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Three Reasons We're Fans of Fluoride

April 17th, 2024

Why all the fuss about fluoride? Your pediatric dentist recommends it, your child’s toothpaste is formulated with it, and most of our drinking water contains it. Just what is it about this mineral that makes dental professionals sing its praises? Read on for three good reasons why fluoride is a healthy choice for healthier teeth.

  1. Fluoride Works!

Fluoride is an attractive option for protecting your child’s teeth—and we mean that literally. Fluoride protects the surface of teeth by working on a molecular level to attract minerals that strengthen enamel and help prevent cavities.

Our tooth enamel is mostly made from calcium and phosphate ions. These elements combine to form hydroxyapatite, strong crystals which make up about 95% of our enamel. Hydroxyapatite is so strong, in fact, that tooth enamel is the hardest part of our bodies. What can go wrong?

Acids. Acids created by the bacteria in plaque and the acids in our diet strip away the calcium and phosphate ions in enamel, weakening the surface of the tooth. This process is called demineralization. Over time, weak spots become bigger as acids eat through enamel to the inner tooth, causing decay and cavities.

So, what can fluoride do?

First, fluoride helps remineralize tooth enamel. Fluoride is attracted to the tooth’s surface and bonds with its minerals. It also attracts the calcium and phosphate ions which are found in our saliva to restore any minerals which have been lost. This process helps repair any weak spots which might have begun to form.

But fluoride does more than restore and repair tooth strength—it improves it! Fluoride ions join with calcium and phosphate to form fluorapatite crystals, which are larger and stronger than hydroxyapatite crystals. Even better? These new crystals are more resistant to acids.

  1. Fluoride Is Doubly Effective

Fluoride works both externally and internally. We just looked at how fluoride helps keep teeth strong when applied to the outside of the teeth. This is called a topical application. Systemic benefits come the fluoride we consume in our diets.

Fluoride isn’t found in many foods, but it is found naturally in lakes, rivers, and other water sources. When the local water’s fluoride level is low, many communities add fluoride for its proven ability to prevent cavities. Water fluoridation is safe, has been studied for decades, and has been shown to reduce the risk of cavities by 25% or more for both children and adults.

Systemic fluoride is important for baby teeth, as fluoride joins with minerals in adult teeth while they grow and develop. This creates stronger, more cavity-resistant teeth even before they erupt.

When your child’s permanent teeth come in, fluoride is still at work! When your child drinks fluoridated water, they increasing the amount of fluoride in their saliva. Just like fluoride toothpaste, saliva bathes the teeth with fluoride ions, remineralizing and strengthening the tooth surface and helping repair weak spots in enamel.

  1. It’s Easy to Get Fluoride Protection

Because so much of our drinking water is fluoridated, most of us really don’t have to think about how to get the recommended amount of fluoride in our diet each day. If your community’s water is low in fluoride, Dr. James McCreary can help you. Prescription fluoride rinses, gels, supplements, and other treatments are available at our Pensacola, FL pediatric dental office to make sure that your child’s teeth are well protected, wherever you may live. We will let you know which products are best for your child and how often to use them.

Fluoride isn’t, of course, the only way to look out for your dental health. Proper brushing and flossing are still essential for removing plaque. And sealants provide long-lasting protection for chewing surfaces. But when it comes to a proven cavity-fighter that’s simple to use, effective, and easily available—is it any wonder we’re big fans of fluoride?

The Effects of Biting Your Nails

April 10th, 2024

Also known as onchophagia, the habit of nail biting is one of the so-called “nervous habits” that can be triggered by stress, excitement, or boredom. Approximately half of all kids between the ages of ten and 18 have been nail biters at one time or another. Experts say that about 30 percent of children and 15 percent of adults are nail biters, however most people stop chewing their nails by the time they turn 30.

Here are four dental and general reasons to stop biting your nails:

1. It’s unsanitary: Your nails harbor bacteria and germs, and are almost twice as dirty as fingers. What’s more, swallowing dirty nails can lead to stomach problems.

2. It wears down your teeth: Gnawing your nails can put added stress on your pearly whites, which can lead to crooked teeth.

3. It can delay your orthodontic treatment: For those of our patients wearing braces, nail biting puts additional pressure on teeth and weakens roots.

4. It can cost you, literally: It has been estimated that up to $4,000 in extra dental bills can build up over a lifetime.

Dr. James McCreary and our team recommend the following to kick your nail biting habit:

  • Keep your nails trimmed short; you’ll have less of a nail to bite.
  • Coat your nails with a bitter-tasting nail polish.
  • Ask us about obtaining a mouthguard, which can help prevent nail biting.
  • Put a rubber band around your wrist and snap it whenever you get the urge to gnaw on your nails.
  • Think about when and why you chew your nails. Whether you are nervous or just bored, understanding the triggers can help you find a solution and stop the habit.
  • If you can’t stop, behavioral therapy may be an effective option to stop nail biting. Ask Dr. James McCreary and our team for a recommendation.

Snowball Effect

April 3rd, 2024

Winter and its snowball fights are behind us, true, but there might be another kind of snowball heading your way—the snowball effect you risk when small dental concerns are ignored and left to grow into much more serious dental problems.

Here are three early symptoms that might seem minor, but shouldn’t be overlooked:

Sensitivity

Ouch! A sip of something hot, a spoonful of something cold, and you find yourself wincing because your teeth are so sensitive. If this sensitivity continues, call Dr. James McCreary. Tooth sensitivity can be a sign of:

  • Bad Brushing Technique

Heavy handed brushing and hard-bristled brushes can be so abrasive that they cause enamel erosion and gum recession, making teeth more vulnerable to tooth decay. Your dentist and hygienist can recommend proper brushing techniques for clean and healthy teeth and gums.

  • Receding Gums

Without treatment, receding gums can pull further away from the teeth, creating pockets filled with bacteria. Serious infections can develop in these pockets, leading to loose teeth, bone loss, and, eventually, tooth loss.

  • Cavities

When a cavity has gotten large enough that it’s reached below the enamel into the more sensitive dentin, you can experience unpleasant twinges when eating or drinking hot, cold, or sweet foods, or even when air hits your teeth. It’s essential to treat any cavity before it grows large enough to reach the tooth’s pulp.

Persistent Bad Breath

Sure, it could have been that garlic anchovy pizza, but if you’ve eliminated odor-causing foods from your diet, if you brush and floss regularly and still have bad breath, it could be a sign of:

  • Gum Disease

The bacteria that cause gum infections have a distinct, unpleasant odor. If thorough brushing and flossing isn’t helping, it’s important to visit our Pensacola, FL office to prevent more serious gum disease from developing.

  • Oral Infections

Bad breath can be caused by infections in the tooth, gums, or other oral tissues. If you experience persistent bad breath, a foul smell or taste in your mouth, or see any other signs of infection, see Dr. James McCreary promptly for a diagnosis. Left untreated, oral infections can damage teeth, tissue, and bone and spread to other areas of the body.

  • Medical Conditions

Bad breath can also be a symptom of medical conditions such as diabetes, sinus infections, and liver disease. If your dentist rules out dental issues as the cause of halitosis, it’s important to see your doctor for a checkup.

Intermittent Pain

When dental pain comes and goes, you might be tempted to postpone a checkup. But recurring pain can be a symptom of serious dental conditions, including:

  • Infection and Abscess

If you feel pain when you bite down, or throbbing pain around a tooth, it could be the sign of pulp inflammation or infection. Pulp injuries should always be treated immediately to avoid an abscess, a pocket of pus caused by bacterial infection. An abscess isn’t just painful, it’s dangerous, because it can cause bone loss around the tooth and spread infection throughout the body if not treated promptly.

  • Tooth Injury

Tooth trauma is a reason for an emergency call to your dentist. A cracked or broken tooth won’t get better on its own and should be treated at once to prevent infection and further damage.

  • Bruxism  

It’s no wonder you wake up with tooth and jaw pain when you grind your teeth—your jaws are producing hundreds of pounds of pressure on your teeth all night long. Over time, constant grinding will damage enamel and can chip and even crack teeth. Check out options like custom nightguards for healthier teeth and a better night’s sleep.

  • Malocclusion

Malocclusion is the medical term for a bad bite, a condition that is the result of your teeth and/or jaws not fitting together properly. As well as tooth and jaw pain and damaged teeth, misalignments cause many other difficulties in your daily life. Talk to your dentist about how orthodontic treatment can improve the health and appearance of your smile.

Don’t ignore “little” dental problems like these. For any persistent symptoms, McCreary Family Dentistry is just a phone call away, to help you prevent those little problems from snowballing into major dental worries.

Five Reasons for Your Bad Breath

March 27th, 2024

Bad breath, or halitosis, is probably not a matter of life or death. But it can make you feel self-conscious and have a negative impact on your life. The majority of people suffering from bad breath are dealing with oral bacterial. However, there are other causes of this embarrassing problem. Learning more can help you fight this solvable problem.

Five Causes of Embarrassingly Bad Breath

  1. Dry Mouth. A decrease in saliva flow can be caused by several things. Most often, medication or mouth breathing are the culprits. As saliva helps wash away food particles from your mouth, it prevents bad breath. Dry mouth can be dealt with by stimulating salivation.
  2. Gum Disease and Poor Oral Hygiene. Not brushing and flossing well enough or with enough frequency can lead to gum disease, which leads to bad breath. Halitosis can be a sign that plaque is present on your teeth.
  3. Food-Related Bad Breath. Food particles that aren't brushed or flossed away attract bacteria that leads to bad breath. It's especially important to brush after eating strong-smelling foods, such as garlic or onions.
  4. Smoking and Tobacco. Tobacco is bad for your health, and that includes your oral health. Smoking or chewing tobacco can contribute toward the development of gum disease, as well as oral cancer.
  5. Mouth Infections and Other Medical Problems. A mouth infection, sinus infection or even the common cold can cause you to temporarily have bad breath. Even conditions such as diabetes and reflux can cause halitosis. It's always wise to see Dr. James McCreary to help determine the cause.

We are Your Ally

Even if you maintain good oral hygiene, it's important to see Dr. James McCreary at our Pensacola, FL office to deal with or avoid problems with bad breath. We can help you uncover the cause of halitosis, while also providing solutions that allow you to enjoy fresh breath without relying on mints and breath fresheners. As is the case with all things related to oral health, we are your number-one ally when it comes to eliminating the problem of bad breath.

Five Clues That It’s Time to Replace Your Toothbrush

March 20th, 2024

Your dashboard lights up when you need an oil change. Your smoke detector beeps when you need to switch out the batteries. But when it’s time to replace your toothbrush, you’re on your own. Luckily, there are several not-too-subtle clues that you should be shopping for a new model.

  • Fraying

Is your toothbrush looking a bit scruffy? Do those once orderly bristles look like they have the toothbrush equivalent of bed head? Have some bristles vanished altogether? Time to retire that toothbrush. Once the bristles are frayed, you just can’t reach plaque as effectively, especially where it likes to hide between the teeth.

Are you prematurely fraying? You could be brushing too hard. Overbrushing can damage delicate gum tissue and cause wear and tear to tooth enamel. If you find your brush fraying after only a few weeks of use, you might be using too much force. Remember, plaque is a sticky film, but it’s a soft sticky film. Ask us for advice on just how hard you need—or don’t need—to brush.

  • Odor

This one really goes without saying—no one wants an aromatic toothbrush! How to make sure your toothbrush is fresh and clean?

Always rinse carefully after you brush. This will get rid of any toothpaste, bits of food, or other particles left on your brush.

Let your toothbrush air dry. It might seem more hygienic to keep your brush covered in a bathroom setting, but a closed, moist container is a perfect breeding ground for germs. Don’t let them make a home in your bristles!

  • Illness

A cold or a bacterial infection (like strep throat) is no fun. But now that you’re feeling better, it might be time to throw out your toothbrush. The chances of re-infection are very low, unless your immune system is compromised, but this is a perfect opportunity to replace your brush with a fresh, germ-free model.

And if you share your toothbrush, or if you store it right next to a loved one’s or family member’s (which you really shouldn’t do, for this very reason), germs get shared, too. Quarantine your brush while you’re ill, and replace it once you’re out and about.

  • Discomfort

Bigger isn’t necessarily better. A brush with a head that’s too big won’t allow you to get into those small spaces in your mouth where plaque likes to collect.

And harder doesn’t mean more effective. A brush with hard bristles can cause damage to your gums and enamel. We almost always recommend soft-bristled brushes for this very reason.

There are so many styles of brush out there, you’re bound to find the perfect fit with a little trial and error. Or ask Dr. James McCreary for suggestions the next time you’re at our Pensacola, FL office for a cleaning!

  • The “Best By” Date Has Passed

Because of its durable construction, your toothbrush can last a long, long time. But no matter how comfortable and effective your toothbrush is right now, it was never meant to go through life with you. Bristles break down over a period of months, and just don’t clean as effectively. Your brush should be changed every three months, and this includes changing the head on your electric toothbrush.

Unfortunately, you don’t have a flashing light or annoying beep to remind you when it’s time to change brushes, so you’ll have to devise your own reminders. Reminder apps, calendar notes, the first day of a new season—use whatever works best for you. 

Don’t ignore the clues your toothbrush is leaving you. Replacing your brush whenever it’s necessary helps guarantee that the time you spend cleaning your teeth and gums will lead to confident, healthy smiles. Case closed!

Let's Talk About Your Roots!

March 13th, 2024

You’ve learned a lot from your dentist and your family about how to take care of your teeth. You brush and floss, you wear a mouthguard when you’re active, and you have regular checkups and cleanings at our Pensacola, FL office.

And everything you’re doing is wonderful! The smile you see each day in the mirror reflects your hard work.

But what about the part of your smile you can’t see? Let’s take a look beneath the surface, and talk about your roots.

While our teeth look solid from the outside, there’s really a lot going on inside each tooth.

  • The outside of every tooth is covered with a hard protective surface.

Enamel is the hardest material in our bodies, and covers the crown. This is the part of the tooth we can see above our gums.

Our roots are hidden below our gums, and are covered with cementum instead of enamel. Cementum is hard, but it’s not nearly as strong as enamel.

  • Just below a tooth’s enamel and cementum layers, we have dentin.

Dentin is a hard tissue, only a little softer than enamel. Most of our tooth is made of dentin. It surrounds and helps protect the center of the tooth and supports the enamel and cementum on the outside.

  • Inside the center of each tooth, there’s an area called the pulp chamber.

The pulp holds tiny blood vessels and nerves. The blood vessels give the pulp nutrients, and the nerves are the reason that our teeth can feel sensitivity or pain.

Inside the roots, we also find pulp in the root canals. These canals are very small tunnels that run from the pulp chamber down through the root, ending in a tiny hole in the tip of the root. Blood vessels and nerves running through the canals connect the pulp tissue to our bodies’ blood and nervous systems.

Around your roots, there’s a lot going on, too. Smaller teeth like the incisors, our front teeth, usually have only one root. Bigger teeth, like molars, usually have two or three roots. And while you’re busy biting and chewing, what’s holding these roots in place?

  • In your jaws, you have a spot where each tooth fits called a socket. But your tooth roots don’t just sit in the socket. That wouldn’t be very secure!
  • Instead, you have a periodontal ligament surrounding the roots of each tooth. Think of the ligament as groups of tissue fibers that can attach to both the cementum on your root and the bone in your jaw. This double attachment holds your teeth firmly in place. The ligament also helps cushion your teeth from the heavy pressures of chewing.
  • To make things even safer for your roots, your gums help cover them and protect them from bacteria and decay.

As you can see, your body is working hard to protect your roots. What’s the best thing you can do to keep your roots healthy? Do everything you’re already doing!

  • Keep up with your brushing and flossing, and your visits to our office. These good habits protect the teeth and gums you can see, and also the roots that you can’t see.
  • Avoid oral habits that put lots of pressure on your teeth and roots. Biting down on pencils, or ice, or nut shells, or anything not meant for regular eating means you’re risking a cracked tooth.
  • Be safe! Wear your mouthguard when you’re active.
  • Don’t wait to tell your adult if your tooth hurts. Remember, those nerves inside your teeth and roots are there to warn you if your tooth is damaged. Dr. James McCreary will be able to find out what’s wrong and have you feeling better in no time.

Even though you can’t see them, your roots are one important reason you have your beautiful smile. Taking good care of your teeth now is a way to make sure you have beautiful, healthy smiles for a lifetime!

Having Your Teeth Cleaned Is a Bright Idea!

March 6th, 2024

Having your teeth cleaned is part of most dental checkups. It’s a great feeling to know your teeth look clean and bright, but there’s more to feel great about! Cleanings help your teeth stay healthy. Let’s talk about why a cleaning at our Pensacola, FL pediatric dental office is a bright idea.

  • Brushing and Flossing at Home Isn’t Always Enough

Even when you brush and floss every day, sometimes you don’t get rid of all the plaque sticking to your teeth. Plaque, after all, starts forming within hours after you brush, and this can be a problem.

  • The Problem with Plaque

Plaque is a sticky film that’s mostly made up of bacteria. These tiny germs use food we eat to make acids, and these acids can make our tooth enamel weaker. Over time, a weak spot in tooth enamel gets bigger and deeper until it becomes—a cavity.

And that’s not all. Plaque near our gums irritates them, and our gum tissue reacts to this irritation. Our gums might turn darker pink, or bleed, or get puffy. We could have bad breath that brushing won’t get rid of. These are signs of gum disease. Clearly, we don’t want plaque sticking around!

  • The Trouble with Tartar

Especially because, after only a day or two of letting plaque build up, it starts to turn into tartar. Tartar is hardened plaque, and it can’t be brushed away at home. Tartar can only be removed by an expert at McCreary Family Dentistry.

It can build up anywhere we might not be brushing as often and as well as we should—especially behind our teeth and between them. Tartar can build up above and below the gum line, where it causes even more gum irritation.

You want your teeth to have the best protection against cavities and gum disease, and that means making sure that plaque and tartar aren’t making themselves at home on your teeth. And that means a visit to your pediatric dentist’s office for an expert cleaning.

What goes on during a cleaning?

  • First, a Look at Your Teeth and Gums

Once you’re settled in the comfortable dental chair, Dr. James McCreary will examine your teeth and gums to see if they need any attention before starting the cleaning.

  • Scaling

Your hygienist usually begins by carefully scraping away any plaque and tartar with tools called scalers. Scalers can be hand tools or use ultrasonic vibration. Your hygienist will also clean the area around your gums, gently getting rid of any plaque and tartar on your tooth enamel above and below the gum line.

If you’ve been missing any spots in your daily brushing, your hygienist will point out these out so you can brush better.

  • Polishing

Sometimes your teeth might be polished to take away stains on the tooth surfaces. This can be done with a special toothpaste applied with a spinning brush or rounded cup. Or your hygienist might use an air polisher, which uses powder, water, and air to clean teeth. Often, scaling on its own will remove any small stains.

  • Flossing

Sometimes even adults have a hard time flossing the right way! But it’s a skill you should learn because it’s really important for healthy teeth and gums. Brushes can’t get in the tight spaces between our teeth—but plaque can. Flossing fits in between those tiny spaces to gently scrape away plaque as you move the floss up and down.

Your hygienist will floss between your teeth to remove any plaque, and can show you the right way to floss your teeth and the best kind of floss to use.

  • Rinsing

After cleaning your teeth, your hygienist will make sure you rinse well for a shining smile. And that’s it!

Your teeth will look and feel cleaner once any harmful plaque and tartar are gone. You’ll find out if you’ve been missing any areas when you brush. You’ll learn the right way to brush and floss for healthy teeth and gums. And you’ll be helping to prevent cavities and gum disease! No wonder a cleaning at your dentist’s office is always a bright idea.

Is a Lost Tooth a Lost Cause?

February 29th, 2024

We’re used to seeing athletes wearing mouthguards at practice or play, because dental trauma is one of the most common (and predictable) sports injuries. But it’s not just athletes who are at risk, and there are some events in our daily lives that we just can’t predict. Car accidents, falls, workplace injuries, even innocent playground structures can take their toll on our smiles.

A major chip or a crack in your tooth is upsetting enough, and should be seen by Dr. James McCreary as soon as possible. It’s even more unnerving when a tooth is knocked out completely. The technical term for a tooth which has been knocked out is an avulsed tooth, and it is a true dental emergency.

If you should suffer a partially or completely dislodged tooth, there is a possibility that your tooth can be reimplanted—if the damage isn’t too severe and if you get to our office immediately.

How can a lost tooth be saved? This is possible because of the complex biological engineering that anchors our teeth within the jaw. The root of a tooth is surrounded by the periodontal ligament. This connective tissue attaches the tooth to the alveolar bone of the jaw. When a tooth is knocked out, this ligament splits apart, leaving some tissue on the tooth root and some within the tooth’s socket.

To successfully reimplant a tooth, the connective tissue cells around the root of the tooth need to be vital, so that they can begin to reattach to the connective tissue left in the socket. Over time, this reattachment is complete, and the tooth becomes firmly anchored to the bone again.

It’s important to protect your tooth before you see Dr. James McCreary to make sure there will be enough healthy tissue for reattachment. First of all,

  • Don’t panic! If you or a friend or family member lose a tooth, call your dentist or your emergency health care provider as soon as possible. You will get specific instructions for your specific situation.

If you are unable to reach a healthcare provider immediately, there are some general rules for taking care of an avulsed tooth:

  • Find the lost tooth. Don’t touch the root—use the crown, or top part of the tooth, to pick it up. You are trying to preserve and protect the connective tissue on the root surface.

 

  • If the tooth is dirty, gently rinse it in milk, saliva, or water. Don’t wipe it off, though. You could damage those connective tissue cells mentioned above.

 

  • Place the tooth back in the socket, if possible. Gently hold it in place with your fingers or bite down (again, gently). You can also place the tooth in your mouth next to your cheek.

 

  • If returning the tooth to the socket is not an option, or if you are worried about a child possibly swallowing the tooth, keep the tooth moist. Whole milk or solutions sold just for the purpose of preserving an avulsed tooth are better choices than water, which damage the tissue cells on the root. And never wrap the tooth tightly—this can also damage the connective tissue.

Above all,

  • Don’t delay! The faster a tooth is reimplanted in its socket, the greater chance you have of keeping it. Really, every minute counts. Reimplantations are more successful if they take place within 30 minutes. After an hour out of the mouth, your tooth’s chances of successful reintegration are lower—but still worth pursuing!

What will Dr. James McCreary do?

  • Evaluate the avulsed tooth.

There are variables which can affect whether or not a lost tooth is a good candidate for reimplantation. Trying to replace a baby tooth, for example, could interfere with the formation of the adult tooth. An adult tooth that is broken will probably require a different type of treatment.

  • Prevent infection.

You might be given antibiotics and a referral to your medical doctor for a tetanus booster if needed.

  • Clean the site.

The socket will be gently irrigated to clean the area and to remove any clots that may have formed which can interfere with the tooth’s placement.

  • Recommend or perform a root canal.

Nerves and blood vessels within the tooth’s pulp generally don’t recover after a serious traumatic injury, so a root canal procedure could be necessary to preserve the health of your tooth. This procedure might be done immediately, or might be recommended for a later date.

  • Stabilize your tooth.

The tooth must be stabilized after being reimplanted, so Dr. James McCreary will use a splint to anchor the tooth to the teeth next to it. The splint can be flexible or rigid, depending on the condition of the alveolar bone. Splinting generally takes from two to eight weeks, and you will be given detailed instructions for taking care of the area while you heal.

Losing a tooth is an alarming experience. But with prompt action, and a trip to our Pensacola, FL office, it might be possible to make that loss only a temporary one.

Sippy Cups

February 21st, 2024

What a milestone! The transition from bottle to sippy cup is one of baby’s first steps toward toddler independence. And like all first journeys, some helpful guideposts come in handy. That’s why Dr. James McCreary and our team have several recommendations to help you navigate this transition, making sure your baby’s dental health is protected along the way.

Choosing a Sippy Cup

Sippy cups are often a parent’s first choice for this big step in baby’s development. While sippy cups offer a variety of child-safe materials, lively colors, and comfortable handle options, the feature of interest from a dental perspective is lid design.

Sippy cups curb spills because their lids don’t allow liquids to flow out freely, ensuring that drinks make it into baby’s mouth instead of onto furniture or floor. Cup lids might incorporate:

  • Built-in straws
  • A drinking edge around the rim of the cup which seals when your child isn’t drinking
  • Soft spouts
  • Hard spouts
  • Spouts with valves to prevent liquids from leaking out. (Spouts with valves work like a nipple, which means baby is sucking instead of sipping.)

Which design is best? For short periods, any of these designs can work for you. Over long periods, spouted cups could have the same effects as prolonged thumb-sucking and pacifier use, potentially affecting a child’s tongue positioning, tooth alignment, bite, and speech development. Your dentist will be able to suggest which cups are best for your child’s dental health both short and long term.

What to Put in a Sippy Cup

Once your baby has begun drinking from a cup, it should only hold tooth-friendly drinks.

  • Pediatricians generally recommend breast milk and/or formula until your child is 12 months old. You can switch to regular milk (or a healthy milk alternative) once your child is a year old with your doctor’s okay.
  • Water can be introduced when your pediatrician thinks your child is ready, usually around the age of six months.
  • Because even natural fruit juices have lots of sugar, dentists and pediatricians suggest giving your baby small amounts only—or feed your child fruit instead!
  • Skip the sugared drinks, sports drinks, caffeinated drinks, and sodas. They aren’t healthy for little bodies or little teeth.

Help Prevent Tooth Decay

Just like adults, babies can suffer tooth decay, too—and for the same reasons. The bacteria in plaque use the sugars found in our diets to create acids, and acids erode tooth enamel.

When a toddler totes a sippy cup around all day, even filled with healthy drinks, those baby teeth are constantly exposed to the natural sugars found in breast milk, formula, and, for older children, milk. Drinks with more or added sugars, such as juices or sweetened drinks, cause more damage to tooth enamel. Use a sippy cup wisely:

  • Offer the cup with meals and snacks, when increased saliva production can help wash away sugars and neutralize the acids which cause cavities.
  • Offer water between meals.
  • Don’t let your baby take a sippy cup to bed. Some spill-proof cups are designed to be sucked like bottles, and, like bottles, sugary liquids can pool in babies’ mouths as they sleep.
  • Get into a tooth-cleaning routine as soon as your child’s teeth start to arrive.

And, while we’re talking about healthy teeth, please don’t let your child toddle around with a sippy cup. A fall while drinking can injure a baby’s mouth and teeth.

Partner with Your Child’s Dentist

The journey from baby to toddler can seem overwhelming sometimes for both you and your child, but you have expert help available! It's a good idea to make a first dental appointment at our Pensacola, FL office sometime between the appearance of the first baby tooth and your child’s first birthday. This initial visit is an opportunity for Dr. James McCreary to:

  • Check your child’s overall dental health and development.
  • Look for signs of early decay.
  • Talk about proactive dental care, including how and when to clean your child’s teeth.
  • Answer questions about how you can support your child’s dental health, including the advantages and disadvantages of sippy cups.

Used properly, sippy cups can be a helpful transition on your child’s journey from bottle to cup, and from baby-who-relies-on-you-for-everything to take-charge-toddler. Dr. James McCreary and our team are an ideal guide as you and your child chart this path together.

First Filling?

February 15th, 2024

It’s your child’s first filling at our Pensacola, FL office, and perhaps you’re both a little nervous. Your child doesn’t know what to expect, and you want to make sure this is a positive experience. We have some suggestions that might help both of you!

  • Partner with Your Child’s Dentist

Because a pediatric dentist is a specialist in treating children and their dental needs, your dentist will have some suggestions for making that first filling a comfortable and comforting experience.

And because you’re the expert when it comes to your child’s needs, you can let Dr. James McCreary know about anything that might cause your child difficulty or anxiety beforehand.

  • Age-Appropriate Explanations Are Best!

It’s a good idea not to make any explanations too complicated. “Your dentist will help your tooth get strong and healthy again” might be all a young child needs to hear. And talking about drills or needles can be scary, especially when kids have no experience with dental tools and procedures.

A pediatric dentist can help you describe cavities and the filling procedure in an age-appropriate, non-scary way—and can recommend helpful story books for reading ahead of time!

  • Discuss Sedation Beforehand

If you think your child would benefit from light sedation options such as nitrous oxide or oral medication, talk to Dr. James McCreary about sedation procedures.

Your dentist will also have child-appropriate ways to talk about local anesthetics if they’re needed to numb the area around the tooth.

  • Tool Talk

Most adults are familiar with dental tools, but this will be a new experience with new sensations and sounds for your child. A pediatric dentist can describe what each tool is and what it does so kids are comfortable when an instrument is used.

Sometimes a tool can be noisy or vibrate. Some tools squirt water and some (loudly) suck water and debris away. If noises are a problem for your child, let your dentist know in advance, and ask about music or headphones to help minimize sounds.

  • Filling Material Concerns?

For molars, which bear the weight of chewing pressure, a silver-colored amalgam might be recommended. For a filling in the front of the mouth, a tooth-colored composite could be used to blend in. Fillings can also be made with gold or ceramic materials. A severely decayed tooth might require a crown, which is often made of stainless steel when used for a baby tooth.

If you have questions or concerns about the type or appearance of filling material, ask! Your dentist will be happy to explain which material is best suited to restore the appearance and function of your child’s tooth.

  • Getting Ready for the Appointment

Choose an appointment day with a light schedule and let your child dress comfortably. Ask if your child can bring a favorite toy or a stuffed animal friend for comfort.

Your mood will influence your child, so make the day of the appointment as stress-free as possible for the both of you! That’s why it’s a good idea not to talk about any dental fears you might have, or any discomfort your child might experience. Your child will pick up on your feelings, so projecting a calm and positive attitude will help.

  • Aftercare

Your dentist team will give you instructions for your child’s quickest, most comfortable recovery. These instructions include how to treat the extraction site, which foods are best, and over the counter pain medication.

It’s best not to plan strenuous activities immediately after a filling.

  • Partner with Your Child’s Dentist

Yes, we know we already talked about this, but it can’t be stressed enough. When your child has his or her first filling, in a way it’s your first filling, too! Your pediatric dentist is there to help you navigate this procedure and to help make sure that the experience is a positive one for both of you.

What Your Dentist Checks During a Checkup

February 7th, 2024

You’ve been going to McCreary Family Dentistry for a while now, so you pretty much know what to expect when you get to our Pensacola, FL office.

You’ll see Dr. James McCreary, your hygienist, and all the other members of your friendly dental team again. You’ll sit in a comfortable chair just your size. And you’ll have a checkup to make sure your teeth are healthy.

But once you’re sitting back in that comfortable chair, you might be wondering just what exactly gets checked during your checkup. The answer is, a lot!

  • Checking Your Tooth and Gum Health

It’s important to have regular checkups because finding a small problem right away, like a weak spot in your tooth enamel, means your dentist can prevent it from becoming a bigger problem, like a cavity, later!

So your dentist will carefully examine each tooth for signs of tooth decay, using a little mirror to see behind your front teeth and around those hard-to-see teeth in the back of your mouth. The visible part of your smile doesn’t always tell everything about your dental health, though. At some checkups, you might need X-rays to make sure the insides of your teeth and their roots are healthy.

Oral health means more than just your teeth. That’s why your dentist will examine your gums and the inside of your mouth, too.

  • Checking Your Bite

Dr. James McCreary will check the way your teeth fit together when you bite, and can take X-ray images to show the size and shape of your jaw bones and the size and position of your permanent teeth before they even come in.

If your teeth and jaws fit don’t together just right, or if it looks like there might not be enough room for all your adult teeth to come in without crowding, your dentist might recommend pre-orthodontic or orthodontic treatment. 

  • Cleaning Your Teeth

Plaque can hide in hard-to-reach places between your teeth and around your gums. You might know that plaque can cause cavities if it’s not brushed away, but did you know that plaque can also hurt your gums? That’s why an expert cleaning is usually part of every checkup.

Your hygienist will use special dental tools and carefully remove any plaque you might have missed or any tartar (hardened plaque) that’s built up over time. Then after flossing and rinsing, you’ll have a clean, sparkling, plaque-free smile.

Bonus: Your dental hygienist can teach you how to brush and floss better if you’ve been missing a few spots!

  • Can Your Teeth Use Extra Protection?

Once your teeth are cleaned and examined, your dentist might use a fluoride treatment or sealants to give your teeth extra protection against cavities.

Fluoride treatments help make your tooth enamel stronger. If your dentist thinks you need this kind of fluoride protection, your teeth will be coated with a special fluoride gel or varnish or foam. This treatment doesn’t take long and will strengthen your enamel for months afterward.

People’s molars get the most cavities because their uneven surfaces make good places for plaque and bits of food to hide from brushes. A sealant is a thin coating which is brushed on the top of your molars to prevent plaque from hurting your enamel.

  • Checking In with You!

Part of your checkup is talking to your dentist about how you can protect and even improve your dental health.

  • Find out whether the foods you eat make your tooth enamel stronger—or weaker.
  • Discover how brushing and flossing help prevent tooth decay and gum disease, and see if your brushing and flossing skills need any work.
  • Learn how to protect your teeth during active sports (hint: wear a mouthguard).
  • If you have habits which can hurt your teeth, like nail biting, get advice on how to quit.
  • Don’t forget to ask any questions you might have!

Your checkup might be a little different, because your exam is designed just for you, but there’s one thing which all of us can expect. Visit our Pensacola, FL pediatric dental office for regular checkups, work together with your dental team, and you can expect a healthier, happier smile!

Are My Child’s Baby Teeth on Schedule?

January 31st, 2024

Your darling three-month old is crying and fussy—can she be teething already? Or, your happy baby boy has just celebrated his first birthday—with only one tooth in that beautiful, gummy smile. Is this normal? Probably! While baby teeth do typically erupt (come in) in the same order for all babies, and around the same time, there is still a lot of flexibility in the time it takes for a full, healthy smile to develop.

Baby teeth actually form before your baby is born, and those 20 teeth are there under the gums waiting to come out and shine. And even though there are no firm and fast dates for each of these primary teeth to erupt, it’s helpful to have a general overview of typical teething patterns so you know what to look forward to.

Incisors

These little teeth create a charming baby smile, and, if your finger has been in the wrong place at the wrong time, a very sharp one as well! That is because these tiny incisors are made to bite into foods. You might notice this when you introduce solid foods, even if the majority of your child’s “chewing” is done with her back gums. These teeth are the earliest to arrive.

  • Six to ten months old: The lower central incisors (bottom front teeth) are often the first to come in.
  • Eight to 12 months old: The upper incisors (8-12 months) are the next to show.
  • Nine to 13 months old: The upper lateral incisors on each side of the front teeth arrive.
  • Ten to 16 months old: The lower lateral incisors appear.

First Molars

Because these are larger teeth, babies often experience another bout of teething pain at this time. The large flat surface of each molar helps your child to chew and grind food, so he can handle a wider variety of foods and develop his chewing skills.

  • 13 to 19 months old: You can generally expect to see the upper first molars arrive.
  • 14 to 18 months old: The lower first molars appear.

Canines (Cuspids)

Fitting between the first molars and the incisors, the strong, pointed shape of the canine teeth allows your child to grip food and break it apart more easily.

  • 16 to 22 months old: The upper two canines make their way into the space between the incisors and the first molars.
  • 17 to 23 months old: The two lower canines appear.

Second Molars

By the age of three, most children have a full set of baby teeth.

  • 23 to 31 months old: The second pair of bottom molars start erupting—you are in the home stretch!
  • 25 to 33 months old: The upper second molars come in—completing that beautiful set of 20 teeth!

Baby teeth are extremely important, as Dr. James McCreary will tell you when you visit our Pensacola, FL office. They help your child eat and chew, develop face and jaw muscles, assist proper speech formation, and provide space for the adult teeth to come in properly. Now that your child’s smile is complete, keep providing him with the same care and attention you have been giving those little teeth since the arrival of the very first incisor.

It seems that so much of new parenthood is scheduling—when to feed her, when to put her to bed, how many hours between naps. But we soon find out that every baby is not on the same schedule, and the same is true for the arrival of their teeth. We should see your baby when that first tooth comes in, or by his or her first birthday. And if you ever have concerns at any time about your child’s teething schedule or teething delays, always feel free to give us a call.

Seal of Approval

January 24th, 2024

Outside activities? You slather your kids with sunscreen. Biking? You don’t let your child leave the house without a helmet. Youth sports? You provide mouthguards and padding and headgear and all the other tools designed to keep your child safe. Protecting your child is a fundamental part of parenthood, and you take your job seriously.

Protecting your child’s dental health is fundamental, too! Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children, and children’s premolars and molars are far more vulnerable to decay than any of their other teeth. You can help protect your child’s molars and premolars with a simple and effective treatment—dental sealants.

  • How Do Sealants Work?

The bacteria in plaque use food particles to create acids. These acids erode the minerals in tooth enamel, creating weak spots that become cavities over time. Molars and premolars are especially vulnerable to cavities because of their uneven chewing surfaces. The dips and grooves on top of the teeth—technically known as “pits and fissures”—collect food particles and bacteria, and can be difficult for children to clean completely when brushing. That’s why cavities are so common in newly erupted molars.

Dental sealants protect your child’s molars and premolars by creating a barrier that covers and smooths out the chewing surface of the tooth, preventing bacteria and food particles from getting stuck inside those uneven pits and fissures.

  • What Kind of Sealants Are Available?

The two most common dental sealants are composite resin coatings and glass ionomer sealants.

With resin sealants, after each tooth is cleaned and dried, an etching solution will be brushed onto the top surface of the molar. This etching slightly roughens the surface so that the sealant will stick to the tooth more effectively. A thin coat of the sealant is then painted on and hardened under a special curing light.

Glass ionomer sealants use a flexible paste that bonds to the tooth and hardens within minutes. While they generally don’t last as long as resin sealants, they are designed to absorb and release fluoride for extra cavity-fighting protection.

  • Do Sealants Work?

They certainly do! According to the Centers for Disease Control, sealants can prevent 80% of the cavities in molars and premolars, which is where 90% of children’s cavities appear. Dental sealants can last from three to five years, or even longer. Dr. James McCreary will check the condition of any sealants at each dental exam, and let you know if it’s time for a reapplication.

  • When’s the Best Time to Get Sealants?

Tooth enamel gets harder as we get older, so children’s newly erupted teeth are more at risk for cavities. First adult molars usually arrive when a child is six to seven years old, and second adult molars come in around the age of 12. The first and second premolars can erupt between the ages of ten to 12. As soon as the first permanent molars begin to erupt, it’s a good time to talk to Dr. James McCreary about the best time to apply sealants.

And what about baby teeth? Even though baby teeth are meant to be replaced, they shouldn’t be lost to tooth decay before they are ready to fall out. Primary teeth help young children learn to speak and eat properly and hold the place for adult teeth so these permanent teeth come in where they should. Baby teeth have thinner enamel, and so cavities can progress more quickly. Dr. James McCreary can let you know if sealant protection for your child’s baby molars is indicated.

Applying sealants at our Pensacola, FL office is a safe, simple, cost-effective, and painless process. Dental sealants are one more tool you can use to make protecting your child’s dental health a little easier and a lot more effective. That gets a well-deserved parents’ seal of approval!

Dental Emergencies in Children

January 17th, 2024

Dental emergencies are bound to come up when you have young children. Dr. James McCreary and our team want to you to be prepared in case you run into a difficult situation. Problems can vary, from minor gum irritation to knocked-out teeth. Take a look at the different possibilities and how you can handle them.

Teething

Depending on the age of your child, there are common things to watch for when it comes to his or her teeth. Starting from a young age, your son or daughter may experience teething pain. This starts at about four months and can last up to three years.

Teething may cause your little one to become irritable and more prone to drooling due to tender gums. This is very common in young children who are teething, and can be alleviated by giving them a cold teething ring or by rubbing their gums with your finger.

Teething pain is as normal as your child’s first set of teeth falling out. On the other hand, if a baby tooth is knocked out in a forceful accident, make sure you bring him or her into our Pensacola, FL office to check that other damage hasn’t occurred in the mouth. On occasion, permanent teeth may grow in before baby teeth have fallen out. This may not cause any discomfort, but Dr. James McCreary should make sure the teeth are growing in properly. Catching teeth that are coming in incorrectly can prevent issues from arising in adulthood.

Gum Issues

If you’ve noticed your child’s gums bleeding often, this could result from a number of things. Bleeding gums may be an early sign of periodontal disease, which is caused by poor oral hygiene when it appears in children. Excessive gum bleeding can also occur when children brush their teeth too hard, or suffer an injury to their gum tissue.

If bleeding is continuous, rinse your child’s mouth with warm salt water and apply light pressure to the area. If you become concerned about the amount of blood, contact our Pensacola, FL office and we will schedule an appointment for your youngster as soon as possible.

Depending on what type of dental issue your child is experiencing, you should make sure to treat it quickly and properly. If you have questions or concerns about what you can do to help your son or daughter develop better oral hygiene habits, ask Dr. James McCreary for tips during your next appointment.

Don’t forget: As a parent, you can provide the best education to your children on the importance of proper oral hygiene by setting a good example. 

Three Reasons We're Fans of Fluoride

January 10th, 2024

Why all the fuss about fluoride? Your dentist recommends it, your toothpaste is formulated with it, most of our drinking water contains it. Just what is it about this mineral that makes dental professionals sing its praises? Read on for three good reasons why fluoride is a healthy choice for healthier teeth.

  1. Fluoride Works!

Fluoride is an attractive option for protecting your teeth—and we mean that literally. Fluoride protects the surface of your teeth by working on a molecular level to attract minerals which strengthen enamel and help prevent cavities.

Our tooth enamel is mostly made from calcium and phosphate ions. These elements combine to form hydroxyapatite, strong crystals which make up about 95% of our enamel. Hydroxyapatite is so strong, in fact, that tooth enamel is the hardest part of our bodies. What can go wrong?

Acids. Acids created by the bacteria in plaque and the acids in our diet strip away the calcium and phosphate ions in enamel, weakening the surface of the tooth. This process is called demineralization. Over time, weak spots become bigger as acids eat through enamel to the inner tooth, causing decay and cavities.

So, what can fluoride do?

First, fluoride helps remineralize tooth enamel. Fluoride is attracted to the tooth’s surface and bonds with its minerals. It also attracts the calcium and phosphate ions which are found in our saliva to restore any minerals which have been lost. This process helps repair any weak spots that might have begun to form.

But fluoride does more than restore and repair tooth strength—it improves it! Fluoride ions join with calcium and phosphate to form fluorapatite crystals, which are larger and stronger than hydroxyapatite crystals.

Want more? Fluoride may interfere with bacterial plaque’s ability to produce acids. Since plaque and its acids are a major cause of gum disease, brushing with a fluoride toothpaste is a great way to help prevent plaque buildup around and below the gum line—buildup that leads to irritated, inflamed, and infected gum tissue.

  1. Fluoride Is Doubly Effective

Fluoride works both externally and internally. We just looked at how fluoride helps keep teeth strong when applied to the outside of the teeth. This is called a topical application. Systemic benefits come the fluoride we consume in our diets.

Fluoride isn’t found in many foods, but it is found naturally in lakes, rivers, and other water sources. When the local water’s fluoride level is low, many communities add fluoride for its proven ability to prevent cavities. Water fluoridation is safe, has been studied for decades, and has been shown to reduce the risk of cavities by 25% or more for both children and adults.

Systemic fluoride is especially important for your child’s dental health. This is because fluoride incorporates with minerals in the adult teeth while they are growing and developing, creating stronger, more cavity-resistant teeth even before they erupt. Most adult teeth have finished forming around age eight, so, if your community doesn’t have fluoridated water, it’s a good idea to discuss other options with your child’s dentist.

And we grown-ups benefit, too! When you drink fluoridated water, you’re increasing the amount of fluoride in your saliva. Just like fluoride toothpaste, saliva bathes your teeth with fluoride ions, strengthening the tooth surface, and helping to neutralize the acids which damage teeth and gums.

  1. It’s Easy to Get Fluoride Protection

Most toothpastes are formulated with fluoride, so you’re getting the enamel-strengthening benefits of this mineral whenever you brush—at least twice each day. Since children can’t really grasp the “rinsing” and “spitting” steps of the brushing routine just yet, talk to Dr. James McCreary about how to introduce tiny amounts of fluoride toothpaste to your child’s dental routine. Baby steps!

Because so much of our drinking water is fluoridated, most of us really don’t have to think about how to get the recommended amount of fluoride each day. If your community’s water is low in fluoride, we can help you here as well. Prescription fluoride rinses, gels, supplements, and other treatments are available to make sure that your teeth are well-protected, wherever you may live. We will let you know which products are best for you and how often to use them during your next visit to our Pensacola, FL dental office.

Fluoride isn’t, of course, the only way to look out for your dental health. Proper brushing and flossing are still essential for removing plaque. Check into sealants for both kids and adults for long-lasting protection for chewing surfaces. But when it comes to a proven cavity-fighter and plaque-reducer that is simple to use, effective, and easily available—is it any wonder we’re big fans of fluoride?

When a Baby Tooth Shouldn’t Wait for the Tooth Fairy

January 3rd, 2024

Children’s baby teeth generally start to fall out when the adult teeth underneath them are ready to arrive. Visits from the Tooth Fairy begin around the age of six, and continue until the last baby molar is gone.

But sometimes, we can’t wait for nature to take its course, and children need a dentist’s assistance to remove a primary tooth before it falls out on its own. Here are some common situations where extracting a baby tooth is best for a child’s present—and future—dental health.

  • Serious Decay

Dentists make every effort to save teeth, and this includes baby teeth. A filling or even the baby tooth version of a root canal can be used to save little teeth when a cavity appears.

But severe decay could mean that there’s not enough healthy tooth structure left to fill. Or that bacteria have caused infection inside the tooth. Left untreated, infections can spread to other tissues in the body and can become quite serious. When a primary tooth is seriously decayed or infected, an extraction is often the healthiest choice.

  • Trauma

Sometimes a baby tooth will recover on its own if it’s been jarred by an impact. Sometimes an injured tooth can be repaired with treatment. If there’s serious damage, though, a baby tooth is at risk for abscess and infection, and, sometimes, can cause harm to the adult tooth beneath it. In cases like these, an extraction is the safest option.

When an injury causes a broken or dislodged tooth, call Dr. James McCreary immediately. Whether the tooth can be saved or should be extracted depends on how serious the injury is and how soon you can get your child to the dentist’s office or the emergency room.

Whenever a child loses a primary tooth early, a pediatric dentist will be on the lookout for potential orthodontic problems. Remaining baby teeth tend to shift to fill any empty spot. Without the proper space to come in, the adult tooth can erupt out of place or at an awkward angle. Dr. James McCreary  might recommend a space maintainer to keep baby teeth aligned properly and to make sure the right spot stays open for the permanent tooth when it’s ready to erupt.

We’ve talked about primary teeth which are lost early, but it’s also problematic . . .

  • When a Baby Tooth Doesn’t Fall Out

Usually, a wiggly baby tooth is a clue that the adult tooth underneath has started pushing its way up and out. The baby tooth’s root is gradually absorbed as the adult tooth moves into place. Without an intact root to hold it in place, the baby tooth grows looser and looser until it falls out. Now the permanent tooth has the perfect open space ready for its arrival.

But when baby teeth don’t fall out on their own, this can be another source of orthodontic difficulties.

Stubborn baby teeth can mean adult teeth erupt behind them, creating a double row of teeth (colorfully known as “shark teeth”) and risking crowding and misalignment. Or a baby tooth can block an adult tooth from erupting at all. When that baby tooth just isn’t budging, an extraction will create space for the permanent tooth to erupt.

If an extraction is scheduled, consult with Dr. James McCreary about these important topics in advance:

  • Preparing for the Procedure

A pediatric dentist is an expert not just in caring for little teeth, but in caring for little patients as well. Because extractions can be scary for children, talk to our Pensacola, FL dental team to learn how to prepare your child for the procedure in an informative, comforting, and age-appropriate way.

  • Sedation Options

A local anesthetic could be all that’s necessary for a simple extraction. If sedation is recommended for an extraction, or if you feel sedation is better for your child’s needs, discuss nitrous oxide, oral medication, and other options with your dentist.

  • Aftercare

Whether it’s how to protect the area around the extraction, which foods and drinks are best over the days following, or how to treat pain and swelling, you’ll be given clear instructions by your pediatric dental team to help your child recover comfortably and quickly.

Little teeth can take different paths on their way to the Tooth Fairy. Your pediatric dentist is an expert both in treating children’s dental needs and in making sure their oral development is on schedule. If your dentist has recommended an extraction, it’s because this is the very best way to protect your child’s immediate oral health while ensuring a healthy future adult smile.

Five (Easy-to-Keep!) Dental Resolutions for the New Year

December 28th, 2023

It’s a new year! A blank calendar! A traditional time to make a few changes that could change your life for the better. And while we applaud big goals like learning a new language or finally getting those closets reorganized, we’d like to start small with a few simple, proactive dental resolutions suitable for anyone’s list.

  1. Floss Every Day

Yes, we know we talk a lot about flossing. That’s because flossing can be a game-changer when it comes to healthy teeth and gums.

Proper flossing removes the plaque from spots your brush often misses—between the teeth and near the gum line. When you floss, you accomplish two goals: you help prevent cavities and you help prevent gum disease. And once each day is all it takes—as long as you take your time and floss properly.

If you’re having trouble flossing properly (a very common problem!), don’t hesitate to talk with Dr. James McCreary to discover the best techniques and products to make your personal flossing experience as relaxed and effective as possible.

  1. Retire Your Brush

Brushes work hard—that’s why they should be replaced after a few months of use. Bristles start to fray over weeks of brushing, which means you aren’t getting the full benefit of your great brushing technique.

Switch out your brush every three to four months, or earlier if you notice any bristle damage, and you’ll enjoy cleaner teeth without changing your normal brushing habits.

  1. Protect Your Smile

Take some simple, everyday precautions to protect your teeth and your smile.

  • If you haven’t already, be sure to buy a soft-bristled brush when you replace your old one. Soft bristles are strong enough to brush away plaque while protecting your tooth enamel and gum tissue from abrasion.
  • Use a mouthguard when you enjoy any sports or activities where you might make contact with an object or person or the ground.
  • Ask Dr. James McCreary about a custom night guard if you grind your teeth. If you have a night guard, don’t forget to wear it.
  • Protect and strengthen your tooth enamel with fluoride, a proven cavity-fighter. Fluoride toothpaste? Yes, please! And if your community doesn’t have fluoridated water, talk to Dr. James McCreary about whether fluoride treatments are a good idea.
  1. Pay Attention to Your Body’s Signals

Don’t ignore symptoms which might indicate problems with your oral health.

  • Tooth and Jaw Pain

Pain can be caused by many conditions, including a cavity, an abscess, a pulp infection, a cracked tooth, or problems with your bite. Visit our Pensacola, FL office to discover why you’re suffering and to treat any dental problem before it becomes more serious.

  • Signs of Gum Disease

Gum disease can cause symptoms like swelling, redness, pain, receding or bleeding gums, and chronic bad breath. Sometimes, more careful attention to brushing and flossing is all you need to reverse early gum disease. But when your symptoms linger, Dr. James McCreary can help you avoid more serious gum disease with periodontal treatment.

  1. Visit McCreary Family Dentistry Regularly

Don’t wait for pain or other worrisome symptoms before you give us a call. Proactive care can catch potential problems early, reducing your risk of more serious conditions.

Start the new year off right. These five small adjustments to your daily routine can have a big impact on your oral health. Be proactive now, and you’ll enjoy a new year filled with healthy smiles.

Your Bright Smile

December 20th, 2023

Your bright smile means you’re happy, and it’s catching! Sharing your smile makes the people around you happy, too! And you can make sure your smile is as bright as it can be by keeping your teeth their cleanest.

Nobody wants food stuck in between their teeth, but cleaning your teeth doesn’t just mean brushing away any leftover bits of food. It also means brushing away the sticky plaque that builds up on your teeth every day. Germs in plaque called bacteria help make cavities, so it’s extra important to brush and floss away all the plaque you can.

When you were younger, a grown-up cleaned your teeth for you. Now that you’re ready to begin brushing and flossing on your own (with some adult help, of course), here are some good habits to start you off right.

Brush the Right Way

  • Brush a tooth or two at a time with small brushstrokes and circles. Long back-and-forth brushstrokes miss a lot of plaque. Make sure you brush all the different sides of your teeth, not just the ones which show when you smile. Brush on the inside of your teeth and the tops of your molars (those big teeth in back). Use up-and-down strokes to clean behind your front teeth.
  • Tip your toothbrush toward your gums while you brush along the gum line to get the plaque that likes to hide there.
  • Don’t scrub your teeth. The tooth enamel that covers and protects our teeth is very strong, but brushing too hard can hurt it. Gentle brushing works!
  • And don’t forget to gently brush your tongue for fresh breath.

Take Your Time

  • You can’t keep your teeth their cleanest if you don’t spend enough time brushing them! That’s why dentists say it’s best to brush at least twice each day, for two minutes each time you brush.
  • It’s hard to guess how long two minutes is, so use a little timer to keep track of the time. If you like music, play a song that lasts two minutes. Or ask a grown-up to time you—and maybe even brush with you!

Use the Right Toothbrush

  • You want a brush that is just the right shape and size. A brush which is too big is hard to use—and hard to fit inside your mouth.
  • You want a brush with soft bristles. Medium and hard bristles are too hard, and can scrape your enamel and gums. Stay with soft bristles, and your teeth and gums will be healthy and happy.
  • Toothbrushes don’t last a very long time because their bristles start to break down after a while. After all, it’s hard work cleaning teeth twice a day every day! So it’s a good idea to change your toothbrush every three or four months, or whenever the bristles start to look a bit scruffy.

Use the Right Toothpaste

  • Fluoride toothpaste helps protect your teeth from cavities and makes your enamel even stronger than it already is. There are plenty of fun-flavored fluoride (say that three times fast!) toothpastes to choose from.
  • You don’t need too much. Once you’re brushing on your own, a small dab about the size of a pea will do the trick.
  • Be sure to spit out the toothpaste after brushing. It’s for cleaning, not swallowing!

Don’t Forget to Floss

  • Once you have any teeth that touch each other, you need to floss between them at least once a day. Flossing is the best way to get rid of the plaque that hides between your teeth where your brush just can’t reach.
  • Flossing can be a little tricky at first, so you might need some help until you’re able to floss on your own. Dr. James McCreary can teach you the best way to floss, and a grown-up at home can help you until you’re ready to floss by yourself.
  • There are lots of different kinds of floss. If you’re having trouble flossing, ask our Pensacola, FL dental team which kind is best for you.

Every smile is different, and yours is one of a kind. If you have any questions, talk to your pediatric dentist. Dentists don’t just take care of your teeth—they teach you to take care of your teeth, too! Your dentist can show you the very best way to keep your very own smile as bright and healthy as it can be.

Floss? Sticks? Picks? Which Should You Choose?

December 14th, 2023

You might have noticed that the dental aisle of your drugstore is larger than ever, with more options than ever for getting the spaces between your teeth their cleanest. Flosses made with different shapes, materials, and coatings. Wooden dental sticks. Flexible plastic picks. Tiny interproximal brushes. Water flossers. With all these choices, what’s a conscientious person to do?

  • Find What Works Best for You!

We’ve come a long way from the one-size-fits-all floss of our grandparents. Today’s plaque-removing tools are designed to make interdental cleaning easier and more efficient for users with a variety of different needs.

  • Floss Choices

Flossing properly is a very effective way to get rid of the plaque that builds up between your teeth and along your gum line—not to mention the food particles which your brush may have missed. And now there are options to suit both your needs and your preferences.

Modern flosses come waxed or unwaxed, flat or rounded, made of natural or synthetic material, flavored or unflavored. There are flosses designed for specifically for braces and eco-friendly, biodegradable flosses. If you’re not happy with your regular floss, a different size, material, or texture might make all the difference.

Even with all these choices, though, flosses don’t always suit everyone. Luckily, if you’ve had trouble with floss, you have many other options available for interdental cleaning:

  • Floss Picks

These tiny, handled tools hold a piece of dental floss in their curved end. You can direct the floss to the perfect spot, which is especially useful if you’re having trouble reaching your back teeth or have mobility issues. Floss picks can be disposable or refillable, and come in different sizes to accommodate adults and children.

  • Dental Picks

Back in the day, toothpicks were the go-to for dislodging food particles. But they weren’t designed for gum health and safety. Today, we have gentler, more efficient options for those of us who like the ease of using a pick and the convenience of being able to clean our teeth at work, at school, or on the go.

Triangular wooden picks are tapered to fit between the teeth and massage the gum line as they scour plaque from tooth enamel. Soft plastic picks are popular because their flexible tips fit easily in between the teeth, while their texture provides gentle scrubbing for your tooth enamel.

  • Interproximal Brushes

Big name; tiny brush. These little cone-shaped brushes come in various sizes so they can fit snugly and comfortably between teeth whether widely or narrowly spaced. They’re especially handy for getting around wires if you wear braces.

  • Water Flossers

These high-tech tools provide a pulsing stream of water to clean between the teeth. They’re particularly helpful for those with mobility issues and those with traditional or lingual braces. To make sure you’re getting the job done, choose a model with a dental seal of approval, which means it has been tested for safety and effectiveness.                                                                                                                                                                   

With so many options, you can sample different flossing alternatives until you find the one that works best for you.

  • Technique Is Key

No matter which product you choose, the key to effective plaque removal is your technique. You need to be thorough. You need to be gentle enough to protect your delicate gums, but not so gentle that you don’t remove any plaque.

Whichever method you choose, carefully follow directions to get optimal cleaning benefits while protecting tooth enamel and gum tissue. And remember, you have an expert ally in your corner—Dr. James McCreary and your team at McCreary Family Dentistry! If your hygienist is seeing a lot of plaque buildup at your next exam, ask for tips to improve your interdental cleaning technique and suggestions for the best products to accommodate your specific needs.

  • Choose It—Then Use It!

Even after deciding on the best tool and technique, your teeth and gums won’t benefit from your research if your floss or pick or brush or water flosser is languishing in the medicine cabinet. While dentists recommend flossing at least once each day, if you have braces or a tendency toward cavities or gum disease, your dentist might recommend flossing more often.

Why is flossing so important? Even with the best brushing technique, it can be hard to reach plaque and food particles caught between the teeth and near the gum line. Removing plaque from between teeth can help prevent cavities, and it’s especially important for gum health.

Plaque and tartar are extremely irritating to gum tissue. This irritation causes inflammation, and you’ll soon start to see the first signs of gingivitis (early gum disease)—swelling, redness, bleeding, bad breath—when flossing is hit or miss. Over time, left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, a serious form of gum disease that can cause tooth and bone loss.

When caught early, you can often reverse the irritation, inflammation, and unpleasant symptoms of gingivitis with a week or two of careful brushing and flossing. If your gums are bothering you despite your careful cleaning, it’s time to visit our Pensacola, FL dental office. There are lots of options available for getting your teeth their cleanest—but you have only one smile!

The Consequences of Sports and Energy Drinks

December 7th, 2023

They’re refreshing and tasty. They’re easy to find and pretty cheap. They help us get through a long day or a long workout. They’re everywhere.

We know it’s hard to say no to an energy or sports drink. That’s why Dr. James McCreary and our team want to make sure you know the effects that energy and sports drinks can have on your smile and overall oral health. You might just think twice next time you crave one.

There’s a common misconception that sports and energy drinks are somehow healthier than soda beverages. None is particularly good for you, but because sports and energy drinks have higher acidity levels, they put you on a fast track to enamel erosion, which can lead to cavities over time. However, studies show that energy drinks may be the worst of the bunch.

In a study published in General Dentistry, the energy drinks that showed the highest acidity levels were 5-hour Energy, Monster, Rockstar, and Red Bull Sugar free. These drinks almost doubled in acidity when compared to sports drinks. The sports drinks that came in second as far as acidity levels go were Powerade, Gatorade, and Propel.

You may be thinking, “What's the big deal; lots of other drinks damage your teeth, too,” and you’re right. Even all-natural beverages like orange juice and other fruit juices, which are advertised as full of vitamins, contain acid that damages tooth enamel. The point here is that moderation is key.

We certainly encourage you to choose a glass of orange juice over an energy drink, but if you feel like you just can’t give up your sports and energy drink habit, then please consider the following tips:

  • Limit yourself to a certain number of said beverages a week and stick to it.
  • Rinse with water after consuming an energy or sports drink.
  • Brush your teeth after an hour of downing the drink, so your mouth has time to return to its normal pH level.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call at our Pensacola, FL office. Shoot us a message on Facebook, or let us know on your next visit!

What is hyperdontia?

November 29th, 2023

When a child is born, he or she will have 20 primary teeth and 32 permanent teeth. But sometimes kids are born with additional teeth, and our team at McCreary Family Dentistry calls this oral condition "hyperdontia." Primary teeth are the first set of teeth that erupt in your child's mouth, typically by the time they are 36 months old, and are shed by the time your child reaches the age of 12. Permanent teeth then take the place of the primary teeth and are usually fully-erupted by the time your son or daughter reaches 21 years of age. Anyone who develops more than 20 primary teeth or more than 32 permanent teeth has hyperdontia, and the additional teeth are referred to as supernumerary teeth.

While the cause of hyperdontia is not entirely clear, it is believed that there may be a genetic factor. Oral professionals have found that patients with extra teeth often have syndromes like cleidocranial dysplasia, Ehler-Danlos syndrome, Gardner syndrome, or cleft lip and palate. The prevalence of hyperdontia affects between one and four percent of the population in the United States, and the majority of cases are limited to a single tooth.

So, what is the best way to deal with hyperdontia? It really depends on the case. The treatment plan your doctor suggests varies according to the potential problem posed by the supernumerary teeth, as well as their type. Orthodontic treatment may certainly may help, but extraction can also be a good option. We recommend that children receive an oral evaluation or checkup no later than the age of seven. In addition to hygiene evaluation, this helps ensure your child does not experience hyperdontia problems.

If you suspect you or your child may be suffering from hyperdontia, please give us a call to schedule an appointment at our convenient Pensacola, FL office to be evaluated.

When to Begin Dental Care for Your Baby

November 22nd, 2023

Children’s oral health differs from the needs of adults in many ways. It’s vital for you to understand what your child needs to keep his or her teeth healthy. Dr. James McCreary and our team are here to answer your questions to set you and your little one up for success.

In-home dental care should start as soon as your baby show signs of developing that first tooth. At around age one or two, bring your son or daughter to our Pensacola, FL office. Dr. James McCreary will examine your child’s tooth development and gum health.

The initial appointment will focus on getting your youngster familiar with our office and comfortable with our staff. We will go over several general matters during that first visit:

  • Inspect for signs of decay or other tooth or gum problems
  • Check for gum disease or cavities
  • Examine your child’s bite and possible misalignment
  • Clean the teeth, and apply fluoride if your child is old enough
  • Talk with parents about proper oral health
  • Give you tips for brushing and flossing your little one’s teeth
  • Answer any questions you may have about caring for your son or daughter’s teeth

Once your child is old enough for the first dental visit, you should schedule regular cleanings every six months. Call our Pensacola, FL location if you have any conflicts or questions.

What to Do When Your Child Has a Loose Tooth

November 15th, 2023

When your child loses a tooth for the first time, you both have a lot to look forward to. Sharing in the “I’m a big kid!” excitement. Tales of the Tooth Fairy or other traditions to mark the occasion. Seeing the start of a beautiful grown-up smile.

But before that baby tooth wiggles all the way out of your child’s mouth, let’s talk about how to handle a loose baby tooth.

  • Be mindful of your children’s feelings. Reassure them that this is a normal part of growing up. If they are anxious about losing a tooth, there are children’s books which can help ease their fears in a soothing and entertaining way.
  • Crunchy and healthy foods like carrot sticks and apple slices can help the tooth fall out naturally—and nutritiously!
  • Encourage careful wiggling. No need for children to yank or pull—time, and a child’s own gentle wiggling with tongue or clean hands, should do the trick. If wiggling the tooth is painful, it might not be ready to come out just yet.
  • If a tooth absolutely is ready, but just won’t come out, you can help your child without resorting to a string and a doorknob. Give our Pensacola, FL office a call for some suggestions for helping that baby tooth on its way to the Tooth Fairy in a timely—and gentle—fashion.

And if a tooth is clearly loose before its time? Should you encourage its exit?

Probably not. Baby teeth are temporary, but they’re important for your child’s development. They help with speech production, eating and chewing, and serve as placeholders so that permanent teeth can erupt in the right spot at the right time.

