the parts of your roots normally protected by that gum tissue are now exposed to bacteria and plaque. Because roots are coated with cementum, which is weaker than enamel, they are more vulnerable to cavities.

For all these reasons, cleaning tartar from your teeth is an essential part of every professional dental cleaning at our Pensacola, FL office.

  • Your Dental Professional Is an Expert in Tartar Removal

Your dental team has extensive academic and clinical training which enable them to discover and remove any plaque or tartar thoroughly and effectively. They are also experts in using specialized tools to remove plaque and tartar gently and safely, including:

  • Ultrasonic scalers, which use ultrasonic sound waves to break up tartar deposits.
  • These metal hand tools have small, curved hooks on one or both ends, with sharp side edges and a pointed tip to fit between the teeth. They’re used to scrape away tartar above the gumline, and come in several angled shapes to accommodate the shape of different tooth surfaces.
  • These tools look a lot like scalers and also come in a variety of shapes. The curette, though, can remove plaque above and below the gumline because its rounded tip and back are gentler around delicate root surfaces and gum pockets.

The scalers available at your drugstore certainly look a lot like these professional tools. But,

  • Should You Try This at Home?

There are many DIY home projects which are satisfying and well worth your time—but DIY dental scaling isn’t one of them. Let’s take a look at some of the dangers of home scaling.

  • Ineffective cleaning. Without removing tartar completely from around and under the gums, you’re more likely to suffer gum disease and cavities below the gumline.
  • Your enamel is hard, but it’s not indestructible! A bit too much force, and you can scratch and damage tooth surfaces. And, if you’ve ever flossed a little too vigorously, you know how delicate your gum tissue is. The sharp ends of scaling tools can cause gum injuries, mouth injuries, and tongue injuries. Which brings us to . . .
  • There’s not only the danger of infection due to cuts and lacerations, but you can accidentally push plaque and tartar into and under gum tissue, leading to irritation and infection.
  • Finally, imagine using a sharp tool to scrape tartar from the back of your teeth, around your delicate gum area, and in pockets below the gum surface, using a tiny backwards mirror image to guide you in the dark interior of your mouth. There’s no way to make this sound like a good idea!

So, on balance, should you do your own scaling? We think the answer is clear. Keep your teeth healthy and plaque-free at home with regular brushing and flossing, and see Dr. James McCreary when it’s time for a cleaning. When you need tartar removal that’s safe, precise, and thorough, the experience and skill of your dental team outweigh any potential DIY satisfaction!

Taking Care of Your Toothbrush

June 26th, 2024

One of the best ways to take care of your teeth is to brush them twice each day for two minutes each time. And brushing works even better when you take care of your toothbrush! Let’s look at some easy toothbrush rules to keep yourself, your teeth, and your brush healthy.

  • Don’t Share

You can share toys, or share games, or share stories—but don’t share your toothbrush! Germs can hide on your brush. If you have a cold, you don’t want to give it to others. And if your family member or friend has a cold, you don’t want to catch it! This also means that toothbrushes shouldn’t touch each other while they’re drying. Separate brushes are healthy brushes.

  • Keep Your Brush Clean

After you finished brushing your teeth, you might notice some toothpaste suds sticking to your brush—or even bits of the food you’ve just brushed off your teeth. Keep your brush clean by rinsing off all the toothpaste and food crumbs before you put it away. And it’s always a good idea to wash your hands before you brush to get rid of any germs which you don’t want to share with your brush—or your mouth.

  • Stand (It) Up Straight

Let your toothbrush dry standing up, with the bristle end on top. That way your brush can air-dry quickly.  Germs like to grow in dark, damp spaces, so don’t put your toothbrush in a case while it’s wet. If you take your brush to school or on a trip, make sure your brush is dry before you pack it away.

  • Don’t Keep Your Brush Too Long

After about three months, no matter how well you take care of your toothbrush, you’ll be needing a replacement. Bristles get worn out after weeks and weeks of brushing twice a day, and just can’t clean as well as they did when they were new.

  • Don’t Forget Regular Checkups

Regular cleanings at our Pensacola, FL pediatric dental office and exams with Dr. James McCreary will remove any plaque you missed and keep your smile clean and bright.

Keep your toothbrush to yourself, keep it clean, keep it dry, and don’t keep it too long—and you’ll help keep yourself, your teeth and your toothbrush in good health!