There are some situations when a loose baby tooth means a visit to the dentist is in order:

  • Baby teeth usually fall out over a period of years, generally from ages 6 through 12. Since children’s teeth tend to fall out in the same order they arrived, if a molar is loose before the front teeth start to wiggle, give your dentist a call.
  • If your child suffers a fall, or a sports injury, or any kind of accident that leaves a tooth or teeth loose, call your doctor or dentist right away to make sure there are no serious injuries or chance for infection.
  • Any time you feel a tooth is loose that shouldn’t be, make an appointment with your child’s dentist.

Finally, we’ve been talking about loose baby teeth, but loose permanent teeth are another matter entirely.

If you child has a loose permanent tooth due to an injury, or a bad bite, or night-time bruxism (tooth-grinding), or for any other reason, it’s important to call for an appointment immediately. Dr. James McCreary will be able to pinpoint the cause of the problem and can offer some solutions. In the meantime,

  • Make sure your child eats soft foods, and tries to eat on the opposite side of the loose tooth.
  • Keep the area clean with gentle rinsing instead of brushing and flossing.
  • Tell your child not to wiggle it! If the bone or ligaments holding the tooth in place have been damaged, playing with the tooth can make it looser.

A loose baby tooth is a step in your child’s journey to a beautiful, healthy adult smile. Reassure, encourage, and help your child through this rite of passage—and don’t hesitate to call on Dr. James McCreary for advice!

Need Another Reason to Stop Biting Your Nails?

November 15th, 2023

Painful nails and cuticles, ruined manicures, reluctance to shake hands—there are so many good reasons to overcome the nail biting habit. But did you know that biting your nails is also bad for your dental health? Let’s look at a few more reasons to give our nails a break.

  • Bacteria Bonanza

It’s a vicious—and unhealthy—circle. Nail biting leads to injuries to the nails, cuticles, and skin surrounding the nails. These broken, jagged nails can now cause injury to delicate gum tissue. And to make things worse, fingernails harbor a lot of germs and bacteria, leading to the risk of illness and oral infections.  At the same time, bacteria from our mouths can get into the area around the injured nail, potentially leading to painful infections in the fingers.

  • Bruxism

Studies have indicated that nail biters have a greater risk of bruxism. Bruxism, better known as tooth grinding, can lead to a number of serious problems over time. Grinding and even clenching teeth on a regular basis can cause chronic headaches, worn enamel, fractured teeth, broken dental restorations, receding and inflamed gums, and loose teeth.

  • Breakage & Bad Bites

Your nails suffer obvious breakage, clearly, but your teeth are also at risk. The constant pressure of nail biting can lead to cracking, chipping, and erosion in the front teeth. Further, the pressure put on your teeth can even move them out of alignment, leading to bite problems. As you can imagine, nail biting has an even greater impact if you are wearing braces, because those teeth are already under pressure.

Why do we bite? Nail biting, or onychophagia, is a habit often started in childhood. Some people quit on their own as they reach adulthood, but for others, it can be a lifelong and painful habit. The explanations for nail biting are many: some researchers regard the habit as a form of compulsive behavior, others believe it to be a grooming impulse gone haywire, still others think it’s a way that we respond to anxiety or other stresses.

Whatever the cause, if you want to break the habit, you have options. There are over the counter polishes that use an unpleasant taste to deter biting. Learning to recognize triggers such as stress or boredom can help you choose a different response, such as snapping a rubber band around your wrist or gripping a stress ball. Dr. James McCreary can recommend some techniques for modifying this behavior. And finally, we can offer you suggestions for quitting, or even customize a mouthguard at our Pensacola, FL office to discourage nail biting and prevent the problems that come with bruxism.

It’s never too late to quit. If nail biting has become more than a cosmetic problem, let’s work on a solution. Healthy, attractive nails are a great goal to work toward, but nothing beats a beautiful, healthy smile!

Tips for a Whiter Smile

November 8th, 2023

Everyday life can take a toll on the whiteness of our teeth: Foods we love as well as soft drinks and coffee can stain them over time. Poor brushing and flossing can also leave behind tooth stains. Even injuries to teeth or gums can cause some yellowing, and in certain cases, medicines can contribute to discoloration.

So don’t get discouraged if you notice your smile has dimmed. You can definitely take action to restore the natural beauty of your teeth. Here are some of the best ways to whiten them:

  1. Drink through a straw or cut back on coffee and soft drinks to reduce risk of stains.
  2. Brush and floss every day.
  3. Try a whitening toothpaste or mouthwash.
  4. Visit our Pensacola, FL office every six months for regular cleanings.

We also offer in-office professional whitening at our Pensacola, FL office. These whitening products are much more effective than whiteners you can buy at the store and are completely safe. Since they’re stronger, application by a member of our team is essential to achieve the best results.

Still, some teeth can resist bleaching. If that’s the case, we can try several other techniques, such as deep bleaching that applies whitening agents over several visits, veneers and bonds that cover existing stains with a whiter, brighter surface, or laser whitening.

If a whitening session is something you’d like to pursue, be careful about whom you trust to perform the procedure. Avoid using “bleaching stations” in shopping malls or at fairs. These so-called whitening techniques can irritate your teeth and gums, and leave them highly sensitive to pain.

Also, operators of these whitening stands will make customers apply the bleach themselves, to avoid charges of practicing without a license. That should serve as a red flag and a caution to seek trained professionals like Dr. James McCreary, instead.

Is sedation dentistry right for me?

November 8th, 2023

At McCreary Family Dentistry, we are well-aware of the 25 million Americans who fear having to visit the dentist. Dental phobias are known to range anywhere from feeling mildly nervous to experiencing sweaty palms and even a racing heartbeat upon entering a dentist’s office. This anxiety can sometimes be so severe that it prevents people from visiting a dentist for years, postponing dental procedures that often result in costly problems down the road.

For those of our patients who have dental anxiety or dental phobia, it may be time to look into sedation dentistry, a safe and effective option for patients who are anxious or afraid, have a bad gag reflex, limited jaw opening, or for those who have a difficult time getting numb.

Sedation dentistry, a term that we use to refer to the use of anesthesia during treatment to put patients into a relaxed state, comes in many forms of sedation, from simply easing anxiety, to “conscious sedation,” which places patients in what we call a “twilight sleep.” Sedation dentistry at our Pensacola, FL office allows our patients to drift through their appointments—including complex dental work—as well as feel completely relaxed throughout their visits, without any discomfort or pain. Sedation dentistry can turn a nerve-wracking visit into a comfortable and enjoyable one.

Dr. James McCreary and our team will be more than happy to discuss any concerns, issues, or fears you may have before or during your visit, and will be able to tell you if you are a candidate for sedation dentistry.

By talking with Dr. James McCreary about sedation dentistry, you can feel more comfortable and relaxed during your next visit to McCreary Family Dentistry. Give us a call today!

A Spot of Trouble?

November 1st, 2023

Your smile is in the spotlight every day, helping you greet the world with confidence! But when you’re self-conscious about discolored spots on your teeth, it’s time to get some professional advice to deal with these troublesome tints.

Discolored patches, both dark and light, can develop for a number of different reasons. Some markings are cosmetic only, and some spots require treatment. Some can be removed with a professional cleaning, and some might require more serious restoration. Let’s have a look at some of the common causes of enamel discoloration.

  • Cavities

Decayed enamel can appear as a brown spot on the tooth. A dark edge around a filling might mean decay underneath.

Regular checkups at our Pensacola, FL office will help catch small cavities before they become big ones. If you need a filling, the filling color can be matched to your tooth color for an undetectable restoration.

  • Demineralization

Bacteria in plaque produce acids, which attack our teeth. These acids erode minerals such as calcium and phosphorus from enamel, leaving a weak spot that is vulnerable to decay. This process is called “demineralization,” and often leaves a whiter spot on a tooth where minerals have leached away. Common reasons for demineralization are neglecting dental hygiene, failure to clean around braces, and a diet filled with sugary and acidic foods.

Fluoride and enamel-strengthening toothpastes, a healthy saliva flow, and a balanced diet help our teeth “remineralize,” bathing teeth in minerals that can help replace those that have been lost. But if you have lingering white spots due to demineralization, Dr. James McCreary can provide some options, including whitening, microabrasion, and veneers.

  • Fluorosis

Fluorosis is a cosmetic condition caused by exposure to too much fluoride while the permanent teeth are still forming (generally, during the years before a child’s eighth birthday). Small white spots and patches are a common result of mild fluorosis. In more serious cases, teeth can be pitted and stained with brown, gray, or black spots.

Preventing fluorosis begins in early childhood. Talk to Dr. James McCreary about fluoride levels in local tap water if you have any concerns. Use only the recommended amount of toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice for children three and under; the size of a pea for children three to six), and show your child how to spit out toothpaste and rinse after brushing. Keep fluoride toothpastes and other fluoride products out of the reach of young children. Don’t give children fluoride supplements or fluoride rinses without discussing it with Dr. James McCreary.

If your own teeth have been affected by fluorosis, talk to us. Again, this is a cosmetic condition affecting otherwise healthy teeth. Whitening treatments can be helpful in mild cases, microabrasion has been effective for mild to moderate cases, and, for severe cases, cosmetic restorations such as bonding and veneers are an option.

  • Tartar

Are you seeing an accumulation of dark brown spots and stains on your teeth, especially between the teeth and at the gum line? This might mean that you have tartar buildup. When you brush plaque away every day, your enamel stays smooth and clear. But when plaque builds up over time, it hardens and becomes tartar.

How hard is tartar? So hard that it can only be removed with a professional cleaning. Eliminate this source of spots and staining with twice daily brushing and daily flossing, and make sure regular professional cleanings are on your calendar.

  • Other Causes

Medications taken while teeth were developing (notably, antibiotics in the tetracycline family) can cause discoloration. Medical conditions such as celiac disease and enamel hypoplasia can affect both tooth color and enamel formation.

Cosmetic treatment and restorations can help with discoloration caused by medications, and restorations such as bonding, veneers, and crowns can restore tooth appearance and function when medical conditions cause imperfections in enamel color and structure.

If you’re unhappy with the overall whiteness of your smile, a professional whitening might be just what you’re looking for. If specific patches, streaks, and spots of a different color are dimming your bright smile, it’s time for an exam. Dr. James McCreary will be able to tell you the reason for any discolored enamel as well as present you with all your treatment options. Put the spotlight back where it belongs—on your healthy, confidant smile!

Healthy Gum, Healthy Mouth

November 1st, 2023

“Shouldn’t that be healthy gums,” you’re thinking? And, of course, you’re correct. Healthy gums are extremely important not only for our dental well-being, but for our overall physical health.

But that’s a subject for another blog! Today, we’re talking about healthy gum—chewing gum, that is. Because choosing the right chewing gum can actually improve your dental health.

Oral bacteria use the foods we eat, especially sugars and simple carbs, as fuel to produce acid. These acids attack our tooth enamel, gradually weakening the minerals in the tooth surface and allowing cavities to develop. Clearly, we want to reduce these acids to help prevent decay. Luckily, our bodies have a natural defense against acid attacks—saliva.

Saliva works to protect our enamel in three ways:

  • It helps neutralize and wash away acids in the mouth.
  • It rinses away the food particles which bacteria feed on.
  • It strengthens teeth by providing the necessary minerals our enamel needs to “remineralize” after acids have weakened the tooth surface.

Studies have concluded that chewing sugarless gum for 20 minute after a meal can help prevent cavities. Why? Because chewing gum increases saliva production. You are actually reducing the effects of harmful acids, washing food particles away from your teeth, and strengthening weakened enamel with every stick! Some artificial sweeteners are even thought to inhibit the growth of the bacteria that lead to decay.

With all that in mind, it’s also healthy to know when you shouldn’t chew gum:

  • When the gum contains sugar. Even with an increase in saliva production, bathing your teeth in sugar as you chew does your enamel no favors!
  • When you wear braces. Gum can stick to your brackets and between your brackets and your wires. And while trying to clean gum from your appliance is no one’s idea of fun, an even more unpleasant possibility is the chance that gum might bend your wires out of shape. Sugarless gum is not quite as sticky as regular gum, but before you open that first pack, check with your orthodontist to see if you might be putting your orthodontic work at risk.
  • When you have jaw problems such as TMD, TMJ or other temporomandibular concerns, or if you develop jaw pain while chewing gum.
  • You should never give gum to a child too young to understand that it should not be swallowed. Beyond acting as a choking hazard, continual gum swallowing can lead to diarrhea, blockages, abdominal pain and other serious problems. Talk to your Dr. James McCreary about the right age for chewing gum.

While chewing sugarless gum has the potential to improve dental health, remember it should never take the place of regular brushing and flossing—still the best way to prevent cavities at home. Talk to Dr. James McCreary about the possible benefits of sugarless gum at your next visit to our Pensacola, FL office, and we can make recommendations based on your individual dental history. Because whether it’s healthy gums or healthy gum, we’re here to help.

Four Great Additions to Your Dental-Healthy Diet

October 26th, 2023

Calcium from dairy products for strong bones and teeth? Check. Vitamin C from fruits and vegetables for gum health? Check. Protein from lean meats, eggs, and fish to create, maintain, and repair tooth and gum tissue? Check, check, and check.

These nutrients are probably the most well-known players in the production of a dental healthy diet, but there are several other important minerals and vitamins we need to balance the cast. Dr. James McCreary and our team take a look at some of these lesser-known but equally vital actors.

  • Phosphorus

Calcium is the mineral we hear about most often for maintaining strong teeth and bones, but it doesn’t act alone. Phosphorus is necessary for our bodies to make full use of calcium. Phosphorus is absorbed best from animal foods like meat, fish, and poultry, but it can also be found in beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy products.

  • Magnesium

Magnesium also works with calcium, and promotes bone density and the strength of our hard enamel. If you are looking to add magnesium to your diet, you have a spectacular variety of options, including salmon, tuna, chickpeas, green leafy vegetables, nuts, avocados, seeds, brown rice—even dark chocolate!

  • Vitamin A

This vitamin is essential for the health and healing of our mucous membranes, which include our gums and the soft membranes in our mouths. Vitamin A is found in animal products such as dairy foods, meat, and liver, or formed from beta-carotenes, found in plant foods such as carrots, peppers, pumpkin, squash, and sweet potatoes.

  • Vitamin D

Even though we might make sure to get plenty of calcium to keep our teeth and bones healthy, we will never get the most out of a calcium-rich diet without vitamin D. Vitamin D not only helps with bone density, it actually helps our bodies absorb calcium so we can put it to work for us. It has also been shown to promote gum health by reducing the inflammation that can lead to gum disease. Sunlight exposure leads our bodies to produce vitamin D naturally, but it is available in foods as well. Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and herring, are a rich source of the vitamin, as are cod liver oil and egg yolks. The only plant that produces vitamin D is the mushroom, but it is also available in foods fortified with vitamin D, such as cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, and even many cereals.

You want your diet to be part of your healthy lifestyle, and more and more we are coming to discover just how important a balanced diet is to our dental health as well. The fascinating fact is that all of the nutrients which support our dental health work together and depend on each other to play their roles effectively. Talk to Dr. James McCreary at your next checkup at our Pensacola, FL office for some suggestions on finding the dietary balance that works best for you.

Amalgam Fillings vs. White Fillings

October 25th, 2023

Many varieties of fillings are available at our Pensacola, FL office. Most people are familiar with traditional amalgam fillings: those big silver spots on top of teeth.

Made from a mixture of silver, tin, zinc, copper, and mercury, amalgam fillings have been used to fill cavities for more than 100 years. They offer several advantages, including:

  • High durability for large cavities or cavities on molars
  • Quick hardening time for areas that are difficult to keep dry during placement
  • Reduced placement time for children and special-needs patients who may have a difficult time keeping still during treatment

Although dental amalgam is a safe and commonly used dental material, you might wonder about its mercury content. You should know that when it’s combined with the other metals, mercury forms a safe, stable material.

The American Dental Association, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U. S. Food and Drug Administration, and World Health Organization all agree that based on extensive scientific evidence, dental amalgam is a safe and effective cavity-filling material.

White Fillings

Newer, mercury-free, resin-based composite fillings (white fillings) are also available at our Pensacola, FL office. Composite resin fillings are made from plastic mixed with powdered glass to make them stronger.

Resin-based fillings offer several benefits for patients, including:

  • They match the color of teeth
  • Less tooth structure needs to be removed than with amalgam fillings
  • BPA-free materials can be used

Resin-based composite fillings also have some disadvantages, including:

  • Higher cost than amalgam fillings
  • Inlays may take more than one visit
  • Requires more time to place than amalgam fillings

There’s a lot to think about when you have to get a cavity filled. We recommend you do your homework and speak with Dr. James McCreary before deciding what’s best for you or your family.

The Best Brush of the Day

October 18th, 2023

Imagine that you’re only going to brush your teeth once tomorrow. Don’t worry, we know you would never skimp on your dental hygiene like that, but let’s just pretend for a moment. When would be the best time to brush? When you wake up? During the day? Or perhaps before you go to bed?

Actually, whenever you choose to brush, you’ll receive important overall dental benefits as well as specific benefits tied to the time of day. Let’s explore your daily schedule to see why.

Brushing in the Morning

Brushing when you first jump out of bed produces several positive results.

  • Cleaning plaque from your teeth

Plaque is a sticky film made up of oral bacteria, food particles, and saliva. As you sleep, these oral bacteria multiply and produce acids which attack the minerals in your enamel, leaving weak spots which, over time, can become cavities. Brushing removes these bacteria and acids from your enamel before they cause serious harm.

Moreover, plaque hardens if it’s left undisturbed, turning into tartar in a relatively short time. And once plaque becomes tartar, it must be removed by a dental professional. Brushing first thing in the morning removes this plaque buildup and helps prevent tartar from forming.

  • Fresh breath

That bacterial growth we mentioned? It’s also responsible for morning breath. If nothing else, brushing when you wake up means greeting a fresh day with fresh breath, and that’s reason enough to pick up your brush in the morning.

Brushing During the Day

Brushing after meals and snacks also has a lot to recommend it.

  • “Leftovers” lead to cavities

Foods, especially foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates, are converted by oral bacteria into acids which weaken enamel and lead to cavities. When food particles remain in the mouth after a meal, bacteria have more time and more fuel to manufacture these acids.

  • Acidic foods also affect your teeth

If you have eaten something acidic, such as citrus fruits, sodas, or pickled anything, the acids from these foods can temporarily weaken the mineral strength of your enamel. But brushing immediately after eating or drinking acidic foods can damage weakened enamel. Better to rinse well with water and brush after half an hour or so.

Brushing at Night

Growing up, you probably received regular reminders to brush before bedtime—for several really good reasons:

  • Saliva production slows while you sleep

During the day, saliva helps to wash away food particles and neutralize acidity in our mouths. It also contains proteins and minerals which help keep tooth enamel strong. But as we sleep, saliva production slows dramatically, and our bodies can’t remove bacteria and acids as effectively.

  • Food particles fuel bacterial growth

If you haven’t brushed since morning, you’ve accumulated a whole day’s worth of food particles from meals and snacks. Remember, oral bacteria use the sugars and carbs we eat as fuel to produce the acids which attack our tooth enamel throughout the night.

  • Brushing helps prevent both of these problems

Brushing your teeth before bed not only cleans away the accumulated food particles of the day, but also eliminates the plaque and bacteria which would have a much easier time sticking to your teeth without that daytime saliva flow to wash them away.

So, When’s the Best Time to Brush?

In the morning, during the day, at night —there are solid advantages to brushing any time of day. The question isn’t so much when to brush as how often you should brush.

While many dental professionals consider brushing before bedtime as the most important brush of the day, brushing at least two full minutes, at least twice during a 24 hour period, is a necessity for basic dental hygiene. (And don’t forget to floss at least once each day.)

If you wear orthodontic appliances, if you’ve been eating sugary snacks, if you’re showing signs of gingivitis or getting more than your share of cavities, if you want to reduce the chance of plaque and tartar buildup, or if you simply want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to maintain your overall dental health, brushing after meals is also highly recommended.

Talk to Dr. James McCreary about your brushing habits the next time you visit our Pensacola, FL office. No need to use your imagination to plan your best brushing schedule. We have all the answers you need to help you brush your way to your best—and healthiest—smile!

Five Common Reasons for Emergency Care Visits

October 18th, 2023

A dental emergency can strike anywhere, anytime, and without warning. Perhaps you’re playing a game of touch football on Thanksgiving and your brother-in-law decides to up the ante and tackles you, accidentally knocking out your two front teeth. Or maybe you’re on vacation somewhere in the tropics and decide to go deep-sea fishing, but when you’re climbing onto the boat you slip on the dock, fall, and chip three of your teeth. From misplaced fly balls to bagel seeds causing a painful bout of inflammation, there are all kinds of dental emergencies.

Here are the five most common reasons for emergency care visits.

  1. Somehow you've managed to knock out a tooth. Whether it's the result of a sports injury or because of decay, when you lose a tooth, you need emergency dental care. If the tooth is salvageable, then it can be reattached to the socket, but this needs to be done within a one- or two-hour window.
  2. A chipped tooth is the most common dental emergency. Small chips can be caused by food (chicken bones and nuts have sent many people to the dentist); however, it's usually some sort of accident or injury that more often causes a chip. While you might be embarrassed to walk around with a gaping chip in your front tooth, it is easily fixed with a bond, crown, or veneer.
  3. A broken tooth is more severe than a chipped tooth. When a tooth breaks, it might be due to a small or hidden chip. However, chances are the pain and discomfort will be more severe.
  4. It might seem comical, but getting a piece of food lodged in the wrong place can result in a dental emergency. If something gets stuck deep in a crevice, it can cause pain and inflammation.
  5. The loss of a filling happens more often than you think. When you lose a filling, you need to receive emergency care immediately. If you don’t, you risk further damage to your tooth.

When you injure your teeth or mouth, you need to seek emergency care as soon as possible. In the event of a suspected emergency, don't wait. Contact Dr. James McCreary immediately.

Wiggle Room

October 11th, 2023

When you’re pregnant, you expect physical changes. That’s part of the excitement of the journey! What isn’t expected—and not nearly as exciting—is when your familiar smile seems to be changing as well.

If you’ve noticed that your teeth feel loose, or that your regular tooth alignment has shifted, you might be experiencing one of the unexpected, but quite common, side effects of pregnancy—tooth mobility.

How is this “wiggle room” possible? After all, you’re making sure that you’re eating a diet rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals, including calcium, vitamin D, and all the other nutrients which keep teeth and gums healthy. You’re brushing and flossing regularly to prevent cavities and gum disease. You haven’t changed your healthy dental habits, so why are you seeing different results?

The answer lies in the hormonal changes which occur with pregnancy. Your body has significantly increased production of hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and relaxin. One of the benefits of these higher hormonal levels is their relaxing effect on your ligaments and joints. Relaxed ligaments and joints help make pregnancy and childbirth easier.

But you can’t target hormones just where they’ll be most useful. An increase in hormones affects the ligaments and joints throughout your body. And while this explanation might seem unrelated to loose teeth, it is, in fact, the “root” of the matter.

A complex support system holds our teeth securely in their sockets. Instead of being rigidly fused to the jaw, each tooth root is surrounded by a periodontal ligament within the socket. This ligament is largely made of flexible connective tissue, and attaches to both the root of the tooth and the bone tissue of the jaw, holding the tooth in place. Its flexibility helps cushion your tooth from pressure and impact, and allows the tooth movement which makes orthodontic work possible.

The hormones which relax ligaments and joints throughout the body have that same relaxing effect on the flexible ligaments and joints in the mouth. So it’s not uncommon to find that your teeth feel a bit looser, or that your customary tooth alignment has shifted, or that you’re experiencing discomfort in your jaw joint, especially if you grind or clench your teeth.

Fortunately, while loose teeth are alarming, it’s most often only a temporary condition. Your teeth and ligaments should return to their normal, stable status after your baby is born. But because dental health can impact on your pregnancy, see us if you notice any changes in your smile. We want to rule out any other causes of tooth mobility, including gum disease, tooth abscesses, or other serious conditions.

Other proactive prenatal tips to keep your smile its healthiest?

  • Call us when you learn about your pregnancy. We can offer suggestions for caring for yourself and your dental health during this exciting time.
  • Keep up with your dental hygiene. Brushing and flossing are more important than ever to keep your gums healthy.
  • And, because your gums might be more prone to gingivitis now, extra cleanings as needed can keep plaque buildup from forming.
  • Don’t forget your regular appointments at our Pensacola, FL dental office for exams and cleanings. We want to help prevent any small problems from becoming larger ones.

Pregnancy is a time of many physical changes. Dr. James McCreary will work with you to ensure that one thing which remains constant is your beautiful, healthy smile!

Dental Filling Options

October 11th, 2023

You’ve made an appointment at our Pensacola, FL office to treat your cavity, the decayed area has been removed, and the site has been cleaned and prepared for a filling. Now it’s decision time. What kind of filling should you choose? Well, that depends. There are durability, aesthetic, and price considerations involved in any of your choices, so let’s look at some options before you decide.

Gold

This is a classic choice for a reason. Gold is very durable and can last longer than fillings made from other materials. Because they are crafted from precious metal, gold fillings are more expensive than other alternatives. They are also most often indirect fillings—that is, they are not immediately placed in a tooth, but are formed based on a mold of your tooth taken on your first visit and set in position on a second visit. A gold filling is also noticeable, which can be a matter of concern or a style statement!

Metal Amalgam

An amalgam is a mixture, and an amalgam filling is usually composed of several metallic elements, including silver, tin, copper, and mercury. This filling is also very durable and is one of the most cost-effective choices. Its silver color does not blend into the tooth, so visibility is a factor. Amalgam fillings are considered a safe option, but, if you wonder about potential metal allergies or the amount and kind of mercury involved, we will be happy to discuss your concerns. One possible drawback to amalgam fillings is that sometimes more tooth structure needs to be removed to accommodate them, so this is also a subject we can discuss.

Composite Resins

These fillings are often selected because they are both durable and almost invisible when the color is matched to your tooth. Made of acrylic resin and powdered glass, a composite filling is what is called a “direct filling”—one that can be completed and bonded to the tooth in one visit. These are often more expensive than amalgam fillings, but might be preferable for cosmetic reasons, especially when a front tooth is involved. They also need less tooth structure removed to accommodate them and can be better bonded to small excavations than some other options. They can be prone to staining over time.

Ceramic

Ceramic fillings have the virtue of being virtually undetectable. They can be color-matched to your teeth for a seamless look, and are more stain-resistant than composite fillings. They are also a more expensive option, and, like gold fillings, can involve a two-phase process with a filling molded to fit the excavation site placed in your tooth on a second visit.

Dr. James McCreary and our team are happy to discuss all of your options before it is time to treat your cavity, since there are a number of factors which might impact your decision. A molar will require a more durable filling than a front tooth, while being less visible when you smile or speak. Insurance plans might pay for only a portion of a filling’s cost if it is more expensive than an amalgam, or will pay for a composite filling only if it is in a visible location. We can help you decide which filling best fits all your needs, providing you with the healthy and beautiful smile you deserve!

Why Are My Child’s Baby Teeth So White?

October 4th, 2023

One of the most charming aspects of your baby’s beautiful smile is his brilliantly white teeth. But now that his adult teeth are coming in, the difference in color is very noticeable. Is this something to be concerned about? Happily, probably not.

Both baby teeth and adult teeth have the same basic structure. The inside of the tooth, the pulp, contains blood vessels and nerves. The pulp is covered by a layer of dentin, a hard, yellowish substance composed of living tissue that helps protect the pulp and transmits signals for pain, pressure, and temperature. Enamel is the outer protective covering of the tooth, and its natural color can vary from greyish-white to light yellow.

If primary and permanent teeth are so alike, how can they look so different? As with so many things, the difference lies in the details. In adult teeth, enamel is semi-translucent, so it will allow the color of what is beneath it to show through. And the color of the thick dentin beneath is naturally yellow. Baby teeth have a thinner layer of the yellowish dentin. And while their enamel is also thinner, the enamel in baby teeth is generally whiter and more opaque, so less of the underlying yellow from the dentin is visible.

The result of these small differences is that adult teeth are normally darker than baby teeth to begin with. And when a permanent tooth that is just a bit darker erupts next to a bright white baby tooth, it is going to look even more yellow than it actually is. Once all of the baby teeth in front have been replaced with adult teeth, you will have a much better idea of their real color without unflattering comparisons!

There are times when concerns about tooth color should be looked at by Dr. James McCreary more closely.

  • Unusual discoloration in teeth should be examined. Some discoloration is caused by medical conditions such as hypomineralization, some by environmental factors such as excess fluoride, some by trauma, some by medication. If you notice a discolored section of your child’s tooth, or the tooth has turned a different shade from the teeth around it, give us a call.
  • Your child might have naturally whiter or yellower teeth simply as a matter of genetics. If your child is self-conscious about the color of his teeth, we can talk about whitening solutions when he is old enough to use them safely. Home whitening products should never be used on young children.

Give yourself time to adjust to your child’s new, adult smile. You will probably notice no difference at all once all of his permanent teeth come in. And keep those new teeth their brightest with consistent brushing and flossing, and regular checkups and cleanings at our Pensacola, FL office. This is the simplest prescription for a charming, white, and healthy smile at any age.

Protecting Your Smile with Mouthguards

October 4th, 2023

If you participate in sports or other physical activities, it’s wise to consider getting a mouthguard. Also known as mouth protectors, mouthguards are a device worn over the teeth to lessen the impact of a blow to the face.

This reduces the chance that you might lose teeth or sustain other serious oral injuries. We recommend that all patients involved in a contact sport such as wrestling, football, or hockey wear a mouthguard because of the high risk of such injuries.

However, anyone involved in a physically demanding sport or activity should wear a mouthguard as well.

Can you imagine what it would be like to lose a few of your front teeth? The way you talk, eat, and smile would all change. Potential injuries when you don’t wear a mouthguard include chipped and broken teeth, fractured jaws, root damage, damage to crowns and bridgework, concussions, and/or injury to the lips, cheeks, or gums.

Types of Mouthguards

There are three different types of mouthguards — typically made of a soft plastic material or laminate. You can decide which works best for you in terms of budget, fit, and comfort.

  • Stock mouthguards are prefabricated to a standard size. They offer adequate protection, but you need to make sure you find one that fits properly and comfortably. Stock mouthguards are readily available at department stores, sporting goods stores, and online.
  • Boil-and-bite mouthguards are placed in boiling water to soften them, then into the mouth so they can conform to the shape of the teeth. Boil-and-bite mouthguards are more expensive, but offer a more customized fit than stock ones. You can find these in department stores, pharmacies, sporting goods stores, and online.
  • Custom-made mouthguards are created just for you by Dr. James McCreary. These offer the best fit and comfort of all the options, but they are also the most expensive. Ask a member of our Pensacola, FL team for more information.

The American Dental Association says a good mouthguard should be easy to clean, fit properly, be comfortable, and resist tearing or damage. It shouldn’t restrict speech or breathing.

Still not sure if you need a mouthguard or which kind is right for you? Ask Dr. James McCreary or one of our staff members for more information.

Is a Loose Tooth a Lost Tooth? Not Necessarily!

September 27th, 2023

When we were small, a loose tooth wasn’t a reason to be worried. On the contrary! It was a time to celebrate: A permanent tooth on the way. A sign that you were growing up. Perhaps even a lucrative visit from the Tooth Fairy. Losing a baby tooth had quite a few benefits.

Now that we’re grown, no such benefits are in store for us, because a lost adult tooth is gone for good. That’s why any time you notice a loose tooth you need to call Dr. James McCreary immediately. With prompt dental care, that tooth might be saved.

But first, a word about how our teeth stay firmly rooted in the jaw.

  • The visible part (crown) of a tooth is protected by a layer of enamel. The root below is covered with a protective layer called cementum.
  • There is a socket for each tooth in the alveolar bone of the jaw, where each root is firmly attached within the socket by the periodontal ligament which surrounds it.
  • This ligament is made up of connective tissue, which attaches both to the cementum covering the root and to the alveolar bone. It not only holds the tooth in place, it cushions the tooth from the daily pressure of biting and chewing.
  • The gums surround the teeth and bone, protecting them from bacteria.

If the tooth, bone, ligament, or gums suffer damage, the result can be a loose tooth.

Treating a Loose Tooth

The treatment you receive will depend on the reason your tooth is loose. There are many situations which can lead to a loose tooth or teeth, and many treatment options available to you. Some of the common causes and potential treatments include:

  • Accident or Trauma

If you have suffered a tooth or jaw injury as a result of an accident or trauma, it’s very important to see your dentist or doctor immediately. You should be carefully examined to determine whether there is damage to other teeth or the jaw. Serious tooth or jaw bone injury might require treatment by an oral surgeon.

In some cases of damage to the periodontal ligament or tooth, even if your tooth is loose or extruded (partially out of its socket), it can be stabilized in place so that the ligament and tissue around it has time to heal.

We’ll make sure the root, nerves, and blood vessels are still intact, position the tooth back in its socket, and then anchor it to the adjacent teeth with a flexible splint for several weeks. In the case of an alveolar or a root fracture, a rigid splint may be used.

Splinting gives the periodontal ligament and bone surrounding it time to heal while keeping your injured tooth from further displacement.

  • Bite problems & Bruxism

Your teeth are designed to withstand a lot of pressure—in fact, in some ways, pressure is essential for healthy teeth and bone. The normal pressure of chewing and biting stimulates bone tissue in the jaw. When a tooth is lost, that stimulation is gone and the result is gradual bone loss in the area underneath the lost tooth.

But sometimes, the pressure exerted by a malocclusion (bad bite) or bruxism (tooth grinding) is too forceful. The connective tissue which holds the teeth in place is damaged by these forces, and loose teeth can be the result.

If you have a serious malocclusion, an orthodontist can provide the relief you need with braces or aligners. If your bite problem is caused by a tooth or teeth which are a bit too high, the enamel can be carefully contoured and reshaped. In some cases, splints, either temporary or permanent, can also be used to stabilize several adjacent teeth so that any biting or chewing force is spread over the section as a whole.

If you grind your teeth, a night guard can be custom fitted to provide relief from the pressures and impact of tooth clenching and grinding. This special kind of mouth guard is known as an occlusal splint.

  • Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis causes a loss of bone density throughout the body. Studies suggest that this disease can affect bone in the jaw, leading to weaker bone and looser teeth. Your physician will provide your best medical alternatives, and be sure to let us now if you are taking medication for osteoporosis before we plan your dental treatment.

  • Periodontal Disease

Gum disease is one of the major causes of loose—and lost—teeth. Early gum disease, called gingivitis, should be treated promptly to avoid a more serious condition called periodontitis. Periodontitis can cause the gums to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets for bacterial growth and infection. Left untreated, this infection results in connective tissue and bone loss.

If you have serious gum disease, we might suggest a visit to a periodontist, a specialist trained in the treatment of the gums, periodontal ligaments, and bone surrounding the teeth. Deep cleaning procedures such as scaling and root planing, topical and oral antibiotics, and oral surgeries such as flap surgery or bone and tissue grafting can help reverse the effects of periodontitis. Bone loss cannot be reversed, but a graft can replace lost bone and allow healthy tissue to regenerate.

  • Pregnancy

Hormonal changes can cause the ligaments and bone around your teeth to loosen, which can lead to loose teeth. While this might be an alarming development, it’s generally a temporary condition. Talk to us about how to take care of your teeth and gums during your pregnancy.

Hormonal changes can also make your gums more vulnerable to irritation and infection. In fact, swollen and tender gums are often one of the first signs of pregnancy. That’s another reason it’s very important to keep up with dental hygiene during pregnancy. If your gums are red, swollen, bleeding, or tender, give us a call. A periodontist can be especially helpful if gum problems persist.

What to do if you have a loose tooth

  • Call us immediately. Timely professional care can mean the difference between saving your tooth and losing it.
  • Avoid wiggling the tooth. This could loosen it further.
  • Protect your loose tooth. Eat soft foods, and try not to chew near the affected area. And while a liquid diet might sound like a good idea, no straws, please. Straws require suction, which can further dislodge your tooth.
  • Keep the area clean, gently.

What to do if a tooth can’t be saved

Baby teeth become loose and fall out because the permanent teeth coming in erode the smaller roots holding them in place. That’s why it’s so easy for parents to help their child’s wiggly baby tooth find its way from mouth to Tooth Fairy.

Adult roots, however, involve alveolar bone, ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves, so an extraction really needs to be done by a professional. We will also examine you carefully to discover the reason for the tooth loss, and to prevent further damage with additional treatment as needed.

Finally, if you do lose a permanent tooth, there is still much that can be done to restore your smile. Modern implants are almost indistinguishable from natural teeth, and, what’s more, they function just like natural teeth to stimulate the bone beneath them.

If you have any worries about your teeth, contact our Pensacola, FL office. A loose tooth is never a cause for celebration, but, with proper dental care, a loose tooth doesn’t always lead to a lost tooth. Restoring a firm bite and a heathy, confident smile? That’s a reason to celebrate!

Thumb Sucking

September 27th, 2023

Learning to suck their thumbs is one of the first physical skills babies acquire. In fact, ultrasound images have revealed babies sucking their thumbs in the womb! Babies have a natural sucking reflex, and this activity is a normal way for your baby to soothe herself.

If your toddler still turns to her thumb for comfort, no need to worry. Most children give up this habit as they grow, and generally stop completely between the ages of two and four. But what of the child who doesn’t? Should you encourage your child to stop? And when?

When Thumb Sucking Becomes a Problem

After your child turns five, and certainly when her permanent teeth start to arrive, aggressive thumb sucking is something to watch for. This type of vigorous sucking, which puts pressure on the teeth and gums, can lead to a number of problems.

  • Open Bite

Our bites are considered normal when the upper teeth slightly overlap the lower where they touch in the front of the mouth. But with aggressive thumb sucking, teeth are pushed out of alignment. Sometimes this results in a condition called “open bite,” where the upper and lower teeth don’t make contact at all. An open bite almost always requires orthodontic treatment.

  • Jaw Problems

Your child’s palate and jaw are still growing. Aggressive thumb sucking can actually change the shape of the palate and jaw, and even affect facial structure. Again, orthodontic treatment can help, but prevention is always the better option!

  • Speech Difficulties

Prolonged thumb sucking has been suggested as a risk factor for speech disorders such as lisping, the inability to pronounce certain letters, or tongue thrusting.

The consequences from aggressive thumb sucking can be prevented with early intervention. What to do if you are worried?

Talk to Us

First, let us reassure you that most children stop thumb sucking on their own, and with no negative dental effects at all. But if your child is still aggressively sucking her thumb once her permanent teeth have started erupting, or if we see changes in her baby teeth, let’s talk about solutions during an appointment at our Pensacola, FL office. We can offer suggestions to help your child break the habit at home. There are also dental appliances available that can discourage thumb sucking if your child finds it especially hard to stop.

Work with your Child

  • Be Positive

Positive reinforcement is always best. Praise her when she remembers not to suck her thumb. Make a chart with stickers to reward every thumb-free day. Pick out a favorite book to read or activity you can share.

  • Identify Triggers

Children associate thumb sucking with comfort and security.  If your child turns to her thumb when she’s anxious, try to discover what is bothering her and how to reassure her. If she automatically sucks her thumb when she is bored, find an activity that will engage her. If she’s hungry, offer a healthy snack.

  • Talk about It!

Depending on her age, it might help your child to understand why stopping this habit is important. We are happy to explain, in a positive, age-appropriate way, just how breaking the thumb sucking habit will help her teeth and her smile.

Again, most children leave thumb sucking behind naturally and easily. But if what is a comfort for your child has become a concern for you, please give us a call. Dr. James McCreary will work with you and your child to prevent future orthodontic problems and begin her lifetime of beautiful smiles.

 

Teeth, Bones—What’s the Difference?

September 20th, 2023

They’re often mentioned together, and that’s understandable. After all, they’re the strongest parts of the body, they’re made of many of the same elements, they both require a diet rich in vitamins and minerals to stay healthy, a pirate flag wouldn’t be the same without them–so, what makes teeth and bones different? Glad you asked!

It’s Elementary

Teeth and bones are so strong because of their mineral composition. They have the highest concentration of calcium and phosphorus in the body, and these minerals combine to create sturdy structures which support our bodies, protect our organs, and help break down and digest our food. And they work well together—healthy teeth maintain jawbone density, and healthy jaws hold our teeth firmly in place.

But there are important differences in the anatomy of teeth and bones as well. Bones contain living cells, blood vessels, and nerves. They grow larger as we grow. As we age, old bone tissue breaks down and is constantly replaced with new bone tissue. This process enables our bones to stay strong throughout our lives. And bones heal.

When you break a bone, your body begins working right away to protect and heal the damaged area. Blood cells help with clotting around the break. After a few days, collagen proteins work to replace the clotted cells and form a soft callus. Within weeks, calcium phosphate deposits strengthen the collagen framework. Over time, the bone hardens and reshapes.

And while tooth enamel is the hardest substance in our bodies—harder even than bone—it is not indestructible. Our enamel is basically composed of minerals rather than living tissue, so it can’t regenerate. The enamel covering our teeth doesn’t replace cells as they age, and it can’t create new tooth cells if a tooth is injured through damage or decay. This means that a cracked or broken tooth can’t knit itself together, and enamel lost to decay won’t grow back.

Dr. James McCreary can restore your smile with fillings, or crowns, or even implants if necessary, but preventing injury to your teeth is always best.

Protecting Teeth and Bones

You can make sure your teeth and bones are their safest and strongest by being proactive.

External bone injuries can be avoided with the use of proper safety equipment. Helmets, padding, work boots—if your work or play recommends protective gear, use it! Fortunately, there’s also protective gear for teeth.

  • Helmets

Helmets not only protect against brain injury and concussion, they are often designed to protect the face, mouth, and jaw as well.

  • Mouthguards

Mouthguards protect the teeth, lips, tongue, and jaw from damages caused by physical contact and falls. They’re available over-the-counter, or ask Dr. James McCreary to fabricate a custom guard for the most comfortable and secure fit. A custom guard is an excellent option for people with braces, bridgework, or other dental appliances.

  • Night Guards

Grinding and clenching the teeth at night can lead to loose and cracked teeth, headaches, jaw pain, and other unhappy consequences. Protect your teeth from the damage caused by bruxism (tooth grinding) by wearing a night guard.

Finally, one big difference between tooth and bone design: bones are safely hidden away inside the body, while our teeth are exposed to harmful plaque, bacteria, sugars, and acidic foods every day. Give your teeth the preventive care they deserve with twice-daily brushing, flossing, and regular visits to our Pensacola, FL office. After all, your beautiful, healthy smile was never designed to be hidden!

Is dairy crucial to my child's oral health?

September 20th, 2023

Healthy eating, combined with regular physical activity, plays a vital role in your child’s health and well-being. Dairy foods are naturally nutritious, packed with ten essential nutrients that help your child feel good for life. But did you know that dairy is also great for your child’s dental health? Our team at McCreary Family Dentistry will tell you that, in addition to providing large amounts of much-needed calcium, dairy products also help fight cavities! Dairy products have a specific role to play in dental health as they contain a unique combination of special anti-decay nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, and the protein, casein. Cheese is especially useful, as eating a small piece of cheese after consuming sugary foods or drinks can help protect teeth and reduce the risk of tooth decay.

If you’d like to know more about the importance of dairy products in your child’s diet, or about any aspect of your child’s dental health, feel free to ask Dr. James McCreary at your next appointment!

Water: It’s Not Just for Brushing!

September 13th, 2023

We turn on the tap and it comes rushing out. We walk down the hall at work or school and stop at the fountain without even thinking about it. It’s the one item on the menu we most likely won’t have to pay for. Let’s face it—we’re probably taking water for granted. So let’s take a moment and look at the many wonderful things that drinking water does for our teeth and dental health!

  • Cleaning Our Mouths

We can’t always brush right after eating to get rid of food particles. Bacteria feed on the sugars and starches left behind, and produce acids that lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Drinking water with our meals washes away lots of this food residue and dilutes the amount of acid our teeth are exposed to. 

  • Protecting Our Teeth

Water helps with saliva production, and saliva distributes important minerals such as fluoride and calcium to our teeth. This process helps strengthen enamel that might have been eroded by acidic foods and bacteria and makes our enamel less vulnerable to cavities.

  • Preventing Cavities and Dry Mouth

Fluoride is a mineral that strengthens the structure of our teeth. Because so much of our water is fluoridated, you can get this essential mineral with every glass. If you don’t have access to fluoridated water, or if you tend to drink only bottled water (which may or may not have fluoride), please talk to Dr. James McCreary about the best way to strengthen and your teeth and help prevent cavities.

Drinking the recommended amount of water per day also helps prevent dry mouth, a condition caused by decreased saliva production. Saliva not only helps remineralize our teeth, as mentioned above, but also works to wash away bacteria and acids that lead to cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. Luckily, we can help ourselves stay hydrated with most liquids, as well as fruits and vegetables that are rich in water content. But the easiest, most effective and often least expensive way to hydrate is with water.

Water just can’t be taken for granted. It’s a marvel of cleaning, protection, and prevention—and it’s calorie-free!

Does Your Child Need Endodontic Treatment?

September 13th, 2023

Baby teeth come with a built-in expiration date. That charming first smile is meant to make way for a healthy, beautiful adult smile. Unfortunately, before they are ready to make way for permanent teeth, primary teeth can be affected by decay, trauma, or infection—problems which can lead to damage to the pulp within the tooth. If your dentist tells you that your child’s tooth needs specialized endodontic treatment, is treatment really that much better for your child than losing a baby tooth prematurely?

Quite often, the answer is yes!

Baby teeth do much more than serve as temporary stand-ins for adult teeth. They are essential for:

  • Biting and chewing—a full set of baby teeth helps your child develop proper chewing, which leads to healthy digestion. And chewing also helps build face and jaw muscles.
  • Speech development—primary teeth help guide speech production and pronunciation.
  • Spacing—a baby tooth serves as a place holder for the adult tooth waiting to arrive. If a primary tooth is lost too early, the remaining baby teeth may drift from their proper location. This, in turn, can cause overcrowding or misalignment of the permanent teeth when they do erupt.

Baby teeth, like adult teeth, contain living pulp tissue. The pulp chamber inside the crown (the visible part of the tooth) and the root canals (inside each root) hold nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. When the pulp is damaged by trauma or infected, a baby tooth can still be saved with endodontic treatment. Endodontic treatment in baby teeth can take two forms.

  • “Vital” pulp is pulp that can be saved. Vital pulp therapy uses procedures to deal with damaged pulp inside the crown, or visible part, of the tooth. Pulp therapy can be used on teeth when only the top of the pulp has been affected by decay, limited exposure, infection, or trauma, but the root pulp remains healthy. Specific treatment will depend on the nature of the pulp injury, and a crown will usually be placed over the tooth after treatment to protect it.
  • With non-vital pulp, your dentist will probably recommend a traditional root canal procedure. All of the pulp tissue will be removed from inside the crown and the roots, and the pulp chamber and root canals will then be cleaned, disinfected, shaped, and filled. Finally, because the treated tooth will be more fragile, a crown will be used to protect the tooth from further damage.

There can be good reasons for extracting a seriously damaged baby tooth, and there are situations where preserving the tooth is the best and healthiest option for your child. Discuss your options with Dr. James McCreary when you visit our Pensacola, FL office for the safest, most effective way to treat your child’s compromised tooth.

Why Are We Recommending a Periodontal Consultation?

September 6th, 2023

The best way to protect yourself from gum disease is to be proactive: practice good oral hygiene at home and schedule regular checkups and cleanings in our Pensacola, FL office.

How do you know if your dental routine is doing the job? There are specific symptoms you might notice when you brush and floss, and less obvious signs of gum disease we look for during your dental exams.

The early stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis. It’s generally caused by poor dental hygiene, although certain diseases, age, hormones, and a number of other factors can also put you at risk. It’s time to talk to Dr. James McCreary about your gum health if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Bright red or purple gums
  • Swollen gums
  • Pain or tenderness
  • Bleeding when brushing or flossing
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Receding gums

And sometimes, there are no obvious symptoms at all. That’s why regular checkups are so important. If you have gingivitis, careful attention to your oral hygiene, professional cleaning, prescription mouthwash, or other treatments as needed can reverse the effects of gingivitis and restore your gums to their normal, healthy state.

Why be so proactive? Because, left untreated, gingivitis leads to more serious gum disease, called periodontitis. The bacteria in plaque and tartar cause inflammation, and inflammation leads the gum tissue to pull away from the teeth, forming pockets which become deeper over time. Here, where brushing can’t reach, bacteria continue to multiply, leading to further inflammation, infection, and the eventual breakdown of gum and bone tissues.

The results of untreated periodontitis can be very serious, including:

  • Significant gum recession, leaving roots more vulnerable to decay
  • Periodontal abscesses
  • Loose teeth, or teeth that shift from their proper positions
  • Bone loss in the area surrounding the teeth
  • Tooth loss

If we see signs of advanced periodontitis, we may refer you to a periodontist.

Periodontists specialize in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of gum disease. After dental school, a periodontal degree requires three years of additional advanced education. Periodontists have the training and skill to perform surgical and non-surgical procedures to treat gum disease, as well as to perform cosmetic procedures and place dental implants.

Periodontists are trained to diagnose and treat periodontitis with a number of procedures which they will recommend based on your specific needs. Among the treatments they provide to restore your gum health:

  • Topical, time-release, or oral medication
  • Scaling and root planing, non-surgical deep cleaning procedures which remove plaque and tartar above and below the gumline, and smooth tooth roots to remove bacteria and help the gum tissue reattach to the teeth
  • Flap surgery to treat persistent gum infection, reduce pocket depth, and re-secure the gums snugly around the teeth
  • Bone grafts, gum grafts, and other regenerative procedures which help restore and repair tissue damaged by gum disease

If we recommend a periodontal consultation, be proactive. The best way to protect yourself from the significant consequences of untreated gum disease is to see a specialist in this field. Your periodontist has the knowledge and experience to stop gum disease from progressing, treat damaged bone and gum tissue, and restore your healthy smile.

Periodontal disease; I have what?!

September 6th, 2023

Our team from McCreary Family Dentistry understands the diagnosis of periodontal disease can be scary and confusing, but the good news in most cases is that it is treatable and manageable with a little work on the part of the patient.

Periodontal disease is an infection of the gum tissue, bone, and supporting structures for the teeth. In the past it was known as pyorrhea. Diagnosis is commonly made through a combination of dental X-rays, periodontal readings (called probe depths), and visual clinical findings.

The mouth is a gateway to the rest of the body and can provide clues to the patient’s overall health. In fact, the first signs of some chronic diseases appear in the oral cavity; they can be a hint for the dentist to refer the patient to a medical doctor for a thorough exam.

If left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to premature tooth loss, sensitivity, and chronic or acute mouth pain. If you have diabetes, you are more prone to periodontal disease and can experience greater difficulty controlling your blood glucose levels. The body ends up spending so much energy fighting the infection in the mouth that it cannot achieve balance elsewhere. Studies have shown that once periodontal disease is treated, the glucose levels become more responsive to control as well.

Standard treatments can include scale and root planing, medicated mouth rinse, and in some cases antibiotic therapy or laser therapy to help control bacteria while promoting healing. Periodontal disease can range from a few localized pockets to extensive and severe infection that may require surgery.

The process of scale and root planing may entail two to four appointments for treatment, with follow-up maintenance exams every three to four months to help prevent the spread of disease. In most cases you will be numbed for comfort during the procedure. After treatment you may feel a little sore—but you are taking steps to improve your health!

Scheduling an appointment with the Pensacola, FL office of Dr. James McCreary will give you an accurate diagnosis and a range of treatment options. Periodontal disease is “silent,” which means you will not always experience pain as a signal of infection. When caught early and subjected to proper oral hygiene care on a daily basis, treatments are usually successful.

What to Do for Your Loose Tooth

August 30th, 2023

One of the first exciting childhood experiences we outgrow is the excitement of discovering a loose tooth. Sadly, there’s no adult Tooth Fairy waiting to exchange a gift for a lost tooth, and, even worse, there’s no backup tooth all set to replace it.

If one of your permanent teeth is feeling a little less than permanent, don’t ignore the problem! Here are four things to do right away when you discover a loose tooth:

Eat Soft Foods

While you’ll probably automatically take caramels off the menu and ditch your chewing gum, crunchy foods such as nuts, chips, even apples can be a problem for a compromised tooth. Stick with soft foods and try to eat on the opposite side of your loose tooth.

Keep the Area Clean

The typical bacteria and food particles in your mouth won’t thoughtfully leave the area around your wiggly tooth untouched. But your normal brushing and flossing might be a little too much for a loose tooth. Gently rinsing with warm water should do the trick until you can see us.

Leave It Alone

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to do nothing. But when it comes to a loose tooth, please choose this course of (in)action. You might recall having a loose tooth as a child, and how you’d automatically wiggle it with your tongue or your fingers. But you’ll also remember what happened at the end of all that wiggling—your baby tooth fell out.

Teeth are held in place by ligaments attached to the alveolar bone in the jaw. When those ligaments or bone are damaged because of injury or infection, your tooth feels loose. Wiggling your tooth back and forth can cause further detachment and expose you to more bacteria. So even though it might be tempting, leave your tooth alone until you can see us.

Call Your Dentist Immediately

The most important tip of all! Call Dr. James McCreary at once if you notice a loose tooth. It’s important to discover not only the best treatment, but the reason for your loose tooth as well. A loose tooth can be caused by several different conditions, and none of them should be ignored.

  • A blow to your mouth

If your tooth, ligaments, or bone have suffered trauma, your dentist might be able to stabilize your loose tooth with a splint so that ligament and tissue can heal.

  • Gum disease

Periodontitis (severe gum disease) is a chronic condition. Pockets form between your gums and teeth that become home to bacteria and infection. Over time, periodontitis can destroy gum, ligament, and bone tissue. Left untreated, it leads to loose teeth and even tooth loss. Gum disease is reversable when caught early enough, and even in later stages can respond well to a variety of treatments.

  • Pregnancy

Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause the ligaments and bones around your teeth to loosen, and loose teeth are the result. While this situation is usually temporary, taking care of your teeth and gums is essential during pregnancy, and Dr. James McCreary will have many important recommendations for your dental health.

  • Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

Your jaw and teeth can exert hundreds of pounds of pressure. When you spend your sleep hours grinding them, that force is applied to your teeth and the ligaments holding them. Small wonder that bruxism can lead to loose teeth. Your dentist will have ideas to help you stop teeth grinding, from behavioral changes to custom night guards.

Osteoporosis, bite problems, oral cancer, and other conditions can also cause loose teeth. Any condition that causes loose teeth should always be evaluated immediately to prevent more serious medical or dental problems.

Sometimes a loose tooth can’t be saved, and a professional extraction is the best solution. But if there’s a chance to save your tooth, treating the tooth carefully and visiting our Pensacola, FL office at once improve your odds considerably. Because there’s no adult Tooth Fairy, and really, no coins under a pillow will ever be as valuable as a beautiful, healthy smile.

Healthy Gums and Older Adults

August 30th, 2023

One of the most important parts of staying healthy as we grow older is being open to learning new ways of staying healthy! While worrying about braces or wisdom teeth might be a thing of the past, there are new dental concerns that come with mature years. Taking care of our gums is one way to maintain not only our dental health, but to look out for our overall health as well.

  • Periodontal disease is preventable for older adults

While gum disease is all-too-common among older adults, it isn’t really a result of the aging process itself. If you have been keeping a regular schedule of brushing and flossing (two minutes twice a day), and have been making routine visits to our office for exams and cleaning, you probably have avoided gum disease. But if you have been neglecting your dental care, gingivitis and periodontitis are conditions that only become more serious over time.

The first symptoms of gingivitis include puffy, swollen gums that may bleed easily. Persistent bad breath and changes in the bite or the fit of dentures are also indications of gum disease. As gum disease progresses it leads to periodontitis. The gum tissue pulls away from the teeth, leaving deep pockets of tissue where plaque can collect and infections can develop. Infection, left untreated, can lead to loose teeth and even bone and tooth loss.

The good news? It is never too late to treat gum disease. Most gingivitis is reversible, and modern periodontal treatment makes use of deep cleaning, antibiotics, and even gum surgery to restore gum health. Don’t let past neglect lead to future tooth loss. We are happy to see you any time to treat your gums and teeth and to let you know ways to protect them for a happy, healthy future.

What new concerns do we face as we age?

  • Our gums recede.

This natural recession can lead to the exposure of the root areas of the teeth, which are more vulnerable to cavities. It’s very important to keep up with brushing, flossing, and regular check-ups to catch potential small problems before they become big ones.

  • Old fillings and dental work can break down.

Call our Pensacola, FL office any time you notice a problem with a filling, and keep up with exams, where we can pinpoint fillings that need replacement and detect cavities that can develop near the edges of old work.

  • Medications can cause side effects that affect our gums.

Some medications cause the growth of puffy gum tissue. Some can cause dry mouth, which can lead to gum disease. Always let us know about any health conditions you have or medications you may be taking. We can suggest a number of options to reduce or eliminate effects on your mouth and gums.

  • Gum health and our overall health—what’s the connection?

While no one has discovered an absolute relationship between gum disease and other health problems, there is growing evidence that higher rates of diabetes complications, heart disease, and stroke are linked to higher levels of gum disease. Make your medical and dental health a priority.

  • Smoking risks increase with age.

Studies have shown smokers have not only a greater risk of gum disease, but more severe gum disease as well. Your risk of developing oral cancer also increases with every year you smoke. It is never too late to quit! Talk to us about suggestions for breaking the habit once and for all, and be sure to keep up with regular checkups for early detection and treatment of any oral diseases caused by smoking.

Please let us know any changes that have taken place in your dental habits, medical condition, or medications. Talk to us about any periodontal concerns you may have, or the latest dental procedures we offer for gum care and treatment. We can let you know about products that can make brushing and flossing easier as you age.

It’s never too late or too early to think about taking care of yourself. We are happy to offer suggestions for maintaining or restoring your dental health that will serve you well in any chapter of your life.

Flossing Fixes

August 24th, 2023

A length of floss plus your teeth is about as low-tech as it gets. But, as with so many other “simple” skills, it helps to learn just the right technique to avoid common mistakes and to make your flossing as effective as it can possibly be.

  • Choose the Right Floss for You

You’re getting ready to go out, and your floss keeps getting stuck, shredding, or snagging. You might try waxed flosses or flosses treated to glide easily through the teeth if this is a difficulty. (But do call us if it happens a lot—it could be a problem with a restoration, or a cavity, or some other condition we should address.) If you have the opposite problem, too wide a space between teeth for effective flossing, there are dental tape flosses that work with wider spacings. Braces? There are even specially designed dental flosses that thread between brackets and wires to access hard-to-reach plaque and food particles. If you’re unsure which product will work best for you, we have recommendations.

  • Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

Did you know dental floss is a handy kitchen tool? You can use (unflavored) floss to cut cakes into even layers, slice cheese, or divide a log of cookie dough into perfect rounds. Just pull the floss taut and saw away. But let’s not use this technique on delicate gum tissue! Gums can be injured by a vigorous, sawing motion. Instead, gently guide the floss between the teeth to the gums, and, when you reach the gum line, gently ease the floss up and down the tooth surface. But do remember, sometimes the gums are sore and sensitive because of too little flossing, not too much. Proper cleaning will help keep your gums both healthy and pain-free.

  • Technique Counts!

We often use floss to remove food particles from between the teeth, which provides instant dental gratification. But you are flossing for the long term as well. Proper flossing removes the plaque that leads to cavities from places your brush just can’t reach. Make sure you floss between each tooth, and don’t forget the back of those teeth on the end. The next time you visit our Pensacola, FL office for a cleaning, let us demonstrate the most effective techniques for gently removing plaque from beneath the gum area and on the tooth’s surface.

  • It’s All in the Timing

How much time should you spend flossing? That answer will depend on your individual needs. For some people, thorough and careful flossing once a day will be sufficient. For others, flossing more often might be advisable. We can help you decide how often and how long to floss.

It might take some time and practice to learn to floss effectively, but you will find your technique gets better and your flossing is accomplished more quickly once you have the basics down. If Dr. James McCreary can offer any suggestions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Women's Hormones and Oral Health

August 23rd, 2023

At McCreary Family Dentistry, we know that hormones affect a woman's mood, but did you know they can also impact the health of a woman’s mouth? Women are susceptible to gum disease at different times in their lives, and research shows that hormonal highs and lows are part of the problem. According to studies, there are five situations in women’s lives during which hormone fluctuations make them more susceptible to oral health problems: puberty, their menstrual cycles, pregnancy, menopause, and birth control pill usage. So just what happens and how can you help protect your oral health? Dr. James McCreary and our team have outlined the five hormonal situations and provided a few tips and tricks to fending off potential issues.

Puberty - The surge of hormone production that occurs during puberty can increase the blood flow to the gums and change the way gum tissue reacts to irritants in plaque. As a result, a woman's gums may bleed during the act of brushing and flossing.

Monthly menstruation cycle - Hormonal changes (especially the increase in progesterone) occur during a woman’s menstrual cycle. These changes can lead to red swollen gums, swollen salivary glands, canker sores, or bleeding gums.

Pregnancy - Hormone levels tend to fluctuate during pregnancy. As a result, women are at greater risk to develop a condition called gingivitis, the early form of gum disease. Dr. James McCreary may recommend more frequent professional cleanings during your second or early third trimester to help reduce the chance of developing gingivitis. Please let us know if you are pregnant during your visit.

Menopause - Women are known to experience numerous oral changes as they age. These oral changes can include greater sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages, a burning sensation in your mouth, or dry mouth. Dry mouth, also known as xerostomia, can result in the development of tooth decay and gum disease because saliva is not available to moisten and cleanse the mouth. It is important to know that dry mouth can also result from many prescription and over-the-counter medications. The gradual loss in estrogen that occurs with menopause also puts older women at risk for loss of bone density, which can lead to tooth loss. Receding gums, which expose more of the tooth surface to potential tooth decay, can be a sign of bone loss in the jawbone.

Birth control pills - Some birth control pills contain progesterone, which increases the level of that hormone in the body. Women who take pills with progesterone may develop inflamed gum tissue due to the toxins produced from plaque. Be sure to tell us if you are taking an oral contraceptive during your visit.

To prevent gum disease, we recommend:

  • Brushing your teeth at least twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride
  • Flossing at least once a day
  • Eating a well-balanced diet
  • Avoiding sugary or starchy snacks

Dr. James McCreary and our team at McCreary Family Dentistry encourage you to visit our Pensacola, FL office and practice good oral health habits at home.

How do I handle my child’s dental emergency?

August 16th, 2023

Kids are active, and with lots of activity comes the potential for mishaps. Before an emergency occurs, you’d be smart to stay informed about the problems your child may encounter.

Here are a few things you should keep in mind about teething pain, loose baby teeth, and other common dental issues.

Teething Pain

Discomfort while teething is common for babies from the time they are four months until they are about two and a half. Teething can cause drooling, tender gums, and irritability. To help relieve your child’s discomfort, gently rub his or her gums with wet gauze or offer a cold teething ring.

Loose Baby Tooth

It is normal for a child’s first set of teeth to become loose and fall out. If a tooth is knocked out by a forceful blow, however, you should make an appointment with our office to determine whether any damage may have occurred. You should also book an appointment if the baby tooth that’s on its way out develops a crack but doesn’t fully fall out.

Issues with Permanent Teeth

Sometimes, permanent teeth can come in before the baby teeth have fallen out. In this event, schedule an appointment with us even if your child does not report discomfort or pain. Dr. James McCreary will need to determine if the permanent teeth are coming in correctly to avoid problems later on.

Bleeding Gums

Bleeding gums can have multiple causes: periodontal disease, rough brushing, or an injury to the gum tissue. If your child experiences heavy bleeding, it’s vital to call our office immediately. Wash the youngster’s mouth with warm salt water and put gentle pressure on the area to soothe it before your appointment.

Dr. James McCreary and our team are always here to address any concerns you may have regarding your child’s dental health. Contact our Pensacola, FL office for emergency services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Do You Have A Cavity?

August 16th, 2023

Sometimes cavities are hard to avoid. Our team at McCreary Family Dentistry wants you to know you aren’t alone when it comes to getting cavities. They can appear in both children and adults, and in order to avoid the pain and hassle, you need to understand how they form and what to do to prevent them from developing in the first place.

Cavities form when bacteria, acids, or sugars build up and form plaque on your teeth, which can destroy your enamel. When you don’t brush and floss properly, the build-up can cause cavities to form. In essence, a cavity is a decayed part of your tooth that cannot be repaired by your body’s immune system. This is why a dentist will need to treat your cavity with a filling. If it grows for too long and manages to infect the root of your tooth, a root canal may be the only solution.

Cavities are often symptom-free; you might not experience any pain at first, other than the occasional irritation when you drink a hot or cold beverage. Other signs of possible cavities include persistent bad breath, pus or discharge around a tooth, black or brown discoloration, small pits or holes in a tooth, and perhaps a sticky feeling when you bite down. It’s crucial to treat cavities sooner rather than later if you wish to avoid excessive pain and the necessity of a root canal.

You can avoid cavities by keeping up with good oral hygiene, eating a well-balanced diet, and scheduling regular cleanings with Dr. James McCreary. They can still occur at any time, no matter what age you are, so make sure to brush, floss, and rinse every day. If you notice any of the above symptoms, please contact our Pensacola, FL office and schedule an appointment.

Bright Ideas for Your Smile

August 9th, 2023

Keeping your smile its brightest can be a challenge! The foods you eat, healthy habits, unhealthy habits, and time itself can affect the color of your enamel. Luckily, there are some everyday actions you can take to minimize staining and discoloration.

  • Limit “Food Coloring”

Some of our favorite foods and beverages cause some of the most noticeable staining. Even though enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies, it’s still porous. This means that enamel can absorb elements from our foods, including tannins and natural food colors, which darken teeth over time.

That’s why a daily cup of coffee or tea, or a glass of red wine with dinner, or frequent helpings of dark berries, can lead to a less than brilliant smile in a matter of months. What’s more, acidic foods like citrus fruits, pickled foods, and sodas erode the enamel surface, which makes it easier for food stains to penetrate.

When you eat those smile-dimming foods, it’s a good idea to rinse with water right away. (When tasty treats are acidic, it’s best to wait to brush for about half an hour to avoid enamel damage.)  And here’s a simple work-around—use a straw when you enjoy discoloring drinks.

You can also reduce staining by adding food allies to your diet. Besides bringing you the nutritional benefits of a healthy, well-balanced diet, crunchy foods such as apples, carrots, and celery can have a mild scrubbing effect on the tooth surface, and dairy foods strengthen enamel and might help prevent staining when added to coffee or tea.

If you’re mindful of your eating habits, you’ll help your smile stay its brightest. And speaking of habits . . .

  • Keep Up with Healthy Habits

Plaque is a sticky biofilm which contains oral bacteria, food particles, saliva, and fluids. This film starts forming within hours after brushing, and a buildup of plaque leaves teeth looking yellowish. If plaque is left undisturbed, it hardens into tartar within days. And the yellow and brown colors of tartar aren’t a flattering look for any of us.

Regular brushing and flossing is the best way to keep your teeth plaque-free. For a brighter smile, a whitening toothpaste can help remove superficial surface stains. But what a whitening toothpaste can’t do is to remove deep staining or tartar.

A professional cleaning every time you have a checkup at our Pensacola, FL office is the best way to keep your teeth their cleanest, especially because tartar must be removed by a dental professional. And please feel free to ask for brushing and flossing tips to help maintain your sparkling smile.

  • Give Up Unhealthy Habits

Cigarettes, cigars, and other forms of tobacco are terrible for your health and terrible for your smile. While cosmetic concerns are the least of our worries when it comes to tobacco, it’s well known that smoking and chewing tobacco cause unattractive yellow and brown staining.

Quitting tobacco in any form benefits not just your appearance, but your oral health—and your overall health. When you’re ready, talk to Dr. James McCreary about some of the methods you can use to give up the habit permanently.

  • Beat the Clock

Over the years, erosion and wear cause the enamel layer on the outside of the tooth to thin or crack. This allows the dentin underneath to show through. Because dentin is darker than enamel to begin with, and gets darker over time, teeth can take on a yellow or grey hue as we age.

Keep your smile looking its best through the years with regular checkups and cleanings. Avoid excessive erosion and abrasion by being mindful of the acidic foods in your diet, using a soft-bristled brush for cleaning your teeth, and getting treatment for harmful conditions like bruxism (tooth grinding). If you notice any changes in your smile, it’s a good idea to talk to Dr. James McCreary.

While preventing staining naturally with diet and healthy habits is great, sometimes nature needs a nudge. If you have an important event coming up, or if you would simply like to feel more confident about your smile, talk to us about professional whitening. A professional treatment uses a stronger whitening formula, and often works more quickly, is more effective at removing yellowing and stains, and lasts longer than home treatments.

Finally, while you can do a lot to keep your teeth their brightest by preventing and treating external staining, other types of discoloration can also affect your teeth. For staining caused by medication, root canal work, or trauma, ask us about all the options available to you.

Yes, keeping your teeth their brightest can be a challenge, but doing your part—and working with your dental team at McCreary Family Dentistry—will make sure you greet the world with a sparkling, confident smile.

How Sleep Apnea Can Affect Your Waking Life

August 9th, 2023

We all know that sleep apnea causes many a difficult night. Noisy snoring, gasping for breath, and waking up dozens of times a sleep cycle are the unhappy consequences of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). What you may not realize is that sleep apnea can make your days just as challenging.

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by an obstructed airway. The throat muscles may relax as you sleep and make it impossible to inhale fully with each breath. Or you may have a physical condition such as a deviated septum, enlarged tonsils or excess throat tissue that blocks the free passage of air into your lungs. As a result, you stop breathing for a short time and often choke or gasp for breath. Your body responds by waking every time you need to start breathing properly again, and this can happen dozens of times each hour you are asleep. The result is that, while you may think you have slept through the night, you have never gotten the deep sleep your body needs to restore itself.

How can sleep deprivation affect our daytime hours? You might find yourself suffering from any of these problems:

  • Constant drowsiness
  • Falling asleep at work or while driving
  • Headaches every morning
  • Sore throats
  • Dry mouth (which can lead to gum and dental problems)
  • Memory and attention problems
  • Moodiness or depression
  • Decreased libido

As if these reasons weren’t cause enough to find a solution to your sleeping disorder, the longer term results of sleep apnea can be devastating. High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, dangerous responses to medication or general anesthesia, a higher risk of accidents, and many other serious consequences have been linked to sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea doesn’t just ruin your night. If you suffer from any of the daytime problems listed above, please give our Pensacola, FL office and your doctor a call. If obstructive sleep apnea is the cause, Dr. James McCreary can work with you to find a solution that will improve your quality of life 24 hours a day.

What NOT to Eat after Wisdom Teeth Extraction

August 2nd, 2023

Now that you’re having your wisdom teeth removed at our Pensacola, FL office, you’re probably looking forward to spending a few days on the couch with a cool dish of ice cream in hand. Good! Give yourself time to heal, and choose foods that will be soothing and safe for your mouth as you recover. We’ll provide you with detailed instructions on how to take care of yourself immediately after your surgery, and that includes suggesting the best menu options.

But while you’re making your post-wisdom teeth shopping list, there are several kinds of foods and beverages that should be crossed right off. If it’s small, spicy, sticky, or steamy, put it back on the shelf. Spirits? Not this round. Drinks with straws? Absolutely not. Items like these can undermine your healing and recovery.

  • Small and Crunchy

Any small particles, such as seeds or grains, or items like cookies, crackers, nuts, and popcorn which turn into small particles, can wind up lodged in the surgical site where your tooth was removed. These particles can also interfere with the blood clot that forms to protect the socket as it heals. If the clot is dislodged, there is a chance that a painful condition called “dry socket” can develop.

  • Spicy

Spicy and acidic foods can irritate delicate gum tissue. It’s best to wait until your gums are back to normal before uncapping the hot sauce.

  • Sticky

Sticky, crunchy, and chewy foods can be hard on the extraction site, so stick to a soft diet until you have healed. Now is the time to try all the pudding flavors!

  • Steamy

Piping hot foods and drinks can interfere with the protective clot—ask us about the best time to resume your morning coffee.

  • Spirits

Mixing pain medication and alcohol can be dangerous. Talk to Dr. James McCreary about possible interactions. And some studies have suggested that alcohol use slows healing, so even without pain medication, it could be a good idea to wait until you are healed to toast your beautiful smile.

  • Straws

And last, but by no means least, leave the straws in their little paper wrappers! Any kind of suction brings a real risk of dislodging the protective blood clot that has formed at the surgical site. Milkshakes are delicious, but eat them with a spoon. (And please, no cigarettes!)

Follow our suggestions for a soothing, safe diet, and you will be enjoying your regular menu favorites in no time. So rest, relax, eat sensibly, and enjoy that second bowl of ice cream. Doctor’s orders!

Canker sores, cold sores, and mouth sores: What's the difference?

August 2nd, 2023

At McCreary Family Dentistry, we know many people have experienced some form of mouth sores or irritation. Some mouth sores are harmless and go away on their own after a few days, while others are more serious and should not be ignored. Mouth sores occur for many different reasons, but bacterial infections, viruses, or funguses often trigger them. The best way to tell the difference between a canker sore and a cold sore is that canker sores occur inside the mouth while cold sores occur on the outside the mouth.

The most common mouth sores are:

Canker sores: A non-contagious, small, grayish ulcer with a red border, canker sores appear inside the mouth. While outside factors such as stress, fatigue, or allergies may increase the chances of developing a canker sore, most health experts believe they stem from bacteria or a virus that attacks the immune system. Canker sores typically heal within a week or two.

Cold sores: Also called fever blisters, cold sores are contagious groups of fluid-filled blisters that often erupt around the lips and sometimes under the nose or around the chin. Cold sores are the result of the herpes simplex virus, and once infected, the virus remains in the person’s blood stream.

Leukoplakia: A potential warning sign of oral cancer, leukoplakia is a premalignant lesion that appears as a white patch on the inside of the mouth, tongue, or gums. The lesions, which are caused by excessive cell growth, usually afflict those who smoke tobacco. Dr. James McCreary may choose to have the lesion biopsied if the outbreak appears severe.

Oral candidiasis: Also called oral thrush or moniliasis, this condition is caused by the overgrowth of a type of yeast called candida. Common symptoms of oral candidiasis include white spots inside the mouth and on the tongue, redness or discomfort in the mouth area, sore throat,difficulty swallowing, and cracking at the corners of the mouth. It is important to visit Dr. James McCreary if you have oral candidiasis. If left untreated, it may infect your bloodstream, which can be very dangerous. Healthy adults do not usually get thrush, and the condition is most often seen in infants, the elderly, patients undergoing chemotherapy, or people with AIDS or other diseases that are known to weaken the immune system.

Should you have a mouth sore that lasts a week or longer, we encourage you to give us a call and schedule an examination at our Pensacola, FL office.

Just What Is Plaque?

July 26th, 2023

From the time you were small, you’ve been warned about the dangers of plaque. Why? Because:

  • It’s an unappealing film that sticks to your teeth
  • It causes cavities
  • It causes gum disease

And really, do we need to know much more than this to motivate us to brush? But if you’re in a curious mood, you might be wondering just how this soft, fuzzy film accomplishes all that damage. Let’s take a closer look at the sticky problem of plaque.

How does plaque form?

We live with hundreds of species of oral bacteria, most of which are harmless, and some of which are actually beneficial. But when our oral ecosystem gets out of balance, problems can occur. For example, without regular and thorough brushing and flossing, we start to build up plaque.

Plaque starts forming within hours of your last brushing. And even though plaque fits the very definition of “seems to appear overnight,” this biofilm is actually a complex microbial community with several different stages of development.

  • It starts with saliva.

Saliva is vital to our oral health, because it keeps us hydrated, washes away food particles, neutralizes acids in the mouth, and provides minerals which keep our enamel strong. Saliva also contains proteins, which help form a healthy, protective film on the tooth surface. This film is called a pellicle.

  • Bacteria attach to the pellicle.

There are species of oral bacteria that are able to attach themselves to the pellicle film within hours of its formation. As they become more firmly attached, they begin to grow and divide to form colonies, and are known as the early colonizers of the plaque biofilm.

  • A complex biofilm forms.

If you’ve skipped brushing for a few days (please don’t!), you’ll notice a fuzzy, sometimes discolored film on your enamel—that’s a thriving plaque community, and it only takes a matter of days to go from invisible to unpleasant.

If you’re not removing plaque regularly, it can harden further and become tartar. And once you have tartar buildup, you’ll need the care of a dental professional to remove it.

  • What happens if we ignore plaque and tartar?

We get cavities and gum disease.

How does plaque cause cavities?

  • The bacteria in plaque, like all organisms, need nutrients.

Our normal oral environment and the food in our everyday diets provide the nutrients plaque needs. And, as we mentioned above, certain types of oral bacteria convert these nutrients into acids. Foods such as carbohydrates, starches, and sugars are most easily converted into acids, which is why we recommend that you enjoy them in moderation.

  • The biofilm promotes acid production.

Within the plaque film, anaerobic bacteria (bacteria which don’t use oxygen) convert sugars and starches into acids. As the plaque film becomes denser, it blocks acid-neutralizing saliva and oxygen from reaching these bacteria close to the tooth’s surface, creating an ideal environment for the bacteria to produce their acid waste products.

  • Acids attack enamel.

The sticky nature of plaque keeps these acids in contact with tooth enamel, where, over time, acids dissolve minerals in enamel, weakening the mineral structure of the tooth.

How does plaque cause gum disease?

  • Bacteria cause inflammation and gingivitis.

The bacteria in plaque irritate the delicate tissue of the gums, which causes an inflammation response which can leave your gums swollen, red, bleeding, or tender. This early form of gum disease is gingivitis. Fortunately, good dental care and careful brushing and flossing can usually prevent and even eliminate gingivitis.

  • Plaque and tartar can lead to periodontitis.

When plaque and tartar build up around and below the gumline, the gums pull away from the teeth, leaving pockets where bacteria collect, leading to infection as well as inflammation. Infections and constant inflammation not only harm gum tissue, they can destroy the bone supporting the teeth. This serious gum condition is periodontitis, and should be treated immediately to avoid further infection and even tooth loss.

How do we fight plaque?

From the time you were small, you’ve learned how to fight plaque:

  • Brush at least twice a day for two minutes, and be sure to brush all of your tooth surfaces and around the gumline.
  • Floss to remove plaque from between the teeth and near the gumline.
  • Visit our Pensacola, FL office for a thorough professional cleaning.

Be proactive. If you have any questions, talk to Dr. James McCreary about the best way to keep plaque at bay. We can show you the most effective ways to brush and floss, recommend anti-plaque toothpastes and rinses, even suggest plaque-revealing tablets if you’re missing some trouble spots.

We’ve only brushed up on some plaque basics, because there is a lot more to discover about this complex biofilm. Happily, even with all there is to learn about plaque’s growth and development, it’s reassuring to know that getting rid of it is quite simple—with just a soft-bristled brush, some dental floss, and a few minutes of your time each day, you’re on the way to a healthy, happy, plaque-free smile.

Treatments for Tooth Discoloration

July 26th, 2023

Congratulations! You’re getting married! Wow! It’s your twentieth reunion! New job? Great news! No matter the occasion, large or small, you want to celebrate it with your whitest, brightest smile. How can Dr. James McCreary help? In a number of ways!

Professional Whitening

Because teeth are porous, over time substances in food, beverages, and tobacco products can stain the surface of the teeth. This is called extrinsic staining. If this is your concern, having your teeth whitened professionally is the fastest, most effective, and longest-lasting method of achieving your brightest smile.

We’ll examine your teeth to make sure that there are no pre-existing conditions such as cavities or gum disease that should be treated before whitening. We will use a gel with a higher concentration of whitening ingredients than over-the-counter products, protect your gums, and monitor the entire process. If you want to whiten at home, talk to us during your visit to our Pensacola, FL office about custom mouthpieces and professional whitening gels for precise application and safe, effective results.

Intrinsic Stains

Intrinsic stains are below the surface of the tooth, and harder to remove. These stains might be the result of an injury to the tooth or exposure to a medication like tetracycline while the tooth is forming.

While some whitening systems and professional whiteners can improve intrinsic staining if it is not too severe, normally bonding or veneers are better options. We can use color matching to make sure bonding or veneers are indistinguishable from your natural teeth. And do consider a professional whitening first, so we can match your dental work to your whitest natural smile!

Treating Existing Dental Work

Again, when you are considering porcelain veneers or crowns, composite veneers, or tooth bonding, choose the color that works best for your whitest natural smile, because these materials cannot be whitened like natural teeth. If you have dental work already in place that you would like to brighten, both composite and porcelain dental work can be polished to remove surface stains. If the color is simply not a good match for your natural teeth any more, replacement of your dental work is an option we can discuss.

There are plenty of good reasons to get your teeth whitened—Weddings! Reunions! New jobs!—but the best reason of all is giving you the healthy, confidant smile you’ve always wanted. And that’s something to celebrate!

Energy Drinks and Your Teeth

July 19th, 2023

When working out, studying late, or any time we feel like a bit of a boost would come in handy, energy drinks are a common go-to for many teens and adults. Energy drinks promise more focus and vitality, all wrapped up in clever names and eye-catching graphic designs. What they can’t promise, though, is a drink that’s good for your dental health.

Why? Because most energy drinks come with a high concentration of caffeine, acids, and/or sugar.

  • Caffeine Consequences

Before we talk about your dental health, a word about caffeine. Too much caffeine in a short period can leave us jittery, anxious, irritable, and sleepless. A cup of coffee has about 100 mg of caffeine, and some energy drinks have three to four times that much.

While the recommended daily limit for adults who aren’t pregnant is 400 mg of caffeine, doctors suggest a much lower limit for children and teenagers. Among other reasons, sleep is especially important for developing brains and bodies, and caffeine interferes with healthy sleep.

You might have to go online to find out how various energy drinks measure up and compare in terms of caffeine, but taking the time to check them out is well worth it. Now, back to your dental health!

  • Acid Attacks

Many energy drinks are very acidic. The tart flavors of energy drinks might please your palate, but they attack your enamel.

Our mouths are their healthiest when our saliva is neutral, balanced between acidic and basic on the pH scale. That’s somewhere around a 7 on a scale of 0-14, where lower numbers mean more acidic conditions. That burning feeling we get from acid reflux when stomach acids back up? That’s because stomach acid is a 1-2 on the pH scale.  Many energy drinks rate an eye-opening (and not in an energetic way!) 1.5-3.5 on the pH scale, which means your teeth are bathing in acids.

Even tooth enamel, the strongest substance in the body, can’t stand up to these acids, because acids break down the mineral structure of your enamel. If your teeth are more sensitive to heat and cold, if they appear darker as the white outer layer of enamel thins, if your dentist has discovered weak spots in your enamel—you might be experiencing demineralization. Once enamel is gone, it can’t be replaced.

  • Surplus Sugar

A well-known source of quick energy is sugar. A little more biology and chemistry here—sugar is a food which our bodies can break down quickly. And when sugar molecules break down, this breakdown releases energy—energy which we use to fuel essential bodily functions. This quick burst of sugar energy is why many energy drinks contain lots of added sugar. Some brands have more than 60 grams of sugar per serving—and 60 grams is almost 5 tablespoons!

We get all the sugar we require for our daily energy needs from the natural sugars found in fruits, dairy, even some vegetables and grains. With added sugars, we’re just adding empty calories, affecting the balance of our blood sugar and hormones, and increasing the risk of chronic health conditions—all while providing a convenient food source for the bacteria in plaque.

Because, just like our bodies find it easy to convert sugar to energy, the oral bacteria which cause cavities find it easy to convert sugar to acids. And just like the acids in foods, these acids attack the tooth’s mineral structure and break down its strength. Eventually, the weak spots in enamel grow larger and deeper and become cavities.

While most labels don’t let you know how much caffeine you’re getting, or the pH of the liquid inside, you can see how much sugar is being added to your diet with every can or bottle. Do look for added sugars before you choose your beverages.

If you have several energy drinks a day, a soft drink or two, plus the occasional sports drink—you’re bathing your teeth in acids and sugar all day long. With any beverage high in sugars and acids, limit your consumption. Rinse with water afterward, and don’t brush for about an hour to give your enamel time to remineralize after being exposed to the acids in your drink.

Better yet, choose healthier alternatives. Water is still the best way to hydrate. Try adding protein and carbs to your diet for more energy. Make sure you’re getting the vitamins you need with a balanced diet. If you see signs of enamel erosion, talk to Dr. James McCreary. The temporary boost you get from a bottle of caffeine, acids, and sugar might seem tempting, but it can have long-lasting consequences for your dental health!

Keeping Our Teeth Healthy as We Age

July 19th, 2023

Decades ago, it was just expected that getting older meant losing teeth. But today’s dental practices and treatments help us defy expectations. How can we keep our teeth healthy as we age? Here are some great habits to continue or begin at any time of life:

  • Brush and Floss Regularly

Brushing and flossing two minutes carefully twice a day is a habit we should never break. If using a manual toothbrush has become difficult, an electric model might be just what you need. We also have many suggestions if you have mobility or other issues, so please talk to Dr. James McCreary about making regular dental hygiene as comfortable and effective as possible.

  • Keep Up with Exams and Cleanings

As we age, gum recession is common. This recession leaves the root areas of our teeth more exposed, and more vulnerable to cavities. Also, old fillings can break or loosen, and cavities can develop around their edges. Keeping a regular schedule of exams and cleanings at our Pensacola, FL office helps us discover any problems before they become serious.

  • Let Us Know about Changes in Your Health and Medications

If you are taking certain medications, you are at risk for developing a condition called dry mouth, where saliva production greatly decreases. Since saliva washes away the food particles that fuel bacteria growth, reduces acidic elements in the mouth that weaken enamel, and helps fight diseases, dry mouth sets the stage for increased chances of cavities and gum disease. If you are experiencing this condition, we have suggestions for hydration, dental rinses, and sugarless gums that can help.

  • Prevent Gum Disease

Regular brushing, professional cleanings, and routine check-ups are the best way to keep your gums healthy. Since untreated gum disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in older adults, call us if you have any symptoms such as puffy, red, or swollen gums, bleeding, or persistent bad breath. We can treat periodontitis at any stage, but prevention is always best.

  • Don’t Smoke

Studies show a link between smoking and the health of our teeth and gums, as well as a much greater risk of oral cancer. It is never too late to stop smoking! We have suggestions on ways to quit—please let us provide them.

Feel free to talk to us about any concerns you might have. With proper dental care, your teeth can last a lifetime. And that’s a great expectation!

Most Valuable Dental Treatments

July 12th, 2023

At McCreary Family Dentistry, we work to find a dental plan that will work best and most effectively for you. But we’ve found that three treatments tend to be the most common and useful. If you ever find yourself in any of the following situations, we suggest you look at these options.

If you’ve lost teeth due to trauma, fracture, or decay, dental implants are a great choice. With all the technology available to us now, dental implants look and function exactly the way a natural tooth would. They blend in perfectly and are custom made to fit you. They’re a great investment that will restore the balance to your smile.

If you struggle with stress and catch yourself clenching or grinding your jaw, you may want to consider a bite guard. Constant grinding of teeth is dangerous for fillings and crowns, as well as natural teeth. It can cause serious joint inflammation as well as headaches. Luckily, bite guards can be worn night or day (depending on what you need), and are a great way to prevent further grinding.

Finally, there’s teeth whitening. It’s not uncommon for patients to want to brighten their smile, and the best way to do it by far is with in-office tooth whitening. There are many DIY options out there, of course, but in-office whitening has greater benefits.

When the whitening gel is applied to your teeth, we make sure your gums are protected. The results are generally faster and last longer with this approach, as well. Other methods may work, but they typically don’t last as long; sometimes they may not fully whiten all areas of your teeth.

No treatment is as easy and free of challenges as it seems. You still have to care for implants like regular teeth, which means no skimping on brushing and flossing just because they’re fake. Bite guards must be worn regularly to be effective. They also must be customized for your teeth; otherwise, they can be uncomfortable.

Whitening may cause temporary sensitivity in some mouths. For others, genetics may prevent you from achieving the precise shade you want.

If you have additional questions, feel free to call our Pensacola, FL office. Our team is here to help you achieve your best possible smile!

Stress and Your Oral Health

July 12th, 2023

Stress symptoms—which include high blood pressure, severe aches, and insomnia—may be affecting your health, even though you might not realize it. You may think illness is the culprit when in fact stress may actually be the reason. While stress can be good for us sometimes, Dr. James McCreary and our team know stress can be physically harmful. But what is often overlooked is that stress can also take a toll on your mouth. Here’s how:

Teeth Grinding

It’s not uncommon for people dealing with stress to develop teeth grinding, also known as bruxism. People who grind their teeth at night may do so unconsciously, but the condition requires treatment to prevent the development of headaches, TMJ, and tooth damage. If you’re a night-grinder, talk to Dr. James McCreary. We may recommend a night guard.

Mouth Sores

Research suggests stress and depression harm your immune system, making it easier for infections to develop and stick around. That can mean canker sores or a cold sore outbreak. If mouth sores are a recurring problem for you, give us a call to schedule an appointment with Dr. James McCreary.

Bad Habits

Stress can lead to bad oral health habits such as smoking, drinking, and neglecting your daily brushing and flossing routine. If you’ve been feeling under pressure lately, try to keep up with your oral health routine—it will serve you well when your stress levels return to normal.

Dr. James McCreary and our team at McCreary Family Dentistry know there’s not always an easy way to reduce your stress levels, but eating healthy, exercising regularly, and spending time with friends and family are all good places to start.

Your Options for Sedation Dentistry

July 5th, 2023

Fear of going to the dentist is more common than you may think. That’s why Dr. James McCreary and our team want to make your visit as relaxing as possible.

Your anxiety about pain or routine procedures doesn’t have to stop you from visiting our Pensacola, FL office; we offer various types of sedation to remove the pain and stress from your dental procedure.

Nitrous Oxide Sedation

Nitrous oxide combined with local anesthetics ensures both pain relief and reduced anxiety for many patients. It’s useful because the dosage can be regulated during treatment, and patients are usually able to drive shortly after the procedure is completed.

Oral or Injected Sedation

With oral sedation, you may be given a pill or liquid to consume several hours before your treatment. Make sure someone will be available to drive you to your appointment, because you will not be able to drive yourself.

An oral liquid is often given to children before any shots or intravenous anesthesia. An intramuscular injection may be given at the office to provide relaxation benefits for 20 to 30 minutes.

Nitrous Oxide with an Oral Sedative

For patients with higher levels of anxiety, an oral or injected sedative can be offered before nitrous oxide begins. This can also be effective for reducing anxiety about the injection of local anesthetics itself. A liquid medication followed by nitrous oxide is beneficial for children to produce a deep sedation level.

General Anesthesia

This type of anesthesia can be offered as an inhaled gas or intravenous liquid. If no oral sedative is given before the general anesthesia is administered, you should wake up quickly after your procedure.

To reduce your anxiety, we can offer a pill or liquid medication before intravenous sedation starts. Intravenous sedation can also be used at moderate-to-deep sedation levels without complete loss of consciousness.

Dr. James McCreary and our team are happy to go over your sedation or pain prevention options when you visit. We’re here to ensure all your questions are answered and your procedure is a relaxing one.

Does chronic stress impact periodontal health?

July 5th, 2023

Many studies over the past several years have focused on this question. Since we will all face stressful situations during our life, it is a good question to ask. This question also delves into the mind-body connection—the psychological having an effect on the physical and vice versa.

Studies were performed as far back as the 1940s and continue today. Many of them have shown that stress "downregulates" or hinders cellular immune response. The most common periodontal diseases related to this stress-induced downregulation are gingivitis and periodontitis.

It is believed that stress and depression contribute to a state of chronic inflammation within the body. Stress also raises levels of cortisol in your body, which has been linked in studies to higher levels of tooth loss and deeper pockets between the gums and teeth.

Perhaps the biological side of this equation makes sense, but an important factor is that people who are stressed and/or depressed tend to neglect oral hygiene and other health-promoting activities. The studies seem to support both the behavioral and biological effects as risk factors for periodontal disease.

Here are some things you can do to help prevent stress-related periodontal problems:

  • Daily relaxation –You may consider meditation or yoga. Both have been proven effective at easing stress.
  • Practice good oral hygiene – Don't let your oral hygiene fall by the wayside. Doing so will obviously have a detrimental effect on your oral health. You should also aim to quit smoking if you do smoke.
  • Get regular dental checkups – Getting regular checkups will help you to spot anything that's amiss before it gets out of hand. You can speak with your dentist if you have any pain or concerns and have them take a look.

Stress is something that affects all of us but it can be managed. Each one of us may manage it in a different way. Find what works for you and always make sure to keep up with your oral hygiene routine. For more information about stress-related periodontal issues, schedule an appointment with Dr. James McCreary at our Pensacola, FL office.

What Are Dental Sealants?

June 28th, 2023

You’re constantly playing defense. Your child spends two minutes in the morning and two minutes at night carefully brushing and flossing with a fluoride toothpaste. You make sure sugary and acidic foods are not a major part of your diets. Your child visits our Pensacola, FL office for regular exams and cleanings. Really, how can a cavity get past all that?

But even with the best defensive practices, you don’t have a level playing field—literally. The tops of our molars and premolars don’t have the smooth, easy-to-clean surfaces that our other teeth have. If you look at the chewing surfaces, you will notice deep grooves which toothbrush bristles have a much harder time reaching.  

Plaque and food particles can become trapped in these grooves (known as pits and fissures), providing perfect conditions for a cavity to develop. That is why cavities are so common in newly erupted molars. Dental sealants protect these teeth from cavities by providing a barrier which smooths out the surface of the tooth and prevents food and bacteria from reaching the molar’s crevices.

Most sealants are invisible plastic resin coatings which we apply in our Pensacola, FL office. Usually the procedure is so quick and easy that no dental anesthetic is required. Each tooth will be examined first. If we find any signs of early decay, we will gently treat that area before beginning.

When the tooth is ready, it will be cleaned and dried. An etching solution will be brushed on to the dry surface to roughen the area a bit so that the sealant will hold to the tooth more effectively. A thin coat of the sealant is then painted on and hardened under a curing light. And that’s it!

Once teeth are sealed, they should be cleaned and flossed just as carefully as before. Regular exams and cleanings are still very important, and we can monitor the condition of the sealant and the sealed teeth. Properly applied, sealants can last from three to five years, or even longer.

Who should consider sealants? Sealants are typically recommended when the permanent molars first erupt. Children’s enamel takes a while to become its strongest, and so these just-erupted teeth are more at risk for cavities. Sometimes Dr. James McCreary will recommend sealants for primary (baby) teeth if needed. But even adults can benefit—talk to us if you are interested and we will let you know if sealants might be right for you.

Sealants are a simple, safe, and minimally invasive way to prevent cavities. Studies of sealed molars and premolars show a dramatic reduction in cavities compared to untreated teeth. Sealants are one of the most effective ways to defend your teeth or your children’s teeth from tooth decay. And as we’ve all heard—defense wins championships!

Aging and Oral Health

June 28th, 2023

As you age, it becomes even more important to take good care of your teeth and dental health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one-fourth of adults age 65 and older have no remaining teeth. What's more, nearly one-third of older adults have untreated tooth decay.

Oral health, regardless of age, is crucial to overall good health. Ideally, we all want to keep your natural teeth, but whether you're caring for natural teeth or dentures, advancing age may put older adults at risk for a number of oral health problems, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Diminished sense of taste
  • Root decay
  • Gum disease
  • Uneven jawbone caused by tooth loss
  • Denture-induced tissue inflammation
  • Overgrowth of fungus in the mouth
  • Attrition (loss of teeth structure by mechanical forces)
  • Oral cancer

These conditions may not be diagnosed until it is too late. If you want to feel good, stay healthy, and look great throughout life, you might be surprised what a difference a healthy mouth makes.

Here are some tips for maintaining and improving your oral health as you become older:

  • Brush twice a day with a toothbrush with soft bristles. You may also benefit from using an electric toothbrush.
  • Clean between your teeth once a day with floss or another interdental cleaner.
  • If you wear full or partial dentures, remember to clean them on a daily basis. Take your dentures out of your mouth for at least four hours every day. It’s best to remove them at night.
  • Drink tap water. Since most contains fluoride, it helps prevent tooth decay no matter how old you are.
  • Quit smoking. Besides putting you at greater risk for lung and other cancers, smoking increases problems with gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss.
  • Visit McCreary Family Dentistry regularly for a complete dental checkup.

If you have any questions about keeping up with your oral hygiene at home, please give us a call!

Be Prepared!

June 22nd, 2023

When you’re busy at work or school, when you’re on vacation, when you’re on the road to adventure—preparation helps everything go smoothly. Especially when the unexpected happens! So, how can you be prepared for any dental situations which might arise? By creating these useful—and portable—travel kits.

Everyday Basics Kit

Dr. James McCreary and our team recommend brushing twice a day and flossing at least once each day for clean and healthy teeth. But after a long day at work with no time to head home before your date, or a garlic-heavy lunch, or a morning filled with coffee and pastries to help you meet a deadline, you might feel like there’s no time like the present to give your smile a bit of a boost.

Be prepared with a small travel bag filled with these easy-to-carry basics to get you through your busy day with clean teeth, fresh breath, and a confident smile:

  • Toothbrush and case—and do make sure your case is ventilated so your brush can air dry. Bacteria love a closed, damp environment!
  • Toothpaste
  • Mini-bottle of mouthwash
  • Small mirror—to check for any lunch leftovers
  • Dental floss—to remove any lunch leftovers
  • Dental picks
  • Sugarless gum—to freshen your breath and encourage saliva production, which helps clean away bacteria and food particles

Flight Gear

Getting set to travel by air again after this long lay-over? Your basic kit will do the job with just a few minor additions and alterations.

  • A travel version of your manual or electric toothbrush and travel case
  • Plug adapter or voltage converter as needed for your electric brush if you’re visiting another country
  • Quart size, resealable plastic bag to hold your carry-on supplies. Toothpaste and mouthwash are included in the list of items which need to fit carry-on guidelines.
  • Travel-size toothpaste—3.4 oz (100 ml) or smaller tube size. (And an almost-empty regular size tube doesn’t count!)
  • Travel-size mouthwash—also in a 3.4 oz (100 ml) or smaller container
  • Our Pensacola, FL office’s phone number. In case of emergency, Dr. James McCreary can give you advice on how to handle any problem which might arise when you’re far from home.

Looking for Adventure?

If you’re camping in the forest, leaving for the lake, going for a road trip, or heading out on any travel adventure, you’ll be bringing the dental care basics, of course. We’d also like to recommend some items to take along in the event of a dental emergency while you’re away from home:

  • Dental mirror
  • Cotton rolls
  • Over-the-counter pain relief—including a tube of oral pain relief gel
  • Ice pack
  • Dental wax—to cover the sharp edges of a broken tooth
  • Temporary fillings—to protect your sensitive tooth if a filling or crown is lost
  • Tooth preservation kit—to protect a dislodged tooth in case it can be reimplanted. (This means seeing a dentist very quickly, usually within 30 minutes of the accident.)

And, if you’ll be mountain biking, water skiing, or enjoying any activity where there’s potential for impact, don’t forget to pack your mouthguard!

Preparation is key to eliminating a lot of stress in our daily lives, and who couldn’t use a bit of stress-relief these days? Make room in your bag, locker, desk, luggage, or backpack for some portable, lightweight dental necessities. Be prepared to share your confident, healthy smile no matter what life has in store!

How Do We Clean Your Child’s Teeth?

June 22nd, 2023

Baby teeth are very important to your child’s present and future dental health, so we want to help you keep your child free from cavities and gum disease even before those permanent teeth erupt. That’s why we recommend professional cleanings at our Pensacola, FL office—to keep plaque and tartar from damaging little teeth and gums.

But a dental cleaning might be a bit stressful for young children, especially when they’re not used to the steps, the sounds, and the sensations of the cleaning process.

So, just as we strive to make every examination and visit a positive experience for your child, we do our best to make their cleanings a happy, stress-free time. How do we do this? With your help!

  • Preparation

A happy experience begins even before your child arrives in the office. If you are relaxed and positive before an appointment, you’ll help your child feel relaxed and positive, too.

Explaining what goes on during a cleaning even before your visit will help your child feel more comfortable when unfamiliar tools like dental mirrors, scalers, and polishing brushes are used. You can talk about your own experience, read a book together, watch a video, or find online resources to help your child understand what will happen during your visit, and why cleanings are so important for happy, healthy teeth.

Sometimes children benefit from a form of mild, conscious sedation (such as nitrous oxide) when they have special health needs or dental anxiety. If you feel this is an option we should discuss, please talk to us in advance and we’ll answer any of your questions.

  • Pre-Cleaning Examination

After being made welcome in the office and settled comfortably in the dental chair, we’ll examine your child’s teeth and gums for any signs of plaque and tartar.  A small, handled mirror is used to check out hard-to-see places behind the teeth and in the back of the mouth. Gum health is also important, and your child’s gums will be examined for any signs of gingivitis, or mild gum disease.

Plaque and tartar cause cavities and gum disease, even for young children. Finding any trouble spots will let us know where to concentrate on cleaning, and where you can help your child to brush more effectively.

  • Removing Plaque and Tartar

No matter how well a child (or an adult!) brushes and flosses, plaque can build up in some hard-to-reach spots, especially between the teeth and along the gumline. And if plaque isn’t removed within a few days, it starts hardening into tartar—and tartar can’t be brushed away.

That’s why removing tartar is a job for a dental professional. Using a special tool called a scaler, we gently scrape built-up plaque and tartar off tooth enamel (especially where it tends to accumulate behind and between teeth) and near the gumline. Sometimes an ultrasonic scaler can be used to dislodge tartar with sound waves.

Scalers can make a scraping noise and cause some pressure, and ultrasonic scalers use a stream of water as they clean. We’re happy to explain, in an age-appropriate way, why tools make these noises and how they work to clean little teeth.

  • Polishing & Flossing

After the plaque and tartar are removed, your child’s teeth will be polished with a power brush and a special gritty toothpaste. This is usually a bit noisy as well. A careful flossing and a final rinse will wash away any leftover particles or paste.

Once the teeth are cleaned, you may choose to have a fluoride treatment or a dental sealant applied to your child’s teeth.

  • After a Cleaning

Your praise and encouragement are always welcome! Giving children praise for helping keep those little teeth clean, shiny, and healthy makes them partners in the process.

How do we clean your child’s teeth? Gently. Thoroughly. Expertly. We want to make sure each cleaning is just one of the many positive dental experiences your child will have in our office. Help us make your child’s cleaning appointment stress-free with positive preparation and reinforcement, and together we’ll start your child on the path to a lifetime of shining smiles and proactive dental care!

Whitening Teeth with Braces

June 15th, 2023

Now that you are working hard to improve your dental health and appearance with your braces, it might seem like a logical time to whiten your teeth as well. But should you go ahead with home kits or a professional whitening? The answer might be yes, but not quite yet!

Toothpaste

The easiest way to whiten teeth is regular use of a whitening toothpaste. But these do not make a major difference in tooth color and may also contain abrasives which can damage ceramic brackets and make them more likely to stain. And, whether you have metal or ceramic braces, the brackets used are bonded to your teeth. Any part of your tooth covered by a bracket will not be affected by the whitening paste. Ask our office if you are thinking of using one of these products. We will be happy to recommend the best toothpastes to use while your braces are in place.

Whitening Strips and Trays

Whiteners can be applied at home with strips or tray kits. Strips are coated with a whitening gel and then pressed around your teeth. Tray kits provide a mouthguard-like appliance, which is filled with whitening gel. But neither strips nor tray solutions will whiten any area covered by brackets. When your braces come off, there might be noticeable differences in color on each tooth. Strips are difficult to apply with braces, and trays need to be custom-designed to fit your braces and make sure they don’t disturb your orthodontic work. One size most definitely does not fit all! Finally, these whitening agents can cause tooth and gum sensitivity, especially around the time of adjustments. Many manufacturers do not recommend using their products while you have braces. Please talk to us if you are thinking of using them.

Professional Whitening

A dental professional can whiten your teeth in office for the best possible results. The most effective treatments for your unique teeth are combined with protective care of your gums and mouth. Whether this treatment is appropriate while you have braces is something we are happy to discuss.

The best way to keep your teeth bright is to keep up your regular dental routine! Brushing and flossing are more important than ever now, because plaque builds up around brackets. Avoid foods that stain teeth and rinse or brush after every meal and snack. Dr. James McCreary will show you the best way to take care of your teeth while your braces are on—and that includes the best way to keep them white and bright. Talk to us about the perfect time to whiten your beautiful smile during your next visit to our Pensacola, FL office. And if you have to wait a few extra days for the smile you’ve been working toward, truly, the wait will be worth it!

What’s the Big Deal about Sleep Apnea?

May 31st, 2023

What’s the big deal about a little snoring during the night? Or feeling a bit drowsy during the day? Or an occasional bout of insomnia? If your sleep problems are few and far between, probably not a major worry. But if your sleep disruptions are frequent, getting worse, or more noticeable to those around you, your problem might be sleep apnea. And that can be a big deal.

Sleep apnea occurs in three forms:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea

This is the most common form of sleep apnea. It can be the result of the muscles in the back of the throat relaxing during sleep to obstruct the airway. Obstruction can also be caused by a physical condition such as a deviated septum, excess throat tissue or enlarged tonsils.  Loud snoring often results as the sleeper struggles to inhale through the obstructed passageway.

  • Central sleep apnea

Central sleep apnea is caused by the brain failing to transmit the proper signals to breathe during sleep. The sleeper either stops breathing, or takes such shallow breaths that he or she can’t get enough air into the lungs.

  • Complex sleep apnea

This condition is a mix of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.

Any of these forms of sleep apnea will cause a miserable night’s sleep. Sufferers actually stop breathing for a brief time. To start breathing properly again, our bodies move from the deep sleep we need to restore our physical and mental health to shallow sleep or even momentary wakefulness. And these disruptive episodes can happen dozens of times an hour, all night long. You might think you have gotten a full night’s sleep, while in reality you are suffering from sleep deprivation.

When you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, the immediate consequences are easy to see and hear. Loud snoring, choking, constant drowsiness—you (and your loved ones) suffer from these symptoms night and day. But the hidden consequences of this disorder are even more dangerous. Sleep apnea has been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and strokes. It can cause memory problems, depression, and mood changes. Loss of focus and slow reflexes can lead to accidents. Complications from general anesthetics and medications can also become a serious risk.

Snoring is not the only symptom of sleep apnea. If you notice that you often wake up with a sore throat, a dry mouth, or a headache, have difficulty going to sleep at night or staying awake during the day, can’t concentrate,  or constantly feel irritable—you should consider the possibility that you suffer from sleep apnea. Talk to Dr. James McCreary at our Pensacola, FL office. We can recommend options that will have you once again sleeping soundly in your bed, waking up refreshed and healthy. And that is a big deal.

Take Your Pick!

May 31st, 2023

Before electric toothbrushes, before dental floss, before fluoride rinses, in fact, before recorded history, people who cared about their dental health had one primary tool—the toothpick. Ancient bronze toothpicks, bejeweled Renaissance picks, and the more humble modern wooden picks have been instrumental in promoting dental hygiene for centuries.

And, while that clean, simple design is still a good one, modern technology has found a way to build an even better toothpick. Today’s interdental picks not only dislodge food particles effectively, but now gum stimulation, cleaner orthodontic appliances, and fresher breath are available literally at our fingertips. Most important, these picks are just as effective as floss for removing plaque.

  • Wood? Still Good!

Today’s softer wooden picks come in several shapes designed to fit comfortably and snugly between the teeth. Using a gentle in-and-out motion, you can clean between your teeth as you remove plaque from the tooth surface. But that’s not the only benefit! As you move the wide end of the pick up and down between teeth and gums, you are actually stimulating your gum tissue as well.  They even come with mint flavoring to refresh your mouth as you clean. And, of course, wood and bamboo picks are biodegradable.

  • Plastic? Fantastic!

If you’d like something a little more yielding than wooden dental picks, you have options. Soft dental picks are available that use rubber “bristles” on a plastic stem to gently ease their way between teeth. The heads are available in different diameters to accommodate tight or wide spacing between the teeth. Straight or curved stems provide the accessibility you need. If you have latex allergies, be sure to choose a rubber product that is latex-free.

  • Interproximal Brushes? Here’s What the Buzz Is

You might have missed these miniature brushes in the dental care aisle, but they are worth looking for. Interproximal brushes have small cone-shaped heads with nylon bristles for cleaning food particles and plaque from between the teeth. They are good for more than one use, and some are available with angled or bendable handles for hard-to-reach spots. They come in different diameters, from wide to extremely fine, to suit the spacing of your teeth. Interdental brushes are especially useful for braces wearers, who can use these clever tools to clean tight, tricky areas under wires and around brackets.

Even though bronze, bejeweled, or golden toothpicks aren’t available in the dental aisle of the local drugstore, increased efficiency and function are well worth the trade-off. If for any reason you have trouble flossing, or if you like the idea of massaging your gums as you clean your teeth, or if you wear braces, or if you want a burst of mint flavor—for any number of reasons today’s dental picks are worth a try. Talk to Dr. James McCreary at your next visit to our Pensacola, FL office, and we’ll be happy to give you some recommendations. 

Are there foods that whiten teeth?

May 24th, 2023

Coffee. Blueberries. Red wine. Tomato sauce. They might please our palate, but they are notorious for staining our teeth. Luckily, nature has balanced the scales for us! Here are just some of the foods that could actually help whiten your smile.

Apples

The crunchy texture of an apple makes it perfect for scrubbing your teeth as you chew. The more you chew, the more saliva you produce. And saliva helps lower the amount of the bacteria in our mouths that cause decay, while washing away food particles that can stain our teeth.

Broccoli

Raw broccoli florets look—and act—like tiny toothbrushes. Broccoli also contains high levels of iron which help protect our enamel from stains and erosion.

Carrots and Celery

More crunchy vegetables that scrub teeth. These are high in fiber, which acts as a gentle abrasive, and water, which stimulates healthy saliva production.

Nuts and Seeds

These are nutritious snacks that both act as abrasives and increase saliva production.

Pineapple

Pineapple is that rare fruit that produces bromelain, enzymes that help in digestion. These enzymes are also believed to help remove staining.

Strawberries

Malic acid considered by many to be a natural whitener which helps break down stains, and strawberries are a great source for this organic compound. But don’t overdo, because too much acid is hard on your enamel.

Of course, the real benefit of eating a balanced diet containing fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds is nutritional, and any whitening that takes place is an added bonus. And eating healthy foods won’t take the place of brushing to keep your teeth clean and bright, especially if you are relying on sugary fruits for their whitening effect. If you want help whitening your smile, and diet and brushing alone aren’t the answer, give our Pensacola, FL office a call and we’ll be happy to suggest other options. Until then, bon appétit!

The Science of Sugar

May 24th, 2023

Some languages have many different words for love. Some have many different words for snow. One language even has different words for a tasty layered sandwich. Is that a hoagie or a hero you’re having? A sub? Grinder? Po’boy?

“Sugar,” though, is a single word which has taken on many meanings, from casual endearment to monosaccharide molecule. Today, we’re examining scientific definitions, with a short and sweet look at the science of sugar.

Chemistry

First, let’s get basic—all the way down to the molecular level.

Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are the three essential macronutrients which keep our bodies running. Sugars are molecules made of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms, and all carbohydrates are made of these sugar molecules, from single unit structures to very complicated chains.

Sugars called monosaccharides are the most basic of the carbohydrates. “Monosaccharide” comes from the Greek words for “single” and “sugar,” and monosaccharides are the sugars we mean when we talk about “simple sugars.” Why are they simple? Because a monosaccharide is a single molecule which can’t be broken down into smaller carbohydrates.

While there are several types of monosaccharides, the three major simple sugars are:

  • Fructose—the sugar we get from fruit.
  • Galactose—the sugar found in milk.
  • Glucose—the sugar our bodies use the most. It’s found in plants, and also produced when our bodies break down other carbs. Fun fact—this is the only sugar essential for brain cell function.

When two monosaccharide molecules join together, they form a disaccharide (not surprisingly, from the Greek for “two sugars”). Again, there are quite a few disaccharides, but we tend to concentrate on three in our diets:

  • Lactose (glucose + galactose)—found only in milk and dairy products.
  • Maltose (glucose + glucose)—the sugar chiefly produced by grains.
  • Sucrose (glucose + fructose)—produced in plants. These plants include sugar cane and sugar beets, from which we get our refined table sugars.

The reason sugar molecules are so important is because of how our bodies use them.

Biology

Our bodies use the glucose in carbs for energy. As foods break down, first through digestion and then in the cells, the chemical bonds which hold glucose molecules together break as well. This action releases energy, and this energy fuels all our bodily functions.

But even though we need carbohydrates to keep our bodies going, and even though sugars are the easiest carbs to use for energy, there’s a reason no one recommends a diet filled with extra sugar.

Our bodies get all the sugar they need from the natural sugar in the foods we eat. Natural sugars are found in fruits, dairy products, even some vegetables and grains. Along with that sugar come vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and/or protein.

Extra sugars added during baking or mixing or processing for flavor and sweetness provide none of these nutrients. These sugars are known as “added sugars,” and have more serious consequences than just empty calories.

Once we have the sugars we require, there’s no need for more. Extra sugars are stored in liver, muscle, and fat cells for later use. When we eat too much sugar, this carefully balanced system is upset, with negative effects for, among other things, weight, blood sugar, insulin levels—and our dental health.

Nutrition and Dental Health

You know that a sugar-filled diet often means a cavity-filled checkup. Why? Because it’s not just our bodies that break down sugar for fuel.

The oral bacteria in plaque also need sugars for food, which they use to make acids. An acidic environment in the mouth weakens and dissolves the minerals which keep tooth enamel strong. And these weak spots are vulnerable to decay. A steady diet of sugar-filled foods means that your enamel is constantly under acid attack.

Cutting down on added sugars is one of the easiest and best ways to cut down on added cavities. Reading recipes, checking out labels, learning to recognize added sugars—this is nutritional research which has sweet results.

How to recognize added sugars? Here’s where language gives us plenty of words to fill our linguistic sugar bowl. Whether the ingredients are called agave nectar, honey, molasses, syrups, treacle, or table sugar, they’re really just sugar. More specifically, they’re all sugars made up of glucose and fructose, with at best a trace amount of vitamins and minerals—and usually not even a trace!

To make our lives easier, labels on food packaging now let us know exactly how much of the sugar in any product is “added sugar.” You expect to find a high percentage of sugar on dessert labels, but you might be surprised to read how much sugar is added to foods like energy drinks, sports drinks, flavored yogurts, cereals, spaghetti sauce, and many more of the items in your grocery cart. Spend an extra minute examining the label, and save yourself many empty calories.

Monosaccharides, disaccharides, glucose, fructose, maltose, agave syrup, treacle, and on and on—so many words for so many kinds of sugar. When it comes to dental health, let Dr. James McCreary have the last word on sugar science. During your next visit to our Pensacola, FL office, talk to us about reducing unnecessary sugars in your diet for a future filled with the sweetest of healthy smiles.

Five Things You Should Never Do With Your Toothbrush

May 17th, 2023

When’s the last time you gave your toothbrush any serious thought? Sure, you use it every day (and ideally twice), and you know that with a dollop of toothpaste it waxes up your pearly whites nicely, not to mention preventing bacteria, plaque, and inflammation.

But what are the things you should never do with your toothbrush? Here’s a brush-up on five toothbrush no-nos, from McCreary Family Dentistry.

1. If you have your toothbrush too close to the toilet, you’re brushing your teeth with what’s in your toilet. In other words, keep your toothbrush stored as far from the toilet as possible.

2. The average toothbrush harbors ten million microbes. Many families keep their toothbrushes jammed together in a cup holder on the bathroom sink, but this can lead to cross-contamination. Family members’ toothbrushes should be kept an inch apart. Don’t worry; they won’t take it personally.

3. Don’t delay replacing your toothbrush. It’s best to purchase a new one every three to four months, but by all means get one sooner if the bristles are broken down because of your frequent and vigorous brushing. If you have a cold or the flu, replace your toothbrush after you recover.

4. Store your toothbrush out of the reach of toddlers. The last thing you want is for your toothbrush to be chewed like a pacifier, dipped in toilet water, or used to probe the dusty heating ducts.

5. Sharing is caring, right? Your parents probably taught you the importance of sharing back when you were, well, dipping their improperly stored toothbrushes in toilet water. But here’s the thing: As important as sharing is, there are some things you just don’t share, and your toothbrush is one of them.

Fluoride Treatments—They’re Not Just for Kids!

May 17th, 2023

Fluoride has been one of the great game-changers in children’s dental health. Drinking fluoridated water. Using fluoride toothpaste. Scheduling fluoride treatments. All of these child-friendly dental habits help prevent cavities and strengthen tooth enamel.

And we adults enjoy the benefits of fluoride as well. Drinking fluoridated water. Using fluoride toothpaste. If only we hadn’t outgrown fluoride treatments… or have we? Time to have an adult conversation about fluoride treatments!

  • To Start, Some Dental Chemistry

The enamel in our teeth is largely made of calcium and phosphate ions. These elements combine to form hydroxyapatite, the mineral crystals that make teeth and bones so hard and strong. But enamel isn’t indestructible. The oral bacteria in plaque create acids that cause demineralization, stripping away calcium and phosphate ions. This leaves the tooth surface weakened and vulnerable to decay.

Our bodies have a way of compensating for demineralization. Saliva is filled with calcium and phosphate ions that restore lost minerals. This balancing act goes on every day. When conditions in the mouth are too acidic, however, remineralization can’t take place as effectively. Here’s where fluoride is so beneficial.

  • Why Fluoride?

First, because fluoride helps remineralize. Fluoride works on the surface of the tooth to attract the calcium and phosphate ions in our saliva, restoring them to our teeth. Even better, it joins with these ions to create fluorapatite. Fluorapatite crystals are larger, stronger, and more resistant to acids than hydroxyapatite. This means your teeth are not only remineralized, but stronger than they were originally!

  • Why Adult Fluoride Treatments?

While fluoridated water and fluoride toothpaste might be all you need for strong enamel, there are several conditions that make fluoride treatments a good addition to your preventive care at our Pensacola, FL office.

  • Problems with dental hygiene. Consider fluoride treatment if you have trouble brushing and flossing, if you wear braces, or if there’s any other reason that makes daily cleaning more difficult.
  • Exposed roots. Gums often recede as we age, and can pull away from the teeth even further with added factors like gum disease, harsh brushing habits, teeth grinding, or smoking. As gums recede, parts of the tooth roots are exposed. Because roots are covered with cementum instead of the much harder enamel, they are more vulnerable to decay.
  • Dry mouth. Medical conditions, medications, and aging can cause a decrease in saliva production. Because saliva helps wash away food particles and bacteria, bathes the teeth with minerals that strengthen enamel, and neutralizes acids, less saliva can equal more cavities.
  • Our individual biology. Some of us are born with weaker tooth enamel, and so are more at risk for cavities—even with great brushing and flossing habits.

In all of these cases, fluoride treatments can provide the extra protection you might need for stronger tooth enamel and improved dental health.

  • Treatments Are an Easy Addition to Your Dental Appointment

Regular fluoride treatments are neither complicated nor time-consuming. Fluoride can be administered as a varnish, a gel, a rinse, or a foam. It can be applied with a brush, a swab, as a mouthwash, or in a tray. After application, Dr. James McCreary will let you know if any follow up instructions, such as avoiding food and drink for 30 minutes after treatment, are necessary. That’s all there is to it. Protection lasts for months, and your dentist can let you know when a re-application is needed.

You’re doing the right thing by using a fluoride toothpaste and keeping up with your dental exams and cleanings. Ask Dr. James McCreary if a fluoride treatment is something that could strengthen your teeth and help prevent decay—it could be a game-changer for your dental health!

Do We Outgrow Tooth Decay?

May 10th, 2023

Short answer: No. But, since an answer that short is hardly worth the time it took you to click on the link, allow us to explain further!

We tend to think of tooth decay as something we leave behind with childhood. And, while it’s true that youthful cavities are unfortunately common, older adults face unique challenges of their own which put them at risk for cavities.

Root Cavities

Gum tissue often recedes with age. And our roots, which were once completely covered and protected by gum tissue, become partially exposed to plaque, acidic foods, and the abrasive effects of heavy-handed brushing.

This is a problem. Instead of enamel, a substance called cementum covers and protects our roots. But cementum isn’t as strong as enamel, and so our roots are much more vulnerable to the cavity-causing bacteria in plaque, erosion from dietary acids, and damage caused by abrasive brushing. Root cavities also progress faster than crown cavities, which can mean a root canal procedure in your future, or, even worse, an extraction if a cavity isn’t treated promptly.

What can you do to avoid root cavities?

  • Do what you do to avoid any cavity—brush at least twice a day for two minutes, use floss to clean between the teeth and along the gumline, and use a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Fluoride treatments can be applied to the exposed root area for added protection. Ask your dentist about this option.
  • Take care of your gum health. See Dr. James McCreary regularly, and, if you have serious gum disease, a visit to your periodontist might be in order.
  • Always use a soft toothbrush. Even a brush with medium bristles can be too firm for teeth and gums.

Failing Fillings

As we age, our dental restorations age as well. Over time, fillings can become loose, erode, or crack, which can lead to cavities under or around these damaged restorations. Bacteria can reach beneath a loose filling—your toothbrush can’t.

What can you do to prevent cavities in these hidden spots?

  • Keep up with your dental checkups. Part of each dental exam is checking the condition of your dental restorations.
  • Visit McCreary Family Dentistry if you notice any sign of tooth decay, including tooth pain, sensitivity, or discoloration.
  • If you discover a loose, cracked, or lost filling, even without any discomfort, call Dr. James McCreary right away. A timely replacement filling can prevent hidden decay from seriously damaging a tooth.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, occurs when our bodies don’t produce their normal amount of saliva. Saliva, of course, is vital for healthy and comfortable eating—it helps us swallow, digest, and taste our food. And it also has dental benefits! Saliva helps neutralize the acidic foods we eat, washes away food particles and bacteria, and contains minerals like calcium and phosphorus which remineralize tooth enamel.

Many medical conditions (including diabetes and high blood pressure), medical treatments (such as chemotherapy and radiation), and medications (both prescribed and over the counter) can reduce normal saliva production.

What can you do to restore saliva production?

  • Drink fluids as recommended, especially water.
  • Chew gum. Sugarless gum encourages saliva. Sucking on sugar-free candies works as well.
  • Brush regularly with fluoride toothpaste, and ask about fluoride rinses.
  • Talk to Dr. James McCreary. There are medications available that can help.

Keeping up with our dental health is important at any age. Brushing and flossing, fluoride toothpaste, regular dental exams and cleanings at our Pensacola, FL dental office—the basics of dental health don’t change over time, even if our dental challenges are a bit different as we get older. After all, do you ever outgrow an attractive, healthy smile? This answer is short and sweet: never.

Root Canal Procedure

May 10th, 2023

Five words no one welcomes: “You need a root canal.” But if you are delaying treatment because you are worried about pain and an uncomfortable day in the dentist’s chair, please think again! Modern root canal procedures are designed to repair your damaged tooth gently and efficiently, and leave you with a restored natural tooth that can last a lifetime.

  • Why might you need a root canal?

First, a little tooth biology. Each tooth has a crown (the part we see above the gums) and one or more roots (the part of our tooth below the gum line that is attached to bone in our jaw). The tooth has three basic layers: the hard enamel and cementum that cover the outer crown and root, the softer dentin beneath that layer, and, on the inside, the pulp. Pulp is made of living tissue, and contains the blood vessels and nerves that nourish the tooth and keep it vital.

Even with the protection the enamel and dentin provide, sometimes the pulp can be infected or damaged. If you have suffered an injury to your mouth or jaw, or an infection has developed from an opening in the tooth caused by a deep cavity or crack, you may need a root canal to prevent further infection, pain, and even tooth loss. Call our Pensacola, FL office immediately if you feel pain with chewing or pressure, prolonged sensitivity to heat or cold, swollen, and tender gums around a tooth, or tooth discoloration.

  • The Root Canal Procedure

If a root canal is necessary, the procedure is very straightforward. After the area around the tooth is numbed, we will make an opening in the crown to allow access to the pulp inside. Very small instruments will be used to clean the inner tooth and removed bacteria and dead or dying tissue. The area will be thoroughly disinfected, and the inside of the tooth shaped and then filled and sealed. A temporary filling or crown might be placed on the tooth to prevent bacteria and food from entering the site if a permanent crown needs to be created. The entire process usually takes from one to three visits.

If we suggest a root canal, it is because this is the best way to save your tooth. Please feel free to talk to us about your particular needs and concerns. Which tooth is affected, how many roots are involved, what type of filling or crown might be best—we will work with you to provide all the information you need and all the options you have available.

Common Concerns

  • Are you concerned about pain?

The most painful part of a root canal is often the severe discomfort your tooth causes before treatment. And infections and damaged nerves can affect not only the injured tooth, but the gums, tissue and even bone surrounding it. With our modern dental techniques, a root canal procedure is often no more uncomfortable than a regular filling. The local anesthetic we use will prevent you from feeling any pain during the procedure, and, while the area around your tooth might be a bit sensitive following treatment, the pain caused by the infection or injury should be gone.

  • Are you anxious about the procedure?

If dental treatment causes you anxiety, please let us know. There are several sedation options we can pursue to make this procedure less worrisome. Our goal is to make your treatment as gentle and comfortable as possible.

No one welcomes the news that a root canal is necessary, but with today’s procedures, this treatment can be just what you need to relieve your pain and keep your natural tooth where it belongs for many years to come. And that is welcome news, indeed!

Nutrition Tips for Healthy Kids’ Smiles

May 3rd, 2023

The grown-ups in your life want you to have a healthy, happy smile. That’s why they help you brush and floss, and make sure you come see Dr. James McCreary for checkups and cleanings. Did you ever wonder if there are other ways you can help build a beautiful smile? There are! And one of them is eating food that makes our teeth and gums strong and healthy.

Friendly Foods

  • Enamel and Bone Builders

Calcium is a very important element that helps us grow strong bones and enamel, the hard covering on the outside of our teeth. Bacteria in our mouths can create acids that weaken enamel and lead to cavities, so we want to keep our enamel as strong as possible. Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are great sources of calcium, but you might be surprised to know dark green vegetables like kale, spinach and broccoli help build strong teeth as well, and strong teeth are less likely to get cavities!

  • Good for Our Gums

Many foods have important vitamins that help keep our gums and mouths healthy. Vitamin C helps protect our gums and make them stronger. When we think of Vitamin C, we usually think of citrus fruits like oranges and lemons, but there are many other fruits and vegetables that give us this important vitamin, including mangos, potatoes, and strawberries. Vitamin A also helps keep our gums healthy. We can increase our Vitamin A by adding fish, leafy green vegetables, or orange colored foods to our diet.

  • Natural Toothbrushes

Crunchy foods like apples, carrots, and celery can help keep our teeth clean. They act like gentle brushes to remove food and bacteria left on our teeth after eating. Chewing also increases saliva, which helps wash away food particles and bacteria. And, of course, drinking or rinsing with water after a snack helps clean our teeth when we can’t brush.

What Foods Aren’t Good for Our Teeth?

  • Bacteria Builders

Plaque is a film of bacteria that sticks to our teeth. These bacteria make acids that soften our enamel and cause cavities. And what do these bacteria use for food? Sugar is one of their favorites! We can’t stop eating everything with sugar, of course, and we all deserve a treat every now and then. But to keep our teeth their healthiest, it really helps to cut down on sugary foods and drinks, and to brush or rinse with water when we do enjoy dessert.

  • Acid Attacks

Bacteria can make acids that weaken our enamel, but we can also eat foods that damage our enamel and might lead to cavities. Drinks like sodas, citrus juices and even some sports drinks are acidic enough to make our enamel softer. Drinking with a straw or rinsing your mouth with water helps, but it’s a good idea to limit foods and drinks that make our enamel weaker over time.

  • Sticky Stuff

Any food that stays on or between your teeth gives bacteria more time to grow and produce the acids that cause cavities. We can guess that hard candy and caramel would be a bad idea, but even healthy foods such as dried fruit and trail mix can be a problem when they stick to your teeth. If you eat something sticky, be sure to rinse with water or brush and floss as soon as you can.

You already know that brushing and flossing are the best way to keep your teeth clean, and that visiting us for checkups and office cleanings helps your teeth and gums stay strong and healthy. Eating well is just one more thing you can do to help. The next time you visit our Pensacola, FL office, talk to us about what you and your family can add to the menu for a lifetime of beautiful smiles!

The Many Types of Sedation Dentistry

May 3rd, 2023

There are many reasons to choose sedation dentistry. Perhaps anxiety is an issue, or your teeth are extremely sensitive. You may have a low pain threshold, an easily triggered gag reflex, or need a lot of work done in one visit. If you think sedation dentistry might be right for you, this procedure is something we are happy to discuss before your appointment at our Pensacola, FL office.

Because your concerns and condition are unique, we will tailor your sedation to fit your specific needs. We will take a careful health history to make sure whatever medication is used is safe for you, and will not interact with your other medications or affect any medical conditions. The three most common methods of sedation include:

Our experience and training allow us to recommend a method that is specifically designed for your needs. If you would like to remain completely aware, but feel less anxious, if you would like deep sedation through the entire procedure, or if you want something in between, talk to us about your options. Whatever the reason you choose sedation dentistry, Dr. James McCreary and our team are here to provide you with a skilled and safe sedation experience.

Heart Disease and Oral Health

April 26th, 2023

Is there a link between oral health and heart health? This is a question that has been receiving a lot of attention in recent studies. While as yet there is no definitive study that proves oral health has an effect on overall heart health, there is also no definitive proof that oral health doesn’t affect heart health. So, what do we know, and, just as important, what should we do?

What do we know? One clear connection exists between gum disease and endocarditis, a rare, but potentially very serious, infection. When we neglect our gums, they bleed more easily. When gum disease advances, the gums pull away from the teeth. This creates pockets which can harbor more bacteria and plaque, leading to infection and even tooth and bone loss. And this bleeding and infection can be serious not only as a matter of dental health, but for your heart as well.

Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart and the heart valves. When bacteria from other parts of the body, including your mouth, make their way into the blood stream, they can attach themselves to damaged areas of the heart. The resulting infection can become very serious, very quickly. If you have damaged heart valves or artificial valves, have an artificial heart, or have any type of heart defect, it is especially important to prevent gum disease from developing. Regular dental care will help prevent bleeding gums and infections, and reduce the danger of oral bacteria entering the bloodstream. Always let us know if you have any issues with heart health, and we will tailor our treatment for all of your procedures accordingly.

What else might link oral health and heart disease? Because an increased risk of heart disease has been found in patients with moderate or severe gum disease, there has been much speculation as to a possible cause-and-effect connection. For example, the plaque inside arteries which leads to heart attacks has been found to contain certain strains of periodontal bacteria. Other studies have searched for a causal relationship between inflammation resulting from gum disease and inflammation leading to heart disease.  The body’s immune response to periodontitis and its potential consequences for heart health have also been examined. So far, there has been no clear evidence that treating gum disease prevents the occurrence or recurrence of heart disease.

So what should we do? This is the easy part. Keeping your gums and teeth healthy will increase your quality of life in immeasurable ways. And it’s not difficult! Regular brushing, flossing, and dental exams and cleanings at our Pensacola, FL office are the key to lasting oral health. If this also keeps your heart healthy, that’s the best possible side effect.

Gum Disease Prevention

April 26th, 2023

What to do to prevent gum disease? If left untreated, gum disease can lead to discomfort, infection, and even tooth loss. Bacteria in our mouths form a film called plaque. Plaque sticks to our teeth and can lead to gum inflammation. This inflammation can cause our gums to pull away from the teeth creating “pockets” which are home to infection and result in tooth and bone loss. Since the early stages of gum disease are often invisible, what is the secret to keeping our gums healthy?

Luckily, there is no secret to it at all! Preventing most gum disease is a simply a matter of following well-known guidelines, at home and in our Pensacola, FL office.

 Healthy Habits at Home

  • Regular brushing and flossing

At least two minutes of careful brushing twice a day will help reduce bacteria and plaque. Use floss, picks, and other interdental tools to remove plaque from tight areas between the teeth that your brush might miss.

  • If you smoke, now is the time to quit!

Smoking weakens your immune system, making it harder to fight infections and to heal. If you need another reason to quit, improving your oral health is a great one. Talk to us about ways to stop.

  • Eating well

We all know sugar is no friend to dental health, and encourages bacterial growth. But eating apples, carrots and other crunchy vegetables can help remove food particles and stimulate the production of saliva, which fights bacteria production. Vitamins and minerals help strengthen bones and build healthy gum tissue. And a balanced diet supports not just your oral health, but the health and well-being of your entire body. Ask us for suggestions for a dental-healthy diet.

Regular Checkups and Cleanings

  • We recommend a visit to our Pensacola, FL office every six months for a checkup. Dr. James McCreary can discover and treat gingivitis (early periodontal disease) and recommend a periodontal exam if there are signs of more severe gum disease. There are some individuals who develop gum disease even with great brushing and flossing habits, so it’s important to have a dentist’s evaluation.
  • Having your teeth cleaned every six months will remove plaque that brushing alone can’t handle. If there are signs of more serious gum disease, a periodontal cleaning will remove plaque and tartar from both above and below the gumline.

Brushing, flossing, avoiding smoking, eating well, seeing Dr. James McCreary regularly—there’s no secret here! Talk to us about what you can do and what we can do to keep your gums healthy for a lifetime of beautiful smiles.

Should Children Use Whitening Products?

April 25th, 2023

As adults, we often wish our teeth could be as white as they were when we were small children. Baby teeth have thinner and whiter enamel than adult teeth, and those brilliant smiles are a result! But occasionally, you may be surprised to discover some staining or discoloration on those lovely first teeth. You might be tempted to apply a whitening product to your child’s teeth, but, please—read on!

Causes of Staining

  • Improper Brushing—Often, a loss of tooth whiteness means that plaque has built up on the tooth surface. Careful brushing is needed to remove bacteria and plaque, and if your child isn’t brushing at least twice a day for two minutes, discoloration can be the result.
  • Medications—When given in liquid form, or when added to formula or food, iron supplements can cause dark grey staining on the teeth. Medications taken by a mother while pregnant or breast feeding, such as tetracycline, can also lead to discoloration.
  • Injury—If a tooth suffers a serious injury, the tooth can darken because of changes inside the enamel.
  • Health conditions—Certain health problems can cause tooth discoloration, or sometimes children are born with weaker enamel that is more likely to stain.

If you have noticed any staining on your child’s primary teeth, call our Pensacola, FL office. Simple stains can often be removed with better brushing techniques, and we can clean other surface stains in the office. Staining caused by an injury or a health condition is something we can discuss in detail with you. We can even use some professional whitening methods if those are indicated.

Why not just buy a home whitening kit for your child? There are several important reasons to leave these products on the shelf while your child is young.

  • Whitening kits are designed for adults. They have been tested for adult teeth in adult trials. Check the box for age appropriate use. Most products are not recommended for pre-teen children.
  • Remember that thinner enamel we mentioned earlier? Add to that the delicate skin of young children, and it’s sensible to be cautious about using a bleaching agent that can cause mouth and tooth sensitivity even in adults.
  • There is no body of evidence available as to the short and long term effects of using these products on children.

If you are concerned about the brightness of your child’s smile, please talk to Dr. James McCreary. We can recommend better ways to brush at home, clean your child’s teeth in the office, or suggest professional methods of whitening if there are physical or psychological reasons that it would be valuable. But while your child is young, those off-the-shelf whitening products can wait a few more years.

Gum Disease in Children

April 25th, 2023

When it comes to gum disease and your child, it’s a good news/bad news situation. The very good news is that children rarely suffer from advanced gum disease, or periodontitis. The not-so-good news? Early gum disease, called gingivitis, is unfortunately an all-too-common childhood problem.

  • What does gingivitis look like in children?

Childhood gingivitis has the same causes and symptoms as the adult version. Healthy gums are firm and pink. When bacteria and plaque accumulate on the teeth, your child’s gums become irritated and inflamed. Call our Pensacola, FL office right away if you notice any of these symptoms of gingivitis: bleeding gums, puffiness, redness, gum tissue receding from the teeth, or bad breath even after brushing.       

  • How to Prevent Gingivitis

The most common cause of gingivitis is poor dental care. Creating a regular dental routine is the best way to prevent gingivitis from ever developing! Brushing and flossing with your child for two minutes twice a day from the very beginning helps make healthy cleaning a lifelong habit. Care should be taken to gently brush teeth at the gum line to make sure plaque doesn’t get a chance to build up there and cause gum irritation. And when your child comes in for regular cleanings, Dr. James McCreary can be sure that any plaque that might remain on the teeth is removed.

Two additional notes: as your child approaches adolescence, hormone fluctuations can make gums more sensitive and easily irritated. This is a time to really emphasize careful and gentle brushing and flossing. Also, some medical conditions may make children more pre-disposed to gum problems, so be sure to make us aware of your child’s medical history.

  • Uncommon Gum Diseases

While gingivitis is very preventable with proper dental hygiene, there are some rare gum conditions that can occur around the time of puberty that are quite different from gingivitis. Aggressive Periodontitis can cause severe bone loss around the first molars and incisors, even without any kind of plaque build-up, and Generalized Aggressive Periodontitis leads to inflammation of the gums, heavy plaque, and, eventually, loose teeth. Again, these conditions are rare, but if you have a family history of these diseases, let us know. Checkups and cleanings are a great way to catch any potential gum problems, so be sure to bring your child in for regular visits.

Almost all childhood gingivitis is preventable. With careful brushing and flossing at home, and visiting us regularly for checkups and cleanings, your child can enjoy healthy gums and teeth now and learn habits that will keep those gums and teeth healthy for a lifetime. And that is a good news/great news situation!

How to Subtract Those Added Sugars

April 25th, 2023

Sugars are the simplest carbohydrates, and are found naturally in fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products. Our bodies require these simple carbs for energy. (Even better, we don’t just get energy from fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy—we also get healthy amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and even some protein!)

Problems arise when we get too much of this good thing. Once our bodies have all the sugar they need for immediate energy, they store extra sugars in liver, muscle, and fat cells. Over time, excess dietary sugars can affect weight and blood sugar levels, with potentially damaging results.

And, of course, sugar has an immediate effect on our oral health. The oral bacteria in plaque also need sugars for energy, which they use to make acids. An acidic environment in the mouth dissolves the minerals, which keep our tooth enamel strong. And these weak spots are vulnerable to decay. A steady diet of sugar-filled foods means that your enamel is constantly under acid attack.

So it’s really no wonder we hear a lot about avoiding “added sugars” in our diets, for both our general health and for our dental health in particular. But the concept of “added sugar” can be a bit misleading. If you’re not putting five spoons of sugar on your breakfast cereal, or pouring half a jar of honey in your tea, or using a recipe that calls for a cup of corn syrup, you might think you’re avoiding added sugars altogether. And that’s just not the case.

When dieticians talk about added sugars in our foods, they mean additional refined sugars (like white and brown sugars and corn syrup) that are used in preparing or processing foods.

Unlike unprocessed foods, which have been minimally treated to keep them as natural as possible, processed foods have been baked, or frozen, or mixed with other foods, or somehow changed from their natural state. This is where “added sugars” come in. Both home cooks and commercial processors use sugar to improve flavor, provide sweetness, and extend shelf life when preparing food.

What are some of the worst offenders? Store bought or homemade desserts like cakes and ice cream are prime candidates. Sodas? Most definitely. But it’s not just the obvious culprits. Added sugars are found in many foods we usually think of as healthy, including:

  • Smoothies
  • Fruit Drinks
  • Energy Drinks
  • Granola Bar
  • Power Bars
  • Breakfast Cereal
  • Flavored Yogurt

While eating unprocessed foods is one way to make sure you get no added sugars, you can also eliminate many grams of sugar from your daily diet by trying out low-sugar recipes and choosing processed foods with little or no added sugar.

How to avoid unexpected added sugars? Fortunately, new labelling on food packages lets us know not only how much sugar is in any product, but how much added sugar has found its way into our grocery cart. Take a moment to check out labels, and avoid sugary surprises.

Your body can get all the natural sugar and carbs it needs for energy from a healthy, well-balanced diet. Lowering your added sugar intake won’t deprive your body of necessary nutrients, but it will deprive oral bacteria of their most convenient food source and reduce the amount of acids, which threaten your enamel. In fact, subtracting extra sugars is one of the easiest and most effective ways to add to your dental health!

If you have any questions about reducing your sugar intake, be sure to ask Dr. James McCreary the next time you visit our Pensacola, FL office.

What happens during my hygiene appointment?

April 24th, 2023

Regular visits to the dentist are important for people of all ages. Seeing Dr. James McCreary as recommended provides preventive care for oral diseases. If a disease is already present, early detection can prevent hefty dental bills and further damage to the teeth and gums. Once you have made the decision to visit McCreary Family Dentistry, you may ask yourself, “What happens during my hygiene appointment?”

Preparation

Arrive at your appointment a few minutes early and bring along any insurance cards or medical information. While it may seem irrelevant, a full medical history can be important, since certain conditions include symptoms that occur inside the mouth.

Initial appointment

In some offices, the first appointment is a screening appointment, during which a dental hygienist will go over your medical and dental history with you, assess the condition of your teeth and gums, then schedule a future appointment to complete the cleaning and any other treatments you may need. In other offices, the screening and cleaning will be done over the same appointment. The dental hygienist may:

  • Count your teeth
  • Clean your teeth by using a small tool to scrape them in order to remove plaque
  • Brush and floss your teeth
  • Apply a fluoride treatment using foam that sits on your teeth within a tooth mold, or a gel that can be “painted” on with a small brush
  • Inspect your teeth for cavities or signs of decay
  • Administer oral X-rays. You will be covered with a special blanket to protect your body and then given a small piece of plastic on which to bite.

Seeing the dentist

After the dental hygienist completes his or her portion of the appointment, the dentist will usually come in and inspect your teeth. After an initial inspection, the dentist may:

  • Perform a quick tooth count as well as a more thorough inspection, looking for signs of decay in and around the teeth
  • Use a small tool called a “probe” in order to check for signs of gum disease around the base of your teeth
  • Visually inspect the skin around your mouth, called the “mucosa”

If you need any further dental work completed, you will usually be required to make an additional appointment. To learn more about hygiene visits, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. James McCreary, please give us a call at our convenient Pensacola, FL office!

What is Remineralization?

April 5th, 2023

“What is the strongest substance in the body?” If this question comes up on trivia night, be prepared to impress your team when you confidently answer, “Tooth enamel!”

Tooth enamel? The reason for this surprising answer lies in the biology of our teeth. Minerals make up well over 90% of our enamel, a much higher percentage than is found anywhere else in the body, including our bones. But unlike bone tissue, which can heal and regenerate, tooth enamel cannot. Even though it is extremely strong, enamel can be damaged by a process called demineralization.

Demineralization

Demineralization is a result of acids at work in our mouths. Acids actually break down the minerals in our enamel, making the enamel softer. Over time, bacteria attack deeper into the tooth, eventually leading to decay. Acidic foods like sodas, citrus, pickles, and coffee are obvious culprits in providing an acidic environment, but there are other problem foods as well. We all have bacteria in our mouths, which can be helpful or harmful. The bacteria in plaque use the sugars and starches we eat to produce even more acids.

This process is something that takes place very quickly. In fact, even brushing too soon after eating something acidic can damage the demineralized surface of a tooth. Waiting at least 20 to 30 minutes to brush gives our bodies a chance to restore the enamel surface in a process called remineralization.

Remineralization

Our bodies are actually designed to help protect our enamel, and the most important part of this process is saliva production. Saliva cleanses our teeth and reduces levels of acidity. And our saliva constantly washes important minerals over our teeth. Calcium and phosphate ions rebuild and strengthen molecules where demineralization has taken place. This process is called remineralization.

We have other ways to help the remineralization process along. Fluoride toothpastes and fluoridated water speed up the movement of mineral building blocks back to the surface of the tooth. Fluoride also strengthens our teeth so that they resist acids and demineralization better than teeth without fluoride, making them less vulnerable to cavities.

New products are available for home and professional use that are designed to increase remineralization—talk to Dr. James McCreary at our Pensacola, FL office if you would like the latest recommendations. In fact, talk to us about tooth-friendly menus, the best toothpastes, brushing techniques, and all the ways to keep your enamel its healthiest. You’ll be answering all those trivia questions with a strong, confident smile!

Do Spring Allergies Mean (B)Looming Dental Problems?

April 5th, 2023

April showers bring May flowers, and May flowers bring . . . allergies. If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from seasonal allergies, you might be suffering some dental side effects as well.

When you have pollen allergies, pollen triggers your body’s immune system to release histamines. Histamines are part of the body’s defense system. They cause the tissues in the nose and sinuses to become inflamed and swollen as they increase blood supply to these areas. They also cause your body to produce more mucus.

Normally, mucus from the sinus cavities drains into the nasal cavity and then down the back of the throat, where it mixes with saliva and is swallowed. We never even notice it. Until it’s allergy season. Unfortunately, our defense mechanisms can have some offensively unpleasant consequences.

  • Headache & Facial Pain

Our sinus cavities are small hollow spaces in the bones of the head which are filled with air and, like our nasal cavities, are lined with mucous membranes. It’s these membranes, not surprisingly, which produce mucus. And though we might turn up our noses at this slippery topic, mucus is actually quite helpful for trapping and filtering out unwanted hitchhikers like bacteria, viruses, dust, pollens, and other pollutants in the air we breathe before they reach our lungs.

When histamines are released, normal mucus production increases to filter out those tiny pollen invaders. At the same time, tissue around the nose and sinuses swells up, which can trap mucus inside the sinus cavities. This, in turn, causes increased pressure within the sinuses, and this pressure brings on allergy-related headaches and facial pain.  

  • Nasal Congestion & Postnasal Drip

With the occasional runny nose or sneeze, you can blow your nose once or twice and that’s that. During allergy season, greatly increased mucus production might see you spending all day within reaching distance of your box of tissues. But when the tissue in your nose is swollen as well, you now find yourself with nasal congestion.

A stuffy nose means excess mucus has to exit somewhere else, which means this extra, often thicker, mucus all drains into the back of your throat. This is postnasal drip, and it can make you miserable in several different ways. Hoarseness. Coughing during the day. Worse coughing at night. Sore throat. Nausea. Difficulty swallowing.

All these allergy symptoms are uncomfortable enough! But, to add to our discomfort, allergies can lead to uncomfortable oral symptoms as well.

  • Tooth Pain

A common result of allergies is tooth pain. How does this happen? It’s because of the way our bodies are designed. The maxillary sinus cavities are directly above the roots of our upper molars.

When sinus cavities are congested and sinus pressure builds up, it also puts pressure on these roots. The result is tooth pain, usually affecting several upper molars at once.

  • Dry Mouth

One of the natural responses to a stuffy nose is mouth-breathing—we can’t go without air, after all! But exposing the inside of the mouth to all that air dries out delicate gum and mouth tissues. It also reduces normal saliva flow. This can cause xerostomia, more commonly known as dry mouth.

Because saliva neutralizes acidity in the mouth and washes away bacteria and other germs, lower saliva production means greater risk of cavities, infections, and bad breath. Dry mouth can also cause gum irritation and gingivitis, because less saliva means more harmful bacteria build-up between the gums and the teeth.

  • Antihistamines & Your Oral Health

If histamines are the problem, are antihistamines the obvious solution? This is a good question for Dr. James McCreary or your physician. Antihistamines can be very drying—so you might find you’re experiencing dry mouth even when all those other pesky allergy symptoms have disappeared. And, if you already suffer from xerostomia, it’s especially important to get your doctor’s advice before buying over the counter antihistamines.

In allergy season, just like any other time of the year, be sure to hydrate and keep up with brushing and flossing for fresh breath and healthy teeth and gums. Talk to Dr. James McCreary if you have persistent tooth pain, dry mouth, or irritated gums—it’s always best to rule out other causes like infection or decay.

But, if your problems are caused by allergies, you don’t have to wait until the next snowfall to get relief. Talk to your doctor or allergist for ways to reduce or eliminate your symptoms before allergy problems start blooming into dental problems. You’ll breathe easier!

A Prescription for Oral Health

March 29th, 2023

You and your dentist are essential partners in making sure you have the best dental care. You do your part by eating a tooth-healthy diet, brushing and flossing as recommended, and seeing Dr. James McCreary regularly for checkups and cleanings.

And one more essential step you can take for your dental health? Let Dr. James McCreary know which prescriptions and over the counter medications you’re taking.

Medications Have Oral/Dental Side Effects

We’ve all grown used to hearing “Possible side effects include . . .” at the end of every pharmaceutical commercial. That’s because those unintended side effects can affect our health in any number of unexpected ways—and this includes oral health.

For example, a common side effect of many medications is xerostomia, or “dry mouth.” Because saliva helps keep our teeth and gums healthy by washing away food particles and oral bacteria and by reducing acidity in the mouth, a reduction in saliva production means a greater risk of cavities, gum disease, oral infections, denture discomfort, and bad breath.

Knowing a patient is taking one of the hundreds of medications which cause xerostomia allows Dr. James McCreary to both monitor the condition and suggest the most effective treatment options to control unpleasant symptoms.

Medications can cause not only dry mouth, but excessive gum tissue growth, oral sores, tooth discoloration, and changes in taste, among other side effects, so knowing which medications you’re taking can provide essential information for the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions.

Medications Interact

Medication might be needed for your dental treatment. Because certain drugs, supplements, and even some vitamins and foods can affect the way our bodies metabolize, absorb, and respond to other medications, we need to know which medicines you’re taking to arrive at your best treatment options.

  • There are different classes of antibiotics used to treat oral infections. Knowing your medical history enables Dr. James McCreary to choose an antibiotic option which won’t interact with your other medications.
  • Local anesthetics such as lidocaine, which numb the area to be treated, can also interact with certain medications. Dr. James McCreary can prescribe an alternative local anesthetic or adjust the dosage as needed.
  • If you will be using sedation during your procedure, you have several options, including nitrous oxide gas, oral sedation, or IV sedation. Be sure we know about all of your medications beforehand because of possible interactions. Changes can be made to the type of sedation and/or the dosage as needed.

Medications Impact Treatment

It’s important for Dr. James McCreary to know if any of your medications will affect standard treatments.

Anticoagulants, for example, are a necessary medication for preventing blood clots from forming, and are often prescribed for certain heart conditions, after joint replacement surgery, or for anyone at risk for developing blood clots. Because these medications prevent the blood from clotting, it’s important to let us know if you are taking such drugs before any kind of oral surgery.

If needed, Dr. James McCreary can work with you and your doctor to create a treatment plan which will be safe, effective, and designed to work with any of your medications. You should never discontinue taking your prescribed medications before dental work without medical approval, as this can be dangerous.

We need the most up to date information about your health to provide you with the best care possible. Knowing which medications you take and why you take them can help us:

  • Diagnose and treat any side effects from non-dental medications which have affected your oral health,
  • Prevent drug interactions from occurring, and
  • Tailor your treatment to your specific medical needs.

Your prescriptions, over the counter medications, and even herbal supplements and vitamins are essential information. It’s a good idea to make a list before your next appointment at our Pensacola, FL office so you have specific medications and their dosages at hand. It’s one small—but vital—step you can take to work with Dr. James McCreary for your best dental health!

Hypersensitive Teeth

March 29th, 2023

It is common to experience dentine hypersensitivity, with symptoms ranging from moderate to severe. Why does it happen and how do you know if this sensitivity is something to be concerned about? The first step is to determine the cause.

The most common cause of the sensitivity is exposure of the dentin. Dentin is the layer immediately surrounding the nerve of the tooth. It is alive and usually covered by the gum tissue. When gum recession is present hypersensitivity is common. Other contributors to temporary tooth hypersensitivity include teeth whitening and dental procedures such as fillings, periodontal treatment, and braces placement or adjustment. These are temporary and should be of no concern.

Permanent hypersensitivity, however, may require treatment. To understand the cause of sustained hypersensitivity, let us explain the structure of dentin and why it serves as a ‘hot spot’.

The dentin contains a large numbers of pores or tubes that run from the outside of the tooth to the nerve in the center. When dentin tubes are exposed, there is a direct connection between the mouth and dental pulp, which houses the nerve and blood supply of the tooth. External stimuli, such as mechanical pressure (tooth grinding or clenching - bruising the ligaments holding the teeth in place), temperature changes, as well as chemical stimuli (sweet–sour) are transmitted to the pain-sensitive dental pulp and activate nerve endings. A short and sharp pain is the result. These external stimuli cause fluid movement in the open tube that is transmitted as pain sensations. Something needs to be placed into the dentin tube to plug it and stop this fluid movement.

The first step in doing something about dental hypersensitivity is to determine the cause; our professional team at McCreary Family Dentistry can help you with this. Whether the sensitivity is due to exposed dentin or an underlying cause such as abscess or decay, corrective measures are needed. Contact us sooner rather than later so Dr. James McCreary can reduce the sensitivity, and provide you with some relief!

Shark Teeth

March 22nd, 2023

It seems like sharks are everywhere these days—on land, sea, and air(waves). A halftime show meme gone viral. A week of summer TV devoted to our favorite apex predators. And who doesn’t have “Baby Shark” playing in their heads all day once they’ve heard it? But are we jumping the shark to discuss this topic in a dental blog?

Not at all! Because today, we’re going to talk about shark teeth—just not the ones you might be expecting.

One of the expected sights when a shark opens its mouth are those rows and rows of shiny shark teeth. Sharks can grow from two to 15 rows of teeth at any one time (and some sharks have even more). This means sharp new teeth are always ready to replace any shark tooth which is lost, broken, or worn out.

An unexpected sight? When children point to their new adult tooth or teeth coming in—right behind their still-firmly rooted baby teeth! This double set of teeth is called “shark teeth,” and, while it certainly might come as a surprise, it’s not all that uncommon. But why do children develop shark teeth at all?

After all, baby, or primary, teeth have small roots, and are designed to come out easily when the adult teeth start arriving. When a permanent tooth starts to erupt, it pushes against the root of the baby tooth above it. This pressure gradually dissolves the root of the primary tooth, and with nothing to anchor it, it’s now loose, wiggly, and ready to fall out. That’s why baby teeth often look like they have no roots at all when they eventually wiggle free.

Sometimes, though, the roots of a primary tooth don’t break down, which means baby teeth stay right where they are. It also means that the permanent teeth have to erupt somewhere else—usually behind those stubborn little baby teeth.

Shark teeth can first appear around the ages of five to seven when the permanent front teeth start arriving, or several years later, when the adult molars begin to come in. Any extra teeth in one small jaw naturally cause concerns about crowding and misalignment, especially when those extra teeth are molars. Fortunately, treatment is generally uncomplicated.

If the baby tooth is loose, time (and wiggling) might take care of the problem. But if the primary tooth or teeth just won’t budge, even after several weeks, it’s a good idea to schedule a visit with Dr. James McCreary—especially if your child is experiencing pain or discomfort.

An extraction is often suggested when a baby tooth has overstayed its welcome. Because of its smaller root, extracting a primary tooth is usually a straightforward procedure. Dr. James McCreary can let you know all the details, and can discuss sedation options if they’re appropriate for your child.

Whether baby teeth are left to fall out on their own, or given some assistance, most often your child’s permanent tooth will start moving to its proper position as soon as the space is available.

Unlike sharks, we don’t have an endless supply of replacement teeth, so it’s understandable to worry when you see anything unexpected. If you want to know more about shark teeth, or if you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to call our Pensacola, FL office for expert advice.

Dental Sealants for Baby Teeth?

March 22nd, 2023

Perhaps you’ve heard your friends talking about dental sealants, and how well they prevent cavities. And as soon as your child’s permanent molars come in, you absolutely plan to make an appointment at our Pensacola, FL office for this treatment. But should you also be concerned with your child’s baby teeth? Could they benefit from sealants too?

Even though those beautiful baby teeth are going to be replaced with permanent teeth, they should still be protected. Primary teeth help with speech development, enable your child to develop proper chewing and eating habits, and serve as place holders so that permanent teeth can erupt in the correct place. That’s why you’ve been so careful to help your child brush and floss twice daily, and make regular visits to our office for exams and cleanings.

But some teeth are just harder to keep clean with regular brushing than others. Primary molars, just like permanent ones, have depressions and grooves on the chewing surfaces. These grooves collect bacteria and food particles that are hard for bristles to reach, providing a perfect opportunity for cavities to develop in those little molars.

Cavities are not the only problem which can affect primary teeth. Because baby teeth have thinner layers of protective enamel, a cavity can actually reach the pulp (the center of the tooth) more quickly, leading to pain and potential infection.

While baby teeth can be treated, with fillings, restorations, and even stainless steel crowns, preventing tooth decay is always our first, best choice. And dental sealants are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association as one of the most effective ways to prevent cavities in both baby teeth and adult teeth.

Dental sealants are safe and effective.  Sealants are thin coatings (usually a plastic resin or other dental material) that cover a molar’s grooves and depressions, making it impossible for bacteria and food particles to collect there. Applying them is a simple, pain-free process.

Each tooth will be examined first. If we find any signs of decay starting, we will gently treat that area before applying the sealant. After the tooth is cleaned and dried, an etching solution will be brushed on to the surface area being sealed. This etching roughens the surface so that the sealant will hold to the tooth more effectively. A thin coat of the sealant is then painted on and hardened under a curing light.

That’s all there is to it! Sealants typically last from three to five years, and some last even longer. Keep up your regular careful brushing and flossing, and we will monitor the condition of the sealants at each exam.

Talk to Dr. James McCreary about dental sealants. We’ll let you know if your child can benefit from the procedure even before those baby teeth give way to permanent ones. It’s never too early to prevent tooth decay!

Post Oral Surgery: Signs of Infection

March 15th, 2023

Oral surgery can be intimidating, especially if you show any signs of an infection afterwards. Dr. James McCreary and our team want you to be informed about what to watch for after you’ve undergone surgery.

Oral surgery procedures are intended to reduce pain and prevent infection. Sometimes complications occur after your surgery, and if infection ensues, it will require swift medical attention.

People undergo oral surgery for many reasons, such as:

  • Impacted or infected teeth
  • Tooth loss, jaw problems
  • Facial injuries or infections
  • Birth defects
  • Sleep apnea

Symptoms of Infection

  • Pain that won’t go away with medication
  • Steadily swelling of gums, jaw, or face
  • Redness or oozing of pus from the area
  • Fever that doesn't subside
  • Difficulty opening the mouth or jaw
  • Excessive bleeding for 24 hours
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing (emergency situation)

After the initial surgery, don’t become worried right away if you notice any of these symptoms. It’s normal to show some blood and swelling after surgery, but that should stop fairly soon with the help of gauze and medication.

You will most likely be numb from the procedure and we will advise you to avoid hard foods for the first day. Pain medication will be administered, and you should take it before you begin to notice pain. A cold compress can also help with swelling and initial pain.

You will be advised not to brush your teeth in the region where the surgery occurred. You may use a prescription mouth rinse, or you can gargle with warm salt water to reduce the swelling. If you follow these directions, you can speed the healing process for a quick recovery.

Don’t fret: a post-surgery infection is not a common development. It happens most often to people who have a compromised immune system or diabetes. Let Dr. James McCreary know beforehand if you have either of these and we may prescribe an antibiotic to help prevent the spread of infection in the areas of your mouth that get worked on.

If you think you may be experiencing complications after a surgery, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Pensacola, FL office for advice.  

Can Your Dentist Tell If You’re Left-Handed?

March 15th, 2023

Sherlock Holmes, that most famous of fictional detectives, observed clues, analyzed them, and used his powers of deduction to arrive at the solution to his cases.

Dr. James McCreary and our team are skilled in deduction as well! By examining your teeth and gums during your regular checkup, important clues can be discovered about your dental health—and perhaps your overall health as well. What might be deduced when you come in for an exam?

  • You Haven’t Been Flossing

Even with some last-minute catchup flossing, it’s not hard to tell if you’ve been regularly skipping the flossing portion of your daily dental care. Plaque that your toothbrush just can’t reach on its own will be noticeable between your teeth and around the gum line. Your gums might be inflamed, swollen or bleeding—early signs of the gum disease plaque causes when it’s not removed with careful flossing.

These symptoms could arise because you’re neglecting to floss at least once a day, or it could be that your flossing skills could simply use some fine-tuning. A refresher in flossing technique takes no time at all. Or, you might discuss whether a water flosser would be a good investment for healthier teeth and gums if, for any reason, you have difficulty flossing effectively.

  • You Haven’t Been Sleeping Well

Even if your roommate or partner hasn’t told you that your teeth and jaws have been grinding away while you were not-so-soundly asleep, your dentist might be able to. Shorter, flattened teeth are a common symptom of bruxism, or tooth grinding. Your exam might reveal cracked enamel or broken cusps caused by the force you’re placing on them at night. This condition can also lead to larger jaw muscles and jaw pain.

Since these symptoms are also caused by sleep apnea, it’s a very good idea to find out what’s causing this dental stress. Treatments are available to make your sleep safer for your teeth and jaws—and more restful and healthier for you!

  • You Should Talk to Your Doctor

Conditions that seem to have nothing to do with your oral health can cause dental symptoms, alerting your dentist to a medical condition which you might not be aware of. Pale gums or a swollen tongue could be symptoms of anemia. Erosion on the inside of the teeth can be caused by GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can lead to ulcers, loose teeth, and gum disease.

 If Dr. James McCreary and our team suggest that you make an appointment with your doctor to find the medical cause of your dental symptoms, it’s essential to follow up.

  • Are You Left-Handed?

So, getting back to our original question, can your dentist deduce that you’re left-handed?

Probably not! It’s been suggested that left-handed people brush their teeth more firmly on the left side, and right-handed people brush harder on the right. And it’s also been suggested that left-handers don’t brush the left side of the mouth as thoroughly, while right-handers neglect their dominant side.

But Dr. James McCreary can still tell you some important facts about your hand-brush coordination just by observing the state of your enamel. If you’re brushing too firmly, your tooth surfaces could show erosion and wear. A soft-bristled brush and a lighter hand will get your teeth just as clean without the abrasion.

If you’re having trouble reaching areas because of dexterity issues, Dr. James McCreary can point out the areas where plaque buildup reveals the spots you need to concentrate on. An electric toothbrush might be just the answer to making all the surfaces of your teeth equally accessible.

A dentist is an expert in observing, analyzing, and solving dental problems. When you keep to a regular schedule of exams and cleanings at our Pensacola, FL dental office, you’ll benefit from that expertise to discover oral health issues before they become more serious. That’s an easy and elegant solution to maintaining your dental health. In fact, it’s elementary!

Snack Attack

March 8th, 2023

Should a quick bite between meals make us feel guilty? Or worse, make our teeth suffer a greater risk of cavities? Let’s avoid both those possibilities! We have several tooth-healthy snacking strategies designed to help you keep your enamel cavity-free while preventing snacker’s remorse.

But first, a word or two about why we may find snacking unappetizing.

  • Please, Don’t Feed the Bacteria!

The bacteria in plaque feed on sugars and leave acidic waste products behind. These acids attack enamel, dissolving the calcium and phosphorus minerals that keep it strong. Weakened enamel leaves teeth vulnerable to decay. That’s why Dr. James McCreary and our Pensacola, FL team recommend avoiding a steady diet of sugary treats.

Even if you’re not reaching for a soda, or grabbing a candy bar, many snack foods are filled with added sugars. Check the nutritional labels before you indulge to avoid sugar surprises.

  • Off Balance?

Bacteria plus sugar equals more acidic conditions in the mouth. This change in the oral pH balance also reduces our natural defenses against cavity-causing acids.

A well-balanced oral environment depends on saliva to keep acids in check. Saliva washes away lingering food particles after meals, and it neutralizes acidic conditions in the mouth over the course of the day.

How does snacking interfere? Immediately after eating or drinking, acids in saliva increase. It takes about 20 minutes for saliva’s neutralizing process to begin. When we snack throughout the day, saliva doesn’t have a chance to reduce acids as long or as effectively.

  • Staying Power

Sticky and chewy snacks tend to stick to the tops of molars and between the teeth. This gives bacteria more fuel and more time to attack tooth enamel. It’s not just candies that are the culprits here. Chips, bread, pizza crusts, pastries—these simple carbs stick to teeth and break down easily into sugars.

But we promised some *positive* strategic snacking ideas. Here are some ways to make sure that snacking doesn’t put you at a much greater risk for cavities.

  • Be Choosy

Avoid processed treats that are high in added sugars. If you’re craving something sweet, fresh fruits provide sweetness with vitamins included.

Crispy fruits such as apples and Bosc pears, as well as vegetables like celery and carrots, provide gentle scrubbing action to help clean teeth between brushings.

Snacking on cheese helps neutralize acids, and other dairy products are high in calcium and phosphorus, helping rebuild the minerals that acids leach out of enamel.

Eat whole grain breads, pastas, and pastries. They offer more nutrients, and don’t break down into sugars as easily.

Finally, when it’s time to indulge in a sugar-rich treat, save it for a meal. There’s a better chance that other foods will balance the acids created by sugar, and you’ll be getting the most out of saliva’s neutralizing abilities. Speaking of which,

  • Stay Neutral

When you’re craving something flavorful without giving bacteria more fuel for acid production, consider sugar-free gum. Sugar-free gum saves you from adding sugar to your diet, and it increases saliva production as you chew. If we give you the all-clear, chewing a piece or two of gum during the day can help curb your sugar cravings and protect your enamel.

Thirsty? Drink water instead of sodas or energy drinks with your snacks. Water washes away food particles, cuts down on acidity, and provides fluoride to strengthen and protect teeth.

  • To Brush or Not to Brush?

It’s always a good idea to brush after eating. But since eating sugary or acidic foods can leave enamel vulnerable to toothbrush abrasion, many dentists recommend waiting 30 minutes after you snack before brushing. Ask Dr. James McCreary what’s best for your teeth.

If you can’t brush, rinse with water after eating or drinking.

If you wear braces or aligners, be sure to check with Dr. James McCreary about snacking, gum, best times to brush, and any other diet questions.

Talk to Dr. James McCreary about your snacking habits. Learning when and how to snack is as important as deciding what to snack on. Finding the perfect balance means you can enjoy a mid-day energy boost without guilt—and without risking tooth decay!

Taking Charge of Your Dental Health

March 8th, 2023

Now that you’re a teenager, you have a lot more responsibility and independence. Choosing high school classes and electives. Getting a driver’s license. Landing your first job. And those new responsibilities extend to your dental health as well.

  • Mouthguards

If you have a mouthguard for sports or athletic activities, wear it! Whether you have an over-the-counter device or a custom fabricated guard, it won’t do you any good hiding in your locker. A mouthguard cuts down on tooth and facial injuries caused by falls, physical contact, or other accidents that might happen in your active life. And if you wear braces, ask about a mouthguard designed to fit around them. These custom devices protect your braces and your mouth.

  • Gum Health

Part of adolescence is adapting to all the changes your body is going through. But an increased chance of gingivitis, perhaps caused by hormonal changes, is not something you want to adapt to. You might suspect you have gingivitis, or early gum disease, if your gums are swollen, red, bleeding, or easily irritated. Let us know about your concerns. With proper dental care (brushing, flossing, cutting down on sugars and carbs), your gums will be healthy again in no time.

  • Wisdom Teeth

Your teen years might be the time that your wisdom teeth make their appearance. We could discover them at one of your visits, or you may suddenly notice new teeth emerging behind your molars. If there’s room for your wisdom teeth and they are erupting (coming in) without problems, you might be good to go. But if there’s no room, or if you have pain or infection, or if they are causing damage to the teeth next to them, extraction might be necessary. Talk to us about all your options.

  • Tobacco

You’re making decisions now that will affect the rest of your life. Don’t start using tobacco products, or if you’ve started, stop before it becomes even more addicting. Quitting tobacco is one of the best decisions you will make for your health—and this includes your dental health. Studies have shown that smokers and other tobacco users suffer much higher rates of oral cancer, serious gum disease, and early tooth loss. Set yourself up for decades of better health!

Finally, remember that sticking with your dental routine—two minutes of brushing morning and night and thorough flossing each day—will keep your gums and teeth healthy throughout your teen years. And, if you have any questions about your dental health in general, or a specific dental concern, give our Pensacola, FL office a call! We’re here to work with you for a lifetime of beautiful smiles.

Been a While? Come See Us!

March 1st, 2023

Guilt is a powerful feeling. It can keep you from doing many things, including going to the dentist. The good news is that McCreary Family Dentistry is a judgement-free zone, and coming back (even after an extended period of being MIA) can be easier than you think. Our goal is to make you as comfortable as possible during your first appointment back with us — so here’s a little overview of what you can expect.

We’ll start with a series of dental X-rays, which are usually taken every three to five years. The set of X-rays will depend on your individual needs and it will help us get a more thorough look at what’s going on with your dental structure and keep an eye out for any prominent dental issues.

Next up will be your hygiene appointment. That appointment will consist of a review of your medical history and be followed by a thorough cleaning of your teeth. This is the perfect time to share concerns you may have about your oral health and ask us questions.

You’ll finish up with a comprehensive exam, which will review everything you covered with the hygienist. Dr. James McCreary will go over your medical history with you and address any dental concerns that might remain. If any special treatment is needed for such issues as cavities or broken fillings, we will discuss that with you as well.

Once all that is done, you’ll head over to the front desk to talk about payment and scheduling your next appointment. And that’s it! Your first visit back is an important step toward continuing to look out for your dental health.

Just because you slacked for a little while or life got in the way, this doesn’t mean things have to stay that way! We’re happy to help you get you back on track, so schedule an appointment at our Pensacola, FL office today!

Considerations When Picking the Right Mouthwash

March 1st, 2023

A solid oral health routine begins with daily brushing, flossing, and rinsing. Without a consistent oral health regimen, you may begin to experience tooth decay and bacterial infections. Few patients ask Dr. James McCreary about different mouthwash options, so we’ve put together a list of the conditions that mouthwashes can treat. This should help you decide which oral rinse would be best for you.

Gum Health

Antiseptic mouthwashes reduce large amounts of bacteria on and near the gum line and generally help to decrease your chances of developing gingivitis. The key ingredients of antiseptic mouthwashes are antibacterial and antimicrobial items. Antiseptic mouthwash is a preferable option if you are concerned about the general gum health of your mouth.

Fluoride

Fluoride is a great tool for preventive tooth decay treatment. It prevents tooth decay and is great for oral health in general because it kills germs that can live in your mouth. Fluoride also builds stronger teeth. If you’re a bottled water drinker, Dr. James McCreary may recommend that you purchase a simple fluoride rinse to use after brushing.

Bad Breath

Fluoride mouthwash can be used to fight any bad breath issues you may be facing. It’s designed to combat any bacteria that might be building up in your mouth. Most mouthwashes will help eliminate bad breath, but some are specifically designed to address this difficult problem. If you feel as though this might be turning into a chronic problem, please contact Dr. James McCreary to discuss other options that would be effective for treating your symptoms.

American Dental Association (ADA Approval)

The ADA reviews all mouth rinses for safety measures and to prove effectiveness. Any mouthwash approved by the ADA has met strict guidelines according to whether the manufacturer’s claims are supported with scientific evidence. If you’re looking for a quality mouthwash, look for one that has the ADA seal of approval to ensure you have a great rinse for your mouth.

Considerations

When you’re trying to decide which mouthwash to pick, contact our Pensacola, FL or ask Dr. James McCreary during your next appointment. If you experience a burning sensation in the soft tissues of your mouth, be sure to discontinue use immediately. Avoid letting children under age six use a mouth rinse, and be sure to keep all mouthwashes out of the reach of children, because they contain alcohol and other substances that could be harmful.

Whitening Before Veneers—A Bright Idea?

February 22nd, 2023

It’s time. You’ve decided. You’re going to get veneers. Whether it’s to repair a cracked or chipped tooth, to cover discoloration brought on by a root canal or medical condition, to fill in gaps between teeth, or for any other cosmetic reason, veneers can give you back your natural, confident smile.

And now you have just one more decision to make: should you whiten your teeth beforehand?

Many dental professionals find that, for most of us, the best results occur with professional whitening before veneer placement. Why?

  • Your veneers will be carefully matched to the teeth surrounding them.

You don’t want your veneers to look anything but natural, and so Dr. James McCreary will make sure that their color is indistinguishable from your other teeth. But there is one important difference between tooth enamel and veneers:

  • Teeth are porous.

As hard as it is, enamel is still porous. And the fact that teeth are porous means that teeth can discolor over time. Coffee, tea, red wine, sodas, darkly hued fruits, and fruit juices—teeth readily absorb pigments from foods. And smoking?  Not only one of the worst habits for your health, it’s one of the major causes of tooth discoloration. This is the downside of having porous enamel.

The upside? The fact that enamel is porous also means that you can brighten your smile with a whitening procedure.

  • Veneers aren’t as porous.

Veneers are generally made of porcelain or a composite resin, with some key differences between them.

Porcelain has a translucent quality that looks like natural enamel, and it is very durable. Porcelain veneers are recommended when teeth have significant chips or gaps. They are also especially stain-resistant.

Composite veneers aren’t as expensive, and usually don’t need as much tooth structure removed to bond them to the tooth. They might not last as long as porcelain, and they aren’t quite as resistant to staining.

When you visit our Pensacola, FL office, we can discuss the pros and cons to find the perfect veneers for your needs. Just remember,

  • Once created, veneers can’t change color.

Veneer color should be considered permanent. If your porcelain veneers seem to have dimmed a bit, often a gentle professional polishing will bring them back to their original shine. Composite veneers, as well, can respond to polishing and cleaning. This is the upside of permanent veneer color.

The downside? Veneers can’t be whitened to match your newly whitened tooth enamel. If you decide to whiten your teeth at a later date, your veneers might appear darker than your surrounding teeth. If you want to change veneer color, you will need to replace your veneers. So . . .

Now that you’ve decided to transform your smile with veneers, take a little extra time to talk to your dentist. Find out if whitening makes sense for you for a perfect, uniform match between your other teeth and your veneers.  And then be ready to enjoy your matchless smile!

Healthy Diet, Healthier Gums?

February 22nd, 2023

Since gum disease is one of the most common adult diseases, it’s no wonder Dr. James McCreary and our team stress the importance of prevention. Effective brushing and flossing, regular dental appointments for exams and cleanings, and a prompt visit to our Pensacola, FL dental office if you notice symptoms of gingivitis (early gum disease) are all important steps to prevent more serious periodontal disease from developing.

One more step you can add to keep your gums their healthiest? Add some gum-healthy foods to your shopping cart! To see how your diet can help prevent gum disease, let’s look at what can cause gum disease.

When plaque builds up between teeth and gums, the bacteria found in plaque cause our gum tissue to become inflamed, swollen, and painful. Left untreated, the gums pull away from the teeth, leaving pockets where bacteria collect and can cause infection.

Prolonged inflammation can lead to the destruction of gum tissue and the connective tissues which anchor our teeth to the alveolar bone in the jaw. Bone loss and even tooth loss can result from untreated gum disease.

Fortunately for us, there are foods that fight inflammation, help with healing, and strengthen and support gum tissue before problems develop. Let’s take a look at some of the valuable gum-healthy nutrients you can add to your diet with some tasty additions to your shopping list:

  • Vitamin A

This vitamin is essential for the health and healing of mucous membranes, including both our gums and the soft membranes in our mouths. Vitamin A is found in animal products such as dairy foods, meat, and liver, or formed in the body from beta-carotenes, found in plant foods such as carrots, peppers, pumpkin, squash, and sweet potatoes.

  • Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the so-called “essential nutrients.” These are nutrients that are necessary for our bodies to function properly, and which can only be supplied in our diets. Vitamin C is needed to help our bodies produce collagen, the substance that provides support and structure to our tissues. It also helps us repair tissue, and is a powerful antioxidant. One of the obvious signs that your diet doesn’t contain enough vitamin C is inflamed and bleeding gums.

When we think vitamin C, we instantly picture citrus fruits. Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and all their cousins are a wonderful source of vitamin C. Looking for a little more variety? You’re in luck! Fruit fans can load up on strawberries, kiwi fruit, mangos, and papayas. Love your veggies? Red peppers, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli contain more vitamin C per serving than a medium orange.

  • Vitamin D

Vitamin D, of course, is essential for dental health because it helps us absorb the calcium that keep teeth (and bones) strong. And there’s more! It helps the body fight infection and reduce inflammation, and studies have suggested a link between vitamin D and better gum health.

Sunlight exposure leads our bodies to produce vitamin D naturally, but it is available in foods as well. Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and herring, are a rich source of the vitamin, as are cod liver oil and egg yolks. It’s also available in foods fortified with vitamin D, such as cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, and even many cereals. And while you’re getting the benefit of vitamin D from dairy, you’re also enjoying the proteins they contain, one of which helps neutralize acids in the mouth that can irritate gums. Bonus!

  • Iron

Iron deficiency can lead to a common form of anemia, where your body isn’t creating enough red blood cells to deliver the oxygen your tissues need. (In fact, one of the most noticeable symptoms of anemia is pale gums.) This condition can cause a number of problems, including an immune system that doesn’t work as well as it should. A strong immune system helps us fight infection, including gum disease and other oral infections.

A diet rich in iron can help prevent anemia. We absorb the most iron from foods such as meat, eggs, and fish, but iron is also present in beans, lentils, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts, and prunes if you’re looking for flavorful vegetarian options.

  • Omega-3s

Research has shown a possible relationship between getting the recommended dietary amounts of omega-3s and a lower occurrence of periodontitis. In other studies, omega-3s have shown promise in reducing the periodontal inflammation that can lead to severe gum disease.

Our bodies can’t produce omega-3 fatty acids on their own, but fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, herring, and sardines, a variety of high-fat seeds and nuts, and plant oils contain several different types of omega-3 fatty acids. Some foods are fortified with omega-3s, or your doctor might recommend fish oil (and algae oil for vegetarians) as a supplement.

Speaking of supplements, why not just add vitamin, mineral, and other nutritional supplements to our daily diet? Believe it or not, there can actually be too much of a good thing. Body chemistry requires balance, so talk to your doctor about whether or not supplements are necessary in your particular diet, and just what kinds and how much to take.

Whew! That’s a lot to think about for one shopping cart, but that’s just a small portion of the many foods—and the many vitamins and minerals—you can add to your menu to support oral health in a tasty, effective, and positive way.

After all, when we think about the “do’s and don’ts” of a dental-healthy diet, it’s all too often a collection of “don’ts.” Don’t eat a lot of sugar. Avoid acidic foods and beverages. Cut down on refined carbs. And all of those suggestions are important, because the early stages of gingivitis are often easy to miss.

But let’s not forget the things we can actually do to be proactive with our gum health. Besides good dental hygiene and regular checkups at our Pensacola, FL office, eating a well-balanced diet helps keep your gums their healthiest—and while we can do a lot to treat gum disease, the very best treatment of all is prevention!  

Anemia and Your Oral Health

February 15th, 2023

One of the most common clues that you might have anemia is found in your smile. If you’ve noticed that your gums are suddenly paler than they used to be, it could be a sign that you’re anemic. What does this mean for your general health—and your oral health?

There are several types of anemia, which have can be caused by different medical conditions and which can cause different symptoms. The most common form of anemia, and one of the most easily treated, is iron-deficiency anemia.

Iron is essential to our health. Why? It’s all about the red blood cells. First, some biology.

Every cell in your body needs energy to live and to function. Cells get this energy from the foods we eat, which are broken down into a simple sugar called glucose. Glucose molecules are transported by our blood cells to reach all parts of the body. But that’s only the first step.

Energy is released into the cells when the chemical bonds holding glucose molecules together are broken. And this requires oxygen. Once inside our cells, glucose and oxygen react, breaking the chemical bonds of the glucose molecules, reconfiguring their atoms to create carbon dioxide and water byproducts—and releasing energy into a form your cells can use.

So, how do we move this oxygen from our lungs to our cells to start the process? That would be our red blood cells again. But this process can’t happen without adequate iron. More biology!

Red blood cells contain a protein called hemoglobin, and hemoglobin contains iron. In fact, well over half of the iron in our body is found in our red bloods cells. And here’s the key to iron’s importance: iron attracts oxygen molecules.

Hemoglobin picks up oxygen in our lungs and delivers it throughout the body, where it becomes glucose’s essential partner in fueling our cells. Without enough iron, your body won’t be able to create the red blood cells it needs so that all of your cells, tissues, and organs can get the oxygen they need to function efficiently.

When might you suspect that you’re anemic? Your gums, the lining of the mouth, the inside of your lower eyelids, and your skin can take on a paler hue—the classic sign of anemia. But other symptoms which you might not necessarily associate with anemia are also common, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Heart palpitations
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Pica (the desire to eat non-food items)

And because anemia affects the whole body, your oral health isn’t immune. It’s not just a matter of pale gums. Iron deficiencies can cause:

  • Sores and ulcers in the mouth
  • Cracks on the sides of the mouth
  • Pain, redness, and/or swelling of the tongue
  • Loss of papillae (those little bumps on your tongue which hold your taste buds)
  • Tooth damage caused by pica
  • Dry mouth, which increases your risk for cavities, gum disease, oral infections, and bad breath

Iron-deficiency anemia can have several causes, among them insufficient iron in the diet, medical conditions which cause bleeding (such as ulcers), heavy menstruation, pregnancy, or growth spurts in children and teenagers. Treatment will depend on the cause of your anemia. It might be as simple as a change in diet or an iron supplement, or it might require further treatment options. Do consult with Dr. James McCreary before taking iron supplements, as too much iron causes iron toxicity, which can be very dangerous.

If Dr. James McCreary and our team suggest that you might be anemic, or if you notice changes you think might be caused by anemia, see your physician for a simple blood test. Besides iron-deficiency anemia, there are other forms of anemia and other diseases which can mimic these symptoms, so it’s important to get a doctor’s diagnosis. If you have been diagnosed with anemia, let our Pensacola, FL dental team know.

One last “if”: If you do have iron-deficiency anemia, don’t delay treatment. The sooner your red bloods cells are back at their peak, the sooner you—and your gums—will be back in the pink!

Does flossing hurt your gums?

February 15th, 2023

Ideally, it should never hurt when you floss your teeth. But if you haven’t flossed in a long while or don’t do it regularly, you may experience sore or bleeding gums. You should floss every day to avoid pain and maintain the best oral hygiene. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to make flossing a little more pleasant.

Be Gentle

If your gums are sensitive, take your time and be gentle while flossing. Rough flossing can lead to more irritation and soreness. Also, daily flossing should help your gums become acclimated to the practice, and as a result, irritation should decrease over time.

Use an Alternative Method

If you still feel discomfort after being gentle, an alternative method of flossing may work better for you. A water floss machine or Waterpik can dislodge food particles and plaque without irritating your gums. Also, some brands of floss have a soft coating that make them less harsh and harmful to your gums.

Many people tend to forget or skip flossing, but it is one of the most important steps your dental hygiene routine and shouldn’t be neglected. If you are consistent about flossing, your gums should become used to it and won’t be so irritated in time.

For more flossing tips, schedule an appointment at our Pensacola, FL office and ask Dr. James McCreary or a member of our team!

Detergent Foods: Clean your teeth while you eat!

February 8th, 2023

Did you know that there are certain foods you can eat which help to clean your teeth? We call them "detergent foods." In dentistry we look at the impact of food in three ways: the kind of food, how often it is eaten, and when it is eaten. Detergent foods should be the last piece of food you consume during a meal for best results. Think of them as the closest you can get to brushing your teeth.

A healthy diet is important for oral health as well as overall health, but here are some particular foods that can help clean your teeth and mouth:

  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Celery sticks
  • Popcorn
  • Cucumbers
  • Pears
  • Lettuce
  • Cheese

As you can see, detergent foods are usually foods that are firm and crisp. They act like scrubbers on and around your teeth and gums and bring your mouth's pH back to 7.0, which is optimal.

Which foods are the worst for your teeth?

Cookies, cakes, breads, chips, crackers, soft drinks, dried fruit, and candies (what many people’s diets are full of) provide carbohydrates (sugar) to the bacteria in your mouth causing an acidic environment and increasing the chance of cavities and decay. These foods are sticky and don't rinse easily from your mouth. Avoid letting these foods sit on your teeth after eating them.

It also depends on how often you consume these foods throughout the day. For example, if you drink soft drinks, it's best to have it all in one sitting instead of sipping it all throughout the day. Doing so causes the perfect environment in your mouth for bacteria to flourish and your saliva never gets the chance to neutralize its pH.

This is where detergent foods can come into play. When you're about to finish your meal, have an apple, celery stick, or carrot. It will act like a "natural toothbrush." Also, try to make these detergent foods the basis for snacks you have throughout the day.

Always remember, these foods are not a replacement for brushing and flossing. You still need good dental hygiene regardless of what you're eating! For more tips and tricks for ideal oral health, ask Dr. James McCreary the next time you visit our Pensacola, FL office!

What are the five things I should do in between visits?

February 8th, 2023

When it comes to keeping your smile looking its best, good oral hygiene is a must! Good oral health habits should start early and continue throughout your lifetime. Here, Dr. James McCreary and our team at McCreary Family Dentistry suggest five habits worth adopting that will help keep your teeth healthy:

  • Brush and floss regularly. Brush gently at least twice a day, paying special attention to the gum line to rid your mouth of food and bacteria that may lurk in between your teeth. Floss at least once a day. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if the bristles are frayed.
  • Make regular visits to see Dr. James McCreary. Regular checkups (twice yearly) will help diagnose any dental problems early on when they can be more easily treated.
  • Stop smoking. Did you know smokers are four times as likely as nonsmokers to develop periodontal (gum) disease? Tobacco, whether in the form of cigarettes, pipes, cigars, or chewable tobacco, increases oral and throat cancer risks, and raises the risk for candidiasis, an oral fungal infection. Smokeless tobacco contains sugar, which furthers your risk for cavities.
  • Limit your alcohol intake. Heavy drinking dramatically increases the risk of developing mouth and throat cancers.
  • Eat healthy. Avoid snacking on foods that contain high levels of sugar or starch. We encourage you to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are known to help stimulate the flow of saliva to re-mineralize tooth surfaces and neutralize cavity-causing bacteria.

To learn more about the habits you should practice in between your visits to McCreary Family Dentistry, or to schedule an appointment, please give us a call today!

Lip Service

February 1st, 2023

When you think of Dr. James McCreary, you naturally think of your teeth. But your dental professional is concerned with more than the teeth, as important as they are. All aspects of your oral health—gums, bite, tongue, mouth—contribute to your well-being. So many elements go into creating your beautiful smile, and your lips? They’re front and center.

  • SPF—BFF

You already know that sunscreen is your best friend when it comes to protecting your skin. But don’t forget your lips when you’re slathering on the sunscreen! Delicate lip tissue is also susceptible to the sun’s damaging UV rays. Use a lip balm or lipstick with an appropriate SPF (Sun Protection Factor) for your skin type, and apply it liberally. Don’t forget to reapply every hour or two, after eating and drinking, and after going in the water. And if you’re protecting your children from the sun’s rays, check with your doctor about using sunscreen on young lips.

  • Healthy Hydrating

Dry, chapped lips are no one’s go-to look. And while moisturizers and balms can help dry lips recover, there’s a simple preventative measure you can take to avoid or reduce dryness.  You know how important water is for our bodies, and it’s essential for hydrating our lips as well. Make sure you drink the recommended amount of water each day for lips (and skin!) that are healthy and hydrated.

Not so healthy liquids? Alcohol. Alcohol is dehydrating, which undoes the benefits of that water you’ve been drinking. More than that, excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to oral cancer, especially when coupled with tobacco use.

  • Toss the Tobacco

All tobacco users have an increased risk for oral cancer. Pipe and cigar smokers are particularly at risk for lip cancers, and smokeless tobacco users have a greater risk of cancers on the inner lip surface. Need another reason to quit? Smoking leads to an increase in lip lines (wrinkles) and a decrease in lip volume.

  • Oral Exams

When you come to our Pensacola, FL office for regular checkups, you can also get regular screenings for oral cancer and other oral conditions. While irregularities are often benign, lip cancer is one of the most common forms of oral cancer, and detecting cancerous or precancerous lesions as early as possible is important for treatment. If you have a sore or lump that doesn’t go away, a red or white patch of skin, bleeding or pain, or any other symptom that concerns you, talk to Dr. James McCreary.

Protect yourself from the sun, hydrate, use alcohol in moderation, give up tobacco if you are using it, and see your dentist regularly for examinations. These simple practices are beneficial not only for your expressive lips, but for your overall health and well-being. And feel free to spread the word—healthy habits and preventative care should be on everyone’s lips!

Caring for Your Night Guard

February 1st, 2023

You might have experienced painful morning headaches. Or have a partner or housemate who begged you to please keep those grinding noises down at night. Or perhaps you were unhappily surprised to find that your teeth had mysteriously become worn, loose, or cracked.

So you made an appointment at our Pensacola, FL office. And you learned that you needed a night guard designed to protect your teeth from the damage done by night time bruxism—that grinding and clenching which is hard on enamel, bad for teeth, and painful for jaws. Good work!

Your night guard prevents your teeth from making contact, saving teeth and enamel from injury. It distributes the pressure placed on your teeth, muscles, and bones when your jaws clench through the night. Bonus: it can reduce nocturnal noises caused by grinding.

Guards are available over-the-counter in general sizes, or a custom night guard can be created for you by Dr. James McCreary. Custom guards are uniquely fitted to your teeth and jaw, and last longer than over-the-counter models. Whichever kind of appliance you choose, daily care is a must for a long and healthy partnership.

To make sure you get the best and longest use from your night guard, there are some easy steps to keep it in top shape when it’s off-duty.

  • Keep It Clean

Plaque and bacteria can build up on your night guard just as they can on your tooth enamel. Rinse your guard in the morning and brush it gently. Ask Dr. James McCreary about using toothpaste, because toothpastes, especially abrasive toothpastes, can scratch your appliance. And don’t forget to clean your case!

Every week, or as directed, your night guard will benefit from a more serious cleaning. Follow the instructions for your appliance, whether it’s using cleaning tablets, a soaking solution, or another recommended cleanser. Your dentist can suggest how, how long, and how often to treat your night guard to a deep cleaning, because using the wrong products or cleaning methods can damage it.

  • Keep It Dry

Putting a damp night guard into a closed case, even a ventilated one, provides an ideal setting for bacteria growth. Before you put your guard away, give it time to air-dry on a clean surface.

  • Keep It Safe

Once your guard is clean and dry, make sure it keeps its shape and stays intact by keeping it in its clean, dry case when you’re not using it. Night guards and their cases are no fans of sun, extreme heat, very hot water, or (gulp!) dishwashers. A misshapen, melted, or broken night guard should not be used. If your night guard is damaged, it’s time to call us.

Spending just a moment or two each day caring for your night guard will result in a long-lasting appliance and many hours of healthy and comfortable sleep. Your night guard is protecting you. Be sure to return the favor for a long and healthy dental partnership.

Can sealants benefit you?

January 25th, 2023

Molars are difficult to reach when brushing your teeth because they’re full of crevices, caves, and pits that can provide the perfect environment for decay. Sealants are the perfect fix for this.

Sealants are a plastic-like protective solution that bond to the edge of the tooth. The treatment protects you against cavities and could save you from complicated dental issues in the future.

The process for placing sealants is painless and quick. First, Dr. James McCreary will clean the tooth with a baking soda spray. An acid etch is applied in order to “roughen up” the surface of the tooth and re-mineralize the area. The area is dried with an alcohol-based liquid and the sealant is placed on the grooves of the tooth. A special light then hardens the liquid into a plastic-like material.

Although sealants can last several years, they need to be examined semi-annually to check for breakage. Any cracks or breaks in your sealant can put your tooth at high risk for decay, and repair of sealants is a quick and painless task.

Children often receive sealants, but people of all ages can benefit from them. Adults who have especially deep canyons on their teeth are good candidates for sealants.

An investment in dental sealants can prevent tooth decay and complicated dental problems later on. It’s a no brainer! Call our Pensacola, FL office today to speak with us about getting sealants on your teeth.

Symptoms That Could Mean You Need a Root Canal

January 25th, 2023

Every tooth packs a lot of layers in a very small area. The outer, visible part of our tooth, the crown, is covered in protective enamel, and the lower root area is protected by a similar substance called cementum. Inside these very hard layers is dentin, a hard but more porous tissue which surrounds the pulp. In this central pulp chamber, we have the blood vessels which nourish the tooth and the nerves which send our bodies signals from the tooth. And if one of those signals is persistent tooth pain, you may need a procedure called a root canal.

There are a number of reasons that a tooth may cause you pain, including:

  • Fracture—a cracked or broken tooth can allow bacteria to enter the pulp chamber and cause inflammation and infection
  • Cavity—an untreated cavity can leave an opening where bacteria can reach the pulp of the tooth, and again lead to infection
  • Gum Disease—bacteria can attack from the root area of the tooth if gum disease has become serious
  • Injury—an accident or injury to a tooth can damage the nerve or the blood supply which nourishes the pulp
  • Abscess—if infection is left untreated, an abscess may form under the root

While a damaged tooth may sometimes be symptom-free, usually there are signs that the pulp has been injured or infected. What symptoms should lead you to give Dr. James McCreary a call?

  • Persistent pain in the tooth
  • Long-lasting sensitivity to heat or cold
  • Gum tissue adjacent to the tooth that is sore, red or swollen
  • A cracked, broke, darkened or discolored tooth
  • A bump on your gums that persists or keeps recurring—this might indicate an abscess

A root canal is performed by a trained dentist or endodontist. After an anesthetic is used to numb the area, the damaged tissue, including pulp, blood vessels and nerves, is removed from the pulp chamber and each root. The inside of the tooth is then cleaned and shaped, and filled and sealed with a temporary filling. The tooth is filled again permanently, usually on a second visit, and might require a crown in order to protect it from further damage.

The most painful part of a root canal is far more often the time spent suffering before the procedure than the procedure itself. Delaying action when a root canal is necessary can lead to infection, abscess, and even tooth loss. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, please give our Pensacola, FL office a call!

 

Electric Toothbrushes vs. Regular Toothbrushes

January 18th, 2023

Convertible or sedan? Downtown or suburbs? Electric or manual toothbrush? As life decisions go, it’s certainly not choosing your next car, or deciding where you want to live. But, even when you are selecting a toothbrush, it helps to make a list of the pros and cons of the contenders before you make that final selection.

  • Efficiency

The most important factor in choosing a toothbrush is finding out which model works best to eliminate bacteria and plaque. And studies have shown that, used properly, both electric and manual toothbrushes do a great job of removing plaque. Some electric models can reach the backs of teeth and the gumline more easily, some manual head designs work better for your individual mouth and teeth, so your particular needs should dictate which style of toothbrush you use. Talk to us about the best methods to brush with your preferred toothbrush, and we’ll let you know if one type of toothbrush or the other might work better for you.

  • Health Considerations

Brushing too energetically can actually harm teeth and gums, causing sensitivity and damage to the enamel and gum tissue. An electric toothbrush should provide a continuous brushing motion without needing any pressure from the brusher. This might be the model for you if you have a too-vigorous approach to brushing, or sensitive teeth and gums.

An electric toothbrush can also be more efficient for older and younger brushers, those with limited mobility, and those with health conditions or injuries that make brushing with a regular toothbrush more difficult.

  • Cost

An electric toothbrush is not a one-time investment. You should change the removable head as often as you change your manual toothbrush (every three to four months, please). But this cost is offset if an electric toothbrush is more efficient in removing your plaque, easier to use, or even if you just prefer it to manual brushing. If you find that you brush better and more often with an electric toothbrush, the added expense is well worth it.

Whichever brush you decide on, the most important part of the brush is the person holding it! A regular appointment with your toothbrush for two minutes of thorough brushing in the morning and two in the evening, daily flossing, and regular visits to our office for checkups and cleanings will keep your teeth healthy and strong no matter which toothbrush you choose.

Questions about your toothbrush choices? Don’t hesitate to ask Dr. James McCreary at our Pensacola, FL office.

Should I fix my chipped tooth?

January 18th, 2023

It was a small fall! A miniscule piece of popcorn! A minor foul on the basketball court! But now there’s a chip in your otherwise perfect smile. Is a chipped tooth worth calling Dr. James McCreary?

Any time your tooth is injured is time to call our Pensacola, FL office. Even a small chip can affect your tooth structure and should be evaluated. We will also want to check your tooth and gums to make sure there is no underlying injury that could be more serious, and to treat your tooth as soon as possible so that no further damage occurs.

A very small chip might need nothing more than smoothing and polishing to remove sharp edges. A small chip in your enamel can be repaired with dental bonding, where a composite like those used to fill cavities will be shaped to cover and fill the chip. This composite will be matched to your tooth color for a seamless repair. A porcelain veneer is also an option for you. These procedures will restore the look of your tooth and protect it as well, because even a small chip can lead to tooth sensitivity or further damage in the future.

A larger chip, such as a fractured cusp, might require a crown. But a large chip might also mean that the inside of the tooth has been compromised. If the dentin or pulp are affected, pain, infection, and even tooth loss could result. A root canal might be necessary to preserve the tooth, so prompt treatment is necessary.

Regardless of the size of the chip, call our Pensacola, FL office as soon as possible. We can give you tips for pain management, if needed, until you see us. If you can save the chip, bring it with you when you visit in case there is the possibility of bonding it to the injured tooth.  But even without that missing piece, there are ways to restore the look of your original tooth. Remember, repairing a chipped tooth is not just cosmetic. We want to keep your smile healthy, as well as beautiful!

Camping Oral Health Tips

January 11th, 2023

If your idea of camping is a quiet walk through the woods before returning to your rustic hotel, your regular brushing habits will be perfect for your trip. But if you are hiking into the mountains with your tent, backpack, and camp food, Dr. James McCreary and our team have some suggestions to adapt your dental routine to the great outdoors.

Water

If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t brush with it! Use bottled water if you have brought it, or make sure the local water is safe by using a testing kit. Boiling, filters and purification tablets are all ways to make sure the water tests clean and safe.

Toothpaste

You aren’t the only one in the woods who finds your toothpaste tasty. Bears, raccoons, and other animals are attracted to the scent of your toothpaste, so keep it safe with the same kind of tightly sealed, odor-proof container that you keep your food in. And if you want to discourage unwanted visitors, don’t spit your toothpaste out at your campground! It’s better to go some distance from your site and bury any paste, and best of all to spit used toothpaste into a container that can be tightly closed and removed from the campsite when you head for home. This practice protects you and the environment as well, since toothpaste can be harmful to small animals and plants.

Toothbrush

While there are disposable and camping toothbrushes available, a regular toothbrush will work as well. Normally, air-drying is the healthiest option for drying your toothbrush, but camping is an exception. Just as animals are attracted to toothpaste, they are also attracted to your toothpaste-scented toothbrush. Keep it in a sealed container that is odor-proof.

Floss

There are websites devoted to the many ingenious ways to use dental floss while camping, but we recommend the original use. Don’t forget to floss regularly, keep it in a sealed container, and do be sure to take used floss out of the area with you.

Even though you are roughing it, stick with your home routine as much as possible. If you are unable to brush as usual, rinse your mouth well with clean water and brush when you can. Have a great trip, and just one more thought—maybe go easy on the s’mores. Let us know all about your trip during your next visit to our Pensacola, FL office!

Wrong Time/Wrong Place?

January 11th, 2023

In a perfectly predictable world, your child’s teeth would come in—and fall out—right on schedule, right in place. But life isn’t perfectly predictable, and teeth can erupt—or fail to erupt—in their own time and in unexpected places. Let’s look at a few of the ways your child’s teething development can differ from “typical” schedules.

  • Leaving So Soon?

Sometimes a baby tooth is lost early because of injury or decay. And baby teeth are important for more than creating an adorable smile. These little teeth help your child with eating, speech, and jaw development. And they serve another purpose as well—they are essential place holders for your child’s adult teeth.

When a baby tooth is lost too early, the neighboring teeth can drift into the open space. Adult teeth waiting to arrive will tend to erupt in any space left available, whether it’s the right space or not. This can lead to bite problems and misaligned and/or crooked teeth. Depending on your child’s age, and which and how many teeth are affected, your dentist might recommend a space maintainer.

Fixed space maintainers are attached to the lost tooth’s neighboring teeth to keep them in place. Removeable space maintainers resemble retainers, and are usually recommended for older children. Both fixed and removable appliances serve to keep the baby teeth spaced apart just as they should be, preventing neighboring teeth from shifting to fill the empty spot, and making sure there’s enough room for the adult tooth to arrive right on schedule and right where it belongs.

  • Hangers-On

Losing baby teeth too early isn’t the only punctuality problem that can arise with little teeth—sometimes baby teeth don’t seem to realize when they’ve worn out their welcome.

The roots of baby teeth are much smaller than those of adult teeth. When a permanent tooth starts to erupt, it pushes against the root of the baby tooth above it. This pressure breaks down the root of the primary tooth, leaving the tooth loose and just waiting to fall out.

Sometimes primary roots don’t dissolve, though, which means the permanent teeth will erupt beside those lingering baby teeth. The result is a double row of teeth. Because all these teeth in one small jaw can cause crowding and misalignment, it’s a good idea to schedule a visit with Dr. James McCreary when you see two sets of teeth where only one is welcome! This is especially true for older children, when the molars start erupting.

  • No-Shows

When a tooth fails to erupt at all, it’s called an embedded tooth. When a tooth is blocked from erupting, it’s called an impacted tooth. Factors like the jaw size, tooth size, genetics, trauma, and medical conditions can affect eruption.

There’s no perfect eruption schedule for every child. Even typical eruption charts provide a range of several months to several years during which baby teeth arrive, baby teeth are lost, and adult teeth appear.  But any time you have any concerns about your child’s tooth development, talk to Dr. James McCreary to see whether the situation will correct itself in time or whether treatment is recommended.

If the unpredictable occurs in your child’s teething schedule, working proactively with our Pensacola, FL  dental team is the best way to create a lifetime of predictably happy, healthy smiles.

The Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings

January 4th, 2023

In our continuing efforts to provide the most advanced technology and highest quality care available to our patients at McCreary Family Dentistry, we proudly screen our patients for oral cancer. The fact is, every hour of every day in North America, someone dies of oral cancer, which is the sixth most common diagnosed form of the disease. The five-year survival rate is only 50 percent, and oral cancer is one of the few cancers whose survival rate has not improved.

Oral cancer can occur on the lips, gums, tongue, inside lining of the cheeks, roof of the mouth, and the floor of the mouth. Symptoms of oral cancer may include a sore in the throat or mouth that bleeds easily and does not heal, a red or white patch that persists, a lump or thickening, ear pain, a neck mass, or coughing up blood. Difficulties in chewing, swallowing, or moving the tongue or jaws are often late symptoms. While there is no way to predict exactly which individuals will get oral cancer, there are some potential causes we want you to know about. In some cases, it is possible to minimize these risk factors.

  • Age (most patients diagnosed with oral cancer are over the age of 40)
  • Tobacco use, either from cigarettes or smokeless chewing tobacco
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Persistent viral infections, such as HPV16
  • A diet lacking or low in fruits and vegetables

Finding out you have oral cancer can be devastating news. If you are concerned that you might be at risk for developing oral cancer, talk to us about screenings and other things you can do to reduce your risk. Through a routine visual inspection, Dr. James McCreary and our team at McCreary Family Dentistry can often detect premalignant abnormalities and cancer at an early stage, when treatment is both less expensive and more successful, and can potentially save your life. Ask Dr. James McCreary and our team at McCreary Family Dentistry about a screening at your next appointment!

When to Begin Dental Care for Your Child

January 4th, 2023

Children’s oral health differs from that of adults in a variety of ways. Dr. James McCreary and our team want you to understand how you can provide the best care for your son or daughter’s teeth. It’s essential to understand what your child will need from you when it comes to his or her oral health in those first few years.

In-home dental care begins when your baby starts to show signs of developing the first tooth. We recommend that you bring your child to our Pensacola, FL office between the ages of one and two. Dr. James McCreary will take a look at your child’s tooth development and gums during this first scheduled appointment.

The initial appointment with your little one is designed to get him or her accustomed to our office. We recommend allowing your child to be in the exam room alone with us during the first visit in order to become comfortable with our staff at an early age.

We will go over several general matters during your child’s first visit:

  • Look for signs of decay or other tooth or gum problems
  • Make sure your youngster doesn’t have gum disease or cavities
  • Examine your child’s bite, and check for misalignment that could lead to problems in the future
  • Clean the teeth, and apply fluoride if your son or daughter is old enough
  • Talk to you about proper oral health care for your
  • Give you some tips for brushing and flossing your child’s teeth
  • Answer any questions you may have about caring for your little one’s teeth

Once your child is old enough for his or her first visit to the dentist, you should begin to schedule regular cleanings every six months. If any problems arise before a scheduled appointment, call our Pensacola, FL location and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Remember, creating healthy oral health habits with your child early on is crucial. We’re here to guide you through this process and make sure your child is healthy and happy.  

Is There an Act Three for Our Teeth?

December 28th, 2022

Act One: Those 20 adorable baby teeth which begin arriving when you’re about six months old and are probably gone by the time you’re twelve.

Act Two: The 32 (if you have all your wisdom teeth!) adult teeth which start showing up around the age of six, and need to last the rest of your lifetime. Unless there’s an . . .

Act Three: Where science has discovered a way to repair damaged teeth or create replacements for lost teeth that would look and function just like our original teeth.

Sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it?

In biological terms, of course, we’re not there yet. But teams of scientists around the world have been working toward just this goal—the ability to repair a tooth with its own biological material or even grow a new tooth when an adult tooth is seriously damaged or lost.

Because the pulp—the living tissue inside each tooth—contains dental stem cells, some researchers are studying whether these cells can be used to regenerate the living pulp inside a damaged tooth. Even more exciting, there’s research being done into the possibility of using these stem cells to rebuild an entire tooth—pulp, dentin, and hard enamel exterior. Because the supply of usable dental stem calls is quite small, and process of guiding these cells to create all the varied parts of the tooth is quite complex, this research is in its early stages.

In other studies, scientists have focused on tooth regeneration by studying the teeth of other species. Mice, for example, have front teeth with open roots. This allows these teeth to keep growing up as they wear down, because stem cells inside mouse gums are always working to create new tissue. Even though our teeth are not exactly comparable (no open roots in human teeth!), finding out just how this tissue regeneration works in mice and other animals might help find an answer for human tooth regeneration.

Right now, these scientific goals are just that—goals for a future day. But in the meantime, your quality of life doesn’t need to suffer when you lose an adult tooth. You can enjoy a third act right now with dental implants.

Cosmetic concerns aren’t the only reasons why you want your complete smile restored in the event of a lost tooth. A missing tooth can lead to many unpleasant consequences:

  • Speaking and eating can become more difficult.
  • Lack of stimulation from biting and chewing can cause the bone beneath the lost tooth to shrink.
  • Other teeth can shift to fill the gap left behind, which can affect tooth, bite, and jaw alignment.
  • Loss of teeth can lead to loss of confidence.

Unlike dentures or bridges, dental implants are designed to function just like your natural teeth.

The post, or base, of each implant fuses with the bone in your jaw, acting as a “root” for the implant. Once the post has fused with the bone around it, a crown designed to match your other teeth in shape and color is secured to the post. You can eat, speak, brush, floss, keep your bone healthy, and smile confidently just as you did before.

Will biological replacements be ready for your third act in the near future? Probably not. But that’s not to say this will never be possible! In the meantime, take care of your teeth with daily brushing and flossing, eat a dental-healthy diet, and visiting our Pensacola, FL office as recommended.

You do your best to keep your teeth intact and in place—but if you lose one through trauma or decay, talk to Dr. James McCreary about an implant. Because in any stage of life, the most important result is the happy ending a healthy and confident smile brings you!

Pediatric Dental Emergency Know-How

December 28th, 2022

Parents are usually expert at taking care of their children’s injuries. You know how to disinfect a cut, soothe a bump on the head, and apply a bandage faster than you can blink.

But what happens if your child suffers a dental injury? Teeth can get broken, knocked out, or displaced from a forceful impact, and parents ought to know what to do in those situations, too. Luckily, Dr. James McCreary and our team are here to be a resource for such incidents!

Chipped front teeth are a common injury for young children. First, check to see if the teeth have been broken to the nerve. You can tell this is the case if you see layers and a pinkish center.

Then, wiggle each tooth to make sure it is not loose. If the teeth still feel firmly in place, that’s a good sign. Don’t worry if they are a little loose, because they will tighten again with time.

If your child develops a high temperature or bite sensitivity, treatment is necessary and could include a root canal.

A knocked-out tooth is an injury that requires more attention than just observation. Locate the tooth as soon as you can, and touch only the crown, not the root. Rinse any debris gently with milk or water and place the tooth back in its socket as soon as possible.

According to the American Association of Endodontists, a tooth has a high chance of survival and retention for life if it is returned to the socket within five minutes, and possibly up to 60 minutes, if soaked in milk or saline solution in the meantime.

Say your child is elbowed in the mouth and a tooth gets severely displaced but does not get knocked out. Attempt to shift it back into place by applying light pressure, but be careful not to use too much force. Give your child a cold pack for the swelling and contact our office as soon as possible.

Dental emergencies can be frightening for the child as well as the parent. The best advice we can offer is to stay calm and be assured that we are always here to help! Contact us at our Pensacola, FL office as soon as you can, if your child encounters a dental emergency.

How Often Should You Have Your Teeth Cleaned?

December 21st, 2022

That’s a good question! But first, we’re going to do that roundabout thing where we consider other questions before circling back to our original topic. Trust us, we’ll get there!

  • Why Get Your Teeth Cleaned Professionally?

Before you consider how often to have your teeth cleaned, you might be wondering why you need to have them cleaned professionally at all. After all, you’re doing all the right things. You brush twice a day for two minutes each time. You floss at least once a day. You even use a soft-bristled brush to protect your enamel. Shouldn’t this be good enough?

Conscientious dental hygiene at home is a very good thing, but, when it comes to plaque and tartar, it might not be good enough. Plaque, especially between the teeth and along the gum line, is easy to miss. In a matter of days, that overlooked plaque hardens and becomes tartar. While you can do a lot to remove food particles and plaque at home, once plaque hardens into tartar, a professional cleaning is necessary to remove it safely.

  • Why Worry About Plaque and Tartar You May Have Missed?

Because you want to avoid cavities and gum disease. You know that the bacteria in plaque cause tooth decay, but did you know that plaque and tartar can be a real problem for your gum health as well? Plaque and tartar irritate delicate gum tissue, causing inflammation and gingivitis (mild gum disease). If you have chronic bad breath, if your gums are swollen, red, or painful, if your gums bleed easily when you’re brushing and flossing, you might have gingivitis.

Left untreated, mild gum disease can become periodontitis, a more serious condition. Irritation and inflammation cause gum tissue to pull away from the teeth, forming deep periodontal pockets where bacteria and infection spread. Infection and inflammation response damage the bone and tissue supporting the teeth, and teeth become loose or lost altogether. In fact, periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.

A professional cleaning at our Pensacola, FL is one of the preventive steps you can take to reduce your risk of gum disease.

  • What Happens During a Cleaning?

First, your teeth and gums will be checked carefully to see if there are any problems that we need to address before the procedure begins.

The first step in cleaning usually involves removing plaque and tartar. This may be done with an ultrasonic scaler, a hand scaler, or a combination of both. Plaque and tartar need to be scraped from tooth enamel above and below the gum line to prevent cavities and gum disease, so this is definitely a job for a dental professional. Gum attachment around the teeth will be checked, and shallow pockets will be cleaned. Your dentist will have suggestions if you have deeper periodontal pockets caused by gum disease.

After all the plaque and tartar have been removed, your teeth will be polished with a gentle abrasive to remove surface stains. There are two common methods of polishing: applying a special gritty toothpaste with a small rotating cup, or air polishing, which uses a stream of fine abrasive powder, water, and pressurized air. (If you have your teeth cleaned more than twice a year, your dentist will let you know if polishing is advisable during every visit.)

Next, flossing. A professional flossing will remove any remaining plaque from between the teeth. This is a good time to double check your own flossing technique and ask for any tips which will make your personal flossing more effective.

Finally, after rinsing, a fluoride treatment might be applied to strengthen your enamel, and you’re good to go. The entire process usually takes between 30-60 minutes.

  • So, How Often Should You Have Your Teeth Cleaned?

That is a good question, and we did get there! But we don’t have just one answer for you. As with every aspect of your dental care, Dr. James McCreary will recommend cleaning treatments and procedures with your specific dental needs in mind.

  • If your teeth and gums are healthy, and you don’t have periodontal disease or risk factors for periodontal disease (such as smoking, a family history of gum disease, or medical conditions such as diabetes), you might be able to get by with two cleanings each year.
  • If you have a history of periodontal disease, or are at higher risk for periodontal disease because of one or more risk factors, Dr. James McCreary might recommend more than two cleanings each year.

Professional cleanings play an important role in your preventive dental care. Whether it’s done once a year, twice annually, or more often as needed, a cleaning performed by a dental professional takes only a short amount of your time and provides you with long-term benefits—not only a brighter smile, but healthier teeth and gums!

Avoid Brushing After Every Single Meal!

December 21st, 2022

Here is some surprising yet worthwhile advice you might be hearing for the first time: Brushing after a meal can be incredibly bad for your teeth if you do it after eating certain foods.

Enamel is an extremely hard mineral on the exterior of each of your teeth. It’s actually the hardest substance in the human body: It’s even stronger than your bones! Its only weakness is that acids in the food we eat can easily destroy enamel.

Healthy teeth thrive in an environment that has the proper pH balance. That ensures your mouth doesn’t start the process of demineralization. That’s what happens when alkaline turns into acid, which attacks and softens the enamel on the surface of your teeth. Pores and fissures form, and that’s when the harmful bacteria go to work.

Our mouth’s pH level fluctuates depending on what we eat throughout the day. Examples of the most common highly acidic foods include citrus fruits, soda, and sugary foods. Highly acidic foods tip the balance of pH in your mouth from a healthy alkaline to a dangerous acid.

Can brushing your teeth immediately after a meal lead to even more damage? The answer is yes!

Eating highly acidic foods causes your teeth to be more susceptible. If you brush your teeth when they have been weakened by acids, even more destruction can happen to your enamel. Your toothbrush’s bristles will actually wear away some of your enamel. So it’s healthier to wait at least an hour after eating or snacking to brush.

Good preventive measures to take instead of brushing after you eat include:

  • Rinsing or drinking water
  • Chewing sugarless gum
  • Consuming dairy or non-acidic foods to conclude your meal

These practices help produce saliva, which in turn restores a healthy pH level in your mouth and coats the teeth with minerals they need.

Once you’ve allowed time for your mouth to be restored to a healthy pH level, you may brush your teeth as you normally would. Keep in mind that acidic foods can weaken the enamel on your teeth and take the right measures to prevent spiking pH levels.

Most important, don’t forget to wait to brush at least one hour after you eat!

Still have questions? Call our Pensacola, FL office and schedule an appointment with Dr. James McCreary.

Mamelons

December 14th, 2022

Quick trivia question: define “mamelon.” Some kind of warm blooded animal? No, not a member of the mammal clan, but good guess. A fruit of the gourd family? Nope! There are watermelons, and honeydew melons, and even canary melons, but no ma-melons. Those little rounded bumps you notice on the edge of your child’s permanent incisors when they first emerge? We have a winning answer!

  • Why Do We Have Mamelons?

We have eight incisors, or biting teeth, in the front of our mouths—four on top and four on bottom. Mamelons are actually a clue as to how these incisors were formed. Even before a baby is born, the permanent teeth begin to take shape. Three different groups of cells develop to form the incisal edge of these front teeth. As they fuse together, they create three lobes of enamel on the erupting edge of the tooth. It’s these lobes, or bumps, that give the teeth a serrated appearance.

Whether your child’s mamelons are quite prominent or barely noticeable, if you are worried about them, relax! They are almost always a temporary part of your child’s smile, and disappear over time with chewing and normal wear. But what if the mamelons overstay their welcome?

  • Cosmetic Concerns

Because mamelons are composed of enamel, without the underlying dentin layer found in the body of the tooth, they can appear translucent or a bit different in color. They might wear away unevenly, leaving the tooth edges looking misaligned. Or, they might not wear away at all if your child’s tooth eruption is delayed. Talk to Dr. James McCreary if mamelons are a cosmetic concern for you or your child. You might discover that they are wearing away naturally, or we can discuss ways to polish or smooth them down if needed. This is a painless procedure that doesn’t require an anesthetic. Generally, however, this is a matter where time will resolve the issue for you.

  • Orthodontic Implications

Occasionally, mamelons might become a topic of discussion for orthodontic reasons. Sometimes, mamelons do not wear away over time because of a malocclusion (misaligned bite). Your orthodontist will let you know your child has a bite problem and can explain treatment options. Your orthodontist might also suggest smoothing away the mamelons to ensure that the edges of the incisors align correctly and symmetrically while the teeth are in the process of straightening. Again, this is not always considered a necessity, so weigh your options with your dental care provider.

So, if you notice that your child’s beautiful new teeth are bumpy or serrated as they erupt, don’t be concerned! If you have any questions about mamelons, talk to Dr. James McCreary at your next visit to our Pensacola, FL office. This is a natural occurrence and most likely just a temporary “bump” in the road. Soon enough, mamelons will be a memory—and the answer to a pretty difficult trivia question.

Tooth Sensitivity

December 14th, 2022

Most of us know that unpleasant feeling. You’re happily enjoying an icy milkshake with lunch or having a piping hot cappuccino break, and suddenly an innocent binge turns to cringe—your tooth sensitivity has crossed another item off the menu. If heat, cold, even the act of brushing cause you tooth discomfort, we have solutions for you. Let’s look at some of the common reasons for tooth sensitivity and how to prevent it.

  • Bad Brushing Habits

There can be too much of a good thing! Aggressive brushing, especially with firm toothbrushes, can damage enamel. When the dentin underneath is exposed, heat and cold can reach the sensitive inner tooth and trigger discomfort.

Go easy on yourself: Switch to a soft bristled or electric toothbrush and brush thoroughly but gently. It’s often suggested that we massage rather than scrub. We can also recommend toothpastes that can help reduce sensitivity.

  • Gum Disease

As gum disease progresses, the gums start to pull away from the teeth and expose their roots. Even though the roots are protected by cementum, a covering a lot like enamel, they are more sensitive to heat and cold. And if you are an aggressive brusher, the cementum is more easily damaged than enamel, leaving the sensitive roots even less protected.

Prevention is the answer: Brushing and flossing help prevent gum disease, as do your regular exams and cleanings. If you are suffering from more advanced gum disease (periodontitis), Dr. James McCreary can suggest advanced treatment to protect your roots, such as deep cleanings and gum grafts. Don’t let periodontitis go untreated, as it can lead to infection and even tooth loss.

  • Your Diet

If your enamel is already compromised, sugary foods and acidic foods can cause tooth discomfort.

Be patient: Until your sensitivity problem is under control, avoiding these types of foods will help. On the other hand, sugary and acidic foods aren’t the ideal dental diet, so cutting back is not a bad idea.

  • Your Dental Products

Mouthwash, whitening toothpastes and home whitening products contain substances such as alcohol or bleaching agents that can cause sensitivity in some users.

Make some changes to your shopping list: Choose products without alcohol or whiteners. Talk to us about gentler alternatives for mouthwashes and whitening.

  • Tooth Injuries

If you have a cavity, a broken filling, a cracked tooth, or some other injury to the tooth, sensitivity can be a warning sign.

Take care of yourself: Call our Pensacola, FL office immediately if you have prolonged sensitivity or any other painful symptom. Repairing and restoring your damaged tooth should eliminate this discomfort. And, while it is often common to experience some degree of sensitivity after dental work, if this doesn’t clear up within a short time, let us know.

  • Teeth Grinding

Because grinding also wears away enamel, tooth grinders often suffer from sensitive teeth.

Protect yourself: We can fit you for a custom nightguard that will eliminate the nightly stress on your enamel. It can also help the tooth and jaw pain caused by grinding.

Talk to us about any sensitivity you have been experiencing, especially if it has been going on for a while or is causing you real discomfort. We will explore the possible reasons for your tooth sensitivity and help you find solutions. After all, you should feel free to enjoy any item on the menu, in the very best of dental health.

Diet Soda vs. Regular Soda: Which is better for teeth?

December 7th, 2022

When most patients ask Dr. James McCreary this question, they're thinking strictly about sugar content — cut out the bacteria-feeding sugar that's present in regular soda by opting for a diet soda and it will be better for your teeth. That seems logical, right? Well, there's a bit more to it than that. Let's take a closer look at how any kind of soda can affect your dental health.

Diet Soda – Why it can also lead to tooth decay

The main culprit in these drinks that leads to decay is the acid content. Diet sodas and other sugar-free drinks are usually highly acidic, which weakens the enamel on your teeth and makes them more susceptible to cavities and dental erosion. The level of phosphoric acid, citric acid, and/or tartaric acid is usually high in sugar-free drinks so it's best to avoid them.

Some patients also enjoy drinking orange juice or other citrus juices. These drinks are high in citric acid and have the same effect on the enamel of your teeth.

So what about regular soda?

We know the acidity of diet sodas and sugar-free drinks contributes to tooth decay, so what about regular soda? Like we alluded to earlier, regular soda is high in sugar — a 12 ounce can contains roughly ten teaspoons of sugar — and sugar feeds the decay-causing bacteria in the mouth. This also includes sports drinks and energy drinks, which are highly acidic and loaded with sugar too. So these drinks are a double-whammy of sugar and acidity your teeth and body simply don't need.

The problems caused by both diet and regular soda is exacerbated when you sip on them throughout the day. If you drink it all in one sitting, you won't be washing sugar and/or acids over your teeth all day long and your saliva will have a chance to neutralize the pH in your mouth.

The best beverages to drink and how to drink them

Drinking beverages that are lower in acid is a good step to take to keep your enamel strong. According to a study conducted by Matthew M. Rodgers and J. Anthony von Fraunhofer at the University of Michigan, your best bets are plain water, black tea or coffee, and if you opt for a soda, root beer. These drinks dissolved the least amount of enamel when measured 14 days after consumption of the beverage.

If you still choose to drink soda, diet soda, sugar-free drinks, or juices here are some other tips to lessen tooth decay:

  • Drink your soda or acidic beverages through a straw to minimize contact with teeth
  • Rinse with water immediately after consumption of the beverage
  • Avoid brushing your teeth between 30 minutes to an hour after drinking the beverage as this has been shown to spread the acids before your saliva can bring your mouth back to a neutral pH
  • Avoid drinks that have acids listed on the ingredients label

Still have questions about soda, sugar, and acid? Give our Pensacola, FL office a call and we’d be happy to help!

Can Superfoods Create a Super Smile?

December 7th, 2022

It’s a rare week that we don’t hear something about superfoods—those foods which will transform our diets and radically improve our health. Remember kale? All the kale? (But, more on kale later!)

So, what exactly are “superfoods”? Unfortunately, we don’t have an exact answer for you, because, while the term “superfood” sounds impressive, it really doesn’t have an exact scientific meaning. Any food which is nutritionally dense with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and/or other nutrients is often called a superfood.

Can these so-called “superfoods” help improve our dental health? The short answer: Yes! Let’s look at the benefits of some current popular superfoods, and just why they’re so good for our teeth and gums.

  • Berries

Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and cranberries are not only delicious, but a rich source of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, including vitamin C. What does this mean for your dental health? Vitamin C is essential for healthy gums. In fact, one of the symptoms of vitamin C deficiency is swollen and bleeding gums.

  • Salmon

“Good fat” seems like a dietary contradiction, but salmon is here to prove it’s possible. Omega-3 fatty acids have been linked to numerous health benefits, including fighting inflammation. Research has shown a possible relationship between getting the recommended amounts of omega-3s and a reduced risk of gum disease.

  • Ancient Grains

Ancient grains are grains (and certain grasses and seeds) which have been cultivated the same way over the centuries. And even though these grains have been around for hundreds of years, many cooks are just starting to incorporate foods like quinoa, millet, farro, and freekeh into their recipes. Ancient grains are considered especially healthy because they are whole grains, with their nutrients, bran, and fiber intact. Processing grains removes many of these good-for-your-body elements.

And how does this processing affect our teeth? Whole grain carbs take time to break down and convert into the sugars which fuel our bodies. Processed grains used in foods like soft white breads and white rice start to break down quickly right in the mouth. They also tend to stick to the teeth, providing a rich supply of sugar to feed the oral bacteria which cause cavities. But you don’t need ancient grains to reap the benefits of whole grains—consider substituting whole wheat, brown rice, or whole grain corn for some of the processed grains in your diet.

  • Yogurt

Most yogurt, unlike other dairy products, contains probiotics, which help supply our bodies with healthy bacteria. Most yogurt, like other fortified dairy products, is also rich in vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for tooth health because it allows our bodies to absorb the calcium which keeps bones and teeth strong.

  • Kale

We couldn’t leave without a word about kale! Kale is everywhere on the menu, from salads to pasta to soups, added to the blender for fruit smoothies, or salted and roasted for a potato chip substitute. And kale deserves its good reputation. Kale is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, such as the beta-carotene which our bodies convert into vitamin A. Among its other benefits, vitamin A is crucial for the health and healing of mucous membranes, which include our gums and the soft membranes of the mouth.

And if you just can’t warm up to kale? More good news: dark green vegetables such as leafy greens and spinach also provide many of the same beta-carotenes. And so do colorful orange options like sweet potatoes, carrots, peppers, pumpkins, and squash.

Can these so-called “superfoods” help improve and maintain our dental health? The short answer: Yes! The longer answer: Yes—and so will any foods which are rich in the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fatty acids which support and protect our teeth and gums. Just remember, a nutritious, balanced diet is more important than any one ingredient. Want more information? Ask Dr. James McCreary when you visit our Pensacola, FL office for dietary tips to help you maintain a heathy body—and a super smile!

Antibiotic Prophylaxis or Premedication

November 30th, 2022

In years past, it was often recommended that dental patients who had a history of heart problems or other conditions, such as joint implants, be given antibiotics before any dental work. This pre-treatment is called prophylaxis, based on the Greek words for “protecting beforehand.” Why would Dr. James McCreary suggest this protection? It has to do with possible effects of oral bacteria on the rest of the body.

Our bodies are home to bacteria which are common in our mouths, but which can be dangerous elsewhere. If these oral bacteria get into the bloodstream, they can collect around the heart valve, the heart lining, or blood vessels. A rare, but often extremely serious, infection called infective endocarditis can result.

It is no longer recommended that every patient with a heart condition take antibiotics before dental procedures. Doctors worry about adverse effects from antibiotics or, more generally, that an overuse of antibiotics in the general population will lead to more strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

There are some patients, however, who are at a higher risk of developing infective endocarditis, and who should always use preventative antibiotics. Generally, premedication is advised if you have one of these risk factors:

  • A history of infective endocarditis
  • Certain congenital heart conditions (heart conditions present since birth)
  • An artificial heart valve
  • A heart transplant

Your cardiologist will know if prophylaxis is advisable, and if you are taking any drugs which could interact with antibiotics. Always talk to your doctor about any dental procedures you are planning, particularly if they are invasive procedures such as gum surgery or extractions.

If you believe you would benefit from antibiotics before dental treatment at our Pensacola, FL office, the most important first step is to talk with your doctors. We are trained to know which pre-existing health conditions call for prophylaxis, which dental procedures require them, which antibiotics to use, and when to take them. Tell us about any health conditions you have, especially cardiac or vascular issues, and any medication allergies. Working with you and your doctor to protect your health is our first priority, and having a complete picture of your medical health will let us know if antibiotic prophylaxis is right for you.

What type of toothpaste is right for you?

November 30th, 2022

Toothpaste no longer comes in simple choices of fluoride and fresh breath. Paste is not even the only option! You can choose gel forms and even some with ribbons of color and flavor. With so many varieties available, it may be difficult to know which features or combinations of ingredients are best for your mouth. Dr. James McCreary and our team are here to help!

Fluoride

The majority of all dental patients should use toothpaste with fluoride. Fluoride helps to strengthen the enamel on your teeth; it makes them stronger and more resistant to cavities. Even if you live in an area that adds fluoride to your drinking water, the fluoride protection in toothpaste is necessary.

Some individuals can have an allergic reaction to fluoride. Fluorosis can occur in children or adults that swallow too much toothpaste while brushing. If swallowing cannot be prevented, fluoride use should be reduced. The American Dental Association has updated guidelines that recommend fluoride be used as soon as the first teeth erupt in children. However, the amount should be minimal and swallowing should be prevented.

Sensitivity Protection

If your teeth are sensitive to temperatures, toothpaste with sensitivity protection can work wonders for your discomfort. Ingredients in these pastes or gels work to block the pathways to the nerves that react to hot or cold. Do not give up on this type of toothpaste after a few days; the full results may take a few weeks.

Plaque, Tartar, and Gingivitis Protection

Everyone has bacteria in his or her mouth, and this bacteria is normal. Unfortunately, some bacteria also cause plaque. If the plaque remains on your teeth, it hardens into tartar or calculus. Tartar is an almost cement-like substance that cannot be removed by brushing alone. When bacteria and tartar are left behind, the deposits will form under the gum line. This leads to gingivitis and gum disease.

Since there is a wide variety of toothpastes and ingredients for preventing tartar and gingivitis, ask Dr. James McCreary and our staff what the best choice is for your teeth. We can help you select the right combination of ingredients.

Whitening

White teeth are desirable, and manufacturers are heavily marketing whitening toothpastes. Most brands do not contain bleaching ingredients; they use abrasives to polish stains away. Unfortunately, too much abrasive use can be damaging to your teeth. If you’re interested in teeth whitening, our Pensacola, FL team can recommend a number of safe and effective options.

Feel free to ask Dr. James McCreary and our staff at McCreary Family Dentistry about the best choice in toothpaste to meet your individual needs. Remember to look for the ADA approval seal on any toothpaste you are considering.

What to Look for when Choosing a Mouthwash

November 23rd, 2022

Mouthwash is important for more than just keeping your breath fresh and smelling great. Combined with other forms of dental hygiene, it can help prevent plaque, cavities, gingivitis, and other gum diseases. But it may be difficult for you to choose the right mouthwash off the shelf. Dr. James McCreary and our team at McCreary Family Dentistry wanted to share a few things to look for when choosing a mouthwash.

Fluoride mouthwashes

Fluoride has been the subject of many debates in the oral health community. If you live in the United States, the tap water already contains small amounts of fluoride to promote dental health. You may not need to use a fluoride mouthwash if this is the case. However, if you are cavity-prone, fluoride creates a protective film over the teeth that protects against these buildups. It also helps strengthen the enamel over the teeth, maintain good dental hygiene, and keep your teeth strong for the rest of your life.

Alcohol mouthwashes

Alcohol in mouthwash works as an antiseptic: it clears the mouth of germs and some viral infections. However, if you have issues relating to dry mouth, alcohol can exacerbate the problem. If this is the case, consider using an alcohol-free mouthwash. This will free your mouth from the drying effects of the alcohol base. Also, if you have children, you will want to get an alcohol-free children’s mouthwash, because kids are prone to swallowing the substance, and this can lead to toxic side effects. Even if you are an adult using the mouthwash, if it contains alcohol, you should avoid swallowing it.

Antibacterial mouthwashes

Antibacterial mouthwashes have chemicals to help fight gum disease and other infections. Most mouthwash products contain at least trace amounts of these antibacterials; however, some mouthwashes are made specifically to fight bacterial infections. Remember that mouthwash is prevention, not a cure, so if you are presently suffering from a bacterial infection, you should visit our Pensacola, FL office right away. Dr. James McCreary may be able to recommend a more powerful antibacterial mouthwash that can help you reduce your pain and other symptoms.

Dental Veneers

November 16th, 2022

If you want to fix staining, large gaps, fillings, chipped teeth, or the overall shape of your teeth, this may be the perfect option for you. Many of our patients opted for veneers and have never been more confident in their smile!

Dental veneers are made from long-lasting porcelain materials which cover the front and biting ends of each tooth. At your appointment, you can choose the shade of veneers to brighten up your smile. They are usually placed on the anterior, or front teeth, where the chewing forces are not as hard as in the back. Placing the veneers is easy, and the best part is: It requires only two appointments!

During the first appointment, we’ll take an impressions of your teeth. Then we send them to the lab to make your veneers. Veneers are fairly conservative in preparation because they require a small amount of space to be created on the front, bottom, and sides of each tooth for a natural appearance. You will leave the office with temporary veneers in place for a week or two while the permanent veneers are being made.

Your veneers will be placed during the second appointment, and you won’t believe the difference in your smile! If you’re interested in learning more, give Dr. James McCreary a call at our Pensacola, FL office today!

Surprising Ways to Prevent Cavities

November 9th, 2022

There are numerous ways to prevent cavities. Some, like brushing your teeth regularly and visiting our Pensacola, FL office, are more obvious than others. Beyond the standard methods of preventing cavities there are a number of different ways to keep your mouth healthy that you might also find surprising.

1. Reduce your consumption of carbs and sugar.

The consumption of sugar is ultimately the biggest catalyst for cavities. By limiting the sugar you consume both at meals and while snacking you will in turn be preventing cavities. But this goes for all carbs, not just sugar. See, even more complex, lower glycemic, carbs can lead to cavities in your mouth, so the best way to prevent them is to limit your carbohydrate intake. This is not to say that you have to cut out carbs all together, but by reducing your intake, you will prevent cavities and it can also lead to a healthier body overall.

2. Rinse your mouth with food-grade hydrogen peroxide.

For some people this may seem a little odd, but washing your mouth out with a food-grade hydrogen peroxide is an excellent way to prevent cavities. Doing so will kill harmful bacteria that accumulates in your mouth much in the same way applying the anti-septic to a cut does. That said, when you rinse your mouth out similar to how you would use a mouth wash, you want to make sure you don't swallow the hydrogen peroxide, spit it out instead.

3. Use a straw.

If you are someone that drinks a lot of sugary beverages a great way to prevent cavities is to use a straw. This way the sugar in the beverage does not come into contact with your teeth as much as it would if you were to drink straight from a glass, can, cup, or bottle.

4. Chew gum.

Chewing gum is another viable way of preventing cavities. You, of course, will need to chew a sugarless gum flavored with a substitute like Xylitol, and preferably with a cavity fighting ingredient in it.

5. Eat cheese.

Plain and simple cheese has a protein called casein which helps build calcium in your teeth which is vital to the integrity of your mouth and preventing cavities.

Getting Ready for Winter

November 2nd, 2022

Winter Is Coming.

Okay, that sounded a lot more dramatic in a popular fantasy series. But here in the real world, winter is coming as well, so let’s look at some easy steps you can take to keep your teeth and gums healthy during this icy season.

Remember to Hydrate

Dehydration is dangerous for your health in general, and it’s also bad for your dental health. A dry mouth is more vulnerable to gum disease and tooth decay because there’s less saliva to help maintain a healthy oral environment. Saliva helps wash away food particles and bacteria, works to neutralize the cavity-causing acids they produce, and strengthens tooth enamel with its mineral content.

Summer means heat and perspiration—two obvious causes of dehydration. Winter, though, has its own more subtle ways to dry you out.

  • Just as you lose moisture through summer perspiration, you lose moisture with a winter workout as well. That foggy cloud you see when you exhale outdoors? That’s water vapor leaving your body.
  • Cold weather means it’s time to kick up the heating system a few degrees. But unlike heated summer outdoor air, heated winter indoor air is not as humid, so it’s more drying.
  • Some of us just aren’t as thirsty during winter months, and so we don’t hydrate as regularly as we do in the summer. And while summer menus tend to offer foods like salad, fruits, and iced drinks which automatically provide us with a lot of water content, winter menus? Not so much. Keep up with your daily recommended amount of water throughout the year for a healthier body and healthier teeth and gums.

Wear Your Mouthguard

Whether it’s skiing, hockey, snowboarding, or skating, those winter sports can be hard on your teeth. That’s why it’s important to wear your mouthguard when you’re getting the most out of the snow and ice. Mouthguards help prevent injuries to your teeth and provide protection for your jaw and mouth, too.

And a sport doesn’t have to involve snow and ice to be a winter hazard for your teeth. The combination of hard courts, flying elbows, and body contact make basketball a leader in the dental injuries competition. In fact, any sport which involves potential falls or personal contact is a good candidate for a mouthguard.

Mouthguards are available in several forms:

  • One-size-fits-all, pre-formed mouthguards can be found in drugstores and sporting goods stores.
  • “Boil-and-bite” models are warmed in hot water and then shaped when you bite down. The fit is somewhat more comfortable than a stock guard.
  • Custom-made guards from your dentist are precisely molded to your teeth and mouth, letting you speak and breathe more comfortably.

If you haven’t gotten a mouthguard yet, or your old high school guard was retired years ago, talk to Dr. James McCreary about a custom guard.  While the over-the-counter options are better than going unprotected, a custom mouthguard fits your teeth perfectly—and comfortably!

Get to the Bottom of Winter Sensitivity

That first breath of frosty air might be more alarming than invigorating when tooth pain and sensitivity makes being out in the cold an unpleasant experience. Sensitivity to cold air or warm winter drinks can be an important symptom, caused by a number of dental conditions such as:

  • Cracked teeth
  • Cavities
  • Exposed dentin (the layer of the tooth underneath your enamel)
  • Receding gums
  • Over-vigorous brushing

If the cold weather is keeping you indoors because of oral sensitivity, give us a call.

Even though this can be a very busy time of year, if you’re due for a checkup and cleaning at our Pensacola, FL office, or if you have any concerns about your teeth and gums, make time for your dental health. We want to make sure you’re ready to enjoy every frosty moment of the season!

Just What Is a Cavity, Anyway?

October 26th, 2022

The grownups in your life encourage you to brush and floss, eat healthy foods, and visit us in the dental office for exams and cleanings. Why? Because we all want to help you prevent cavities.

So you might be wondering, just what are cavities? How do we get them? What do they do to our teeth? How can we prevent them? Let’s talk!

Our teeth need to be strong to bite and chew. That’s why they are protected by a coating called enamel, which is made up of very hard minerals. Enamel is the strongest part of our bodies—stronger even than our bones. But this doesn’t mean nothing can hurt it! And cavities, also called tooth decay, are one of the most common dangers facing our enamel.

So, what are cavities?

A cavity is a hole in your tooth enamel. If your tooth is not cleaned and repaired when a cavity is small, this hole can grow bigger until tooth decay reaches the inside of your tooth. Enamel doesn’t heal when it’s damaged, so you need to see a dentist to make your tooth healthy again.

How do we get cavities?

Bacteria are tiny little germs. Many kinds of bacteria live in our bodies, and some of them are quite helpful. The bacteria that cause cavities are not. These unhelpful bacteria join with our saliva and very small pieces of the food we’ve chewed to make a sticky film called plaque.

Like other living things, the bacteria in plaque need food. They get that food from the foods we eat, especially sugars and starches. As they eat, they change these sugars and starches into acids, and these acids attack the minerals that keep enamel hard and strong.

Because plaque sticks to our teeth, bacterial acids are able to make weak spots in enamel if the plaque isn’t brushed away. If you see a white spot on your tooth, which could mean that your enamel is losing minerals, and getting weaker.

What do cavities do to our teeth?

Over time, weak spots can grow bigger until there’s a hole in the enamel surface. If the cavity in your enamel is small, you might not notice it at first. But cavities can become wider and deeper, and even break through enamel to reach the inside of your tooth.

The inside of each tooth holds pulp, the part of your tooth that keeps it healthy. If tooth decay spreads to the pulp, it can cause more damage and infection, so it’s important to treat a cavity right away.

Dark spots on your enamel, a toothache, pain when you drink something hot or cold or when you bite down—these can be clues that you have a cavity, and you should visit us for an exam.

How can you prevent cavities?

Even better than treating a cavity is preventing one. Let’s make a list of some helpful do’s and don’ts for cavity prevention:

  • Do: Feed yourself foods that are good for you.

Foods like milk and cheese and many dark green vegetables have lots of calcium and vitamin D to help keep your enamel strong.

  • Don’t: Feed bacteria foods that are good for them.

Sugar and simple starches like potato chips are the kinds of foods bacteria like best, because they are easy to break down. This means more acids to attack your enamel.

This doesn’t mean you should never enjoy a treat! But eating lots of starchy snacks and drinking sugary sodas means more plaque, and more plaque can mean more cavities. If you’re eating something starchy or sweet, it’s a good idea to brush or rinse afterward.

  • Do: Brush at least twice a day, for at least two minutes, with fluoride toothpaste.

This is the best way to get rid of plaque, which builds up every day. And fluoride toothpaste even helps make your enamel stronger.

  • Don’t: Forget to floss.

Flossing takes a while to learn to do well, but it’s very important. Flossing helps prevent cavities between the teeth and near the gums.

  • Do: Visit our Pensacola, FL office for exams and cleanings.

Not only will we look for cavities, we’ll let you know the best way to brush and floss so you can get your teeth their cleanest. We even have special coatings called sealants that can protect your teeth from plaque.

  • Don’t: Feel bad if you get a cavity!

Some people are more likely to get cavities than others, even when they brush just right and eat healthy foods. If you have a cavity, we can remove decay and repair your tooth with a filling.

And one last thing to do: talk to Dr. James McCreary if you have any questions about the best ways to protect your teeth from cavities. We have lots of suggestions to help you take care of your healthy, beautiful smile!

Clean Toothbrush/Healthy Toothbrush

October 19th, 2022

We’ve all learned a lot about keeping healthy lately. Thorough hand washing, disinfecting cell phones and keyboards, wiping down shopping carts and door handles—all these low-maintenance cleaning habits can have a high impact on our health.

So, in that spirit, let’s talk about low maintenance cleaning routines for something you put in your mouth at least twice a day—your toothbrush.

Brushing Habits

Don’t let germs hitch a ride on your toothbrush before you even begin! Make sure your hands are clean before brushing, and rinse off your toothbrush before you put it in your mouth.

After brushing, be sure to rinse your brush carefully to get rid of leftover toothpaste, food particles, and other debris. And don’t forget to clean your toothbrush holder regularly. Talk to Dr. James McCreary or your hygienist when you visit our Pensacola, FL office for suggestions for deep cleaning brushes to eliminate bacteria if that’s a concern.

And while we’re talking about germs, how about…

  • Flushing Habits

Most toothbrushes share their living space with another bathroom essential—the toilet. Every time we flush, microscopic particles are propelled through the air. And while no definitive relationship has been shown between flushing and disease transmission, closing the toilet lid before flushing is an easy way to reduce unpleasant particle transmission—and reduce the possible risk of toothbrush contamination.

  • Airing? Yes!

Keeping a toothbrush in a dark, moist environment is the perfect setting for bacterial growth. Instead, let your toothbrush air dry after use in an upright position. Give it a shake first for a head start on the drying process.

  • Sharing? No

We’re not talking about sharing a brush, which you would never do. We’re talking about sharing toothbrush holders. If your brush touches other brushes, you’re probably sharing germs as well as space, which can be especially problematic if someone in the house has immune concerns. Toothbrushes shouldn’t be too close to other toothbrushes, no matter how close you are to the other brush’s owner!

Finally, no matter how well you take care of your toothbrush, there comes a time when you must part with even the cleanest and best-maintained of brushes. After three or four months, bristles become frayed. This means you’re not getting the most effective plaque-removal from your brush. And to be on the safe side, consider retiring your toothbrush if you’ve been ill.

Dental self-care is a vital part of keeping yourself healthy, and a clean toothbrush is a simple way to support your oral health. High impact/low maintenance—win/win.

Are you nervous about seeing the dentist? You’re not alone!

October 12th, 2022

With advances in modern dentistry, a trip to McCreary Family Dentistry these days is pretty routine. But visiting Dr. James McCreary and our team still makes some patients anxious—so much so that they don’t go as often as they should and end up with costly complications down the road, such as tooth decay or gum disease.

When it comes to dental care, prevention is the best medicine. And that begins with regular checkups and dental cleanings at our convenient Pensacola, FL office. Today, we thought we would offer five tips for taking the pain out of a visit to see Dr. James McCreary:

1. Ask yourself: What are you most afraid of? Is it the sound of the drill? Do you have needle phobia? Have you been traumatized by previous dental visits? Write down your fears, one by one and talk about them during your visit.

2. Don’t wait. The more frequently your visit our office, the less work will need to be done at any given visit. Simply having your teeth cleaned professionally by Dr. James McCreary twice a year prevents many, if not most, problems down the road.

3. Bring a distraction such as music to your appointment. Just plug in those earphones, close your eyes, and get lost in the music. Listening to tunes can also be a pain killer.

4. Unwind. Inhaling slowly and counting to five helps. Try holding your breath for ten seconds, then exhale slowly to the count of eight, and repeat as needed.

5. Ask us. Before any given procedure, we encourage you to ask Dr. James McCreary or one of our assistants why we’re using the tools we’re using. Ask us what we’re doing, what the tool is used for, and how it benefits you. Also, please ask about anti-anxiety medications we may prescribe to help you relax during your appointment.

If you suffer from dental anxiety, a visit to McCreary Family Dentistry might seem like a daunting prospect. Perhaps you had a bad experience in the past, but whatever the reason, please know that at our Pensacola, FL office, there is nothing to be afraid of.

Remember, you’re not alone. We understand that going to the dentist isn’t easy for everyone. In fact, the Journal of the American Dental Association estimates that as many as 12 percent of adults suffer from dental anxiety so bad that they avoid the dentist altogether. Many more suffer from varying degrees of dental anxiety, which often results in poor oral health.

If you suffer from dental anxiety, your fears don’t have to keep you from seeing Dr. James McCreary. Our patients at McCreary Family Dentistry are our most important asset, and we strive to create a comfortable experience, no matter how long it has been since your last visit at our Pensacola, FL office. We hope to see you soon!

Make Brushing Teeth Fun!

October 5th, 2022

It’s understandable that kids would rather be playing outside or watching their favorite movie instead of doing a “boring” task like brushing their teeth. But there are ways to make brushing fun for your son or daughter, and encourage healthy oral hygiene habits early on! Dr. James McCreary and our team have a few tricks that may help.

Game time

What child doesn’t love a good game? Try to turn brushing time into a game, whether by playing hide-and-seek or singing your child’s favorite song while he or she brushes for two minutes.

Kids also love rewards, so awarding them stickers after a good brushing can encourage them to do a good job every time. You might even tell your child that five stickers will earn a special treat or fun activity at the end of the week.

Fun accessories

Lots of toothbrush options can add something exciting to your child’s daily brushing routine. Toothbrushes that light up tend to be a popular choice with young kids. The same goes for toothbrushes shaped like your child’s favorite animal or cartoon character.

Teaching your kids about how long they should brush each time can also be fun. Let them have the special responsibility of setting a timer for two minutes before they start to brush.

The Great Toothpaste Experiment

Lots of kids can be picky eaters and that can the case with toothpaste flavors. Set aside a time to sample several different flavors, the way they’ve probably tried various flavors at the ice cream shop! Just make sure to be very clear that they shouldn’t swallow the toothpaste.

With your help, your child can easily develop healthy brushing habits over time. If you can find ways to make it fun, it can be an enjoyable experience for both of you!

Call Dr. James McCreary at our Pensacola, FL office for more fun tips or to make an appointment today!

Forget Something? It’s on the Tip of Your Tongue!

September 28th, 2022

Let’s see…

Toothbrush? Check.

Fluoride toothpaste? Check.

Floss? Check.

Two minutes of thorough brushing? Check.

Careful cleaning around your brackets and wires? Check.

Wait… there’s something else… it’s right on the tip of your…

Ah! Your tongue! Whenever you brush, morning, evening, or any time in between, if you want the freshest breath and cleanest teeth, don’t forget your tongue.

Why your tongue? Because the tongue is one of the most common sources of bad breath. Let’s examine just why this occurs.

The tongue is made up of a group of muscles that help us speak and chew and swallow. But there’s more to this remarkable organ than mere muscle. The surface of the tongue is covered with mucous membrane, like the smooth tissue which lines our mouths. But the tongue isn’t completely smooth—it’s textured with thousands of tiny bumps called papillae.

These little elevated surfaces have several shapes and functions. Some make the tongue’s surface a bit rough, which helps move food through your mouth. Some are temperature sensitive, letting you know that your slice of pizza is much too hot. And some are covered with thousands of the taste buds, which make eating that pizza so enjoyable.

All of these papillae with their various functions combine to create a textured surface, filled with miniscule nooks and crannies. And if there’s a nook or a cranny where bacteria can collect, no matter how miniscule, it’s a good bet that they will, and the surface of the tongue is no exception. But bacteria aren’t alone—the tongue’s surface can also hide food particles and dead cells.

How does this unappealing accumulation affect you? These elements work together to cause bad breath, especially the bacteria that break down food particles and cell debris to produce volatile sulfur compounds—compounds which create a particularly unpleasant odor. Including your tongue in your brushing routine helps remove one of the main causes of bad breath.

And that’s not the only benefit! Cleaning the tongue helps eliminate the white coating caused by bacterial film, and might even improve the sense of taste. Most important, studies show that regular cleaning noticeably lowers the levels of decay-causing plaque throughout the mouth.

So, how to get rid of that unwanted, unpleasant, and unhealthy debris?

  • When you’re done brushing your teeth, use your toothbrush to brush your tongue.

Clean your tongue by brushing gently front to back and then side to side. Rinse your mouth when you’re through. Simple as that! And just like a soft-bristled toothbrush helps protect tooth enamel and gum tissue, we also recommend soft bristles when you brush your tongue. Firm bristles can be too hard on tongue tissue.

  • Use a tongue scraper.

Some people find tongue scrapers more effective than brushing. Available in different shapes and materials, these tools are used to gently scrape the surface of the tongue clean of bacteria and debris. Always apply this tool from back to front, and rinse the scraper clean after every stroke. Wash and dry it when you’re through.

  • Add a mouthwash or rinse.

As part of your oral hygiene routine, antibacterial mouthwashes and rinses can assist in preventing bad breath. Ask Dr. James McCreary for a recommendation.

  • Don’t brush or scrape too vigorously.

Your tongue is a sturdy, hard-working organ, but tongue tissue is still delicate enough to be injured with over-vigorous cleaning.

Taking a few extra seconds to clean your tongue helps eliminate the bacteria and food particles which contribute to bad breath and plaque formation. Make this practice part of your daily brushing routine—it’s a healthy habit well worth remembering!

In the Pink

September 21st, 2022

Our gums cover and protect the sensitive roots of our teeth and the bone around them. While we often think of gum tissue as a rosy shade of pink, that’s not a hard and fast rule. Just as skin tones vary, gum color can vary from person to person.

Healthy gums can range from light pink to darker pink to hues of brown or black. Because your gums are a good indicator of your oral health, what’s important isn’t your normal gum color, it’s noticing any changes in your normal gum color. These changes could be symptomatic of several different dental and medical conditions.

Pale Gums

  • Anemia

If the overall appearance of your gums is paler than usual, anemia is a prime suspect. Anemia is a common condition caused by a low red blood cell count. Hemoglobin in red blood cells delivers the oxygen our tissues need to function properly, and without enough, we suffer symptoms like fatigue, weakness, pallor, faintness, and rapid heartbeat.

Anemia can be caused by an underlying medical condition, or can develop because of other issues, such as iron or vitamin deficiencies, pregnancy, ulcers, certain medications, or heavy menstrual periods. If you have any of the symptoms of anemia, seeing your doctor for a blood test is a good idea.

  • Teeth Whitening

Occasionally, gums can also lighten up after a tooth whitening procedure. This is due to tissue irritation caused by the bleaching chemicals. Usually this condition is very temporary.

Ask Dr. James McCreary for advice if you experience irritation after home treatments. Having your teeth whitened by a dental professional is one way to make sure your gums get the best protection possible during the process.

Red Gums

  • Inflammation

Red gums are a common symptom of gingivitis (early gum disease). Plaque and tartar irritate your gums, and gum tissue reacts to this irritation by becoming inflamed. Left untreated, gingivitis becomes periodontitis (serious gum disease), which can destroy the bone around the tooth and lead to tooth loss.

If you notice signs of gingivitis—redness, swelling, bleeding, bad breath—talk to Dr. James McCreary. Often, gingivitis is easily remedied in the early stages by better attention to dental hygiene. Brushing for two minutes at least twice each day and flossing at least once a day are a good base line for keeping gum disease at bay.

  • Infection

Redness can also be caused by infection. If you’re experiencing redness, pain, loose teeth, swelling, pus, or fever, it’s important to see Dr. James McCreary as soon as possible in case you have an abscess or infected dental cyst. Without treatment, infection can seriously damage gum tissue, teeth, and underlying bone.

  • Over-Vigorous Brushing

Brushing too hard or using the wrong brush can cause gum irritation. Do your gums (and teeth!) a favor by using proper brushing technique—massage, don’t scrub—and always use a soft-bristled brush.

Spots of Discoloration

Sometimes you notice a patch of lighter or darker tissue that you haven’t seen before. A spot that is different from the gum tissue around it can be harmless or need further attention.

Contact our Pensacola, FL office if you have any recent discoloration, sores, pain, lumps, or any differences in appearance or sensation in your mouth. There are several types of oral cancer and prompt diagnosis and treatment is important to prevent the spread of cancerous cells.

You know your smile better than anyone. Any time you see a change in the usual appearance of your gums, it’s important to see Dr. James McCreary. Treating gum problems before they become serious is one of the best ways to keep yourself—and your smile—in the pink of health!

Warning Signs of Impacted Wisdom Teeth

September 14th, 2022

When your wisdom teeth start to emerge it can definitely be painful, but it can be even worse if your wisdom teeth become impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth are trying to erupt but are unable to do so because there is not sufficient room for them to emerge. This usually means that your wisdom teeth are painfully lodged in your jawbone.

While you may not see any real signs of the emerging wisdom teeth when they are impacted, what you can’t see can still definitely hurt you. Some of the indicators of impacted wisdom teeth are listed below.

  • Jaw Pain: Pain in the back of your jaw is a common indicator of impacted wisdom teeth. The pain often concentrates in the area around your gums.
  • Changes in the Mouth: You may notice some changes in your mouth when you have impacted wisdom teeth. Reddish gums, swelling in the jaw, bleeding gums, and bad breath can all be indicators that you are dealing with impacted wisdom teeth.
  • Headaches: If you suddenly start having headaches, especially at the same time as some of the other issues mentioned above, they may indicate impacted wisdom teeth.
  • Chewing Issues: Problems with chewing normally can indicate impacted wisdom teeth. If you are having trouble making the chewing motions because your mouth won’t quite open and close as easily as it used to, impacted wisdom teeth may be the culprit.

The Solution

If you are suffering from impacted wisdom teeth, the best solution is usually going to be removal. This is not a problem that will resolve naturally, and in fact, your pain and other symptoms may worsen as your wisdom teeth become increasingly impacted. At McCreary Family Dentistry, Dr. James McCreary can review the details of wisdom teeth removal surgery with you and help you determine if this is the best solution for your situation.

Three Valuable Dental Treatments

August 31st, 2022

In our office, we customize treatment for every patient. Amid all of the fillings, crowns, and veneers, we find there are three treatments that are most valuable when offering our patients options: dental implants, bite guards, and teeth whitening.

Dental implants are a great tool for those who have lost teeth from trauma, genetic predetermination, decay, or fracture. Technology and design have allowed these implants to look and function like a natural tooth. They are a great investment when maintaining bone structure and smile presentation.

In our fast-paced lives, people take their stress and tension out on their teeth. Clenching and grinding, or bruxism, is on the rise. This is traumatic to crowns, fillings, and natural teeth. Headaches are a symptom of bruxism and when not treated, jaw joint inflammation and pain are a result. Bite guards are often worn at night when most of the action occurs. Many are not even aware of this habit until presented with evidence of cracked teeth, broken crowns, and pain.

Last, but most definitely not least, is whitening. Tooth whitening is safe and effective. There are different types of tooth whitening: in-office, custom trays, and over-the-counter strips. Each is effective, though at different levels. First, and your best option, is done in the office. The gums are protected and a gel with high potency is applied to the teeth. Some methods have a light shining on teeth and some have timed intervals without the light. Next are custom trays, which require an impression of your bite. Trays are picked up at a later date. At that point, instructions are given and the gel and trays are delivered. A final option is whitening strips, which can be found in many local stores. They are effective, though the whitening process is slower and some areas may not whiten.

Each treatment has risks and rewards that should always be considered prior to any treatment. Implants must be well cared for. Bite guards must be an accurate fit and worn regularly. Comfort is most important. Whitening causes temporary sensitivity and some people’s teeth whiten better than others.

Consider what your needs are, and then customize your wants to fit into the equation. A little stability from implants, protection from a bite guard, and a brilliant smile may be just what the doctor ordered. And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call our office, McCreary Family Dentistry.

Improve Your Overall Health with Regular Cleanings

August 24th, 2022

It’s common knowledge that you should get your teeth cleaned every six months. But do you know why that timing is crucial? Studies have shown that your oral health connects directly to the rest of your body. Over time, an unhealthy mouth can cause trouble in other parts of your general system.

Undergoing a regular cleaning every six months at our Pensacola, FL office is vital. During your dental checkups, we remove plaque that collects on your teeth and around your gums. If the plaque gets left in place for an extended period, inflammation can develop and may lead to painful gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontal disease.

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, periodontal disease has been linked to increased risk for health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, inflammation, and osteoporosis. Bacteria from your mouth can spread throughout the rest of your body. So a healthy mouth leads to a healthy body.

Regular checkups can prevent issues from arising in your mouth if problems are caught early by Dr. James McCreary. If you have been avoiding the dentist, you could be making issues worse for yourself in the long haul. Generally, a dentist will go over a few routine matters during your checkup. They might include taking X-rays, checking for gum disease and tooth decay, examining your bite, inspecting your head and neck for swelling, and of course performing a thorough cleaning of your teeth and gums to remove built-up plaque and tartar. All of these routine practices are worthwhile when it comes to keeping your oral health in top shape.

Now that you know the importance of getting your teeth checked every six months, you should be sure to schedule your next appointment with McCreary Family Dentistry at our Pensacola, FL location. Keeping your mouth healthy will prevent any form of bacteria from spreading to the rest of your body. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your oral health, don’t hesitate to call and our staff will be happy to assist you.

Don’t Let Craze Lines Faze You

August 17th, 2022

You’re getting ready for a night out, or you’re checking to make sure you removed every bit of spinach after eating, or you’re practicing your best selfie smile . . . and suddenly, you see something alarming in the mirror—tiny cracks in your tooth enamel! Is this a dental emergency?

Almost always, the answer will be no.  Cracks like this are most likely “craze lines,” and craze lines are not serious cracks in your teeth. These diminutive flaws are shallow vertical cracks in the enamel which don’t go all the way through the tooth and don’t affect the tooth’s structural integrity. Like the crazing on a piece of glazed pottery, these tiny cracks are superficial, and the only reason for concern is cosmetic.

  • Cause for Crazing?

Time and normal wear on our enamel are the most common culprits. Years of biting and chewing are stressful.

But you can help prevent additional craze lines by avoiding bad habits which can put external stress on your teeth: nail biting, knocking on teeth with oral jewelry, crunching down on ice cubes, using your teeth to open bottle caps—in fact, using teeth for anything other than chewing food.

Grinding your teeth is also hard on your enamel. If you suffer with bruxism (the medical term for tooth grinding), ask Dr. James McCreary about a mouthguard or night guard. Eliminating the extra stress of unconscious grinding and clenching reduces the chances of craze lines. Even better, getting treated for bruxism can reduce the risk of serious pain and damage to your teeth and jaws.

  • Staining Can Make Craze Lines More Visible

Craze lines are often invisible unless the light is just right. However, you can make craze lines more noticeable if you drink coffee, tea, red wine, or dark sodas regularly. And if you need another reason to give up tobacco products, smoking, chewing, or any other use of tobacco can also darken craze lines.

Stains in craze lines don’t usually respond to brushing. You might be able to lighten stains with home or professional whitening. Ask Dr. James McCreary for the options which are best for your staining.

  • Repairing Craze Lines

Don’t let tiny flaws keep you from smiling! If you are unhappy with the appearance of your enamel, talk to us about possible treatments, including bonding and porcelain veneers.

  • When It’s More Than a Craze Line

While a craze line is generally nothing to be concerned about, a deep line, or a line which is getting bigger, might suggest a crack in the tooth. Cracks need to be assessed and treated to avoid damage not only to the exterior of the tooth, but to the pulp of the interior as well.

How can you tell the difference? Craze lines are not painful; a cracked tooth might be. Sensitivity to hot and cold foods, painful chewing, gums swollen around a tooth, pain when you bite down, a crack that is getting larger—any of these symptoms could be a sign that you have a cracked tooth. These are reasons to visit our Pensacola, FL dental office ASAP.

Craze lines might be medically harmless, but if they impact your confidence, that’s a problem. Our team can help you change habits that are causing craze lines, remove staining, or repair cosmetic damage. If you’re not crazy about those craze lines, ask us for solutions that will bring back your confidant smile.

Clean Toothbrush/Healthy Toothbrush

August 10th, 2022

We’ve all learned a lot about staying healthy lately. As a parent, you give good advice about avoiding germs in public places, cleaning things that get touched a lot like phones and keyboards, and learning the best way to wash hands. These small daily habits can have a big effect on your child’s health.

And since you’re already taking care of your little one by making sure they brush at least twice a day, we have some good advice for small habits which can make their toothbrush even cleaner and brushing even healthier.

Brushing Habits

Don’t let germs hitch a ride on your child’s toothbrush before they even begin brushing! Make sure their hands are clean before they start, and rinse off the toothbrush before they put it in their mouth.

After brushing, be sure your child rinses their brush carefully to get rid of leftover toothpaste and bits of food. Also, clean the toothbrush holder regularly to get rid of germs and bacteria.

And while we’re talking about germs, how about . . .

  • Flushing Habits

Most toothbrushes live in the bathroom, where we also find—the toilet. Every time we flush, invisible bacteria and particles fly through the air. And while that might not make you sick, it’s still pretty gross. Closing the lid before you flush helps keep your family’s toothbrushes—and bathroom—cleaner.

  • Airing? Yes!

Keeping a toothbrush in a dark, wet environment is the perfect way to help bacteria grow. Instead of putting a wet toothbrush in a case, let it air dry standing heads up after use. Give it a shake first for a head start on drying out.

  • Sharing? No

We’re not talking about sharing a brush, which you would never do. We’re talking about sharing space. If your child’s brush touches other brushes in a toothbrush holder, it’s probably sharing germs. Toothbrushes shouldn’t be too close to other toothbrushes, no matter how close you are to the other brush’s owner!

Finally, no matter how well your child takes care of their toothbrush, there comes a time when you should let it go. After three or four months, bristles become frayed and worn out. This means the brush won’t remove plaque as well as it used to. And to be on the safe side, it’s a good idea to replace a brush if your child has been sick.

Keeping your child’s teeth and mouth healthy is one very important way to keep their whole body heathy and happy. Talk to Dr. James McCreary at our Pensacola, FL office to learn more about simple habits for healthy teeth!

Hot Day? Three Drinks to Leave Home When You’re Packing the Cooler

August 3rd, 2022

Whew! It’s a hot one! And whenever the temperature soars, you need to stay hydrated, especially when you’re outside or exercising. But all cold drinks aren’t equal when it comes to healthy hydration. Which beverages shouldn’t have a prime spot in your cooler when you’re wearing braces or aligners?

  • Soft Drinks

You’re probably not surprised to find soft drinks at the top of the list. After all, sugar is a) a big part of what makes soda so popular, and b) not a healthy choice for your teeth.

Sugar is a favorite food source for the oral bacteria that make up plaque. These bacteria convert sugar into acids, and these acids attack the surface of your tooth enamel. Over time, the minerals which keep enamel strong begin to erode, and weakened, eroded enamel is a lot more susceptible to cavities.

So, what about sugar-free drinks? Does this make soft drinks a better choice? Unfortunately, you can take the sugar out of many sodas, but you can’t take the acids out. Most soft drinks are very acidic, even without sugar, and will cause enamel erosion just like the acids created by bacteria will.

  • Fruit Drinks

Fruit juice provides us with vitamins, which is great, but it’s also full of natural sugars and acids. And blended fruit drinks and fruit punches often contain added sugars and added citric acids. Best to choose 100% fruit content and check the labels before you buy. (And you can always get refreshing fruit flavor by adding a slice of fruit to a glass of water.)

  • Sports Drinks

You might be surprised to see these on the list—after all, they promise healthy hydration while you’re working out. And hydration is healthy—but sugars and acids aren’t. Even when the label tells you there’s no added sugar, that same label will often reveal high amounts of citric acid. In fact, some sports drinks are more acidic than sodas.

We’ll make an exception, though, for thirsty people who participate in sports or activities that require a lot of physical exercise and produce a lot of sweat. When we sweat, we lose electrolytes, those ionized minerals which help regulate many vital bodily functions. Talk to Dr. James McCreary about which sports drinks are best for you if you need to replenish your electrolytes when working out.

So, what’s your best hydration choice on a hot day? Water! It not only hydrates you, it cleans your teeth, it helps you produce saliva, and it often contains tooth-strengthening fluoride. But if you only have sports drinks in the cooler, or if you just want to enjoy a soft drink or a bottle of juice from time to time, no need to go thirsty. We have some ways to make sure your teeth are safer, even with this tricky trio:

  • Rinse with water after you drink a sugary or acidic drink. And remember to brush when you get home.
  • Be choosy. Check labels for added sugars and acids.
  • Don’t sip your drinks all day long. Saliva actually helps neutralize acids in the mouth, but sipping acidic beverages throughout the day doesn’t give saliva a chance to work.
  • Use a straw to avoid washing your enamel in sugars and acids.

You need to keep hydrated when it’s hot. When you’re packing your cooler, choose drinks that are healthy for your entire body, including your teeth and gums. Ask our Pensacola, FL team for the best choices in cold drinks to make sure you’re getting the hydration you need—without the sugar and acids you don’t!

What’s in Your Backpack?

July 27th, 2022

Hiking is a great way to appreciate the beauty of nature, to get away from the stresses of daily life, and, of course, to challenge yourself physically. While you’re packing away your sunscreen and your first aid kit, do your body another favor—take a minute to include some lightweight, dental-friendly items.

  • Snacks

When you’re exerting yourself, snacks that provide quick energy on the go are a must. Granola, trail mix, energy bars, candy, dried fruit—these are the foods we think of as trail food, and we generally get that quick energy boost from the sugars and starches they contain. As it happens, Dr. James McCreary and our team strongly recommend you pick snack options other than sugary and starchy foods. Why? Because many sugars and starches provide oral bacteria the food they need to produce acids. These acids weaken enamel and damage our teeth. And these common trail foods often have the added “bonus” of sticking to the teeth, leaving acids even more opportunity to attack. Don’t give up the energy boost you need for a safe hike, but do yourself and your teeth a favor and look for the healthiest granola, energy bars, and gorp out there.

Other suggestions for trail treats that are also a treat for teeth? If you need a chocolate pick-me-up, try dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has more caffeine that milk chocolate and less sugar. (It has other health benefits as well that you might want to look up after your hike.) If you like nuts and seeds, take softer nuts, or sliced nuts—a good source of energy and not likely to provide as much stress on your teeth when you’re in the field. (Shell them beforehand—don’t ever use your teeth as a nutcracker!) Similarly, if you take seeds, leave the shells at home. If you like crackers, try whole grains. Looking for protein? How about a tuna pouch instead of chewy beef jerky?

  • Hydrate

Water is always the go-to beverage. Pre-hydrate even before setting out, and have plenty on hand for your trek. Many hiking sources suggest two cups of fluids per hour of activity. (And in hot or humid weather or at high altitudes, you could need even more.) There are actually hiking water calculators online, which can give you a good estimate on how much you’ll need for your trip, taking into account your age, weight, level of activity, and other factors. Because water can get heavy, plan a lengthy hike around the availability of fountains or other clean water sources if necessary.

What if you feel the need for more than water? If you are getting a good workout, you’re probably losing electrolytes. Generally, sports drinks aren’t on the dental menu. They tend to be loaded with sugar and carbs—good for energy, bad for teeth. Sports drinks can be as acidic and hard on your enamel as sodas. But if you need those electrolytes on a long hike, don’t feel guilty. There are many options—choose the healthiest one for you and your workout level.

  • Be prepared!

While you are probably already packing a mini-first aid kit for long hikes, think about a lightweight dental emergency kit as well. These are readily available online and in outdoors stores, and usually contain supplies like cotton balls, dental floss, oral pain relievers, even temporary fillings, in a lightweight bag.

And once your hike is done? Rehydrate, and don’t forget to treat your teeth to a good brushing and flossing when you get home.

Got all that? Great! Now, go take a hike!

Heading Off to College? Maybe It’s Time to Graduate to an Electric Toothbrush!

July 20th, 2022

Your trusty manual toothbrush has been with you from pre-school through high school—well, obviously not the same manual toothbrush, because that would be seriously unhygienic—but it’s the kind of toothbrush you’re used to and comfortable with.

Now, though, you’re off to college, and your lifestyle will be changing. Late night study sessions complete with study session snacks. Getting caught up in a project and making dinner from dorm vending machines. Grabbing fast food on the way to the practice field, or work-study job, or evening class. You get the point—meals can be hectic, unscheduled, and less than tooth friendly.

Maybe it’s time to consider an electric toothbrush. After all, anything that can make your life easier and more efficient during busy college days deserves a spot in your dorm room.

  • Electric Brushes Are Effective

The most important reason to switch to an electric toothbrush is its effectiveness. Several studies have shown that regular use of an electric toothbrush leads to a marked reduction in plaque, that bacteria-filled film which sticks to the teeth and leads to cavities and gingivitis. And it’s really no surprise that an electric brush can out-perform a manual brush.

Electric toothbrushes offer several design options, from oscillating/rotating brushes to oscillating/rotating/pulsating models to brushes using sonic vibration technology. What these technologies all have in common is the ability to remove plaque far more efficiently than we can on our own, because electric brushes provide the equivalent of thousands and even tens of thousands of brushstrokes per minute, compared to the hundreds we can achieve by hand.

You know by now what your brushing habits are like. If you tend to be a bit cavalier with your brushing and flossing, make sure you set yourself up for success. Because you have better things to do during semester breaks and summer vacations than visiting Dr. James McCreary!

  • Electric Brushes Can Make Life Easier

Several of today’s electric brushes come with options designed to do more than simply remove plaque. They can let you know if you’ve brushed for the recommended two minutes, alert you if you’re brushing too hard, and even remind you when it’s time to replace the brush head.

Want more from your electric brush? Some models offer apps that can map out just where you’ve brushed, in case there are a few spots that often get overlooked. Or provide different brushing modes for daily cleaning, deep cleaning, whitening, and more. Or come with a travel case that can recharge while you’re busy exploring the world—or going home for a visit.

In the end, it’s up to you. Do some independent study and research the toothbrushes that will give you the best results for your individual brushing habits. You might not need or want a brush with all the technological bells and whistles.

If you’re comfortable with your manual brush and you get good grades when you visit our Pensacola, FL office, stick with it. But if you think you might benefit from the ease and efficiency of an electric toothbrush, if an electric toothbrush makes your teeth and gums healthier and your smile brighter, that’s an extra credit project worth pursuing.

Diastema, or, Mind the Gap!

July 13th, 2022

Diastema is a medical term meaning “space between”—or what Dr. James McCreary and our team less formally call a gap between the teeth. Such gaps are common for children as they make the transition from baby teeth to adult teeth, and usually close when all the permanent teeth arrive. But not always!

Sometimes a gap, usually between the upper front teeth, stays with you into adulthood, but doesn’t affect your perfectly heathy teeth. Sometimes a diastema develops due to medical conditions or trauma. Whether you would like to close a gap for cosmetic reasons, or need to address gaps that have developed because of dental problems, your treatment will depend on the causes of the diastema.

  • The Relationship of Jaws and Teeth

Most of the time, we think of braces as straightening crooked teeth. For many braces wearers, the jaw can’t accommodate all of the adult teeth without crowding. But it’s also possible to have too much space for incoming teeth, and this can lead to a gap between two or more teeth. Orthodontic treatment is a common choice to close this kind of gap, using braces or clear aligners to move the teeth closer together.

  • Prominent Labial Frenulum

The labial frenulum is a band of muscular tissue that connects the upper lip and the top of the gums. If it is too large, tissue can extend beyond the top of the front teeth. A gap develops when the front teeth simply can’t meet because of the tissue between them.  Oral surgery can reduce the size of the frenulum, if necessary, and often orthodontic treatment is the go-to option to close the diastema.

  • Small Teeth or Small Gap

Occasionally, a few teeth are noticeably smaller than their neighbors. Bonding, veneers, and crowns can be used to enlarge these teeth, making them proportionate to the teeth around them. These treatments can also be successful in reducing a gap between the front teeth.

  • Missing Teeth

Sometimes people are born missing a tooth. Sometimes people lose a tooth to injury or decay. And while the space left by a missing or lost tooth is a noticeable gap in itself, the remaining teeth can shift to fill the void, causing other gaps to develop as well. A dental implant or bridge can both replace a missing tooth and maintain the normal spacing of the teeth that surround it.

  • Gum Disease

Left untreated, periodontitis (gum disease) can damage or even destroy the bone tissue which holds and supports the teeth. This, in turn, leads to “tooth mobility,” or loose teeth. Spaces between the teeth become more noticeable and larger over time. After the gum disease is treated, patient and dentist can explore options for reducing or eliminating spaces between the teeth.

  • Harmful Oral Habits

Tongue thrusting and thumb sucking are two habits that can affect the alignment of the front teeth. Both behaviors pressure the teeth to move forward, which can cause separations between them. Learning how to change these behaviors will help prevent or stop the expansion of a diastema and potentially serious malocclusions (bad bites).

If you would like to discuss your diastema for aesthetic reasons, talk to Dr. James McCreary for ways to reduce or eliminate the gap. If your diastema is the result of a medical condition, we will be able to recommend treatment options available at our Pensacola, FL office. If you’re teeth and gums are healthy, and you enjoy the individuality of your diastema . . .

  • Embrace the Space!

A diastema can be a signature look for you and your smile. Normal brushing, flossing, and regular dental care will keep your smile bright, healthy, and uniquely you. And if you’re happy, healthy, and confidant, why, there’s no reason to mind the gap at all!

Summer Sports and Mouthguards

July 6th, 2022

School’s out and you’ve emptied your gym locker until next fall. But while you’re stowing away the football gear, the basketball warm-ups, the field hockey sticks, and all the other equipment you’ve collected over the school year (that’s where that other shoe went!), be sure to keep one item handy: your mouthguard.

Team and contact sports like football, basketball, and wrestling aren’t the only potential dental dangers. In fact, almost any sport or activity can be made safer when you use your mouthguard.  While you’re keeping active and fit in the summer months, remember to look out for your smile.

  • Sports on wheels

Biking, skate boarding, rollerblading—it only takes one fall to make you realize that roads, sidewalks, and concrete are not ideal landing pads. If you do take a spill, using a mouthguard, along with your helmet, will help protect your teeth and jaw.

  • Court sports

Handball and tennis are not what we consider contact sports, but an unexpected bounce from a ball, or a completely unexpected backhand from your partner, can lead to dental injuries. Ace your workout and wear a mouthguard.

  • Water sports

A fall in the water can lead to a collision with your surfboard or water skis, and water polo often seems to be a game of stamina, accuracy and elbows. Wear your mouthguard on land and sea, and help reduce your chance of dental injury.

  • Team sports

Anyone who has played summer league baseball, softball or soccer knows that occasional contact with other players is pretty much a given. Cushioning your head, mouth, and teeth with a mouthguard will not only protect you, but keep you in the game—and your teammates will appreciate that!

If you already use a mouthguard, keep up the good work! If you don’t, talk to Dr. James McCreary about the importance of protecting your smile with a mouthguard. There are ready-made options available at drug stores and sporting goods shops. These will provide protection to your mouth and teeth, but can sometimes be bulky and uncomfortable and should never be used with braces. If you would like a mouth protector that provides the best fit and comfort, or if you wear braces, we can customize a mouthguard in our Pensacola, FL office that will be a perfect fit for your teeth and bite.

Whatever activity you choose, play it smart! Don’t gear up without your mouthguard, and you’ll greet next year’s classes energized, fit, and sporting a beautiful smile!

Summer Sports and Mouthguards

July 6th, 2022

School’s out and you’ve emptied your gym locker until next fall. But while you’re stowing away the football gear, the basketball warm-ups, the field hockey sticks, and all the other equipment you’ve collected over the school year (that’s where that other shoe went!), be sure to keep one item handy: your mouthguard.

Team and contact sports like football, basketball, and wrestling aren’t the only potential dental dangers. In fact, almost any sport or activity can be made safer when you use your mouthguard.  While you’re keeping active and fit in the summer months, remember to look out for your smile.

  • Sports on wheels

Biking, skate boarding, rollerblading—it only takes one fall to make you realize that roads, sidewalks, and concrete are not ideal landing pads. If you do take a spill, using a mouthguard, along with your helmet, will help protect your teeth and jaw.

  • Court sports

Handball and tennis are not what we consider contact sports, but an unexpected bounce from a ball, or a completely unexpected backhand from your partner, can lead to dental injuries. Ace your workout and wear a mouthguard.

  • Water sports

A fall in the water can lead to a collision with your surfboard or water skis, and water polo often seems to be a game of stamina, accuracy and elbows. Wear your mouthguard on land and sea, and help reduce your chance of dental injury.

  • Team sports

Anyone who has played summer league baseball, softball or soccer knows that occasional contact with other players is pretty much a given. Cushioning your head, mouth, and teeth with a mouthguard will not only protect you, but keep you in the game—and your teammates will appreciate that!

If you already use a mouthguard, keep up the good work! If you don’t, talk to Dr. James McCreary about the importance of protecting your smile with a mouthguard. There are ready-made options available at drug stores and sporting goods shops. These will provide protection to your mouth and teeth, but can sometimes be bulky and uncomfortable and should never be used with braces. If you would like a mouth protector that provides the best fit and comfort, or if you wear braces, we can customize a mouthguard in our Pensacola, FL office that will be a perfect fit for your teeth and bite.

Whatever activity you choose, play it smart! Don’t gear up without your mouthguard, and you’ll greet next year’s classes energized, fit, and sporting a beautiful smile!

Summer Sports and Mouthguards

July 6th, 2022

School’s out and you’ve emptied your gym locker until next fall. But while you’re stowing away the football gear, the basketball warm-ups, the field hockey sticks, and all the other equipment you’ve collected over the school year (that’s where that other shoe went!), be sure to keep one item handy: your mouthguard.

Team and contact sports like football, basketball, and wrestling aren’t the only potential dental dangers. In fact, almost any sport or activity can be made safer when you use your mouthguard.  While you’re keeping active and fit in the summer months, remember to look out for your smile.

  • Sports on wheels

Biking, skate boarding, rollerblading—it only takes one fall to make you realize that roads, sidewalks, and concrete are not ideal landing pads. If you do take a spill, using a mouthguard, along with your helmet, will help protect your teeth and jaw.

  • Court sports

Handball and tennis are not what we consider contact sports, but an unexpected bounce from a ball, or a completely unexpected backhand from your partner, can lead to dental injuries. Ace your workout and wear a mouthguard.

  • Water sports

A fall in the water can lead to a collision with your surfboard or water skis, and water polo often seems to be a game of stamina, accuracy and elbows. Wear your mouthguard on land and sea, and help reduce your chance of dental injury.

  • Team sports

Anyone who has played summer league baseball, softball or soccer knows that occasional contact with other players is pretty much a given. Cushioning your head, mouth, and teeth with a mouthguard will not only protect you, but keep you in the game—and your teammates will appreciate that!

If you already use a mouthguard, keep up the good work! If you don’t, talk to Dr. James McCreary about the importance of protecting your smile with a mouthguard. There are ready-made options available at drug stores and sporting goods shops. These will provide protection to your mouth and teeth, but can sometimes be bulky and uncomfortable and should never be used with braces. If you would like a mouth protector that provides the best fit and comfort, or if you wear braces, we can customize a mouthguard in our Pensacola, FL office that will be a perfect fit for your teeth and bite.

Whatever activity you choose, play it smart! Don’t gear up without your mouthguard, and you’ll greet next year’s classes energized, fit, and sporting a beautiful smile!

Summer Sports and Mouthguards

July 6th, 2022

School’s out and you’ve emptied your gym locker until next fall. But while you’re stowing away the football gear, the basketball warm-ups, the field hockey sticks, and all the other equipment you’ve collected over the school year (that’s where that other shoe went!), be sure to keep one item handy: your mouthguard.

Team and contact sports like football, basketball, and wrestling aren’t the only potential dental dangers. In fact, almost any sport or activity can be made safer when you use your mouthguard.  While you’re keeping active and fit in the summer months, remember to look out for your smile.

  • Sports on wheels

Biking, skate boarding, rollerblading—it only takes one fall to make you realize that roads, sidewalks, and concrete are not ideal landing pads. If you do take a spill, using a mouthguard, along with your helmet, will help protect your teeth and jaw.

  • Court sports

Handball and tennis are not what we consider contact sports, but an unexpected bounce from a ball, or a completely unexpected backhand from your partner, can lead to dental injuries. Ace your workout and wear a mouthguard.

  • Water sports

A fall in the water can lead to a collision with your surfboard or water skis, and water polo often seems to be a game of stamina, accuracy and elbows. Wear your mouthguard on land and sea, and help reduce your chance of dental injury.

  • Team sports

Anyone who has played summer league baseball, softball or soccer knows that occasional contact with other players is pretty much a given. Cushioning your head, mouth, and teeth with a mouthguard will not only protect you, but keep you in the game—and your teammates will appreciate that!

If you already use a mouthguard, keep up the good work! If you don’t, talk to Dr. James McCreary about the importance of protecting your smile with a mouthguard. There are ready-made options available at drug stores and sporting goods shops. These will provide protection to your mouth and teeth, but can sometimes be bulky and uncomfortable and should never be used with braces. If you would like a mouth protector that provides the best fit and comfort, or if you wear braces, we can customize a mouthguard in our Pensacola, FL office that will be a perfect fit for your teeth and bite.

Whatever activity you choose, play it smart! Don’t gear up without your mouthguard, and you’ll greet next year’s classes energized, fit, and sporting a beautiful smile!

Summer Sports and Mouthguards

July 6th, 2022

School’s out and you’ve emptied your gym locker until next fall. But while you’re stowing away the football gear, the basketball warm-ups, the field hockey sticks, and all the other equipment you’ve collected over the school year (that’s where that other shoe went!), be sure to keep one item handy: your mouthguard.

Team and contact sports like football, basketball, and wrestling aren’t the only potential dental dangers. In fact, almost any sport or activity can be made safer when you use your mouthguard.  While you’re keeping active and fit in the summer months, remember to look out for your smile.

  • Sports on wheels

Biking, skate boarding, rollerblading—it only takes one fall to make you realize that roads, sidewalks, and concrete are not ideal landing pads. If you do take a spill, using a mouthguard, along with your helmet, will help protect your teeth and jaw.

  • Court sports

Handball and tennis are not what we consider contact sports, but an unexpected bounce from a ball, or a completely unexpected backhand from your partner, can lead to dental injuries. Ace your workout and wear a mouthguard.

  • Water sports

A fall in the water can lead to a collision with your surfboard or water skis, and water polo often seems to be a game of stamina, accuracy and elbows. Wear your mouthguard on land and sea, and help reduce your chance of dental injury.

  • Team sports

Anyone who has played summer league baseball, softball or soccer knows that occasional contact with other players is pretty much a given. Cushioning your head, mouth, and teeth with a mouthguard will not only protect you, but keep you in the game—and your teammates will appreciate that!

If you already use a mouthguard, keep up the good work! If you don’t, talk to Dr. James McCreary about the importance of protecting your smile with a mouthguard. There are ready-made options available at drug stores and sporting goods shops. These will provide protection to your mouth and teeth, but can sometimes be bulky and uncomfortable and should never be used with braces. If you would like a mouth protector that provides the best fit and comfort, or if you wear braces, we can customize a mouthguard in our Pensacola, FL office that will be a perfect fit for your teeth and bite.

Whatever activity you choose, play it smart! Don’t gear up without your mouthguard, and you’ll greet next year’s classes energized, fit, and sporting a beautiful smile!

Losing a Baby Tooth Prematurely

June 29th, 2022

Losing a baby tooth is often an exciting event in a child’s life. It’s a sign your child is growing up, and might even bring a surprise from the Tooth Fairy (or other generous party). But sometimes, a baby tooth is lost due to injury or accident. Don’t panic, but do call our Pensacola, FL office as soon as possible.

If Your Child Loses a Tooth

It is important to see your child quickly when a baby tooth is lost through injury. The underlying adult tooth might be affected as well, so it’s always best to come in for an examination of the injured area. The American Dental Association recommends that you find the lost tooth, keep it moist, and bring it with you to the office. Call Dr. James McCreary immediately, and we will let you know the best way to treat your child and deal with the lost tooth.

Baby Teeth Are Important

There are several important reasons to look after your child’s first teeth. Baby teeth not only help with speech and jaw development, but they serve as space holders for permanent teeth. If a primary tooth is lost too early, a permanent tooth might “drift” into the empty space and cause crowding or crookedness.

Space Maintainer

A space maintainer is an appliance that does exactly that—keeps the lost baby tooth’s space free so that the correct permanent tooth will erupt in the proper position. The need for a space maintainer depends on several factors, including your child’s age when the baby tooth is lost and which tooth or teeth are involved. We will be happy to address any concerns you might have about whether or not a space maintainer is needed.

It is important to remember that there are solutions if the Tooth Fairy arrives at your house unexpectedly. Keep calm, call our office, and reassure your child that his or her smile is still beautiful!

 

Protect Your Enamel from Dental Erosion

June 22nd, 2022

We know that the foods we eat and drink can have a definite impact on our smiles. Staining is an unhappy side effect of many of our menu favorites. That’s why we sip red wine through a straw, rinse with water after a slice of blueberry pie, and cut back on the coffee and tea after a single cup (or two—we’re not perfect!). And sugar is the fuel for cavity-causing bacteria, so we try to substitute water for soda, or replace the hot fudge sundae with grilled fruit. And we always brush carefully after indulging.

So far, so good. But while we’re saving our brilliant smiles from stains and decay, let’s not forget one other source of diet-related damage—acids. Acidic foods and beverages can actually erode the surface of our enamel, leaving our teeth more vulnerable to sensitivity and discoloration.

What Is Dental Erosion?

Enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies—stronger than bone—but it is not indestructible. And acids are one of the major causes of enamel damage. (In fact, it’s the acids produced by bacteria that lead to cavities.) Luckily, our bodies are designed to protect our enamel. Saliva helps clean the teeth by washing away food particles and it neutralizes acidity as well. But a diet that’s too heavy in acidic foods can undo all this good work and upset the healthy pH balance in our mouths.

Why is this a problem? Because acidic environments actually cause the minerals in our enamel to break down, a process known as “demineralization.” This weakening of the enamel leaves teeth more sensitive to heat and cold. It can even lead to discolored teeth, as thinner enamel allows the brownish-yellow dentin underneath the enamel surface to become visible.

Are You Aware of Acids?

We can immediately guess at some of the most acidic foods. Citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes in their many culinary forms, anything pickled in vinegar, coffee, tea, wine—these foods are certainly acidic, but also a regular part of many a healthy diet. You don’t need to avoid these foods altogether, but it’s best to enjoy them as part of a meal or enjoy them sparingly. And balance out some of these high-acidity foods at mealtime with low-acidity choices like bananas, bread, and dairy products.

Other sources of damaging acids might surprise you. Studies have linked sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks to higher levels of tooth erosion. The combination of citric acid, phosphoric acid and/or carbonation raises acidity levels in the mouth. And because we tend to sip them all day long, it’s like a continuing acid bath for our enamel. Water is always a healthy alternative for hydration, but if you do indulge in a soda or sports drink, rinse with water after drinking. And don’t swish—just swallow.

Won’t Brushing Help?

Yes, but watch your timing. Because the acids in foods weaken enamel, brushing right after a big glass of orange juice or a soda can actually be even more abrasive for tooth surfaces. We recommend waiting anywhere from 20-60 minutes to brush. This gives your saliva the chance to not only wash away acids, but to “remineralize” your teeth, bathing them in the phosphate and calcium ions that strengthen enamel.

If you notice any of the symptoms of dental erosion, including pain, sensitivity when you eat or drink something hot, cold or sweet, or yellow discoloration, talk to Dr. James McCreary during your visit to our Pensacola, FL office about what you can do to help protect and strengthen your teeth. Unfortunately, our bodies can’t produce new enamel. By avoiding foods that stain, by reducing sugars that lead to decay, and by limiting the acidic foods that erode our enamel, we give ourselves the best opportunity for a lifetime of beautiful, healthy smiles.

Protect Your Enamel from Dental Erosion

June 22nd, 2022

We know that the foods we eat and drink can have a definite impact on our smiles. Staining is an unhappy side effect of many of our menu favorites. That’s why we sip red wine through a straw, rinse with water after a slice of blueberry pie, and cut back on the coffee and tea after a single cup (or two—we’re not perfect!). And sugar is the fuel for cavity-causing bacteria, so we try to substitute water for soda, or replace the hot fudge sundae with grilled fruit. And we always brush carefully after indulging.

So far, so good. But while we’re saving our brilliant smiles from stains and decay, let’s not forget one other source of diet-related damage—acids. Acidic foods and beverages can actually erode the surface of our enamel, leaving our teeth more vulnerable to sensitivity and discoloration.

What Is Dental Erosion?

Enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies—stronger than bone—but it is not indestructible. And acids are one of the major causes of enamel damage. (In fact, it’s the acids produced by bacteria that lead to cavities.) Luckily, our bodies are designed to protect our enamel. Saliva helps clean the teeth by washing away food particles and it neutralizes acidity as well. But a diet that’s too heavy in acidic foods can undo all this good work and upset the healthy pH balance in our mouths.

Why is this a problem? Because acidic environments actually cause the minerals in our enamel to break down, a process known as “demineralization.” This weakening of the enamel leaves teeth more sensitive to heat and cold. It can even lead to discolored teeth, as thinner enamel allows the brownish-yellow dentin underneath the enamel surface to become visible.

Are You Aware of Acids?

We can immediately guess at some of the most acidic foods. Citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes in their many culinary forms, anything pickled in vinegar, coffee, tea, wine—these foods are certainly acidic, but also a regular part of many a healthy diet. You don’t need to avoid these foods altogether, but it’s best to enjoy them as part of a meal or enjoy them sparingly. And balance out some of these high-acidity foods at mealtime with low-acidity choices like bananas, bread, and dairy products.

Other sources of damaging acids might surprise you. Studies have linked sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks to higher levels of tooth erosion. The combination of citric acid, phosphoric acid and/or carbonation raises acidity levels in the mouth. And because we tend to sip them all day long, it’s like a continuing acid bath for our enamel. Water is always a healthy alternative for hydration, but if you do indulge in a soda or sports drink, rinse with water after drinking. And don’t swish—just swallow.

Won’t Brushing Help?

Yes, but watch your timing. Because the acids in foods weaken enamel, brushing right after a big glass of orange juice or a soda can actually be even more abrasive for tooth surfaces. We recommend waiting anywhere from 20-60 minutes to brush. This gives your saliva the chance to not only wash away acids, but to “remineralize” your teeth, bathing them in the phosphate and calcium ions that strengthen enamel.

If you notice any of the symptoms of dental erosion, including pain, sensitivity when you eat or drink something hot, cold or sweet, or yellow discoloration, talk to Dr. James McCreary during your visit to our Pensacola, FL office about what you can do to help protect and strengthen your teeth. Unfortunately, our bodies can’t produce new enamel. By avoiding foods that stain, by reducing sugars that lead to decay, and by limiting the acidic foods that erode our enamel, we give ourselves the best opportunity for a lifetime of beautiful, healthy smiles.

Dental Tips for Your Summer Vacation

June 1st, 2022

Summer’s here, and it’s time to enjoy a well-deserved break! But even though school’s out, please take a few minutes to learn some tips from Dr. James McCreary to keep your teeth and mouth healthy for a summer of great smiles.

Hydration

When you are active in warm weather, you need to keep hydrated. So choose your drinks wisely. Sodas and sports drinks can contain a lot of sugar, which encourages cavity-causing bacteria to grow. Water is always a healthy, sugar-free choice. If your tap water contains fluoride, you can even fight cavities while staying hydrated. One other benefit of hydration? It helps with saliva production, and saliva is a natural way to wash away food particles and bacteria while providing substances that help keep teeth strong.

Mouthguards

Biking, skateboarding, baseball, soccer—all great outdoor sports, but one fall or accidental contact can cause serious damage to teeth. If you have a mouthguard for school sports, don’t forget to wear it for summer activities as well. And, if you don’t have a mouthguard, now is a good time to think about getting one. You can use a ready-made guard, or we can custom-fit one especially for you. Talk to us about your favorite sports, and we’ll suggest ways to protect your teeth while you enjoy all the physical activities warm weather brings.

Vacation Plans

If you and your family are going to be traveling this summer, let us know! If you need any procedures at our Pensacola, FL office, we can plan them around your time away. It’s best to get any necessary work done before you travel, and we will be happy to work with your family’s schedule. When you are away, be sure to carry our number with you in case a dental problem comes up, and it’s always a good idea to travel with a dental emergency kit.

Sticking To Your Dental Routine

Unfortunately, the bacteria that lead to increased plaque and cavities never take a vacation. Keep up with your regular schedule of two minutes of careful brushing at least twice a day, and make sure to floss. Come see us if it’s time for an exam or a cleaning, or if you have any dental problems or concerns.

However you spend your summer, we hope it is filled with happy—and healthy—smiles!

Are you at risk for oral cancer?

May 25th, 2022

Nearly 40,000 people are diagnosed with oral cancer annually in the United States, with more than 8,000 dying every year from the disease. Oral cancer has a higher death rate than many other common cancers, including cervical cancer, testicular cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and thyroid or skin cancers. The high death rate results from the fact that most oral cancers go undiagnosed until the disease is well advanced and has spread to another part of the body, most often, the lymph nodes in the neck.

Dr. James McCreary and our team want you to know that cancers of the mouth and throat, which account for about three percent of all cancers in the United States, are largely preventable. However, we want you to know about certain risk factors that affect the likelihood of developing the disease.

  • Use of tobacco products including smoking cigarettes, cigars or a pipe, or chewing tobacco all elevate risk for developing oral cancer. Tobacco use especially, is a serious risk factor because it contains substances called carcinogens, which harm cells in your mouth.
  • Consumption of alcohol in excess can also increase your risk. If you drink alcohol regularly, you have an elevated risk of getting oral cancer. Alcohol abuse (more than 21 drinks in one week) is the second largest risk factor for the development of oral cancer, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
  • Excessive sun exposure. People who spend lots of time outdoors and do not use proper amounts of sunscreen or lip balm have a greater risk for developing lip cancer. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight may also cause melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.

If you notice unusual lumps, bumps, or red or white patches in your mouth that don’t go away, sores that won’t seem to heal, persistent soreness, or pain or difficulty swallowing please consult Dr. James McCreary and our team immediately.

Other factors that may influence your risk for developing oral cancer include:

  • Age: Oral cancer is typically a disease that affects older people, usually because of their longer exposure to other risk factors. Most patients diagnosed with oral cancer are over the age of 40.
  • Gender: Oral cancer strikes men twice as often as it does women.
  • A history with viral infections, such as human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables

During your next visit, Dr. James McCreary will examine your mouth for signs of oral cancer. If you have been putting off a visit to our Pensacola, FL office for your regular checkup, now is an excellent time to schedule one. Regular visits can be the first line of defense against oral cancer because we can identify early warning signs of the disease. Give us a call today!

Dental Fear in Children: Brought on by parents?

May 18th, 2022

Two studies – one conducted in Washington State, and whose findings were published in the Journal of Pediatric Dentistry in 2004, and another conducted in Madrid, Spain, and whose findings were reported in 2012 in Science Daily, reinforce earlier findings that show a direct relationship between parental dental fear and that of their children.

The Washington study looked at dental fear among 421 children whose ages ranged from 0.8 to 12.8 years. The children were all patients at 21 different private pediatric dental practices in Western Washington State. The Spanish study looked at 183 children between the ages of seven and 12, and their parents in Madrid.

The Washington study used the Dental Sub-scale of the Child Fear Survey Schedule. The survey responses came from either parents, or other parties charged with taking care of the children. The people responsible for each child filled out the survey, which consisted of 15 questions to which answers were given based on the child’s level of fear. The scale used was one to five, with one meaning the child wasn’t afraid at all, and five indicating the child was terrified. The maximum possible points (based on the greatest fear) was 75.

Spanish researchers found that like past studies, there is a direct connection between parental dental fear levels and those of their kids. The most important new discovery from the study conducted in Madrid, was that the more anxiety and fear a father has of going to the dentist, the higher the fear levels among the other family members.

Parents, but especially fathers, who suffer from fear of going to the dentist and fear of dental procedures in general pass those fears on to every member of the family. While parents may not feel like they have control over those fears, the best way to help your child understand the importance of going to the dentist is by not expressing your fears in front of them – or around the rest of the family.

Dr. James McCreary and our team understand that some patients are more fearful than others when it comes to visitingour Pensacola, FL office. We work hard to make our practice as comfortable for our patients, both children and adults.

Should You Be Concerned about Your Child’s Bad Breath?

May 11th, 2022

The short answer to this question? Yes. Because your child’s breath is a reflection of his or her oral health, you should talk to Dr. James McCreary if you notice any unpleasant changes. While better dental hygiene is usually the answer for young children, bad breath can also be a symptom of more serious problems.

Oral Hygiene

Most often, bad breath is simply a sign that your child needs a little help developing proper brushing and flossing habits.

  • Show your child how to use a soft-bristled brush that fits in the mouth comfortably, be sure to brush all the surfaces of each tooth, and don’t forget to angle toward the gum line. And brush long enough. Once all the baby teeth have arrived, two minutes of brushing is usually recommended for children.
  • It’s not too early to floss! Adults need to handle the flossing duties for children until they can manage on their own, so it’s a perfect time to teach technique. And, just like toothbrushes, floss should be flexible and soft.
  • Don’t forget the tongue. Our tongues harbor the bacteria that cause bad breath, so finish off your child’s routine with a gentle brush of the tongue.

Better oral habits mean not only fresh breath, but give those baby teeth the best chance of staying healthy until they are naturally replaced by adult teeth. After all, baby teeth not only help your child learn to eat and speak properly, but they act as necessary placeholders so the permanent teeth are able to erupt in exactly the right spot.

Talk to a member of our Pensacola, FL office team at your child’s next appointment if you are concerned about oral hygiene–they have many great suggestions for making brushing and flossing more efficient, comfortable, and even fun for your child.

Understanding Cavities

May 4th, 2022

Getting a cavity seems like delayed punishment for eating that special dessert every weekend or for the few days you forgot to floss. When you are doing everything right with minimal exception and a cavity is diagnosed, it is discouraging. Knowing how cavities form and what causes them is valuable in knowing how to prevent them. In this blog post, Dr. James McCreary will help you understand cavities!

A cavity is not a one-time event. It is actually a symptom of a disease called caries. Tooth decay is a result of an active infection and condition in the mouth. There are ingredients to this infection, which include bacteria, acid, your tooth, and a food source. The main bacterial culprit is S. Mutans. Bacteria live in a housing structure called biofilm. This offers them protection, food, and an ideal replicating environment.

Biofilm can be healthy if there is a balance of good bacteria. When you have caries, the numbers of “bad” bacteria increase and produce an environment where they thrive and therefore cause tooth decay. A main indicator of this is a pH measurement of your saliva.

Several factors can influence the biofilm pH. Foods and beverages all have different pH levels. The lower the number, the higher the acidity. Since acid promotes tooth decay, a beverage like soda will promote a cavity. Water, being neutral, is a good choice to promote healthy oral pH. Healthy eating can still cause cavities. Here is an example of a highly acidic, yet traditionally healthy meal:

Toast with store-bought strawberry jam, and a cup of cottage cheese topped with fresh cranberries.

Instead, here is a better choice, which involves mixing acidic healthy foods with alkaline (non-acidic) foods to reduce the overall pH:

Toast with almond butter, and Greek yogurt topped with fresh blueberries.

The first example will result in a very low pH in the mouth and even in the rest of the body. The second meal mixes highly acidic blueberries with an alkaline Greek yogurt. Dairy products from cows are highly acidic. Toast is acidic because of the yeast and almonds are alkaline.

A natural buffer is saliva. Whenever mouth breathing or medications compromise the saliva flow, the pH is going to drop and caries can go rampant. Getting a cavity is not just about the sweets or forgotten flossing sessions. It is about the pH levels and bacterial management.

For more helpful tips about how to avoid cavities, contact our Pensacola, FL office.

What to Expect if You Haven’t Been to the Dentist in Forever

April 27th, 2022

It’s easy to miss a dental appointment. Life and duties intervene, and suddenly you have to push your appointment back once, then again, or forget about it.

We get that. These days, we all have a lot going on. But what we don’t want is for a lengthy absence to make you anxious about returning. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been, we always love to see you! So let’s take a moment to explain what you can expect when you pay us a visit.

Your appointment will last roughly 60 to 90 minutes, so keep that in mind when you schedule it and plan accordingly. Dr. James McCreary and our team want you to feel comfortable.

One of the first things we will ask is the reason for your visit. You’ll have the opportunity to let us know about any concerns or questions you may have. No question is too small, so ask away!

Next, we will go over your medical and dental history to make updates to your file as necessary. This will usually be followed by X-rays to give us a better idea of what is currently happening with your teeth. We will finish with a screening for oral cancer and periodontal disease. If you haven’t visited us in a while, we want to make sure nothing serious is going on.

After that, you will undergo a cleaning with one of our hygienists. Your teeth will be cleaned and checked for such things as broken fillings, cracked teeth, or active decay. Finally, Dr. James McCreary will come by for a final look and a rundown of your dental needs.

Then you’re ready to go! On your way out, you’ll discuss options for scheduling your next appointment, insurance coverage, and payment plans if applicable. You will also receive a goodie bag with a new toothbrush, floss, and toothpaste to get you started (and motivated) on the path to great dental health!

We always want our patients’ experience to be as comfortable and as easy as possible. From the moment you pick up the phone to make your appointment, our team is here to make sure we always meet your needs.

No matter how long it’s been since your last visit, we hope you’ll give us a call to make your next appointment at our Pensacola, FL office.

Are baby teeth really that important?

April 20th, 2022

Your infant’s first teeth will begin to appear around six to 12 months of age. You might wonder how important these primary teeth really are. After all, baby teeth are destined to fall out within a few years and be replaced by a full set of permanent teeth. However, baby teeth have important functions, and proper care can set the stage for excellent oral and overall health.

Promote Better Nutrition

The appearance of your baby’s primary teeth around six to 12 months of age coincides with changes in your infant’s nutritional needs. Beginning at six months, exclusive breastfeeding is no longer nutritionally sufficient; this is the age at which you should introduce solid foods.

At six to eight months, when your baby can start to chew, strained or pureed fruits and vegetables are appropriate. As your little one’s teeth grow in and chewing abilities progress through 12 months of age, you can gradually add cereal, bread, cooked meats, and other adult foods to his or her nutritious diet.

Increase the Life Expectancy of Baby Teeth

Although baby teeth are inevitably going to fall out and be replaced by permanent ones, making baby teeth last serves an important role that can have benefits into the future. Baby teeth serve as placeholders for permanent teeth. If they decay and fall out too soon, permanent teeth are more likely to grow in crooked.

How to Take Care of Baby Teeth

Your baby’s primary teeth are already in his or her mouth at birth; they are just invisible because they have not broken through the gums. Since they are already present, your baby can get cavities if you do not practice proper oral hygiene from the beginning.

  • Do not let your baby fall asleep with a bottle in his or her mouth.
  • Brush your child’s baby teeth twice a day as soon as they come in.
  • Floss your child’s teeth as soon as he or she has two teeth that touch.
  • Visit McCreary Family Dentistry for your baby’s first checkup when the first tooth arrives.

Non-Nutritive Sucking Behavior

April 13th, 2022

“Non-nutritive sucking behavior”? That’s a mouthful—literally! This term describes behaviors such as thumb sucking and pacifier use, which are generally healthy, self-soothing activities for infants and toddlers. But, if followed too long, this comforting habit can have uncomfortable consequences for your child’s dental health.

When children are nursed or bottle-fed, placing a nipple in the mouth helps trigger the sucking reflex, enabling the flow of milk or formula. This is called nutritive sucking, because nourishment is the goal. The sucking reflex is so essential that it develops even before birth. And while the purpose of this reflex is nourishment, it provides other benefits as well.

For small children, sucking can be a comfort mechanism to help them cope with stressful situations and calm themselves. That’s why you often see your child sucking on a pacifier, toy, thumb, or fingers when feeling overwhelmed or tired. Non-nutritive sucking behavior, or NNSB, refers to these habits: sucking without nutritional benefit.

Such habits are extremely common in young children. Most children stop sucking their thumbs or pacifiers between the ages of two and four, and often even earlier. But if your child hasn’t, it’s a good idea to talk to Dr. James McCreary about easing your child away from this familiar habit before the permanent teeth start to arrive.

Why? Because when sucking behavior lasts too long, it can have orthodontic consequences. Just as the gentle pressure of braces or aligners can help shift teeth and jaws into the proper alignment, the pressure from sucking thumb and pacifier can push growing teeth and jaws out of alignment.

  • Studies have shown a clear link between NNSB and malocclusions, or bite problems. These include overjets (protruding upper teeth), open bites (where the upper and lower teeth don’t make contact when biting down), and crossbites (where one or more upper fit teeth inside lower teeth).
  • As young bones are still growing, prolonged, vigorous sucking can affect the shape and size of a child’s palate and jaw.
  • When the teeth are pushed out of alignment, difficulties with pronunciation, such as lisps, can develop.

Sucking habits can be difficult to give up. If your child is still self-comforting with the help of thumb or pacifier past age three, and certainly if you’ve noticed any changes in teeth or speech, there are several gentle, positive steps you can take to protect your child’s dental health.

  • Talk to Dr. James McCreary about strategies for weaning your child from pacifier and thumb, as well as possible comforting substitutes. Your healthcare team can offer suggestions for making this transition as easy as possible for your child—and for you!
  • Discuss recommendations you’ve found in books or online which might be a good match for your child’s personality. Whatever you decide on, whether it’s a gradual phasing out, small rewards, a goals chart, or any other method, use positive reinforcement and plenty of encouragement.
  • Set easy goals at the beginning, such as going thumb-free while playing a game, or enjoying a favorite video, or any stress-free activity, to give your child a feeling of accomplishment to build on.
  • Be proactive with orthodontic health. One good idea is to schedule an orthodontic visit when your child is around the age of seven—or earlier if you notice problems with tooth alignment, speech, or bite.

Thumb sucking and pacifier use can be important, instinctive sources of comfort for very young children. And, of course, NNSB is not the only cause of childhood malocclusions. Many bite problems are genetically based and/or affected by the size and shape of your child’s teeth and jaws.

But eliminating the preventable oral health problems caused by prolonged non-nutritive sucking behaviors—that’s an opportunity we can’t afford to pass up. After all, wanting to ensure healthy, confident smiles for our children is instinctive parental behavior!

Curing the Nail-Biting Habit

April 6th, 2022

Do you ever find yourself gnawing at your nails? Nail-biting is a very common and difficult to break habit which usually has its beginnings in childhood. It can leave your fingers and nail beds red and swollen. But if you think that your nails are the only ones getting roughed up by nail-biting you'd be mistaken—so are your teeth!

According to a study by the Academy of General Dentistry, those who bite their nails, clench their teeth, or chew on pencils are at much higher risk to develop bruxism (unintentional grinding of the teeth). Bruxism can lead to tooth sensitivity, tooth loss, receding gums, headaches, and general facial pain.

Those are some nasty sounding side effects from chewing on your nails. Most nail-biting is a sign of stress or anxiety and its something you should deal with. So what steps can you take if you have a nail-biting habit?

There are several things you can do to ease up on nail-biting:

  • Trim your nails shorter and/or get regular manicures – Trimming your nails shorter is an effective remedy. In so doing, they'll be less tempting and more difficult to bite on. If you also get regular manicures, you’ll be less likely to ruin the investment you’ve made in your hands and fingernails!
  • Find a different kind of stress reduction – Try meditation, deep breathing, practicing qigong or yoga, or doing something that will keep your hands occupied like squeezing a stress ball or playing with a yo-yo.
  • Wear a bitter-tasting nail polish – When your nails taste awful, you won't bite them! Clear or colored, it doesn't matter. This is also a helpful technique for helping children get over the habit.
  • Figure out what triggers your nail-biting – Sometimes it's triggered by stress or anxiety and other times it can be a physical stressor, like having hang nails. Knowing what situations cause you to bite your nails will help you to avoid them and break the habit.
  • Wear gloves or bandages on your fingers – If you've tried the steps above and they aren't working, this technique can prove effective since your fingernails won't be accessible to bite.

If you're still having trouble with nail-biting after trying these self-help steps, it's best to consult your doctor, dermatologist, or Dr. James McCreary. For some, it may also be the sign of a deeper psychological or emotional problem.

Whatever the cause, nail-biting is a habit you need to break for your physical and emotional well-being. If you have any questions about the effects it can have on your oral health, please don't hesitate to ask Dr. James McCreary during your next visit to our Pensacola, FL office.

Infant Teething Remedies: What Might Help—And What to Avoid

March 30th, 2022

Some lucky babies wake one morning displaying a brand new tooth to the complete surprise of their unsuspecting parents! But your happy baby is irritable and drooling. Or your hearty eater doesn’t feel like finishing her food. Perhaps she finds it hard to go to sleep when she’s usually nodded off before you finish the first lullaby. A small number of children suffer little or no discomfort teething, but for the majority of babies who do, here are some helpful ways to ease their teething pain.

  • Massage--Rubbing your baby’s gums with a clean finger or piece of gauze—gentle pressure is all you need. And do be careful of your fingers once those teeth start coming in!
  • Chewing—there are many colorful and easy to grasp teething toys available, including BPA-free models.
  • Cool Relief—Cool a solid teether in the refrigerator to help ease discomfort. Placing a teething ring in the freezer is not recommended, as extreme cold can be damaging to little mouths and gums.
  • Comfort Food—If your baby is eating solid foods, try cold applesauce or other purees.
  • Skin Care—Drooling is often part of the teething process, but try to keep your child’s face free from rash and chaffing by wiping with a clean cloth when necessary.

And while you are trying to keep your baby comfortable, also be sure to keep her safe!

  • Know what your baby is putting into her mouth. All teething items should be non-toxic and free of harmful chemicals. Teethers filled with fluids may break or leak, so a solid toy is best.
  • Make teething items size-appropriate. Avoid anything small or breakable that might present a choking hazard.
  • Over-the-counter gels and liquids containing benzocaine, meant to reduce pain in the gums and mouth, may on rare occasion lead to serious health conditions in small children. Always check with Dr. James McCreary or your pediatrician before buying an over-the-counter teething medication for your baby.

For many babies, teething can be a long and sometimes difficult process. If there is anything we can do to help you and your baby in this journey, please give our Pensacola, FL office a call.

How do I pick the right toothpaste for my needs?

March 23rd, 2022

With so many toothpastes available in so many price ranges, it can be difficult to be sure you are selecting the right one for your needs. You need a product that not only protects against tooth decay, but also addresses any special concerns that Dr. James McCreary and our team have raised. Look for the American Dental Association seal and do some research to find the toothpaste that best meets your needs.

Choose a Product Approved by the American Dental Association

The American Dental Association approves dental products such as toothbrushes, dentures, mouthwashes, dental floss, and toothpastes when they meet certain quality standards. Before products can display the seal, the American Dental Association must verify that the product does what it claims to do. Look for the American Dental Association seal on the toothpaste package before you buy it. Also, check to make sure that the toothpaste contains fluoride, which helps protect against decay.

Consider Special Needs

You may be depending on your toothpaste to perform extra tasks beyond cleaning your teeth. These are some common concerns that the right toothpaste can address.

  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Plaque or gingivitis
  • Tartar
  • Yellowing teeth

The American Dental Association’s website has a tool that lets users input their requirements and view a list of the toothpastes that carry the American Dental Association’s seal and address those particular oral health needs.

Make Your Children’s Tooth-Brushing Experience Fun

If you select toothpaste that contains fluoride and has the American Dental Association seal, most types of toothpaste will be fine for your children as long as they have no special needs. Allowing your kids to select fun toothpaste can encourage them to enjoy the brushing experience more, so that they brush more frequently and do a better job.

The following toothpaste characteristics can make brushing more fun for children.

  • Fun flavors, such as bubble gum, berry, and watermelon
  • Sparkles and swirls that make the toothpaste appear more attractive
  • Toothpaste that comes in a pump
  • Toothpaste with a container decorated with superheroes

How Does Your Dentist Fill a Cavity?

March 16th, 2022

The grownups in your life want you to have healthy teeth. That’s why they remind you to brush and floss, make you tooth-friendly meals, and take you to see the dentist regularly, at an office designed just for you. You’ve been visiting McCreary Family Dentistry for a while now, so you know all about checkups and cleanings.

At every dental exam, Dr. James McCreary will look at your teeth very carefully, checking not just the outside of your teeth, but around and behind your teeth as well. (That’s what those little mirrors are for.) You might have X-ray pictures taken to show the inside of your teeth. In all these ways, we make sure your teeth are healthy, inside and out.

You expect all these things at a dental checkup because you’re used to them. When you hear that you have a cavity, you might be worried. After all, if you’ve never had a cavity before, you don’t know what to expect. And sometimes not knowing is a little scary. So let’s talk about what a cavity is, and how your dentist can help make your tooth healthy again if you need a filling.

  • What’s a Cavity?

Teeth are covered with a very hard white coating called enamel. Enamel is the strongest part of our bodies, even stronger than our bones. But when we eat too many sugary foods, or don’t brush the way we should or as much as we should, or even just because of the way some people’s bodies work, our enamel can be hurt by cavities.

A cavity is a hole in your tooth enamel. These holes are made by the bacteria in plaque, which turn sugars into acids. This is why it’s important to brush carefully to get rid of plaque, and to watch how much sugar we eat. It’s not just people who like sugar—bacteria do, too!

The acids bacteria create attack our enamel and make it weaker. If the enamel gets too weak, a hole will start to form. This is what we call a cavity.

  • How Do You Know You Have a Cavity?

Maybe you came to our Pensacola, FL office because you have a toothache, or it hurts when you eat something hot or cold. Those are often clues that you have a cavity.

But small, early cavities don’t always bother us. That’s why regular checkups are so important, and why Dr. James McCreary will look carefully at each tooth to make sure that it’s healthy.

  • Getting Ready

Dr. James McCreary might give you some medicine to make sure you don’t feel uncomfortable while your tooth is being repaired. The area around your tooth will get numb, which means you won’t feel anything while we work.

  • Removing Decay

There are different ways to remove decay from your tooth. Some can be noisy, and some are quiet.  If noise bothers you, let your dentist know—there are ways to cover up annoying sounds.

After the decay has been removed, it’s time to clean your tooth. This makes sure that no germs or bacteria are still around when your tooth is filled.

But after all the decay is gone, you’ll still have a little hole in your tooth. That’s why the next step is . . .

  • Filling Your Tooth

Since a hole in your tooth enamel makes it weaker, this hole needs to be filled up to make your tooth strong again—that’s why it’s called a “filling.”

There are different kinds of fillings, and your dentist will tell you which one is best for your tooth. A molar, one of the big teeth in the back of your mouth, needs a strong filling for all the work it does chewing food. Your dentist might use a metal filling to help your molar do its job. If you have a cavity in one of your front teeth, you might get a tooth-colored filling. This filling is made to match the color of your enamel, so no one can see the filling when you smile.

  • After Your Filling

All done! In just a little while, the area around your tooth won’t be numb anymore, and we will let you know when you can eat and drink regular foods again.

If you do your best to keep your teeth healthy, you can look forward to cavity-free checkups in the future. But when you need a filling, or if you have a tooth which needs another kind of treatment, we are here to help you make sure your happy smile is a healthy smile!

Pregnancy and Oral Care

March 9th, 2022

Pregnancy involves a lot of alterations in your health. McCreary Family Dentistry is here to help you understand the oral health aspects of your pregnancy.

As you may already know, your body becomes more susceptible to bacterial complications. In terms of oral health, you may be at a higher risk for gingivitis and periodontal disease during the course of your pregnancy.

The hormonal changes in your body can create a more welcoming environment for gum infections, including gingivitis. Although you may continue to brush and floss on a regular basis, and maintain your schedule of cleaning appointments, you are still prone to an increased risk of gingivitis. Your gums may feel more sensitive and become more prone to bleeding because of the increased amount of blood flowing through your body. This can also be a side effect of periodontal disease, which nearly 40% of pregnant women have.

In order to avoid painful dental visits, you should attempt to brush more than twice a day and always floss regularly. We recommend investing in a good mouthwash for extra protection against plaque buildup. Other oral conditions to watch out for during pregnancy include oral gingival lesions, tooth mobility, tooth erosion, and dental caries.

Keeping your oral health in top shape will prevent bacteria from circulating to other places in your body during pregnancy. Your immune system is more likely to be compromised, which means you generally face an increased risk for illnesses.

Don’t forget that you share nutrients and pathogens with your baby, so it’s crucial to reduce your risks in every possible way. If you think you may be experiencing an oral health issue during your pregnancy, please call our Pensacola, FL office to schedule an appointment, and we will be happy to help you.

Overall Health Can Be Influenced By Oral Hygiene

March 2nd, 2022

Keeping on top of your oral health is key when it comes to making sure your whole body stays healthy. The bacteria that occur naturally in your mouth can produce harmful bacteria such as strep and staph, which can lead to serious infections and sickness.

When you follow good dental habits like daily brushing and flossing, and eat a healthy diet, you can discourage harmful bacteria from traveling from your mouth to other parts of your body. Protect yourself and learn more about the link between oral hygiene and a healthy body.

Until recently, tooth decay was more common because of the lack of regular dental care and research behind fluoride. Tooth decay is much less problematic today, due to fluoridated water and toothpastes that contain fluoride.

Nowadays, gum disease has replaced tooth decay as the most frequent dental problem. Periodontal disease is on the rise among adults because people don’t floss regularly and then ignore gum tenderness and bleeding. If left unchecked, periodontitis can cause inflammation that may cause harm to other parts of the body.

Oral Health and Chronic Disease

Many scientists believe inflammation-related infections can trigger systemic disease or intensify existing conditions. Remember, bacteria overgrowth in inflamed gum tissue is able to enter the bloodstream through your eating processes, which is why it’s so vital to visit our Pensacola, FL office if you notice sustained gum irritation and inflammation in your mouth.

Caring for your teeth and gums every day can prevent the onset of disease and save you trouble in the future with regard to your body’s health. If you think you may be showing signs of periodontal disease, or notice anything else out of the norm, please contact Dr. James McCreary and schedule an appointment.

We want you to be proactive about your health!

How do I know if I’m at risk for oral cancer?

February 23rd, 2022

Every year, over 50,000 North Americans are diagnosed with oral or throat cancer, which has a higher death rate than many other common cancers, including cervical cancer, testicular cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and thyroid or skin cancers. The high death rate results from the fact that most oral cancers go undiagnosed until the disease is well advanced and has spread to another part of the body, most often, the lymph nodes in the neck.

Because oral cancer is typically painless in its early stages and often goes undetected until it spreads, many patients aren’t diagnosed until they are already suffering from chronic pain or loss of function. However, if detected early, Dr. James McCreary and our team at McCreary Family Dentistry want you to know that early detection of oral cancer improves the survival rate to 80 percent or more.

If you visit our Pensacola, FL office regularly, you have probably received an oral cancer screening and didn’t even realize it. That’s because the exam is quick and painless; Dr. James McCreary and our team check your neck and mouth for signs of oral cancer such as discolorations, lumps, or any changes to your tissue. Oral cancer is typically found on the tongue, lips, gums, the floor of the mouth, or tissues in back of the tongue.

Factors that may influence your risk for developing oral cancer include:

  • Use of tobacco products. Smoking cigarettes, cigars, a pipe, or chewing tobacco all elevate risk for developing oral cancer. Tobacco use especially is a serious risk factor because it contains substances called carcinogens, which are harmful to cells in your mouth.
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol. Those who drink alcohol regularly have an elevated risk of getting oral cancer. Alcohol abuse (more than 21 drinks in one week) is the second largest risk factor for the development of oral cancer, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
  • Excessive sun exposure. Those who spend lots of time outdoors and do not use proper amounts of sunscreen or lip balm have a greater risk for developing lip cancer. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight may also cause melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.
  • Your age. Oral cancer is typically a disease that affects older people, usually because of their longer exposure to other risk factors. Most patients diagnosed with oral cancer are over the age of 40.
  • Your gender. Oral cancer strikes men twice as often as it does women.
  • A history with viral infections, such as human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables.

In between your visits to our office, it is critical for you to be aware of the following signs and symptoms, and give us a call if these symptoms don’t go away after two weeks.

  • A sore or irritation that doesn’t disappear
  • Red or white patches
  • Pain, tenderness, or numbness in mouth or lips
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your jaw or tongue
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth

During your next visit, Dr. James McCreary will examine your mouth for signs of oral cancer. If you have been putting off a visit to our Pensacola, FL office for your regular checkup, now is an excellent time to schedule one. Regular visits can be the first line of defense against oral cancer because we can identify early warning signs of the disease. Give us a call today!

Cleaning Your Teeth—Time for a Refresher Course!

February 16th, 2022

Let’s face it, by now, brushing our teeth is something we pretty much do on auto-pilot. A quick brush after breakfast, a minute or so at night, floss when we think of it. Done. But take a few minutes to review these cleaning tips, and see if a few small adjustments to your routine could make all the difference at your next checkup at our Pensacola, FL office.

  • Tools

Some of us prefer brushing with a manual brush. Some like the electric brush for ease and comfort. Whichever form of brush you choose, be sure that it fits comfortably in your mouth, reaches everywhere it needs to, and has a handle that is easy to grip. There are many bristle options available, so if you are an energetic brusher, or if you have sensitive gums, try a soft bristled brush for gentler brushing.

If you haven’t been exploring the floss aisle lately, there are now many varieties available to suit your particular needs. Besides the traditional floss, there are coated flosses for easy gliding between teeth that fit closely together, dental tape-style flosses to fit teeth with wider spacing, and even flosses designed just for braces that thread between the wires and brackets. Talk to Dr. James McCreary at your next cleaning for product suggestions if you think there’s an easier, more comfortable option out there for you.

  • Technique

With proper technique, any toothbrush and floss you choose will do a fine job of removing plaque.

Brushing? There’s a tried and true method for success. Place the toothbrush at a 45° angle at the gum line. Be sure to brush the outside, inside, and chewing surface of each tooth thoroughly. Remember the expression, “Massage, don’t scrub.” Over-vigorous brushing can actually irritate gum tissue and damage enamel. An electric toothbrush should provide a continuous brushing motion without needing any pressure from the brusher. This might be the model for you if you have a too-vigorous approach to brushing, or sensitive teeth and gums. If you like your manual brush, again, give a soft-bristled brush a try!

As for flossing? That harmless-looking little string can cause gum damage if used too forcefully. You can accomplish the placement and cleaning power you need by easing the floss down to the gumline and flossing with gentle pressure against the tooth surface. If you have any questions about technique, remember—we are always happy to let you know the best cleaning methods for your specific needs.

  • Timing

Of course, the best tools and the best technique in the world won’t be effective unless you put the right amount of time into brushing and flossing.

The standard rule is two minutes of brushing in the morning and two minutes at night. If you wear braces or have other special circumstances, we might recommend brushing after every meal. And if you brush after breakfast, give your teeth half an hour or so to remineralize. This natural process uses the calcium and phosphate ions in your saliva to strengthen tooth enamel after it’s been exposed to any acidic foods in your breakfast.

Thorough flossing can be accomplished in a few minutes, and might be needed only once a day. But again, depending on your individual needs, we might have other recommendations. Let’s review what works for you at your next visit—we can tailor suggestions for a brushing routine to your unique needs.

It’s a great idea to review your brushing habits periodically to make sure you are getting the most out of those minutes you spend cleaning your teeth. There won’t be a test at the end of this review, and you won’t get a gratifying grade or a gold star. What you will get is much more important—better checkups, fewer cavities, and healthy teeth and gums. Happy cleaning!

What is an Impacted Tooth?

February 9th, 2022

You may have heard this term the first time you or a friend got your wisdom teeth. That makes sense, as wisdom teeth are the teeth most often impacted in teenagers and young adults. But other permanent teeth can be impacted as well. What exactly do we mean by “impacted teeth,” and what can we do to treat them?

The term “impacted” means that somehow a tooth has been blocked from erupting properly. A tooth may be completely blocked by another tooth, erupt in the wrong space, or even come in from the wrong direction. Depending on the teeth involved, there are several different options for treatment.

From Baby Teeth to Permanent Teeth

Normally, when children lose a baby tooth, a permanent tooth is right there, ready to take its place. But teeth don’t always behave according to plan. Occasionally, that baby tooth just won’t budge, and the permanent tooth starts to erupt behind it. When this happens, a simple baby tooth extraction will often let the permanent tooth move into its proper position on schedule.

A more complicated situation develops when upper teeth are impacted because there isn’t enough space in the mouth for them. In this case, a device called a palatal expander might be used to gradually widen the upper jaw to allow the permanent teeth to erupt without crowding.

In other rare cases, a tooth (often the canine) fails to erupt and may require oral surgery to uncover it, followed by orthodontic treatment to guide it into position.

Impacted teeth can result from other causes as well, and every impacted tooth should be treated as quickly as possible. Left untreated, the teeth can fail to erupt at all or erupt in the wrong place, crowd other permanent teeth, damage the roots of the teeth near them, and lead to difficulties eating and dental pain.

Wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth are often a problem because there is simply not enough room in the jaw for them.

Wisdom teeth that are completely impacted (still in the jawbone) can sometimes be left alone if they aren’t causing other problems. But if impacted wisdom teeth develop cysts, affect the teeth around them, or lead to other dental complications, they should be extracted.

Partially erupted teeth, those that have begun to emerge through the gums but don’t erupt fully, can be the source of different gum and tooth problems. Because the gum tissue overlaps the tooth, food particles and bacteria can become trapped, leading to rapid tooth decay and even infection. In this case, extraction is probably the best option.

Be Proactive

The term “impacted” actually comes from the Latin root meaning “pushed against.” But teeth that don’t erupt at the right time, in the right place, can have a different kind of impact on dental health and appearance. And the earlier we can catch these problems, the easier it is to treat them.

Regular exams and X-rays with Dr. James McCreary at our Pensacola, FL office will show the progress of the teeth even before they erupt, and if there will be the space for them to fit in the mouth properly. We may recommend a visit to the orthodontist by the age of seven to see if there are any signs of potential orthodontic problems.

Intervention at an early stage can prevent potential problems from becoming major ones. That is why it’s so important to be proactive when teeth are erupting in children and young adults. After all, a healthy, confident smile makes a real impact!

How to get Brighter Teeth for Life

February 2nd, 2022

Have you ever wondered why some people have dull and yellow teeth, while others have bright, white smiles? It’s not luck.

Everyone’s teeth naturally dull over time because of aging and the contact our teeth experience with staining foods, such as chocolate and coffee. However, teeth-whitening treatments can give you the whiter smile you’ve been after.

Get Regular Treatments

Unfortunately, the effects of teeth-whitening or bleaching treatments are only temporary, but regular treatments at McCreary Family Dentistry can help keep your teeth white for much longer.

The effects of in-office bleaching can last for several months to a year, so you may prefer to repeat your use of at-home bleaching kits every few months to maintain your white teeth. Whitening toothpastes do not contain bleach and are safe to use every day.

Have Realistic Expectations

Not everyone’s teeth can be turned bright white. Some just don’t respond to whitening treatments. If your teeth are a light yellowish color, they may readily respond to teeth-whitening procedures, but bleach will not likely work on grayish teeth. Brownish teeth tend to fall somewhere in between.

Practice Good Oral Hygiene

For the best whitening results, it’s necessary to keep your teeth in good health. Visible fillings, implants, or bridges that are metallic stand out against the white color you’ll want to achieve.

Maintaining good oral hygiene will help you avoid tooth decay and keep your smile bright. In addition to brushing your teeth twice a day, these actions can help promote a healthy mouth:

  • Floss every day
  • Visit our Pensacola, FL office every six months for professional cleanings
  • Rinse your mouth with water after each meal and snack
  • Limit sugary and starchy foods and beverages that can stain teeth, especially between meals

What to Do If You Lose a Filling

January 19th, 2022

It really doesn’t happen very often. But sometimes you bite into something that is much harder than you anticipated. Sometimes you grind your teeth without realizing the pressure you’re putting on them. Sometimes you have a cavity that has stealthily developed beneath an earlier filling. And the result is—sometimes you lose a filling.

What to do when this happens? If you’re at a loss for ideas, we have some suggestions.

  • Don’t panic

Usually, a cracked, broken, or lost filling is not an emergency situation. That being said, it’s still important to . . .

  • Call us immediately

Dr. James McCreary will be able to give you the best advice as to how to take care of your tooth until you can make an appointment. And if your dental problem might be a dental emergency, we can make sure you are seen as soon as possible.

  • Take care of your tooth

Keep your tooth and the area around it clean. Brush gently to keep food particles away from the newly exposed tooth surface. You can (carefully) rinse around the area with a bit of water or salt water as recommended.

Your lost filling might not inconvenience you at all. But if you feel sensitivity when the tooth is exposed to air, or when you eat hot or cold foods, or if you feel pain when you bite down, let us know. We can recommend some over the counter medications and pain relievers that can help.

If you’re experiencing severe pain, call us at once.

  • Diet

This might not be the time for sticky caramels, frozen treats, or extra-hot beverages. Make yourself comfortable by avoiding chewing with your compromised tooth, and postponing foods that could trigger sensitivity.

  • Make a dental appointment as soon as you can

Don’t put off treatment, even if the filling was a small one, and even if the tooth is causing you no discomfort.

There might be further damage or decay that should be treated. A tooth that required a large filling is often more fragile than an intact tooth, and might need to be fitted with a crown in order to protect it. A missing filling might reveal deep decay which has exposed the pulp of the tooth to infection or damage, and a root canal might be necessary. A seriously damaged tooth might require extraction. Delaying treatment could result in a more complex restoration.

See us as soon as you discover a problem with your filling, and we will make sure not only that your tooth is treated appropriately, but that the reason for the lost filling is discovered. While no filling lasts forever, if the cause of your lost filling is tooth grinding or decay, it’s important to be proactive to prevent further problems.

Losing a filling? It really doesn’t happen very often. But that’s not a lot of comfort if you do happen to lose or break a filling. If you’re at a loss for what to do next, contact our Pensacola, FL office. You’ll find yourself smiling again in no time!

Fluoride Treatment: Do You Need One?

January 12th, 2022

Over the past decade, most people have been ingesting less and less fluoride. This is not such a great trend, since fluoride has a history of successfully reducing tooth decay and promoting good dental health. Most of us drink bottled water now, so many children and adults are not getting the optimum amount of fluoride they need. Of course, dental needs vary, depending on such factors as age, tooth sensitivity, medical conditions, and risk for cavities, but there are several ways to make sure you get the proper amount of fluoride.

Fluoride can be applied in the form of foam, varnish, or mouthwash. For children, topical fluoride can be useful in the early stages of development to ensure the future strength of enamel. For people who have a dry mouth as the result of medication to treat anxiety, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, or high cholesterol, a daily fluoride rinse is recommended, as well as a varnish treatment. 

If you’ve received or are receiving any form of cancer treatment, that could be affecting your dental health. If such is the case, fluoride varnish treatments are recommended prior to, during, and after chemotherapy. Getting an oral infection during cancer treatment can be especially harmful, so it’s worthwhile to do as much as you can to prevent that.

If you suspect you might be in need of a fluoride treatment or have any questions about the treatments McCreary Family Dentistry offers, please feel free to give our Pensacola, FL office a call!

Going Green for the New Year

January 5th, 2022

Does your list of New Year’s resolutions for the coming months include reducing your ecological footprint? If so, let’s ring in the year with some basic—and some innovative—dental ideas to help you meet your goal.

  • Conserve Water

This is probably the easiest –and most cost effective!—item on our list. If you leave the water running while you brush, you are watching gallons of water go down the drain every day. Luckily, toothbrushes rely on wrist power rather than water power. Wet your brush before you begin, and use water only as needed to rinse. You’ll save hundreds of gallons of water every year.

And while we’re near your sink, if you like to rinse after brushing and flossing with disposable plastic cups, consider using compostable paper products or a regular drinking glass that you can clean after using.

  • Biodegradable/sustainable /recyclable toothbrushes

Some brushes promise to be completely compostable, with handles manufactured from sustainable woods or bamboo, and heads fitted with biodegradable boar bristles. Investigate before you buy, because boar bristles aren’t for everyone. Some users complain about the taste, and boar bristles are harsher than the soft bristles we recommend to protect your enamel and gums. Organic bristles are also more prone to bacteria growth.

If you prefer the consistency and texture of regular synthetic bristles, or wish to avid animal products, you can still opt for a brush with a handle of sustainable wood or bamboo. These brushes also offer PBA-free bristles, bristles made largely from castor oil, or bristles that use natural ingredients in combination with synthetics.

And don’t forget recycling as a possibility to cut down on your plastic use. Toothbrushes are available with handles made from recycled plastic. And once you’re finished with them, these brushes can be recycled again.

  • Biodegradable dental floss

This is another innovative take on dental supplies, and one that offers lots of new options. Regular dental floss is usually made from waxed nylon. Biodegradable floss, on the other hand, can be made of silk or plant materials, and coated with beeswax or plant-based wax. Some of these biodegradable flosses even come in refillable or compostable packaging.

  • Organic toothpaste

If you’re incorporating organic foods into your diet, you know that organic options are more easily available than ever before. And now there are more organic toothpastes available, as well. Natural toothpastes can be found which are vegan, fair-trade sourced, and preservative- and artificial ingredient-free.

Before you buy, though, do discuss your choices with Dr. James McCreary. Why? Because many natural toothpastes are formulated without fluoride, a mineral shown to prevent cavities in study after study. Which leads us to . . .

  • See Your Dentist Regularly for Checkups and Cleanings

Along with your daily dental hygiene routine, don’t forget to make regular appointments for examinations and professional cleanings at our Pensacola, FL office. Dr. James McCreary can help you discover the best ideas for products and practices which are good for you and good for the planet, for a lifetime of natural, sustainable smiles.

Resolving to Eat Better in the New Year

December 29th, 2021

It’s a new year, and a resolution found on many lists is learning to be more mindful about healthy food choices. You might have set some of these goals yourself. Gaining, losing, or maintaining your current weight. More fruits and veggies. Better proteins. Less sugar. Fewer carbs. You want to make this new year your healthiest year yet.

And while you’re making your new and improved shopping list, don’t forget your oral health! Because while brushing and flossing are extremely important, your diet can also have very real benefits for your teeth and gums.

Stronger Teeth and Jaws

We often talk about teeth and bones together, and that’s natural. Calcium and phosphorus, as well as other minerals, make them the strongest parts of our bodies. When teeth lose mineral strength, they are more vulnerable to cavities, and bone loss in the jaw can cause loose or even lost teeth.

Making sure you get the recommended daily amount of the minerals and vitamins you need will help sustain and repair both teeth and bones. A diet rich in calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D helps build strong bones and promotes bone density. While your teeth can’t create new enamel, minerals that are eroded by acids from plaque and acidic foods can be restored, or remineralized, with the calcium and phosphates in saliva.

  • Calcium

Strong teeth and bones need calcium. More than 99% of the calcium in our bodies is located in our teeth and bones. How to make sure we get enough?

Dairy products are the traditional answer. Several servings of milk, cheese, or yogurt each day supply most of our needs. If you can’t eat dairy, though, calcium is also found in other foods, such as salmon, sardines, many dark leafy vegetables, and fortified juices, tofu, and cereals.

  • Phosphorus

Calcium gets most of the attention when it comes to creating strong teeth and bones, but it’s not a solo act. We need phosphorus to make full use of the calcium in our diets.

Proteins like meat, fish, and poultry are good sources of phosphorus, as are beans, nuts, whole grains and dairy.

  • Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a diet essential because it enables us to absorb the calcium and phosphorus that keep teeth and bones strong.

Most dairy and many other foods are fortified with vitamin D, such as cow’s milk, soymilk, orange juice, and cereals. Egg yolks and fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and herring, are also a rich natural source of the vitamin.

Healthy Gums

Gum disease is more than just a nuisance. Left untreated, gingivitis (early gum disease) can become periodontitis (serious gum disease). Periodontitis can cause infection, loose teeth, and tooth and bone loss.

Brushing and flossing promote gum health and help prevent gum disease, but your diet plays an important role, too.  

  • Vitamin A

Vitamin A is essential for the health and healing of mucous membranes, including gum tissue and the soft membranes in the mouth.

You can get this vitamin directly from animal products such as dairy foods and meats, or it can be formed in the body from beta-carotenes. Think orange when you hit the produce aisle, because foods such as carrots, peppers, pumpkin, squash, and sweet potatoes are a rich source of beta-carotenes.

  • Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the so-called “essential nutrients.” These are the nutrients that are necessary for our bodies to function properly, and which can only be supplied in our diets. Vitamin C is vital for healthy gums and soft tissue—in fact, one sign that your diet is deficient in vitamin C is inflamed and bleeding gums.

Citrus fruits, those oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and all their cousins, are a wonderful source of vitamin C, but you have many other flavorful options. Fruits such as kiwis, mangos, papayas, and strawberries are rich in vitamin C. Step over to the vegetable aisle to load up on red peppers, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli—all of which contain more vitamin C per serving than a medium orange!

Fewer Cavities

Plaque thrives on a diet of sugar. Oral bacteria in plaque use the sugars in our food to produce acids. These acids erode enamel and eventually lead to cavities. Limiting your sugar consumption and choosing complex carbohydrates over simple carbs are two ways to reduce your risk of cavities.

  • Sugars

The usual suspects—candies, desserts, pastries, sodas—are sugar-filled items you’re familiar with. What might surprise you is the amount of sugar in sports drinks, fruit juices, flavored yogurts, breakfast cereals, and other standard grocery purchases. Checking labels for sugar content is a great way to cut down on unexpected sweeteners.

  • Carbs

The refined starches in white bread, white rice, potato chips, and other simpler carbohydrates quickly break down into sugars. This is the kind of nutrition only plaque appreciates.

Instead, fill your cart with complex carbohydrates, which contain important vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Found in foods like whole-grain breads and cereals, legumes, and many vegetables, complex carbs break down slowly for longer-lasting energy.

Of course, these suggestions don’t cover everything on your healthy dental shopping list. We could add magnesium for bone density, vitamin B to prevent oral irritation and inflammation, vitamin K for bone strength, and more. To find out the best options for your healthiest smile, talk to Dr. James McCreary or a member of our Pensacola, FL team about ideas for improving your daily diet.

Because besides leading to stronger teeth, healthier gums, and fewer cavities, a careful and conscious approach to your food choices has another wonderful benefit—a healthy dental diet is healthy for the rest of your body as well. Just something to be mindful of as we greet the new year!

Avoid the Emergency Room for Dental Problems

December 22nd, 2021

There are certainly situations when going to an emergency room is the best response for your problem. A severe injury to your mouth, jaw, or face would qualify.

However, when it comes to long-term solutions for other dental problems, an emergency room visit may fall short. If you suffer from a major toothache, cavity, a broken tooth, crown, or veneer, it’s better to go straight to the dentist for treatment.

Dr. James McCreary can provide you with a treatment plan that will be long lasting. When you visit an ER for a common dental problem, more likely you’ll only be given temporary relief for a serious and ongoing problem.

In many cases, the emergency room will give you pain medication to mask the symptoms until you can schedule an appointment at our Pensacola, FL office. That results in a lot of wasted time, as well as two separate medical bills. The ER may give you a temporary crown or filling, but you will still need a follow-up appointment for a permanent restoration.

We recommend you find the nearest emergency dental clinic, or even try a home remedy to relieve the pain until you can schedule an emergency appointment at McCreary Family Dentistry. A warm salt-water rinse or cold compress can be used to sooth tooth and gum pain in the meantime.

If you experience a dental emergency and are unsure about what to do, feel free to contact our Pensacola, FL office at any time. We will fit you into our schedule right away and figure out the best course of treatment for your problem.

What Are Chalky Teeth?

December 15th, 2021

You’ve always taken care of your child’s smile. You make sure thorough brushing and flossing take place twice a day. You serve foods high in vitamins and minerals and low in sugar. You make and keep regular dental appointments at our Pensacola, FL office. But even with the best dental routines, sometimes conditions can occur that will require additional professional care.

One of these conditions can affect your child’s enamel while the tooth is still forming. When baby teeth or adult teeth appear, you might notice white, creamy yellow, or brown spots in otherwise healthy-looking enamel. These spots are softer and rougher than normal hard, smooth enamel. Because of their texture and color, such teeth are often referred to as “chalky teeth,” but this condition is actually known as enamel hypomineralization.

What is hypomineralization?

Enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies—stronger even than bones. Enamel is largely composed of minerals. If something disrupts the process of enamel development in baby or adult teeth, the result can be abnormally low mineral content in the enamel. This leaves teeth weaker and more likely to suffer decay and damage.

Premature birth, low birth weight, and other pre-natal factors have been suggested as risk factors for hypomineralization in primary teeth enamel. Permanent teeth can be vulnerable to this condition as well. Adult teeth are forming in young children well before they make an appearance. It’s been suggested that certain early childhood factors, such as recurring high fevers, some diseases, even specific antibiotics, can interrupt the formation of the enamel and lead to hypomineralization of adult teeth.

What are the results of enamel hypomineralization?

Children with this condition are much more likely to experience rapid tooth decay because of their weaker, more porous enamel, especially in the molars. Further, they tend not to respond as well to the numbing effects of local dental anesthetics, while their teeth tend to be more sensitive to pain. Cases can be mild, moderate, or severe. In severe cases, teeth might require crowns or possibly extractions, but even mild discoloration and other cosmetic problems can lead to self-consciousness in your child.

How can we help?

Catching this condition early is very important. If your child has had any medical conditions that might affect tooth development, let Dr. James McCreary know even before that first tooth comes in. If you notice anything unusual about a new baby or adult tooth, give us a call. For primary or permanent teeth, the sooner we can begin treatment, the better the long-term outlook.

We might suggest fluoride applications or desensitizing treatments. We can apply sealants to reduce the risk of cavities, and use bonding to restore discolored or weak patches in the tooth. Both of these methods have greater success if the enamel near the affected area is in good condition, so early treatment is vital. If teeth require more protection, crowns are often the best choice. We will design a treatment program to suit your child’s individual needs now and for the future.

How can you help?

Dental hygiene is important for every child, but especially for a child with weak and porous enamel. Because children with hypomineralized enamel develop cavities more quickly that those with strong enamel, it is very important to watch your child’s diet and keep to a regular, careful, and thorough routine of brushing and flossing at home. Be attentive to any sensitivity problems, and be sure to follow any suggestions we might have for strengthening enamel.

Remember, early diagnosis and treatment is always best! If at any time you notice chalky patches, or have any other concerns about the appearance of your child’s teeth, if they seem to be causing your child pain or are unusually sensitive, call Dr. James McCreary immediately. We want to work with you to treat any current problems and to prevent new ones.

Diabetes and Dental Care

December 8th, 2021

Diabetes is a disease that affects the health of the entire body, including, of course, your mouth, gums, and teeth. We are trained to look for issues that might arise in our patients with diabetes, and are eager to help you maintain your dental health. What do we consider in order to give you the best treatment?

Your Teeth

Dry mouth can be a problem for diabetic patients, whether caused by blood sugar levels or medication, and this condition can lead to tooth decay. When we produce saliva, it not only helps wash away sugar in our mouths, it also helps remove the acids sugars produce which attack our enamel and lead to cavities.

Your Gums

People with diabetes are at higher risk for gum disease. With diabetes, the body is more susceptible to infection and finds it harder to fight bacteria. Early gum disease, called gingivitis, is inflammation caused by the body’s reaction to bacteria. Periodontitis, serious gum disease, leads to infections that can cause bone and tooth loss.

Other Oral Concerns

Dry mouth can lead to mouth ulcers, oral thrush, sores, and infections. And oral infections of any kind can be slower to heal when you have diabetes. We will give careful attention to any concerns you might have for your oral health, and will work with you to prevent any future problems.

Preventive dental care is important for all our patients, and we have special suggestions for you to help maintain your dental health and reduce the possibility of dental complications. Diabetes can lead to oral problems, and oral infections can in turn cause problems with controlling blood sugar, so a healthy mouth can lead to better health in general.

  • Home Care

If dry mouth is a problem, talk to us about possible causes and treatments. Hydrate throughout the day, and avoid foods or beverages that lead to dehydration. Talk to us about the best products for use at home to prevent dry mouth.

Brush and floss after meals to reduce the presence of harmful bacteria and prevent the plaque buildup that leads to gum disease.

Above all, monitor your blood sugar carefully to ensure your body is at its best when combatting infection or when healing.

  • Professional Dental Care

Be sure to visit our Pensacola, FL office at least twice a year for a full examination and a professional cleaning. We can reduce the plaque that leads to gingivitis and more serious periodontal infection. We can monitor your oral health and recommend solutions for problems such as dry mouth. We will make your appointments based on what is best for your schedule. If any type of oral surgery is needed, we will schedule it with an understanding of the importance of healthy blood sugar levels for healing and recovery.

It’s important to make Dr. James McCreary part of your health support system. If you have diabetes, let us know. We will work with you to monitor the well-being of your teeth and gums and to suggest ways to promote your overall oral health. Let’s work together for healthy, happy smiles!

Electric or Manual Toothbrush: Why It Does (and Doesn't) Matter

December 1st, 2021

You live in the golden age of toothbrushes. Until a few decades people used twigs or brushes made from animal hair to clean their teeth: not very soft and none too effective.

Now, you have a choice of manual brushes with soft, medium, or hard bristles. Or you might choose to go with an electric toothbrush instead.

Have you ever wondered whether manual or electric brushes provide better cleaning? Actually, they both do the job. The key is to brush and floss every day, regardless of the kind of brush you prefer.

At our Pensacola, FL office, we like to say the best brush is the one you'll use. So if you prefer manual, go for it. If you prefer electric, turn it on.

Both types have their advantages but both types will get the job done as far as removing plaque.

Electric Toothbrushes

  • Provide power rotation that helps loosen plaque
  • Are great for people with limited dexterity due to arthritis or other problems
  • Are popular with kids who think the electric brushes are more fun to use
  • Can come with variable speeds to help reduce pressure on sensitive teeth and gums

Manual Toothbrushes

  • Can help brushers feel they have more control over the brushing process
  • Allow brushers to respond to twinges and reduce the pressure applied to sensitive teeth and gums
  • Are more convenient for packing when traveling
  • Manual brushes are cheaper and easier to replace than the electric versions.

In many ways, the golden age is just beginning. There are already phone apps available to remind you to brush and floss. New apps can play two minutes worth of music while you brush, help you compare the brightness of your smile or help explain dental procedures. Maybe someday we’ll even have programs that examine your teeth after brushing and identify spots you might have missed.

Cleaning Your Baby’s Teeth

November 24th, 2021

In the eyes of most parents, nothing is cuter than their baby’s smile. Did you know your little one’s smile (that is, his or her oral health) actually plays a huge role in determining the child’s overall well-being? In order to keep your youngster healthy and smiling, you need to know when and how to take care of those tiny teeth.

Baby teeth aren’t just temporaries that will fall out eventually. They help your baby chew and talk, and they reserve space in the jaw for permanent teeth later on. Since they’re so important, the right time to start dental care is only a few days after your infant is born.

Take a soft, wet washcloth or piece of gauze and gently wipe your baby’s gums. The earlier you begin, the more accustomed your child will become to a daily dental hygiene routine.

Babies that are put to bed with a bottle may be at greater risk for developing cavities. Milk, juice, and any other drinks that contain sugar instigate tooth decay while the child sleeps.

If your baby must go to bed with something, a bottle of water is the healthiest option. Remember to wipe your little one’s gums after each feeding, whether it’s formula from a bottle or breast milk.

As soon as your infant’s first tooth comes in, it’s time to start brushing! Twice a day, take a small amount of toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice) and brush your son or daughter’s teeth gently in circular motions. As soon as your toddler has multiple teeth that touch one another, floss up and down the sides of the teeth to remove any plaque between them or below the gumline.

Babies’ teeth are prone to cavities and gingivitis, so you’ll want to be on the lookout for telltale signs. Check regularly for red, swollen gums, because this may be an indication of developing gum disease. Discoloration, white spots, or small pits in the teeth can signal a forming cavity.

As long as you follow these simple guidelines and schedule regular dental checkups with Dr. James McCreary at our Pensacola, FL office, you can help to ensure your baby has a healthy mouth. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your happy baby’s healthy smile.

There’s an App for That!

November 17th, 2021

We live in a tech-savvy world, and dental professionals take advantage of it! Digital imaging, convenient record storage and sharing, even more comfortable denture design—these are just some of the ways dentists can use modern technology to make our time in the office more efficient and more effective.

And since modern software developers have given us a program for just about everything, it’s no surprise that you can find apps to help make your home dental care more convenient and perhaps even more effective, too. What can an app do for you?

  • Brushing and Flossing? Apply Yourself!

A big part of making your smile look its best is the care you take at home. This means keeping up with daily brushing and flossing, and using proper technique. Two minutes brushing, twice each day, and flossing at least once a day are the basic recommendations for preventing cavities and gum disease.

And to help you make sure you get a solid two minutes of brushing twice a day? Try an app that plays two minutes of your favorite music with a perfectly timed brushing playlist. Apps can also send you brushing and flossing reminders, let you know when it’s time to change your toothbrush (every three months, please!), and give you tips on better brushing and flossing techniques.

And for the kids in the house? There are apps just for children that use music and games to help teach them how—and how long—to brush, for an enjoyable and even educational brushing experience.

  • Keep Track of Your Appointments

Your dentist is your partner in preventative care. Regular examinations and professional cleanings at our Pensacola, FL office not only make sure problems are caught before they become serious, they can help prevent problems from developing in the first place.

There are many apps out there that are designed to help you keep your dental care on track with appointment reminders. This sounds pretty basic, but when you have work, school, volunteering, sports, and activities filling your days, it doesn’t hurt to get a timely reminder that Dr. James McCreary should be seeing you for a checkup and a cleaning in the near future.

  • Mapping Out Your Dental Care

Have an electric toothbrush? There just might be an app available designed to work especially with your model. These handy apps can let you know if you’re brushing long enough. They can alert you if you’re brushing too hard, which is not good for your enamel. Some apps can provide a map that lets you know just where you’ve brushed, in case you tend to neglect a few spots.

If you or a family member are thinking about orthodontic treatment, you’re in luck!

Not sure just how you’ll look in braces? Get a preview with an app that uses one of your selfies to model different types and styles of braces, brackets, bands, and aligners. Metal brackets? Ceramic? Elastic bands in your choice of colors? No bands at all? Hardly visible aligners? Find the look that works for you.

There are apps which can keep track of the hours you wear your aligners, or alert you to put on or replace your elastic bands if you wear traditional braces. Some apps even let you track your progress with selfies or “countdown” features.

  • When Problems Happen

There are apps which can help you with basic dental questions. Apps can let you know that symptoms like a discolored tooth mean you should give your dentist a call, or provide instructions for taking care of simple problems, such as applying wax to an irritating bracket. Always remember, though, an app is not a dentist, and can’t diagnose or suggest treatment. If you have a problem or concern, call us immediately.

  • Dentist Approved

If you’ve checked out the dental apps available for your operating system, you know that there are a lot of options out there. To help you find the best app for you and your family, talk to Dr. James McCreary.

We might know just the app for your specific dental needs, whether you’re looking to brush up on brushing techniques, organize your time more efficiently, manage your dental care, or simply make your family’s dental activities a little more fun. It’s a tech-savvy world—take advantage of it!

Proper Brushing Techniques

November 10th, 2021

Brushing your teeth properly removes the food particles and bacteria that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. However, you do not want to scrub your teeth or gums heavily. A heavy hand can lead to tooth and gum erosion, as Dr. James McCreary and our staff see all too often.

You should also use a soft bristle toothbrush to avoid damaging the surface of your teeth. Make sure the head of the brush fits in your mouth, because if it is too large you will not be able to reach all tooth surfaces. Follow these steps to ensure you are brushing properly.

  1. Use a small amount of toothpaste on your brush. The recommendation is a pea-sized amount or thin strip on the bristles.
  2. Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the surface of your teeth, angling towards your gums. Use a circular motion on all exterior tooth surfaces, and avoid back-and-forth “scrub” brushing.
  3. Once you have cleaned the outer surfaces, hold the brush vertically and clean the inner teeth surfaces — the side of your teeth that face your tongue. Do not forget the inner surfaces of your front teeth.
  4. Finally, finish by cleaning all the chewing surfaces of your teeth. You need to maintain a gentle touch, but make sure you get into the full depth of your molars. The entire process should take about two minutes.

Dr. James McCreary and our staff recommend changing your toothbrush every three to four months for best results. Do not forget to clean your tongue, which helps remove excess bacteria from your mouth. Special brushes are available just for cleaning your tongue, and they are easy to use.

Proper care of your teeth also requires flossing on a regular basis. Flossing can be performed before or after you brush. Following up with a quality mouthwash will provide you with even more protection. Do not be afraid to ask the McCreary Family Dentistry team for tips on proper brushing and flossing.

Cold Comfort

November 3rd, 2021

The sounds of the season are filling the air—falling leaves rustling along the sidewalk, football cheers, holiday greetings—and the coughs and sneezes of your fellow sufferers. Yes, it’s cold and flu season, and you’re one of the unfortunate people who’s caught whatever it is that’s been going around. While you’re recuperating, here are some tips for looking after yourself and your dental health.

  • Keep Hydrated

Fevers, sweating, diarrhea, and vomiting can all lead to dehydration. You know how serious that can be for your overall health, but it also leads to problems for your oral health. Lowered saliva production puts you at an increased risk for cavities, since saliva washes away food particles and bacteria, neutralizes cavity-causing acids, and helps strengthen tooth enamel. In addition to the dehydration illness can cause, many over the counter medications leave your mouth dry as well. Be sure to drink fluids throughout your illness, and, as always, try to avoid sugary beverages and acidic drinks.

  • Keep Up Your Dental Hygiene

You may feel like you never want to get out of bed again, but it’s important to maintain your dental routine. Brushing and flossing are still necessary to protect your teeth and gums. And try gargling with warm saltwater or a mouth rinse. You’ll not only soothe a sore throat and help prevent the bad breath that sinus problems can cause, but you’ll also reduce oral bacteria and plaque.

  • Keep Away from Your Toothbrush after Vomiting

Even though cleaning your mouth and teeth might be the first thing you want do to after throwing up, wait at least half an hour before brushing your teeth. Cavities occur over time when tooth enamel is weakened by the acids oral bacteria produce. When you vomit, your teeth are exposed to much stronger stomach acids, and immediate brushing simply brushes these acids on to your enamel. One common recommendation is to mix a teaspoon of baking soda with a glass of water, swish it around your mouth, and spit it out. Or simply use a glass of plain water, and repeat if needed.

  • Keep Your Cough under Control

Here’s a tip your family, friends, co-workers, and fellow public transportation users will thank you for: If you are sick, stay home. If you do find yourself coughing while around others, cover your mouth. Cough into a tissue instead of your hands or the open air. If you don’t have a tissue available, cough into your upper sleeve.  And while you’re protecting others, protect your tooth enamel. Replace overly sweet cough syrups with tablets, and, if you are using cough drops, remember that sucking on a sugary cough drop is like sucking on candy. Look for the sugar-free variety and use only as directed.

  • Don’t Keep Your Toothbrush

Now that you’re feeling better, it might be time to throw out your toothbrush. The chances of re-infection are low (unless you have a compromised immune system), but we often hang on to our toothbrushes long after their effective days are past. A toothbrush should only last around three to four months. If yours is older than that, this is a perfect opportunity to replace a brush that might be getting a bit long in the tooth with a fresh, germ-free model.

Above all, be good to yourself when you are ill. Drink healthy fluids, maintain your dental routine, and treat your teeth and your body with care. Here’s wishing you a speedy recovery, continuing dental health, and a season filled with beautiful smiles.

Why Professional Cleanings are Important

October 27th, 2021

Regular dental cleanings and checkups at our Pensacola, FL office are an excellent way to ensure everything is A-OK in your mouth. There’s a reason the American Dental Association recommends a professional cleaning every six months!

Here’s what you can usually expect during your visit with Dr. James McCreary:

  • Head and neck examination: The dentist or dental hygienist will look for anything out of the ordinary. He or she will check your lymph nodes and lower jaw joints (also known as TMJs).
  • Dental examination: The dentist or hygienist will check for any signs of gum disease, tooth decay, loose or broken teeth, or damaged fillings. We’ll also check your bite, the contact between your upper and lower teeth, and the condition of any dental appliances you’re wearing. Sometimes we’ll also take a set of X-rays.
  • Dental cleaning: Plaque and tartar will be removed and the dentist or hygienist will polish your teeth. Your teeth and gums will be flossed, and we’ll also make recommendations about proper brushing and flossing technique if we think you need them.

When you visit our Pensacola, FL office regularly, we’ll be able to compare the status of your teeth and gums from one appointment to another. That ensures we will be able to tell where you’re doing great in taking care of your teeth, and if needed, where you’re doing not so well.

If you’re in need of serious help, we might recommend more frequent visits. But remember, the most important factor in your oral health is how you take care of your teeth and gums at home between appointments.

We strive to help our patients achieve and maintain radiant, healthy smiles! If you'd like to know more about exams and cleanings at our Pensacola, FL office, or what you need to do at home to maintain an effective oral health routine, please let us know.

Top Ten Ways to Improve Heart Health

October 20th, 2021

The human heart truly appreciates it when we eat healthy foods, don’t smoke, and exercise regularly. But there’s something else that can improve your heart’s longevity and you may not know about: keeping your teeth and gums in tip-top shape.

Bacteria responsible for periodontal disease have been found in the heart area of subjects who suffer from artery inflammation, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Physicians and dentists, like Dr. James McCreary, think that it is not difficult for oral bacteria to enter the bloodstream through diseased, bleeding gums, and abscesses that reach from the gums into veins and capillaries that carry blood to and from the heart.

In addition to practicing good oral hygiene and visiting McCreary Family Dentistry every six months, here are ten other ways you can make your heart love you for the rest of your life:

  1. Avoid eating foods that contain saturated fat (fatty meats, processed meats, pastries, butter).
  2. Craving a crunchy snack? Grab a handful of tree nuts: pecans, almonds, walnuts. They’re rich in monounsaturated fats (the “good” kind of fat) as well as vitamin E, magnesium, and potassium.
  3. Eating a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast nourishes your heart with a soluble fiber called beta-glucan that can reduce cholesterol and help prevent atherosclerosis.
  4. Think “fish” the next time you shop for groceries, especially sardines, salmon, fresh tuna, and mackerel. These fish provide omega-3 fatty acids that lower triglycerides and blood pressure, and may help prevent blood clots from forming.
  5. Opt for whole grains over processed white breads and cereals.
  6. Put that remote control (or computer mouse) down right now and get moving! Walk, swim, ride a bike, plant flowers; your heart likes to pump, so make it pump.
  7. Refresh your brain and improve your heart health with at least eight hours of sleep every night.
  8. De-stress your life as much as possible: relax, stay optimistic, and don’t sweat the petty stuff!
  9. Watch your weight and get regular health examinations, especially if you have a family history of heart disease.
  10. And don’t forget to brush, floss, and rinse twice a day!

Mall Whitening: Why You Shouldn’t

October 13th, 2021

A shopping mall is a great place to get lots of errands done in one trip. Department stores, clothing boutiques, specialty shops? So many tempting options all in one place. But teeth whitening? Maybe not.

Dental office whitening provides you with the whitest possible teeth in the safest possible manner. Your teeth will be checked first for any conditions that might make whitening a bad idea, such as tooth decay, weakened enamel, or gum disease. Dr. James McCreary will make sure your gums and mouth are protected. A gel with a higher concentration of bleaching agents than those available over-the-counter will be applied, and your whitening progress will be monitored. You can also ask about having a custom-fitted tray made for at use at home with professional whitening gel.

What is different about mall bleaching?

  • No dental exam will be provided beforehand. If you have dental issues, the whitening process might cause further problems such as tooth sensitivity or gum inflammation.
  • The amount of peroxide in the bleaching agents can vary from place to place. You might end up with something equivalent to home whitening strips, or you might be exposed to solutions that should only be available in a dentist’s office.
  • Finally, in many areas, mall whitening is actually illegal because it is considered the practice of dentistry without a license. Mall kiosks skirt this problem by having customers insert the trays full of gel themselves—a practice that does not take the place of professional training, licensing, and regulation.

A mall kiosk is a convenient place to select a new phone. Or try an unusual hair care product. Or purchase the latest in fad toys. But when it comes to your dental health, it’s worth a special trip to our Pensacola, FL office if you want the safest, most effective whitening.

Fall’s in the Air? Think Fall Dental Care

October 6th, 2021

Whether you already miss the sun’s bright rays, or can’t wait for some cool, crisp weather and colorful leaves, summer is making way for fall. And the change of seasons might mean it’s time for some adjustments to your dental care routine.

Fall’s in the Air, and You Can Feel It

You might enjoy the brisk weather and the cool autumn breezes, but you’d enjoy fall much more without the tooth sensitivity that cold weather can bring. Sensitivity can be the sign of a cracked tooth, gum disease, or even something as simple as too-energetic brushing. If you’re experiencing sensitivity outdoors or with hot and cold foods, don’t give up your nature walks and hot cider! Give Dr. James McCreary a call, and we’ll get to the root of your problem.

Fall Sports

The baseball mitts, surfboards, and water skis have been retired for the year, but that won’t stop you from enjoying exercise and team sports. And while you’re keeping your body healthy, remember to keep your teeth and jaws healthy as well. A mouth guard is an essential piece of equipment for any autumn contact sport like football or soccer, and is also a good idea for biking, skateboarding, and other physical activities where a fall or a collision is a possibility.

Fall Feasts

‘Tis the season for sugary Halloween treats, bountiful Thanksgiving desserts, and those over-the-top holiday lattes. By all means, celebrate the season. And celebrate your dental health (and your overall health) as well by enjoying these treats in moderation.

Why not take this opportunity to explore some of autumn’s more nutritious seasonal offerings? Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkins, and apples are part of a fall harvest of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and other nutrients that help keep our teeth and gums their healthiest. (And if the pumpkins and apples make their way into pies, no one will complain.)

Fall Semester

Many schools require a dental exam before the start of the academic year. If you haven’t made an appointment for your child, now’s the time to do it! And don’t forget a professional cleaning to remove plaque and tartar. Nothing starts a school year off better than entering the classroom with a bright, healthy smile.

And don’t forget to call our Pensacola, FL office for your own regular checkup if it’s that time of year. Spring, summer, winter, fall—it’s always the right season for taking care of your dental health!

DIY Teeth Whitening

September 29th, 2021

We all want our best and brightest smiles, and today there are many options we can explore at home to make those beautiful smiles a reality. Whether it’s healthy habits, a healthy diet, whitening toothpaste, or do-it-yourself home products, we have golden opportunities to achieve whiter teeth.

  • Healthy Habits

Proper brushing is the first step in keeping your teeth stain-free. You should devote at least two minutes twice a day to brushing, being careful to cover the areas between and at the base of teeth, where plaque you miss can form visible tartar. Ask us about the most effective brushing techniques. And please, don’t smoke. Smoking is one of the worst offenders when it comes to discoloring teeth. If you are a smoker, quitting at any point in your life will make a big difference in the whiteness of your smile—and your lasting health!

  • Healthy Eating

We all know red wine, coffee, and tea cause some of our worst enamel stains. Acidic drinks such as sodas and citrus beverages can cause even more problems by eroding tooth enamel, exposing the yellowish dentin underneath. Moderation and rinsing with water can help prevent damage. But we have some dietary allies as well! Crunchy foods like apples, carrots, and celery provide a mild scrubbing effect. Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt strengthen enamel. Fruits such as strawberries and pineapples, studies suggest, contain enzymes that are natural stain removers. While no one food takes the place of brushing or cleaning, a healthy diet and a healthy body enhance any smile.

  • Brushing with a Whitening Toothpaste

Toothpastes are available which can remove some surface stains, and which can keep teeth their whitest after a professional whitening. They won’t penetrate the enamel surface or change the natural color of your teeth. If these toothpastes are going to work on discolored tooth surfaces, you will usually see results within a few weeks.

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) Whitening Kits

These products provide a peroxide-based gel that can be applied in a tray or with strips. If you choose a tray application, make sure trays fit properly so sensitive mouth and gum tissue is not irritated. If you decide on strips, always make sure all of the tooth surface is covered to avoid uneven whitening. These kits have more powerful whiteners than toothpastes, and so you might see better results, but tooth and gum sensitivity can be a problem.

While all these whitening methods can be helpful, there are some circumstances when a professional whitening is best. Professional gel whiteners are more powerful, and can help eliminate darker stains that OTC products can’t remove. We can make sure sensitive gum and mouth tissue is protected from bleaching agents. And, if you are on a deadline, we can provide a much faster result. Some conditions, such as deep stains caused by trauma or medication, or darker-colored caps, veneers, and crowns, require more than whitening, and we are happy to present options for those situations.

If you have any questions or concerns about whitening your teeth, please give our Pensacola, FL office a call. Whether it’s advice on how to brush or how to quit smoking, discussing the effects of foods and drinks on our teeth, suggesting OTC whitening products, or providing a professional whitening, Dr. James McCreary and our team are happy to help you achieve your best and brightest smile!

When Is a “Cavity” Not a Cavity?

September 22nd, 2021

Is this a trick question? After all, you and your family probably already know quite a lot about cavities:

  • It all begins when bacteria-filled plaque sticks to teeth and starts to attack enamel. How?
  • Because the bacteria in plaque use the sugars and other foods we eat to produce acids.
  • These acids gradually weaken teeth by dissolving minerals that help make up our enamel (a process called demineralization).
  • Over time, a hole, or cavity, develops in the tooth surface.
  • Left untreated, bacterial decay can spread to the inside of the tooth, creating a more serious cavity.

Dr. James McCreary might discover an unexpected cavity at a regularly scheduled dental exam at our Pensacola, FL office, but there are also some symptoms that should have you calling for an appointment. A cavity can cause sensitivity when eating something hot or cold, or it can be painful, or you might even notice visible discoloration or damage to the tooth surface.

So, if your child has any of these symptoms, it’s a cavity, right? It might be—but it might not. Sometimes, because the symptoms are similar, what we suspect is a cavity is really enamel erosion.

The bacteria-created acids weaken enamel. But it’s not just bacteria that subject our teeth to acids. Acidic foods are one of the leading causes of tooth erosion.

And while we expect damage from a lifetime of acidic foods and beverages to catch up with us as we age, the fact is that erosion is becoming a problem even for young children. How is this possible? Let’s look at some food chemistry.

Our normal saliva pH level is around a 7, which is neutral. Any number lower is acidic; any number higher is alkaline. Acidic foods have a low pH (the pH of lemon juice, for example, measures between 2 and 3), and can reduce our normal, neutral pH level. When saliva pH levels drop to 5.5 or lower, tooth enamel starts to demineralize, just as it does when exposed to the acids from oral bacteria.

Regularly snacking on citrus and other acidic fruits, fruit juices, flavored drinks, sour candies, and other acidic foods can cause enamel erosion. Especially erosive are sports drinks, energy drinks, and colas, because they contain some combination of citric acid, phosphoric acid and/or carbonation.

So, when might you suspect enamel erosion? Your child might be sensitive to hot or cold foods, or feel pain, or even have noticeable enamel loss or pitting. Even though these symptoms may not have been caused by plaque and bacteria, acidic erosion from our diets leaves weakened enamel just as vulnerable to cavities and decay.

How to avoid erosion?

  • Serve acidic foods sparingly, or as part of a meal. This helps our saliva pH stay in the neutral zone.
  • Balance acidic foods with low-acid choices to neutralize acids and restore a normal pH balance. For example, mix those acidic berries with a banana.
  • Use a straw! These are not only fun, but this simple solution keeps erosive drinks from bathing young teeth in acids.
  • Encourage your child to drink water instead of an acidic beverage, or drink it afterward to rinse acids away. The pH of pure water? A perfect, neutral 7. And by using tap water instead of bottled water, you’ll be providing fluoride, which helps strengthen enamel.
  • What about brushing right after eating or drinking something acidic? Ask Dr. James McCreary if your child should rush for the brush. We may recommend waiting 30 minutes or so after an acidic treat to give the teeth time to remineralize. Otherwise, brushing might cause more wear and tear on enamel.
  • Finally, while foods are often the source of acid erosion, medical conditions can cause erosion as well. Talk to us about ways to minimize erosion while addressing these medical needs.

Be proactive. Ask your Dr. James McCreary about healthy drinks and snacks for healthy teeth. Make sure to keep on top of brushing and flossing, and stick with fluoride toothpastes. And visit our Pensacola, FL office regularly for exams and cleanings.

There’s really no trick to it—preventing enamel erosion helps keep your child’s teeth structurally strong and cavity-free for a lifetime of beautiful and healthy adult smiles.

Plaque Attack? Let’s Fight Back!

September 15th, 2021

Plaque is a sticky subject! It sticks to the enamel of our teeth above and below the gum line, and it collects around fillings, braces, and other dental work. Plaque is one of the major causes of tooth decay and gum disease, and our teeth are under daily attack by this filmy menace.

What are the facts about plaque, and how can we fight back? Read on for some effective strategies!

What Is Plaque?

Plaque is a sticky film that builds up on our teeth, largely made up of millions of different types of oral bacteria. Plaque is a colorless biofilm at first, but as it collects, it takes on a white or yellow tint. If you haven’t brushed for a few days, that fuzziness you feel on your teeth is plaque build-up. Unless it’s removed, plaque hardens within a matter of days to become tartar.

  • Tip: You can remove plaque with careful brushing and flossing, but it takes a dental professional to remove tartar. Be proactive!

Why Does Plaque Cause Cavities?

Bacteria in plaque use our food as their food, especially sugars and carbs. They then transform these nutrients into acids, which attack our tooth enamel, weakening it and leaving it vulnerable to further erosion and eventual decay.

  • Tip: Cavities aren’t the only damage caused by accumulated plaque. Plaque also collects along and below the gum line. If tartar forms here, it irritates delicate gum tissue, leading to gingivitis and more serious gum disease. Make sure you don’t forget your gums when you brush and floss.

When Does Plaque Build Up?

The short answer? Plaque is always forming, because oral bacteria are a natural part of our biology. (In fact, there are even oral bacterial which are beneficial.) Plaque starts building up within minutes after eating, and during the night as we sleep.

That’s why we recommend brushing for two minutes at least twice a day, and flossing at least once a day. If you have braces or oral issues that make brushing more often advisable, ask us for suggestions for your best brushing schedule.

  • Tip: Just because plaque is unavoidable, that doesn’t mean we need to give the bacteria in plaque any additional encouragement. Every time you have a meal or a snack that’s heavy in carbs and sugars, you are providing more fuel for acid production. Cutting down on foods like sugary desserts and sodas is not only nutrition-healthy, it’s tooth-healthy!

Where Does Plaque Collect?

Plaque builds up all over tooth surfaces, at the gum line, and even below the gum line. It’s especially easy to miss in hard-to-reach places like the irregular surfaces of molars, between the teeth, behind our front teeth, and near the gum line.

  • Tip: One of the ways plaque avoids detection is its invisibility. Fortunately, if you’re having trouble brushing away all your plaque, there are plaque-disclosing toothpastes and chewable tablets available in the dental aisle which reveal the plaque hiding between, behind, or around your teeth by tinting it with a can’t-miss color. Just brush the color away, and you’ve brushed the plaque away as well.

How Do We Clean Away Plaque?

Use the Right Tools

Floss at least once a day. There are different materials, sizes, and coatings for floss, so you can find one that’s comfortable for you. Floss reaches those spots in between teeth and around the gum line that brushes miss.

Choose a soft toothbrush (soft bristles are better for your enamel) and change it every three to four months, or as soon as the bristles show wear. Make sure the head is the right size—too big, and it’s not only uncomfortable, but you won’t be able to reach all the surfaces you need to.

  • Tip: If you have trouble removing plaque with a manual toothbrush, consider an electric model. Several studies have shown a reduction in plaque with the use of an electric brush.

Use the Right Toothpaste

There are many toothpastes specifically formulated to fight plaque and tartar. And fluoride toothpastes not only fight cavities, they can strengthen your enamel.

  • Tip: Studies have shown that toothpastes with baking soda, in particular, are effective in reducing plaque. Ask us for a recommendation the next time you’re in for a cleaning.

Use the Right Technique

What not to do?  A forceful, horizontal sawing motion is awkward, hard on your enamel, and misses plaque and debris between the teeth. Technique is important—not for style points, but for cleaner teeth!

Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle, especially at the gum line, to gently remove plaque from teeth and gums. Use short strokes or a circular motion to clean as much of the surface and between the teeth as possible. Brush the inside of your front teeth with careful vertical strokes—remember, that’s one place where plaque is easy to overlook. The same holds true for the tops of your molars, so thoroughly clean those uneven surfaces.

  • Tip: Do you floss before or after you brush? While both methods have benefits, many dentists and periodontists suggest flossing first. But really, if you are flossing daily, no matter what the order, you’re doing it right!

Who Can Help You Fight Plaque?

Even when you do your best at home, plaque can still be a sticky problem. That’s why we advise regular professional cleanings. We can not only remove any plaque that’s been overlooked, we can eliminate the tartar which can cause serious gum disease.  And, of course, we can give you all the information you need to keep your teeth their cleanest.

  • Final Tip: It’s important to schedule cleaning appointments at our Pensacola, FL office on a regular basis to help prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Ask us for phone, text, or email reminders when it’s time for your next cleaning.

True, you’re fighting plaque every day, but you have all the tools you need to make sure your teeth and gums stay healthy. You’re winning the battle with plaque every time you eat a nutritious meal, every time you brush and floss, every time you see Dr. James McCreary for a checkup and a cleaning. With that kind of strategy, plaque doesn’t stand a chance. And your bright smile and healthy teeth and gums? That’s a victory worth celebrating!

Using Sippy Cups Successfully

September 8th, 2021

Congratulations! Your child is beginning to leave her bottle behind and has started to use her first sippy cup. And the best training cup is one that makes the transition from bottle to cup an efficient, timely, and healthy one.

The Right Training Cup

While a “no spill” cup seems like the perfect choice for toddler and parent alike, those cups are designed much like baby bottles. The same valve in the no-spill top that keeps the liquid from spilling requires your child to suck rather than sip to get a drink. If your child’s cup has a top with a spout, she will learn to sip from it. Two handles and a weighted base make spills less likely.

When to Use a Training Cup

Children can be introduced to a sippy cup before they are one year old, and we suggest phasing out the bottle between the ages of 12 and 24 months. Use a sippy cup as the source for all liquids at that age, and only when your child is thirsty and at mealtime to avoid overdrinking. The transition from sippy cup to regular cup should be a swift one.

Healthy Sipping Habits

The best first option in a sippy cup between meals is water. Milk or juice should be offered at mealtimes, when saliva production increases and helps neutralize the effects of these drinks on young teeth. And don’t let your child go to sleep with anything other than water—falling asleep with a cup filled with milk, juice, or other sugary drinks means these liquids stay in the mouth overnight. Finally, while a sippy cup is convenient and portable, don’t let your young child walk and sip at the same time to avoid injuries.

When your child comes to our Pensacola, FL office for her first visit, please bring any questions you might have about training cups. We would be glad to share ways to make the move from bottle to cup both successful and safe!

Back to School? Remember Your Dental Homework!

September 1st, 2021

It’s a busy time of year. Book lists! Supplies! New clothes! (How did they outgrow those shoes already?) And while you’re preparing your family’s list of back-to-school necessities, here are a few essential reminders to help your child begin the school year with a healthy smile.

  • Review

It never hurts to review the basics before the start of the school year, and that holds true for dental care as well! Make sure your child is brushing two minutes twice a day, and using floss or another interdental tool to clean between the teeth. If his toothbrush has been in use since the end of the last school year, it’s probably time to replace it. Bristles are at their best for about three months—after that, they become frayed and worn, and can’t remove plaque as effectively.

  • School Supplies for Braces Wearers

If your child is going to school with braces for the first time, send her off with the tools she needs. A travel-sized toothbrush and tube of toothpaste are perfect for a quick brushing after lunch, while dental floss and a threader or dental picks will take care of any after-lunch particles lurking in brackets and wires. Orthodontic wax is a great product to have on hand if a wire or bracket is causing irritation. If your child uses clear aligners or a retainer, make sure a protective case is always close by, ready to use every time the appliance is removed. And it’s a good idea to include the number of your dentist and orthodontist in her contacts in case of emergency.

  • Exams

If your school requires a dental exam before the start of classes, be sure to make your appointment at our Pensacola, FL office now! Regular checkups with Dr. James McCreary are vital for preventing small problems from becoming bigger ones, and a professional cleaning will remove the plaque even careful brushing can miss.

A positive, confident start can set the tone for the academic year, so your homework might include monitoring summer reading, providing required supplies, and making sure your child is well-rested and ready to go. You can also help your child to a positive, confident start by monitoring brushing habits, providing the necessary tools for appliance-wearers, and making sure your child is up-to-date with dental exams and cleanings. Because entering the classroom with a beaming, healthy smile—that’s an A+ way to begin the school year!

You broke your tooth; now what?

August 25th, 2021

You may have bitten down on a hard food or object, or perhaps you had a cavity that weakened your tooth. Either way, your tooth is now broken, and the steps you take to care for it will determine whether you get to keep your natural tooth or not. Millions of people suffer from broken teeth every year, so you are not alone. However, that does not mean your newly cracked tooth does not need immediate attention.

What is a broken tooth?

A broken tooth is one that has been fractured, chipped, cracked, broken apart, or completely knocked out of the mouth. You may or may not feel your tooth break, depending on the extent of the break and whether your tooth was decaying prior to the break. It is usually very easy to diagnose a broken tooth, because the evidence will be visible. In the case of hairline cracks in the teeth, you may start to note a sensitivity to hot or cold in the neighborhood of the fracture.

The Right Way to Handle a Broken Tooth

As soon as you know your tooth is broken, chipped, or fractured, make an appointment to visit our emergency dental office. Even the tiniest fractures require attention: bacteria can infect the fractured area, which could cause you to lose the tooth altogether.

Until you are in our office, you can manage your pain using over-the-counter pain medication, such as Tylenol, or you can apply a cold compress to prevent swelling and inflammation. Be sure to rinse your mouth with warm salt water after every meal until you are able to visit us.

Keep in mind that while pain medication is an effective way to manage a broken tooth at home, it is only a temporary fix. Broken teeth should not be treated solely at home, and over-the-counter solutions are not substitutions for professional dental care. Failing to make an appointment with Dr. James McCreary after breaking or chipping a tooth can place your health at risk.

Treatment

Treating your broken tooth will depend on the type of break you have and how much of the tooth is affected. A minor chip or tiny fracture line may easily be repaired with bonding. On the other hand, a more serious break that exposes the tooth's pulp may require a root canal or extraction to prevent infection. Ultimately, our team here at McCreary Family Dentistry will explain to you the best treatment plan based upon our evaluation of the condition and extent of your break.

If you have broken, cracked, chipped, or fractured one or more of your teeth, don’t hesitate to contact our office immediately. We specialize in emergency dental care and are available to serve you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

When Is a “Cavity” Not a Cavity?

August 18th, 2021

Is this a trick question? After all, you probably already know quite a lot about cavities:

  • It all begins when bacteria-filled plaque sticks to teeth and starts to attack enamel. How?
  • Because the bacteria in plaque use the sugars and other foods we eat to produce acids.
  • These acids gradually weaken teeth by dissolving minerals which help make up our enamel (a process called demineralization).
  • Over time, a hole, or cavity, develops in the tooth surface.
  • Left untreated, bacterial decay can spread to the inside of the tooth, creating a more serious cavity.

Some cavities aren’t discovered until you visit our Pensacola, FL office, but sometimes there are clear signs that there’s a problem.

  • You have tooth pain or sensitivity.
  • Your tooth changes color in spots where the enamel has decayed.
  • You might even notice enamel loss when a cavity is large enough.

So, if you have any of these symptoms, it’s a cavity, right? It might be—but it might not. Sometimes, because the symptoms are similar, what we suspect is a cavity is really enamel erosion.

The bacteria-created acids weaken enamel. But it’s not just bacteria that subject our teeth to acids—we do it ourselves with our choice of food and drink. Acidic foods are one of the leading causes of tooth erosion.

Our normal saliva pH level is around a 7, which is neutral. Any number lower is acidic; any number higher is alkaline. Acidic foods have a low pH (the pH of lemon juice, for example, measures between 2 and 3), and can reduce our normal, neutral pH level. When saliva pH levels drop to 5.5 or lower, tooth enamel starts to demineralize, just as it does when exposed to the acids from oral bacteria.

Regularly snacking on citrus and other acidic fruits, wine, fruit juices, flavored teas, sour candies, and other acidic foods can cause enamel erosion. Especially erosive are sports drinks, energy drinks, and colas, because they contain some combination of citric acid, phosphoric acid and/or carbonation.

The symptoms of tooth erosion and damaged enamel can be very similar to those caused by cavities:

  • You suffer tooth pain or sensitivity
  • Your teeth appear discolored, as the enamel thins to reveal the yellowish dentin underneath
  • You notice missing enamel—your teeth become rounded or have little pits known as cupping

You call Dr. James McCreary right away if you suspect a cavity. Be just as proactive if you suspect erosion. Even though your symptoms may not have been caused by plaque and bacteria, acidic erosion from your diet leaves weakened enamel just as vulnerable to cavities and decay.

How to avoid erosion?

  • Enjoy acidic foods sparingly, or as part of a meal. This helps your saliva pH stay in the neutral zone.
  • Balance acidic foods with low-acid choices to help neutralize acids and restore a normal pH balance. (A good reason to pair wine or fruits with cheese.)
  • Use a straw! This simple solution keeps erosive drinks from bathing your teeth in acids.
  • Drink water instead of an acidic beverage, or drink it afterward to rinse your mouth. The pH of pure water? A perfect, neutral 7.
  • And what about brushing right after eating or drinking something acidic? Ask Dr. James McCreary if you should rush for your brush. We may recommend waiting 30 minutes or so after an acidic treat to give teeth time to remineralize after acids weaken them. Otherwise, brushing might cause more wear and tear on your enamel.
  • Finally, while foods are often the source of acid erosion, medical conditions can cause erosion as well. Talk to us about ways to minimize erosion while addressing your medical needs.

There’s no trick to it—watching your diet, brushing and flossing as recommended, using a fluoride toothpaste, and visiting McCreary Family Dentistry for regular checkups will help prevent tooth erosion. We can restore eroded enamel with bonding, veneers, or crowns if the erosion is serious. Better still is to catch erosion before symptoms appear to keep your teeth their strongest for a lifetime of healthy, beautiful smiles.

Dental X-rays and Your Child

August 11th, 2021

We’re parents, so we worry. It comes with the job description! That’s why we make sure our children use toothbrushes with soft bristles and apply just the right amount of fluoride toothpaste. That’s why we make regular appointments with their dentists for preventive care and examinations. And that’s why we want to know all about the X-rays that are used in our children’s dental exams.

First of all, it’s reassuring to know that the amount of radiation we are exposed to from a single dental X-ray is very small. A set of bitewing X-rays, for example, exposes us to an amount of radiation that is approximately the same as the amount of radiation we receive from our natural surroundings in a single day.

Even so, dentists are especially careful when children need X-rays, because their bodies are still growing and their cells are developing more rapidly than adults. And children often have different dental needs than adults, which can require different types of imaging.

In addition to the usual X-rays that are taken to discover cavities, fractures, or other problems, young patients might need X-rays:

  • To confirm that their teeth and jaws are developing properly
  • To make sure, as permanent teeth come in, that baby teeth aren’t interfering with the arrival and position of adult teeth, and that there’s enough space in the jaw to accommodate them
  • To plan orthodontic treatment
  • To check the progress and placement of wisdom teeth

So, how do dentists make sure your child’s radiation exposure during X-ray procedures is as minimal as possible?

Radiologists, the physicians who specialize in imaging procedures and diagnoses, recommend that all dentists and doctors follow the safety principal known as ALARA: “As Low As Reasonably Achievable.” This means using the lowest X-ray exposure necessary to achieve precise diagnostic results for all dental and medical patients.

Moreover, radiologists are devoted to raising awareness about the latest advances in imaging safety not only for dental and medical practitioners, but for the public, as well. With children in mind, pediatric radiologists from a number of professional associations have joined together to create the Image Gently Alliance, offering specific guidelines for the specific needs of young patients.

And because we are always concerned about the safety of our patients, dental associations around the world, including the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Dental Association, the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, the Canadian Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association, are Image Gently Alliance members.

The guidelines recommended for X-rays and other imaging for young people have been designed to make sure all children have the safest experience possible whenever they visit the dentist or the doctor. As dental professionals, Dr. James McCreary and our team ensure that imaging is safe and effective in a number of ways:

  • We take X-rays only when they are necessary.
  • We provide protective gear, such as apron shields and thyroid collars, whenever needed.
  • We make use of modern X-ray equipment, for both traditional X-rays and digital X-rays, which exposes patients to a lower amount of radiation than ever before.
  • We set exposure times based on each child’s size and age, using the fastest film or digital image receptors.

We know your child’s health and safety are always on your mind, so you’re proactive about dental care. And your child’s health and safety are always on our minds, too, so we’re proactive when it comes to all of our dental procedures available at our Pensacola, FL office.

Please free to talk with Dr. James McCreary about X-rays and any other imaging we recommend for your child. We want to put your mind at ease, knowing that X-rays will be taken only when necessary, will be geared to your child’s age and weight, and will be used with protective equipment in place. Because ensuring your child’s dental health and safety? That comes with our job description!

Educational and Entertaining Enamel Experiments

July 28th, 2021

Let’s talk about the science of our teeth for a moment. Our enamel has a very high mineral content, making it extremely strong.  In fact, enamel just happens to be the hardest substance in our bodies.  But, unfortunately, it is not indestructible! Certain foods we eat can actually damage the surface of our teeth. Some simple and entertaining experiments can show children how our teeth can be affected by things we eat and drink, and how we can help protect them.

If you have a science-minded student at home, there are many activities you can do together, using educational websites, common household products and lots and lots of eggs. (Why eggs? Eggshells are a great substitute for teeth in these experiments. Not only are they various shades of white--like our own teeth, they are also calcium-rich—like our own teeth.) You can find any number of experiments using uncooked eggs, hardboiled eggs, whole shells with the contents blown out, or eggshells alone, so you can find just the right activity for whichever egg treatment works best for you.

Examine Enamel Erosion

One of the ways we protect our teeth is with healthy eating. The bacteria in plaque use the sugars and starches in our foods to produce acids. These acids are the substances that break down the minerals in our enamel and leave the enamel weaker. Weaker enamel is more easily attacked by bacteria and acids, which leads to cavities.

With eggs or eggshells and some carefully selected food products, you can see just how acidity affects teeth. Different websites suggest a variety of acidic liquids to dunk your eggs in, such as vinegar, soda, or citrus juices, so it’s easy to find an experiment that works with your pantry. Always use a plain water sample when you submerge eggs or shells to act as a control to measure differences against. How do the egg shells soaked in acidic liquids differ from those in plain water? It’s also fun to add simple sugar water as a test liquid to see what happens. Is it sugar or acid that causes more damage? And why might that be?

The Fluoride Fix

Fluoride is well known as a mineral that protects the structure of our teeth and helps prevent cavities. And there are actually experiments out there to test the protection fluoride provides using your egg stand-ins.

In some experiments, a hardboiled egg is coated with fluoride toothpaste or rinse for a specific amount of time and then dunked into vinegar. An untreated egg also gets a vinegar bath. You are asked to observe what is happening to each egg as it sits in its vinegar bath—are there bubbles on one egg and not the other? What do the bubbles mean? Other experiments require longer exposure to fluoride and then to vinegar—what happens to the shells of the treated and untreated eggs? What could this mean for our teeth?

Staining Studies

Our diet can do more than help create cavities. Enamel is very strong, but it is not stain-proof! Dark colored foods and drinks can make our teeth appear darker or more yellow. (And teeth that have suffered enamel erosion can pick up stains more easily.) How does food affect the brightness of our smiles?

If this question interests you, find experiments that use favorite beverages as a soak for your eggs. Choose liquids with a range of color, such as coffee, soda, and apple juice. Or choose an experiment that uses different varieties of soft drinks. Will foods the same color cause the same amount of discoloration in your egg volunteers? Do you want shorter or longer soaks in each liquid? Do you want to make use of a recycled toothbrush to see if brushing that discolored shell makes a difference? With toothpaste or without?

Even though these activities are designed for older children, they still require adult supervision. You can find detailed instructions for any of these experiments at many science and educational sites online. With some household supplies, plenty of extra cups, and a quantity of eggs, you and your child can demonstrate some of the basic effects our food choices have on the health and appearance of our teeth. It’s a wonderful way to promote healthy eating and brushing habits, scientific curiosity, and shared experiences!

Don’t forget to let Dr. James McCreary know how your experiments turned out the next time you visit our Pensacola, FL office!

Quit Smoking to Save Your Smile

July 21st, 2021

You’ve likely heard that smoking increases risk of lung cancer and emphysema. But did you realize that your cigarette habit also has an impact on your smile? Chronic smokers suffer from increased dental problems that make their smiles unsightly. Understanding how smoking affects your oral health may provide the momentum you need to kick the habit for good.

Cosmetic Changes Associated with Smoking

Cigarettes contain more than 600 ingredients that, when lit, create in excess of 4,000 chemicals. Of these chemicals, many are known carcinogens while others have been shown to have serious negative effects on health. The nicotine and tar in tobacco products are absorbed by the enamel of your teeth. The result is yellowed teeth that look unsightly; with heavy smoking, your teeth may eventually turn nearly brown in color.

The chemicals in cigarettes and cigars also cause your teeth to become less clean. Smoking is associated with a build-up of tartar and plaque on the surface of your teeth. Over time, this increases your risk of developing cavities and other oral health problems. Furthermore, pursing your lips while smoking leads to wrinkles around your mouth, which detracts from your smile.

More Serious Dental Conditions

In addition to having unsightly teeth, smoking can cause serious health conditions. Because of the carcinogens in cigarettes, smoking is associated with an increased risk of oral cancer, which can be deadly. Smokers are also more likely to develop gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss. You may experience an increased loss of bone within your jaw, which will cause significant problems later in life.

Treatment for Smoking-Related Oral Health Problems

Dr. James McCreary and our team at McCreary Family Dentistry will tell you that the best defense against smoking-related oral health problems is to ditch your nicotine habit. By decreasing the amount of nicotine and other chemicals you consume, you can decrease your risk of oral cancer and gum disease. Remember to mention your smoking habit when you’re at our Pensacola, FL office. We frequently treat smokers and can recommend smoking cessation programs to help you quit. Dr. James McCreary can also advise you about whitening treatments and gum disease prevention activities that ensure you’ll have a beautiful smile for years to come.

How do I know if my gums are receding?

July 14th, 2021

Gum recession, a common result of gum disease, occurs when the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth wears away or pulls back, forming pockets between the gumline and exposing more of the tooth. Gum recession occurs gradually, so you might not know that you have it. Left untreated, gum recession can result in tooth loss. In addition, there are several studies that suggest that gum disease is associated with modest increases in coronary heart disease. Here are five ways to know if your gums are receding.

1. Healthy gums are firm, light pink, and very elastic. If your gums don’t fit that description, then it’s time to visit our Pensacola, FL office. Red, swollen gums are a common symptom of gum disease, and may lead to gum recession.

2. Do your gums bleed easily when you brush or floss? If you have gum recession, even if you brush gently and with toothpaste specifically designed for sensitivity, it may still result in bleeding.

3. When you look in the mirror, do you see more of a tooth than you used to? This is one of the easiest ways to tell if you have gum recession. When gums recede, more of the tooth is visibly exposed. Look for lines or notches along the bottom of the teeth, as this typically indicates areas where the gums have receded.

4. One of the first signs of gum recession is tooth sensitivity. Does it hurt when you bite down or chew? The more gums recede, the more painful it is going to be. However, before you experience tooth sensitivity or pain, you may notice awkwardness when you bit down. When gum recession occurs, teeth can shift slightly, making it feel as if they are not properly aligned.

5. Loose teeth are a symptom of advanced gum recession and periodontal disease. In other words, the supporting bone structure of the teeth has already begun to deteriorate. If left untreated, it will result in tooth loss.

From deep cleaning (scaling) to gingival tissue grafting surgery, there are several ways to combat gum recession and periodontal disease. How gum recession is treated depends on how far advanced it is. Talk to Dr. James McCreary about what options are best for you.

Summer Dental Health? Get into the Swim of It!

July 7th, 2021

On a sizzling hot day, there’s not much that makes us happier than heading to the water for a quick swim, some gentle laps, or even a rousing game of water polo. And this being a sizzling hot dental blog, we are happy to offer some tips on how to make your summer swim good for your dental health as well as your mental health!

  • Mouthguards

You might use your mouthguard all the time—for biking, or basketball, or skiing. But in the pool? Absolutely! Anyone who has played water polo knows what a physical workout it is. Elbows! Hard tosses! Collisions! And it’s not just pool sports. Water-skiing on the lake, surfing in the ocean—anywhere humans and solid objects are involved, tooth and jaw injuries are possible. Don’t spend valuable summer hours tending to a cracked or broken tooth as a result of sports accidents.

And, unlikely though it seems, even hanging by the pool can be hazardous to your smile. Hard concrete edges wait to greet surfacing divers. Slippery cement and tiles surrounding the pool are the downfall of many a swimmer running to jump back into the water. Be aware of possible dental dangers, and use a mouthguard as a great proactive way to avoid them.

  • Swimming Pools & Chlorine

Ah, the smell of chlorine! We all want to know that swimming pools are as clean as they can be, and one method of keeping them that way is with the addition of antimicrobials to the water. But too much exposure to chemicals can cause enamel erosion, or even a condition called “swimmer’s calculus.” Swimmer’s calculus is recognized by a hard, brownish, tartar deposit that appears on the front teeth of swimmers who spent a lot of hours in the pool. It’s a cosmetic problem, but one that’s difficult to get rid of without a professional cleaning. If you’re a competitive swimmer, or simply someone who spends many hours a week in treated water, give us a call if you notice hard-to-remove discoloration or tooth sensitivity.

  • Retainers

Different people have different opinions on whether or not your retainer should be exposed to the chlorine in pool water. (Or the salt in saltwater or the bacteria in lake water.) Ask us for ours! But you’re best off leaving it in your bag or locker, anyway, because retainers can be easily lost in the water. They might be able to survive a swimming pool, but a lake or ocean rescue is very unlikely. Just remember to put your retainer in a case, in a safe spot, and replace it when you’re out of the water for the day.

Enjoy your time on the water, and don’t forget to schedule an exam with Dr. James McCreary and a professional cleaning if you haven’t been in the office for a while. If you do have a dental problem or an accident, give our Pensacola, FL office a call immediately. We want to make sure you dive in to summer fun with a healthy, beautiful smile!

Make Tooth Brushing Fun

July 1st, 2021

The best brushing routine for parent and child is two minutes of gentle brushing in the morning and two in the evening. But if the longest four minutes of your day are spent helping your child brush and floss, here are some suggestions for making that time fly.

Options!

Children’s brushes come in a wonderful variety of colors, patterns, and shapes. Allow your child to choose a favorite the next time you go shopping for dental supplies. Just make sure to choose a soft bristle brush with a head designed for small mouths. And since toothbrushes generally wear out after three months, your child will have plenty of opportunities to pick and choose! You might also explore the many flavors of children’s toothpaste to find the one that your child finds most appealing, and let your young brusher squeeze out a dab on that new brush.

Reward Daily Brushing

You don’t have to go to great lengths to make your son or daughter feel rewarded for a job well done. Allowing children to pick out a story for you to read or posting colorful stickers on a calendar sheet will encourage them to get into the habit of brushing.

Two-Minute Countdown

Time seems to go faster when we’re having fun. Your child might enjoy listening to songs or stories for the two minutes of brushing time. You can make your own playlist, invent a story starring your child, or make use of one of the dental apps that offer children’s music, videos, and stories in perfect two-minute segments.

Do It Together

Spend these two minutes twice a day with your child. You will be doing all the brushing at first, of course, but as your children get older, brush your teeth along with them. You can model proper brushing techniques for cleaning teeth, gums and tongue, and even let your child have a chance to brush your teeth for a change.

Don’t Forget Checkups!

Scheduling checkups and professional cleanings at our Pensacola, FL office is vital to maintaining your child’s oral health. And, if your son or daughter is keeping up with good hygiene at home, these visits should be a breeze!

The habits your child develops now will be the foundation for a lifetime of oral health. Make these four minutes a day count. And if you can create ways to make them fun, those four minutes will fly by for both of you!

Thumb Sucking, Pacifiers, and Your Baby's Teeth

June 23rd, 2021

Sucking is a common instinct for babies and the use of a pacifier or their thumb offers a sense of safety and security, as well a way to relax.

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, the majority of children will stop using a pacifier and stop sucking their thumb on their own between the ages of two and four years of age. Prolonged thumb sucking or use of a pacifier can have dental consequences and needs be taken care of sooner, rather than later.

Many dentists favor pacifier use over thumb sucking because it makes it easier for parents to control and even limit the use of a pacifier. If thumb sucking lingers, the same strategies used to break the baby from using the pacifier can be used for thumb sucking.

Precautions

  • Try to find "orthodontically correct" pacifiers, as they may reduce the risk of dental problems.
  • Never dip a pacifier in sugar or honey to calm the baby.
  • Give your baby a bottle of water at bedtime, never juice.

Dental Complications

Long term pacifier use can lead to an assortment of dental complications including:

  • The bottom teeth leaning inward
  • The top teeth slanting outward
  • Misalignment of the baby’s jaw

The risk of any or all of these things happening is greatly increased if thumb sucking and pacifier use is sustained after the baby’s teeth start to come in.

Breaking the Thumb Sucking and Pacifier Habit

Most toddlers and children will stop sucking their thumb or using a pacifier between the ages of two and four on their own. However, if intervention is necessary here are a few tips to help your child break the habit:

  • Slowly decreasing the use of a pacifier can be effective for many children. This method does not work very well with thumb sucking.
  • Thumb sucking can be more difficult to break. Dr. James McCreary may recommend using an over the counter cream that you put on the child’s thumb; it doesn’t taste good and usually does the trick.
  • Rewards can also help with the process.
  • If these simple commonly used strategies do not work, there are oral devices that will prevent a child from sucking their thumb or a pacifier.

Talk to Dr. James McCreary and our team, as we have many tricks up our sleeves that will be effective in breaking your child’s thumb sucking or pacifier use.

Dental-Healthy Snacks for Your School-Aged Child

June 16th, 2021

Kids are constantly active and constantly growing. No wonder they’re constantly hungry! When it’s time for a snack, here are some tips to make between meal treats timely, tasty, and tooth-friendly.

Keep snacks to a minimum

Every time we eat, we’re also providing food for the bacteria in our mouths. Bacteria use sugars to produce acids. These acids weaken our enamel and can lead to cavities. Luckily, we have a natural way of protecting our teeth. Saliva washes away food particles and bacteria, and even provides substances that strengthen our teeth in the hours between meals.

When we eat throughout the day, there is no chance for this recovery period to take place. Small children aren’t usually able to get through the day without a few snack periods, which is perfectly normal. Just try to make sure that snacking doesn’t become all-day grazing!

Avoid foods that contain sugar and carbohydrates at snack time

We know that sugar leads to an increased chance of cavities because bacteria convert this sugar into acids that damage our enamel. But carbohydrates should also be in the no-snack zone. Why? Because carbohydrates break down into sugar very quickly. So while you wouldn’t offer your child a daily mid-afternoon snack of sodas and chocolate bars, those muffins, doughnuts, chips, and bagels should be on the “special treat” list as well.

Dental-healthy snacks

Luckily, we are left with many healthy and convenient choices when your child needs a nibble.

  • Crunchy, crisp fresh fruits and vegetables provide vitamins as well as a gentle scrubbing action to help clean teeth. They are also rich in water, which helps us produce the saliva that naturally washes away food particles and bacteria.
  • Low-fat yogurts and cheeses provide essential calcium for strong teeth and the vitamin D that helps us absorb calcium.
  • Whole grain breads, cereals, and crackers are healthier than products made only with white flour because they retain valuable vitamins and minerals that have been removed from refined grains.
  • Lean meats, peas, legumes, and eggs provide protein that helps build connective tissue and maintain tooth structure.
  • Water helps stimulate saliva production and provides cavity-fighting fluoride. Win/win!

You are constantly looking for ways to make your children’s lives better. Mix and match any of these foods for a snack that’s not only good for their teeth, but rich in the proteins, vitamins, and minerals needed to keep them active and growing throughout their school years. If you have questions about your child’s dietary needs, feel free to ask Dr. James McCreary at our Pensacola, FL office.

HPV and Oral Cancer

June 9th, 2021

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country. There are over 100 strains of HPV, and, while most of these infections leave our systems on their own with no long-term ill effects, some cancers have been linked to certain “high risk” strains of the virus. One of these strains, HPV16, increases the risk of oral cancer.

HPV-related oral cancer most often appears in the oropharynx. This area of the mouth includes:

  • The base, or back, of the tongue
  • The soft palate
  • The tonsils
  • The back and sides of the throat

While HPV-related oral cancers can appear in other parts of the oral cavity, they most typically occur at the back of the throat and tongue and near the folds of the tonsils. Because of this location, oropharyngeal cancer can be difficult to detect. This is one more important reason to maintain a regular schedule of dental exams. Our examination doesn’t focus only on your teeth and gums. We are trained to look for cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions in the mouth, head, and neck to make sure you have the earliest treatment options should they be needed.

If you discover any potential symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer, call us for a check-up. These symptoms can include:

  • Trouble moving the tongue
  • Trouble swallowing, speaking, or chewing
  • Trouble opening the mouth completely
  • A red or white patch on the tongue or the lining of the mouth
  • A lump in the throat, neck, or tongue
  • A persistent sore throat
  • Ear pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Coughing up blood

Not every symptom is caused by cancer, but it is always best to be proactive. HPV-related oral cancer is rare, but it is on the increase. While HPV-positive oral cancers generally have a better prognosis than HPV-negative oral cancers, early diagnosis and treatment are still essential for the best possible outcome.

Finally, if you are a young adult or have an adolescent child, talk to Dr. James McCreary and to your doctor about the HPV vaccine, which is effective before exposure to the virus occurs. Most HPV vaccines, while not designed specifically to prevent oral cancer, prevent the HPV16 strain from infecting the body—the very same strain that causes the majority of HPV-related oral cancers.  Although no studies have shown definitive proof yet, there is strong feeling in the scientific community that these immunizations might protect against HPV-positive oral cancer as well as cervical, vaginal, and other cancers. It’s a discussion worth having at your next visit to our Pensacola, FL office.

Summer Treats for Healthy Teeth

June 2nd, 2021

School’s out for the summer, and it’s great to have the kids home. After all, they deserve a break after all their hard work. And you want to keep their vacation happy, relaxing, and fun—without letting them spend those summer months cooling off with sugary treats. What are some of your options for healthy hot weather snacks?

  • Naturally Sweet Treats

Keep a supply of fresh fruit handy for summer snacking. Crispy fruits like apples and Bosc pears actually provide a little scrubbing action for the teeth with their vitamins, and softer fruits such as bananas, berries, and, of course, watermelon, provide natural sweetness along with vitamins and minerals. Yogurt has valuable calcium for strong teeth and the vitamin D our bodies need to use that calcium. Add some fresh fruit to Greek yogurt for added flavor and sweetness—and even more vitamins.

  • Savory Snacks

Cheese is a calcium-rich snack, and crunchy carrots and celery help scrub teeth while providing vitamins and minerals. Do a little mixing and matching by adding some cream cheese to that celery for extra flavor. Serve up hummus and pita chips or cheese with whole grain crackers. They’re great nutritious alternatives to chips and dip.

  • Blender Blast

Summer’s the perfect time to use your culinary creativity and expand your child’s palate with vitamin-rich smoothies. Toss your favorite fruits in the blender with a little juice, non-fat yogurt, milk, or honey, whirl away, and you have a delicious, healthy snack. You can add a few leafy greens for even more nutritional value. There are many easy recipes online for creating homemade smoothies that will please any picky palate.

  • Freezer Favorites

Ice cream is a favorite summer treat, but it can also provide quite a sugar punch. There are many homemade frozen yogurt recipes available online which combine frozen fruit, yogurt, and honey for your own summer celebration, without adding large amounts of sugar. Or choose to stock your freezer shelves with low-sugar fruit pops, store bought or homemade.

  • On Tap

A soda or a sports drink are often the go-to hydration choices in the summer. You might already be careful about handing these drinks out because they can have such a high sugar content. But they can also create a very acidic environment in the mouth, which is harmful to tooth enamel. Water is the safest, healthiest option for hydrating in hot weather, and can even provide some of the fluoride which helps keep enamel strong.

Whatever is on your child’s summer menu, keep up with all those great dental habits you’ve already established. A limited number of snacks—even healthy ones—is best, and be sure to brush after snacking, or rinse with water if brushing’s not an option. And don’t forget to maintain your child’s normal schedule of brushing and flossing, and regular visits with Dr. James McCreary at our Pensacola, FL office.

Have a great summer, and send your kids back to school rested, relaxed, and with a healthy, happy smile. Then take a moment, relax, and sip that smoothie—after all, you deserve a break after all your hard work!

Just What Is Plaque?

May 26th, 2021

When you were younger, and you brushed your teeth without any help for the first time, it was a big step. It meant you’d learned the right way to brush to keep your teeth and gums healthy. But why does brushing help keep you healthy? Let’s talk about plaque!

  • What Is Plaque?

Plaque rhymes with “attack,” and that’s just what it does to your teeth. If you don’t brush for a few days (which is a bad idea!), plaque is the reason for that fuzziness you feel when you run your tongue over your teeth.

If your teeth feel fuzzy, that means that plaque has been building up for a while. But how does it begin?

Plaque is made up of saliva, bits of food, other liquids, and tiny little organisms called bacteria. While most of the bacteria in our bodies don’t bother us—and some even help us—the bacteria in plaque are not so helpful.

Plaque starts with a type of bacteria that stick to the teeth, loosely at first, and then more strongly. Within hours, they join with saliva, bits of food, and other bacteria and bacterial products to make a very sticky film. This film is plaque.

Why is it so important to brush plaque away every day? As Dr. James McCreary will tell you, plaque can cause cavities and hurt your gums.

  • How Does Plaque Cause Cavities?

Bacteria are like us—they need food. The bacteria in plaque especially like the sugars we eat. (That’s why you shouldn’t have too much junk food or candy in your diet.) Bacteria change these sugary building blocks into a kind of acid, and because plaque is sticky, the acids stay on your teeth.

These acids breaks down the enamel, that hard coating which covers teeth. Tiny weak spots can grow and become holes in the enamel. We call these holes cavities, and your dentist can repair them by cleaning away the decay and putting a filling in your tooth to protect it.

But it’s best to prevent cavities from ever starting by brushing and flossing. Even though plaque is sticky, it is easy to brush away when you do it every day.

  • How Does Plaque Hurt Your Gums?

The gums surround our teeth and help protect them, but they are also delicate. When plaque builds up, it can irritate your gums.

You might notice that your gums get red, feel sore when you brush, or look puffy. You might have bad breath that doesn’t go away. All these are signs that your gums are reacting to the plaque around them.

The good news is that careful brushing and flossing can usually fix these problems. Talk to Dr. James McCreary about taking good care of your gums.

  • Can We Fight Plaque?

Yes! From the time you were small and learned how to brush, you’ve been learning how to fight plaque.

  • Brush at least twice a day for two minutes, and be sure to brush all around each tooth and the gums.
  • Floss to remove plaque from where it hides between the teeth and near the gums.
  • Visit our Pensacola, FL office for a cleaning, to remove plaque from hard-to-reach places and to learn the best ways to brush and floss.

As soon as you finish brushing, plaque starts to build up again. But no need to worry! Keep brushing, flossing, and visiting us for regular cleanings, and all your careful work will be rewarded will a beautiful, healthy smile.

Thirsty? We Have Some Ideas on Tap

May 19th, 2021

No, we don’t mean the latest foamy offering from your favorite microbrewery. When you’re thirsty, one of the best options available is literally at your fingertips—tap water, straight from your faucet. It might not be the most adventurous choice, but drinking a tall glass of fresh tap water is refreshing in so many healthy ways.

Physical Health

Water conveniently available at home is much more than a convenience. We need to keep hydrated, because our bodies are made to run on water. To name just a few of its benefits, water provides nutrients to organs and cells, eliminates waste, regulates our temperature, and protects our joints and delicate tissues. Dr. James McCreary and our Pensacola, FL team will tell you all about the importance of proper hydration when it comes to your mouth, gums, and teeth, but here are a few highlights:

  • We need to be hydrated to produce enough saliva. Saliva, which is more than 90% water, helps prevent cavities and protect enamel by both washing away bacteria and balancing acids in the mouth which can cause decay.
  • Tooth enamel is so strong because it’s made of calcium and phosphate. These minerals are leached from our enamel by both bacteria-produced acids and dietary acids. Saliva also contains calcium and phosphate, and, with fluoride, restores these minerals in our enamel, leaving teeth stronger and less likely to develop cavities.
  • As a bonus, a quick rinse with water when you can’t brush after eating is a great way to remove food particles left behand—especially healthy when you’ve had sugary or acidic foods.

Ecological Health

If you want to reduce waste, one of the easiest ways to do so is to use tap water instead of bottled water.

  • Bottled water has a carbon footprint. It takes energy (and additional water) to create plastic and glass bottles, to label them, and to transport them. Water piped into your home from local sources? No bottles, labels, or long road trips necessary.
  • Water bottles should be recycled. Unfortunately, many cities don’t offer, or have stopped offering, recycling. Plastic and glass empties end up in landfills, littering our neighborhoods, or in our waters.

Budget Health

Getting your daily hydration from bottles can add up quickly.

  • Bottled water can cost hundreds of times as much as tap water. While local water prices vary, the average gallon of tap water costs less than a penny. No matter what kind of sale your local store is offering, bottled water will never be the bargain tap water is.
  • When you buy many small bottles instead of a few larger ones, or choose more expensive “designer” water, your costs can mount up even more.
  • When you need to bring water with you for work, sports, or other activities, consider filling a reusable bottle with water from home.

Dental Health

Getting the recommended amount of fluoride in your diet is one of the single best things you can do for your dental health. Fortunately, many communities make this easy for us by providing fluoridated drinking water.

  • Fluoride works with the calcium and phosphate in your saliva to create stronger enamel, so cavities can’t form as easily when your teeth are exposed to plaque and food particles.
  • Fluoride helps strengthen your child’s permanent teeth as they develop, and helps prevent cavities in both baby teeth and permanent teeth as children grow.
  • If your community doesn’t offer fluoridated water, ask Dr. James McCreary for the best way to get the fluoride you need to protect your teeth.

For the good of your body, your planet, your wallet, and last, but most certainly not least, the health of your teeth and gums, consider a glass of water. So many benefits—and you have them all on tap!

Be Good to Your Gums

May 12th, 2021

You brush and floss thoroughly twice a day. You have regular checkups. Everything seems fine on the periodontal radar. Sometimes, however, even healthy gums can become sensitive and irritated. Is it something you did? Maybe! Here are some common causes of gum irritation and sensitivity that you might not be aware of.

  • Brushing Bravado

One of the most important tools for gum health is one we use at least twice a day—the simple toothbrush. Two minutes at night and two in the morning reduce the bacteria and plaque that lead to serious gum disease, known as periodontitis. And while preventing tooth decay and gum disease are the primary goals of brushing, let’s also protect delicate gum tissue from injuries and irritation caused by too-forceful brushing.

Try using a brush with soft bristles and brushing with short strokes and gentle pressure, especially if you know you have a tendency to be a bit heavy-handed. Massaging rather than scrubbing will clean teeth and gums just fine.

  • Fierce Flossing

Just because we can use dental floss to slice cakes or cookie dough logs doesn’t mean we should apply the same pressure to our gums! While a firm sawing motion seems like the obvious way to clean between teeth and gums, you can actually cause irritation and bleeding that way.

Insert the floss between your teeth carefully, bring it to the gumline, and move the floss with gentle pressure up and down and around the tooth surface. This technique will make sure that you remove food particles and plaque from beneath the gumline without causing your gums any trauma. Ask us about the best flossing techniques—we know them all.

  • Appliance Aches

You know how helpful your braces/retainers/mouth guards/dentures are. You just wish that your helpful appliance was a little less irritating to sensitive gum tissue.

This is a problem that often disappears as you get used to your new appliance. But if pain or irritation persists or gets worse, give us a call. We want to make sure your appliance fits properly, and make any necessary adjustments to ensure your comfort.

  • Peroxide Problems

Most home whitening kits use peroxide-based gels or treated strips to remove surface stains from the teeth. Those same bleaching agents that make enamel whiter can also cause gum sensitivity and irritation. If you use whitening strips or gel trays, be careful to keep the peroxide solution away from gum tissue. But because these systems are one-size-fits-all, that is often easier said than done.

If you have sensitive gums, one solution is a professional office whitening. We’ll check on your gum (and tooth) health first, and monitor and protect your gums throughout the procedure. If you still want to whiten at home, we can create custom trays for you that will provide more complete exposure to the whitening solution for your teeth, and less exposure for your gums, than over-the-counter products.

  • Still Smoking?

Studies have shown a strong link between gum health and smoking and other forms of tobacco use. Smokers are much more likely to suffer from gum disease than non-smokers, and those who have smoked for a long time, or who smoke heavily, have an even higher risk of developing periodontal disease. Some studies suggest that smokers don’t respond as well to treatment as non-smokers.  Unfortunately, it appears that smoking and tobacco use help mask the obvious symptoms of gum disease (redness and bleeding), which could lead smokers to delay getting treatment. If you smoke, talk to us about ways to quit.

We talk a lot about periodontal health because it is so important. Periodontitis can lead to infection, loss of bone around the tooth, and even eventual tooth loss. If you are suffering from any of the signs of gum disease—swelling, redness, bleeding, pain—give our Pensacola, FL office a call. Whether it’s as simple as making a few lifestyle changes, or a problem requiring professional dental treatment, being proactive with your dental care is more than good for your gums—it’s good for your health!

A Variety of Dentures to Meet Your Needs

May 5th, 2021

With advancements in prosthetic dentistry, patients are now able to wear dentures that are comfortable, natural looking, and long lasting. There are different options to choose from that will meet your individual needs, whether you have a few teeth missing or have lost all of your teeth. Dr. James McCreary will be able to help you decide which denture option is best for you.

Partial Dentures

Patients who receive partial dentures have some of their original teeth still in place and therefore only need a partial to replace the missing teeth and keep their existing teeth from moving. It also makes sense that patients need them to be able to eat comfortably. All dentures are made from porcelain or plastic and are made with comfort in mind.

Complete Dentures

If you have suffered from complete tooth loss, you would typically receive complete dentures. Immediately after you have your teeth extracted you will leave the dentist office with a set of temporary dentures. These will be worn for a few months while your mouth heals. After this initial wait time, your conventional or permanent dentures will be ready to be fitted.

Implant-Supported Dentures

Implant-supported dentures involve a more invasive procedure, but are also permanent. A select number of implants are placed into the jaw. The denture is then attached to the implant posts. You will be able to chew normally and maintain normal dental hygiene, like brushing and flossing.

Dr. James McCreary will be able to advise on which kind of denture would be the best based on your individual needs. Contact our Pensacola, FL office to schedule an appointment!

Is Coffee Damaging Your Smile?

April 28th, 2021

Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. Many people have a cup, or two, or even three a day. It’s common to drink it in the morning to wake up and get ready for the day, as an afternoon pick-me-up, or just to catch up with a coworker or friend.

These days there are many different kinds of coffee flavors to enjoy, so it’s almost impossible for a person not to like it. But as delicious as coffee is, it’s worthwhile to be aware of the effects it has on our dental health.

Coffee contains a lot of tannic acid, which is what causes its dark color. Tannic acid ingrains itself into the grooves of tooth enamel, and that leads to serious stains. In addition to containing tannic acid, the fact that coffee is generally served very hot makes your teeth expand and contract, which allows the stains to penetrate even farther into the enamel.

Dr. James McCreary and our team know it’s not easy to kick the caffeine habit. If you find yourself needing a cup of joe every day, here are some helpful tips to consider:

  • Switch to decaf coffee.
  • Make it a habit to drink a glass of water with your coffee to rinse away the acid.
  • Try enjoying your coffee with a straw so the tannic acid makes less contact with your front and lower teeth.
  • Pop in a piece of gum after your coffee to help prevent a dry mouth.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you might find that setting a limit on the number of cups of coffee you have per week or even per day can be helpful. You are always welcome to contact our Pensacola, FL office to discuss potential whitening options as well. We’re here to help!

The ABCs of Vitamin C

April 21st, 2021

A as in Ascorbic Acid

Ascorbic acid is just another name for vitamin C, which is one of the so-called “essential nutrients.” These are nutrients that are necessary for our bodies to function properly, and which must be supplied through our diets. Why is ascorbic acid essential?

First and foremost, because we have to have vitamin C for the formation of collagen.

We’ve probably all seen the ads promoting collagen as a fountain of youth for our skin. Whether or not a cream can turn back time is a matter for debate, but there’s no question as to the vital role collagen performs in our own bodies. That’s because collagen is the substance that provides both structure and support to our tissues, forming the basis of the connective tissue that holds us together. (The Greek root “kolla” means glue!) Organs, blood vessels, muscles, bones, skin, even the dentin in our teeth all rely on collagen to function.  

And if that weren’t enough for one vitamin, vitamin C also helps the body repair tissue, absorb iron, form teeth and bones, produce neuro-transmitters, and acts as an antioxidant. Whew! So, how often should we be eating foods rich in vitamin C? Maybe more often that you would think.

B as in Biology

The human body is an amazing thing! We can store many of the essential nutrients we need to keep ourselves healthy in our livers and fat tissue, even if fresh food sources aren’t immediately available. Unfortunately, Vitamin C is one of those vitamins that we can’t store in the body. This means that unless we get the vitamin C we need in our diet on a regular basis, we’ll experience vitamin C deficiency. How serious is that?

The importance of vitamin C to our health can’t be overstated. Vitamin C deficiency over a period of months actually causes a serious disease called scurvy. Without vitamin C, collagen formation breaks down. And when collagen breaks down, it leads to the breakdown of all those parts of the body that rely on collagen. In the short term, scurvy causes gum pain, fatigue, weakness, and body aches. Over longer periods, scurvy can lead to bruising, skin hemorrhages, anemia, tooth loss, severe gum disease, organ failure, and even death.

Luckily for us, scurvy is largely a disease of the past, thanks to the easy availability of fresh fruits and vegetables which provide us with vitamin C. So, which items should we add to the shopping list?

C as in Citrus—and So Much More!

When we think vitamin C, we instantly picture citrus fruits. Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and all their cousins are a wonderful source of vitamin C. Looking for a little more variety? You’re in luck! Fruit fans can load up on strawberries, kiwi fruit, mangos, and papayas. Love your veggies? Red peppers, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli contain more vitamin C per serving than a medium orange. You can also take vitamin C supplements, but be sure to follow the recommended dosage. You can have too much of a good thing.

While we’re here, let’s add one last letter to the list:

  • D as in Dental Health

So, why are we talking about vitamin C on a dental blog? Because vitamin C is essential to our dental health. Healthy gum tissue, strong connective tissues that hold our gums to our teeth and our teeth in our jaws, faster healing, antioxidants—all have been linked to a diet rich in vitamin C.

Careful brushing and flossing, regular checkups and cleanings at our Pensacola, FL office, a balanced diet—these are all ways you can be proactive when it comes to your dental health. Talk to Dr. James McCreary about the best vitamins and minerals for healthy teeth and gums. Vitamin C is a great beginning, but there’s still an alphabet from vitamin A to Zinc left to go!

 

Could a Night Guard Be the Answer to Your Dreams?

April 14th, 2021

Have you been having trouble getting a good night’s rest?

Sometimes the reason for a poor night’s sleep is obvious. A midnight horror movie. A bedtime espresso. That anchovy and pineapple pizza you had for dinner. Not much we can do about these problems.

Sometimes, though, the cause of your sleep difficulties is dental in origin, and that is something Dr. James McCreary can help with.

Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a very common dental problem. When people with this condition sleep, their jaws clench and their teeth grind against each other throughout the night. When to suspect you might suffer from bruxism?

  • You wake with a sore jaw, or you hear pops or clicks when you move your jaw
  • You suffer from frequent headaches or facial pain
  • Your teeth are chipped, cracked, flattened, worn down, or sensitive
  • You wake up tired, because grinding affects the quality of your sleep
  • Partners, siblings, or roommates complain about nocturnal grinding noises affecting the quality of their

Pain and fatigue are unpleasant enough, but there are additional serious consequences for those who suffer from bruxism. Our jaws are extremely powerful, and clenching and grinding can put hundreds of pounds on pressure on teeth and jaws over hours of sleep. These forces can lead to:

  • Damaged teeth. Cracked, chipped, and worn down teeth can mean veneers, crowns, and root canals. Seriously compromised or broken teeth might need to be extracted.
  • Damaged dental work. Bruxism can lead to fractured veneers and damaged fillings and crowns. If the damage is too serious for repair, replacement might be necessary.
  • Damaged jaw joints. Severe cases of bruxism can lead to injury to the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, the complex hinge that allows our jaws to move up and down, back and forth, and side to side.

While these problems can be treated with restorations, or root canals, or implants, or surgical procedures, prevention is clearly a much better option for a healthy smile. And one of the simplest and most effective treatments for preventing the damage caused by bruxism is a night guard.

Night guards fit over the affected teeth to prevent them from touching directly, saving tooth and enamel from injury and wear. Not only do night guards prevent contact, they spread the biting forces of the jaw over the surface of the guard to greatly reduce their impact. And because they also stop the jaw muscles from clenching tightly, there’s no excess stress placed on the temporomandibular joint.

While over-the-counter products are available, it’s best to see Dr. James McCreary for the most effective night guard. A custom night guard is designed to fit your individual teeth and mouth perfectly. Impressions or 3D scans are taken in our Pensacola, FL office, and a guard is fabricated with the precise shape, strength, and thickness you need to protect your teeth. And, as a bonus, custom night guards offer the most comfortable fit for the most comfortable night’s sleep.

Scary movies, late night caffeinating, creative food combinations—not much we can do about those! But if you’re suffering lost sleep and painful mornings because of tooth grinding, give us a call. A night guard just might be the key to sweet dreams.

This April, Let’s Celebrate National Facial Protection Month!

April 7th, 2021

Poor April. While other months celebrate romance, or giving thanks, or costumes and candy, April has—April Fool’s Day and a tax deadline. We might be forgiven for thinking these two dates seem more like warnings than celebrations.

So here’s a new topic for the April calendar: National Facial Protection Month! Take the opportunity this month to review your safety practices while you’re enjoying your favorite activities.

  • Mouthguards

If you have a mouthguard for sports or athletic activities, wear it! In any activity or sport where humans come into contact with solid objects (including other humans) tooth injury is possible. A mouthguard will help protect you from dental injuries caused by falls, physical contact, or other accidents that might happen in your active life. And it’s not just your teeth—mouthguards protect your lips, tongue, and jaw as well.

You can buy mouthguards in stock sizes or shape-to-fit options, or you can have a guard custom made especially for you at our Pensacola, FL office. Custom mouthguards fit perfectly and are designed to make breathing and speaking easy and comfortable. And if you wear braces or have fixed dental work such as a bridge, a custom mouthguard can protect your smile and your appliances. Talk to Dr. James McCreary about mouthguards for some great advice on how to protect your teeth and mouth.

As long as we’re discussing facial protection, let’s look at some other ways to keep safe as you keep active.

  • Helmets

If there’s a helmet available for your sport, use it! Helmets are especially important for protecting athletes from brain injury and concussion, and they help protect the face and jaw as well.

  • Face Guards

If you’ve experienced a puck speeding toward you, or a defensive tackle hurtling your way, or a fast ball coming in at 90 miles an hour, you know the importance of wearing a face guard. These guards can help protect your eyes, face, teeth, and jaws. Many sports now recommend using face guards—it’s worth checking to see if your sport is one of them.

  • Eye Protection

And let’s not forget eye protection. Whether it’s safety glasses or a visor, protecting your eyes and the bones around them is extremely important. You can even get sports goggles or protective sports glasses with prescription lenses to keep you safe and seeing clearly.

We have the training and experience to help treat and restore injured teeth. But we will be the first to tell you, the very best treatment is prevention!

So here are a few suggestions for your calendar this month:

  • If you haven’t gotten a mouthguard yet, now’s the time. Tooth and mouth injuries occur in sports beyond hockey and football. If you play basketball, ski, skateboard, ride a bike—in fact, almost any sport where you can fall or make contact with a person or object—a mouthguard is a must.
  • If you need to replace an ill-fitting or damaged helmet and face guard, do it before your next game. And do replace a bike helmet if you’ve been in a crash—most likely it won’t be as protective, even if damage isn’t visible.
  • Talk to your eye doctor about protective eyewear if off-the-rack products don’t work for you.
  • If you are a parent or caregiver, make sure your child athlete has the proper facial protection—and uses it.
  • If you are a coach, make sure your athletes have the right protective gear—and wear it.
  • It’s also a great time to commit to using your protective gear every single time you’re active.

But, wait—these reminders are helpful and important, but weren’t we promised something to celebrate this April? Good catch! The great news is, using facial protection for sports and athletic activities gives you rewards you can celebrate all year: fewer injuries, fewer visits to the emergency room, and a beautiful, healthy, intact smile. Suit up!

Carbs and Cavities

March 31st, 2021

The Good News

Carbohydrates are one of the body’s essential macronutrients (along with protein and fat). We use carbs to convert the food we eat into energy. How does this work? It’s a sophisticated process:

  • Carbs break down into sugars as we digest them
  • Sugars are absorbed into our bloodstream
  • The pancreas releases insulin when blood sugar levels rise
  • Insulin enables sugars to move from our blood to our cells
  • Cells throughout the body use this sugar for energy.

Without the necessary amount of carbohydrates, our bodies lose a vital source of energy. So, why are carbs a dental concern?

The Bad News

Some foods immediately begin breaking down into sugars in the mouth. Sugars are a favorite food source for the oral bacteria that form plaque. They use this sugar to produce the acids that weaken our enamel and lead to cavities. And the more often we eat these foods, and the longer they remain in the mouth, the more damage our enamel suffers.

But there’s a silver lining! We can be healthier physically and get a jump on preventing damage from sugary treats by becoming more discriminating in our choice of carbs and timing our indulgences wisely.

Good Carb/Bad Carb

Unprocessed, complex carbohydrates are found in foods like whole-grain breads and cereals, legumes, and vegetables. They contain the vitamins, minerals, and fibers which are lost when foods are refined. They are composed of larger, more complex molecules, and so they break down gradually for sustained energy.

Some simple carbohydrates break down into sugars more quickly, but also offer important vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fruits and dairy products, for example, are an important part of a balanced diet.

But some carbs are not pulling their nutritional weight. Refined sugars (think candies, desserts, and sodas) and refined starches (white bread and rice, potato chips, pastries) break down quickly into sugar in the mouth. Worse, many of these foods tend to stick around. Sticky sugars and sticky starches cling to our enamel and hide between the teeth and in the crevices of our molars. Not only do these treats provide a sugary feast for acid-producing bacteria, they take their time doing it!

So, What to Do?

If you have a diet filled with healthy carbs (whole grains, fruit and vegetables, legumes, dairy products), you’re already on the right track. Kudos! But does this mean no desserts? Ever?

No! We all need a cookie sometimes. But you can decrease the chance of enamel damage by interrupting the carbs to cavities cycle.

First, if you are indulging in a rich dessert or some salty chips, better to do it as part of a meal. When you eat a full meal, your body produces more saliva. Saliva not only helps wash away food particles, it also helps neutralize the acids that damage enamel.

Secondly, if you eat simple carbs and sugars all day, your mouth and teeth are being treated to acids all day. If you are going for a snack, there are many great options that don’t use refined sugars and starches. Think fruit smoothies (with a big dollop of vegetables) or whole-grain crackers with hard cheese instead of a can of soda and a bag of pretzels.

Carbs aren’t really bad, they’re just misunderstood. Talk to Dr. James McCreary at your next checkup at our Pensacola, FL office for ideas for the best carbohydrate choices for healthy metabolisms and healthy smiles!

Dental X-rays: The Inside Story

March 24th, 2021

We’re all friends here, so if you sometimes feel a bit nervous before your dental appointment, no judging! Ask us about any worries you might have. We are happy to explain procedures, equipment, and sedation options so you know just how safe and comfortable your experience can be. And if X-rays are a concern, we can put your mind at ease here as well.

What Exactly Are X-rays?

Sometimes patients feel reluctant about the process of imaging because X-rays are a kind of radiation. But the fact is, radiation is all around us. We are exposed to radiation naturally from our soil and water, sun and air, as well as from modern inventions such as cell phones, Wi-Fi, and air travel.

Why is radiation so common? Because matter throughout the universe constantly gives off energy, and the energy that is emitted is termed radiation. This radiation takes two forms—as particles (which we don’t need to consider!) and as traveling rays. This second type is known as electromagnetic radiation, created by photons traveling in regular waves at the speed of light.

We are exposed to electromagnetic radiation every day, because, whether we can see them or not, these different wavelengths and frequencies create various forms of light. Radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light, X-rays, and gamma rays are all part of the electromagnetic light spectrum.

Different types of radiation on this spectrum have different wavelengths and different frequencies, and produce different amounts of energy. Longer wavelengths mean lower frequencies and less energy. Because X-rays have shorter wavelengths and higher frequencies than, for example, radio waves and visible light, they have more energy.

How Do Dental X-rays Work?

An X-ray machine produces a very narrow beam of X-ray photons. This beam passes through the body and captures images of our teeth and jaws on special film or digital sensors inside the mouth (intraoral X-rays), or on film or sensors located outside the mouth (extraoral X-rays). These X-ray images are also known as radiographs.

Why are X-rays able to take pictures inside our bodies? Remember that higher energy we talked about earlier? This energy enables X-rays to pass through the softer, less dense parts of our bodies, which are seen as gray background in a radiograph. But some substances in our bodies absorb X-rays, such as the calcium found in our bones and teeth. This is why they show up as sharp white images in radiographs.  

There are different types of common dental X-rays which are used for a number of reasons:

  • Bitewing X-rays, which are used to check on the health of the back teeth.
  • Periapical X-rays, which allow us to look at one or two specific teeth from crown to root.
  • Occlusal X-rays, which show the entire arch of teeth in the upper or lower jaw.
  • Panoramic X-rays, which use a special machine to rotate around the head to create a complete two-dimensional picture of teeth and jaws.
  • Cone Beam Computed Tomography, an external device which uses digital images to create a three-dimensional picture of the teeth and jaws.

Why Do We Need X-rays?

If all of our dental conditions were visible on the surface, there would be no need for X-rays. But there are many conditions that can only be discovered with the use of imaging—infection, decay, a decrease in bone density, or injuries, for example, can show up as darker areas in the teeth or jaws. Among their many diagnostic uses, X-rays can help us find:

  • Cavities between teeth or under old fillings
  • Damage to the tooth’s pulp which might require root canal treatment
  • Injuries to teeth or roots after trauma
  • Abscesses, tumors, or other conditions that might be causing swelling or pain
  • Position and development of wisdom teeth
  • Ideal placement for implants
  • Health and density of the jaw and alveolar bone

X-rays can also serve an important preventative role, by discovering small problems before they become major ones.

How Do Dentists Make Sure Your X-rays Are As Safe As They Can Be?

First of all, the amount of radiation you are exposed to with a dental X-ray is very small. In fact, a set of bitewing X-rays exposes us to slightly less than the amount of radiation we are exposed to through our natural surroundings in just one day. Even so, Dr. James McCreary and our team are committed to making sure patients are exposed to as little radiation as possible.

Radiologists, the physicians who specialize in imaging procedures and diagnoses, recommend that all dentists and doctors follow the safety principal known as ALARA: “As Low As Reasonably Achievable.” This means using the lowest X-ray exposure necessary to achieve precise diagnostic results for all dental and medical patients.

The guidelines recommended for X-rays and other imaging have been designed to make sure all patients have the safest experience possible whenever they visit the dentist or the doctor. We ensure that imaging is safe and effective in a number of ways:

  • We take X-rays only when they are necessary.
  • We provide protective gear, such as apron shields and thyroid collars, whenever needed.
  • We make use of modern X-ray equipment, for both traditional X-rays and digital X-rays, which exposes patients to a lower amount of radiation than ever before.
  • When treating children, we set exposure times based on each child’s size and age.

And now that we’ve talked about some things you might like to know,

Please Let Us Know If . . .

  • You’re a new patient, with previous X-rays taken during regular exams or for specific procedures. Ask to have your older X-rays sent to our office. With digital X-ray technology, this transfer can be accomplished with e-mail! Having your dental history available lets us notice any changes that have taken place.
  • You’re pregnant, or think you might be pregnant. Even though radiation exposure is very low with dental radiographs, unless there is a dental emergency, dentists and doctors recommend against X-rays for pregnant patients.

X-rays play an important part in helping us make sure your teeth stay their healthiest. If you have any concerns, contact our Pensacola, FL office. When it comes to making sure you’re comfortable with all of our procedures, including any X-rays that might be necessary, we’re happy to give you all the inside information!

Going Green for St. Patrick’s Day?

March 17th, 2021

Happily for all of us who like to celebrate with friends and family, there’s no need to be Irish to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day. Every March 17th, many of us take the opportunity to display a bit of Gaelic spirit.

  • Green Clothing (it’s tradition!)
  • Green Hat (for a jaunty look)
  • Green Shamrock (always the perfect accessory)
  • Green Hair (for the adventurous among us)
  • Green Grins?

Here’s where we draw the line. Emerald Isle? Delightful! Emerald smile? Not so beguiling.

That traditional St. Patrick’s party fare—green-frosted sweet treats and green-colored pastries and green-foamed beers—is full of green-tinted food dyes, which can leave us with teeth in subtle shamrock shades. Luckily, most of us will have only a very temporary tinge to remind us of our dietary shenanigans, and there are simple ways to rid yourself of the green sheen:

  • Indulge sparingly in colorful cuisine, and drink water afterwards to rinse away green-dyed foods and beverages.
  • Use a straw for green drinks.
  • Brush your teeth. (Not only will you brush away the green, but you’ll brush away the sugars from sweet green desserts and the acids from sour green brews.)
  • Try a whitening toothpaste.

One special note: if you’ve just whitened your smile, best to eliminate strong food dyes from your diet for a few days. Teeth are more sensitive to staining after whitening, because the whitening process temporarily makes them more porous. Give yourself a few days, and your enamel will be back to (stain)fighting strength.

So, celebrate on the 17th and feel secure that on the 18th, your smile won’t be “wearing the green” any longer. But if you find that you’re not happy with the appearance of your smile anytime during the year, if you have more permanent staining caused by natural darkening over time, or workdays fueled by black coffee, or a diet filled with tomato sauce, dark berries, red wine, and other tasty (but discoloring) food, you’re still in luck.

Ask Dr. James McCreary about professional whitening procedures at our Pensacola, FL office for a brighter, more confident smile. And with a bright, confident smile, every day’s a reason to celebrate!

The Perks of Dairy

March 10th, 2021

We all remember hearing this: “Finish your milk, it’s good for your bones!” If you have kids of your own now, you may catch yourself repeating many of the things you were told growing up.

Though parents occasionally exaggerate to get their kids to do certain things (such as eat veggies or behave), they’re spot-on about milk. Consuming enough dairy every day is crucial for growing children, because this can set them up to have strong and healthy teeth for the rest of their lives.

To understand the effects of dairy on your child’s teeth, take a look at tooth structure. Think of it in terms of layers: the innermost layer is the living tissue, the second layer is dentine (a calcified tissue), and the final one is the enamel, aka the white part of the tooth. Keep in mind that 96 percent of your enamel is made up of minerals like calcium.

Now, milk and other dairy products are excellent sources of calcium, so when you consider the need to build strong enamel for the first line of defense, it’s easy to see the connection between dairy and good dental health. When your son or daughter consumes dairy products, the body sends the incoming calcium to growing bones, which includes teeth.

This makes children’s teeth and bones stronger all around. Growing youngsters who do not get enough dairy in their diet are at risk for improper tooth development, as well as other dental problems.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, children under the age of eight should be receiving at least two and a half cups of dairy per day. Children older than eight require three full cups, which is the same amount recommended for male and female adults.

If you’re looking for easy ways to incorporate dairy into your children’s diet, try snacks like cottage cheese, a milk-based smoothie, yogurt, cheese sticks, non-fat milk, and fruit parfaits, to name a few. Once you get a feel for what they like most, furnishing the ideal amount of dairy to their diet should be no problem!

If you’re concerned about your child’s teeth or have questions about a healthy diet, don’t hesitate to contact our Pensacola, FL office and ask a member of our team.

Best Tips to Make Your Teeth Look Whiter

March 3rd, 2021

Your teeth were once naturally white and bright. Wouldn't it be great to keep them that way all of your life? Unfortunately, everyday living can dim our smiles. Food, coffee, some juices, and soft drinks can stain your teeth. Poor brushing and flossing can also leave tooth stains. Injuries to teeth or gums can cause some yellowing as well, and in some cases, medicines can discolor teeth.

So, you may need some extra help to maintain or restore your teeth's natural beauty. Here are some of the best ways to whiten your teeth:

1. Reduce additional staining by drinking with a straw or cutting back on coffee and soft drinks.

2. Brush and floss every day.

3. Try a whitening toothpaste or mouthwash.

4. Visit our office for teeth cleaning and an exam every six months.

We can also help you whiten your teeth with in-office professional teeth whitening at our Pensacola, FL office. These whitening products are much more effective than whiteners you can buy at the store and are completely safe. Since they're stronger, application by a member of our team is essential to achieve the best results.

Some teeth can resist bleaching. If that's the case, we can try several techniques:

  • Deep bleaching that applies whitening agents over several visits.
  • Veneers and bonds that cover existing stains with a whiter, brighter surface.
  • Laser whitening that uses light to clean stubborn stains off teeth.

Take Care!

You may come across “bleaching stations” in shopping malls or at fairs. Avoid using these as the so-called whitening techniques can irritate your teeth and gums, leaving them highly sensitive to pain. Note too, that the operators of these whitening stands will make customers apply the bleach themselves, to avoid charges of practicing without a license. That should serve as a red flag and a caution to seek trained professionals, like Dr. James McCreary, instead.

Treatment Options for TMD

February 24th, 2021

Temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD) refers to a diverse range of disorders that relate to muscular function in the jaw and face — the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). That could mean difficulty opening your mouth, pain in the jaw or face, or any sort of problem with the jaw joint.

TMD can be difficult to diagnose because of the varied causes. Whatever the case, an accurate diagnosis from Dr. James McCreary helps make treatment as successful as possible.

Most often, jaw problems will resolve themselves within several weeks or months. Surgeries like arthrocentesis, arthroscopy, and open-joint surgery should be a last resort. More conservative and reversible treatments should come first and are in fact the most critical step in the treatment of TMD.

Less invasive treatments like acupuncture and splints can be helpful, but that will depend on your particular case. It’s worth your while to speak with Dr. James McCreary at our Pensacola, FL office to learn about solutions that could work for you.

A combination of treatments will most often produce the greatest relief for TMJ patients. It’s a good idea to avoid activities that overuse the jaws, such as chewing gum or clenching your jaws.

You can be proactive in finding relief for TMD by trying the following remedies at home:

  • Eat soft food: When you eat soft and/or blended food, your jaw gets an opportunity to rest. Avoid chewy and crunchy food, and food that requires you to open your mouth wide, like apples or corn on the cob.
  • Apply moist heat: A hot water bottle wrapped in a moist towel can help reduce symptoms.
  • Apply ice: Applying an ice pack wrapped in a cloth or towel for no longer than 15 minutes may also reduce pain and promote healing.
  • Do jaw exercises: A physical therapist can help identify the exercises that will work for you. Jaw exercises have been shown to be an effective treatment method that can be performed at home.
  • Relaxation: Actively try to relax the muscles of the face and lips, and let your teeth come apart. Many find meditation, yoga, and slow, deep breathing to be helpful for reducing stress and tension.
  • Avoid wide yawns: Keep your fist under your jaw when you feel a yawn coming on, to keep your jaw from opening too widely.

Dental X-rays: The Inside Story

February 17th, 2021

Pediatric dentists strive to make your children’s visits welcoming and worry-free, and, we want the same for you! Ask us about any questions you might have. We are happy to explain procedures, equipment, and sedation options so you know just how safe and comfortable your child’s experience can be. And if X-rays are a concern, we can put your mind at ease here as well.

What Exactly Are X-rays?

Sometimes parents feel reluctant about the process of imaging because X-rays are a kind of radiation. But the fact is, radiation is all around us. We are exposed to radiation naturally from our soil and water, sun and air, as well as from modern inventions such as cell phones, Wi-Fi, and air travel.

Why is radiation so common? Because matter throughout the universe constantly gives off energy, and the energy that is emitted is termed radiation. This radiation takes two forms—as particles (which we don’t need to consider!) and as traveling rays. This second type is known as electromagnetic radiation, created by photons traveling in regular waves at the speed of light.

We are exposed to electromagnetic radiation every day, because, whether we can see them or not, these different wavelengths and frequencies create various forms of light. Radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light, X-rays, and gamma rays are all part of the electromagnetic light spectrum.

Different types of radiation on this spectrum have different wavelengths and different frequencies, and produce different amounts of energy. Longer wavelengths mean lower frequencies and less energy. Because X-rays have shorter wavelengths and higher frequencies than, for example, radio waves and visible light, they have more energy.

How Do Dental X-rays Work?

An X-ray machine produces a very narrow beam of X-ray photons. This beam passes through the body and captures images of our teeth and jaws on special film or digital sensors inside the mouth (intraoral X-rays), or on film or sensors located outside the mouth (extraoral X-rays). These X-ray images are also known as radiographs.

Why are X-rays able to take pictures inside our bodies? Remember that higher energy we talked about earlier? This energy enables X-rays to pass through the softer, less dense parts of our bodies, which are seen as gray background in a radiograph. But some substances in our bodies absorb X-rays, such as the calcium found in our bones and teeth. This is why they show up as sharp white images in radiographs. 

There are different types of common dental X-rays which are used for pediatric exams, including:

  • Bitewing X-rays, which are used to check on the health of the back teeth.
  • Periapical X-rays, which allow us to look at one or two specific teeth from crown to root.
  • Panoramic X-rays, which use a special machine to rotate around the head to create a complete two-dimensional picture of teeth and jaws.

Why Do We Need X-rays?

If all of our dental conditions were visible on the surface, there would be no need for X-rays. But there are many conditions that can only be discovered with the use of imaging—infection, decay, or injuries, for example, can show up as darker areas in the teeth or jaws. Among their many diagnostic uses, X-rays can help us find:

  • Cavities between teeth
  • Damage to the tooth’s pulp which might require root canal treatment
  • Injuries to teeth or roots after trauma
  • Abscesses, tumors, or other conditions that might be causing swelling or pain
  • Unusual position or development of the teeth before and as they erupt
  • Alignment and development of wisdom teeth

X-rays can also serve an important preventative role, by discovering small problems before they become major ones.

How Do Dentists Make Sure Your Child’s X-rays Are as Safe as They Can Be?

First of all, the amount of radiation patients are exposed to with a dental X-ray is very small. In fact, a set of bitewing X-rays exposes us to slightly less than the amount of radiation we are exposed to through our natural surroundings in just one day. Even so, Dr. James McCreary and our team are committed to making sure young patients are exposed to as little radiation as possible.

Radiologists, the physicians who specialize in imaging procedures and diagnoses, recommend that all dentists and doctors follow the safety principal known as ALARA: “As Low As Reasonably Achievable.” This means using the lowest X-ray exposure necessary to achieve precise diagnostic results for all dental and medical patients.

The guidelines recommended for X-rays and other imaging have been designed to make sure all patients have the safest experience possible whenever they visit the dentist or the doctor. We ensure that imaging is safe and effective in a number of ways:

  • We take X-rays only when they are necessary.
  • We provide protective gear, such as apron shields and thyroid collars, whenever needed.
  • We make use of modern X-ray equipment, for both traditional X-rays and digital X-rays, which exposes patients to a lower amount of radiation than ever before.
  • We set exposure times based on each child’s size and age.

X-rays play an important part in helping us make sure your child’s teeth stay their healthiest. If you have any concerns, contact our Pensacola, FL office. When it comes to making sure you’re comfortable with all of our procedures, including any X-rays that might be necessary, we’re happy to give you all the inside information!

There’s an App for That!

February 10th, 2021

Kids today are more tech-savvy than ever before. Even young children use computers, tablets and smart phones to make learning about their world more accessible and more enjoyable. And with the enormous variety of apps geared to childhood education, it comes as no surprise that you can download an app to encourage your children to learn about—and celebrate—their dental health.

What kinds of apps are available for your child?

Happy Brushing!

Children’s apps can offer helpful advice for learning effective brushing and flossing habits that will last a lifetime. Some of the apps for young brushers include:

  • Age appropriate instructions for proper brushing technique
  • Two minutes of carefully chosen songs or stories to keep them brushing the recommended amount of time in an entertaining way
  • Reminders to replace those little toothbrushes—every three months, please!
  • Educational games and stories to teach effective dental habits and tooth-healthy food choices.

The best apps not only provide lots of important information for keeping young teeth and gums their healthiest, but make learning fun with rewards such as badges, stars, games, or simply plenty of positive encouragement.

Time for the Tooth Fairy to Appear?

Losing a tooth is an important event for many young children. If you’re a fan of the Tooth Fairy, there are apps that can provide some reassuring fun while your child waits for that first loose tooth to finally come out. Tooth Fairy apps offer a wide variety of activities, including:

  • Tooth Fairy voicemails to report a loose or lost tooth
  • Tooth Fairy diaries to record lost teeth—and save photos of the adorable smiles that result
  • A video of an animated Tooth Fairy fluttering around your child’s pillow on the big night
  • A Tooth Fairy alert for forgetful Tooth Fairy assistants.

Apply the Latest in Brushing Technology

If you’ve decided that an electric toothbrush is the best brush for your child, many of the products available today come with their own apps. What can these apps do?

  • Let children know if they’ve brushed long enough
  • Alert them when they’re brushing too hard, which is not good for young gums and enamel
  • Some apps even provide a map of the mouth and teeth that lets children know just where they’ve brushed, in case they tend to neglect a few spots regularly.

Keep Those Appointments

Dr. James McCreary and our team are here to help keep your child’s teeth healthy. Regular examinations and professional cleanings at our Pensacola, FL office not only make sure problems are caught before they become serious, they can help prevent problems from developing in the first place.

There are many apps out there that are designed to help you keep your child’s dental care on track with appointment reminders. This sounds pretty basic, but when kids have school, sports, lessons, and activities filling their days, it doesn’t hurt to get a timely reminder that Dr. James McCreary should be seeing someone in your family for an appointment or checkup and a cleaning in the near future.

Dentist Approved

When looking for a dental app for children, there are lots of options. The best apps provide age-appropriate educational tips for keeping young smiles healthy, and present them in a way that engages your child’s imagination and provides positive reinforcement.

If you think an app might make dental care not only more efficient, but more enjoyable for your child, talk to Dr. James McCreary! We might have some suggestions that will be just right for your family.

Dental Insurance Benefits

February 3rd, 2021

Dental insurance can be a great addition to your health care plan, but the way benefits are calculated can also make it a confusing one. If you have dental insurance, you might be wondering how you can make the most of your benefits. Let’s look at some of the important things to remember about taking advantage of your dental insurance.

  • Know Your Benefits

Figuring out what insurance will and won’t pay for, what percentage of a procedure is covered, what the insurance company considers an allowable fee, when you have covered your deductible for the year—these calculations are often bewildering. It’s helpful to call our office and check with your insurance provider to learn the final cost of any treatment, and how much, if any, will be covered by your insurance.

  • Use Your Benefits

Don’t lose benefits you have paid for! If you have not used your benefits, the time to do so is before the end of the insurance period (which may or may not be the end of the calendar year). When your dental plan re-starts, you will be paying for these unused benefits all over again. Similarly, if you have used your insurance and covered your deductible for the year, it makes sense to schedule your appointments before a new year brings a new deductible amount you will have to meet.

If you qualify for a certain number of preventive services such as check-ups and cleanings, you should always take advantage of this benefit—not only to find possible dental problems, but to prevent them.

And, if you have set up a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) to cover medical and dental expenses for the year, be sure to use the money in the account or you might lose it at the end of your year’s coverage. Many dental procedures are covered by an FSA—talk to our Pensacola, FL team and your provider for details.

  • Possible Tax Deductions

If you are paying for your own dental insurance, you might be able to take advantage of the deduction for medical and dental premiums and expenses on your taxes. If your employer pays for your insurance, if you take the standard deduction, or if you spend less than a certain proportion of your income on health costs, these expenses are most likely not deductible. Be sure to check with your tax preparer or with the IRS for latest information on dental and medical deductions.

Finally, you should never put off urgent dental work because of insurance considerations. At the same time, you should be able to take full advantage of any dental insurance plan you have purchased, because you deserve to get every benefit you have paid for. Dr. James McCreary and our team are here to help you work with your insurance company in any way we can. Our goal is the same as yours—insuring dental health for you and your family!

What exactly is tinnitus?

January 27th, 2021

It’s estimated that about one in every five people is affected by tinnitus, which is a ringing or noise in the ears. But tinnitus isn’t a condition in itself; it’s actually the symptom of an underlying condition. Some of these underlying conditions could be hearing loss, injury to the ear, or some sort of circulatory disorder.

Another common cause if tinnitus is a dental injury or dental issue, whether it involves the jaw or the temporomandibular joint, better known as the TMJ. “Somatic tinnitus” is the term given to the version that is attributable to injuries to the head or neck area. Symptoms of somatic tinnitus may include noticeable fluctuations in sound volume, intermittency, headaches, memory loss or increased forgetfulness, and an increased likelihood of being depressed or sad.

Dr. James McCreary will tell you tinnitus usually isn’t serious and is more common in older populations. For that reason, many people won’t even seek an answer to what’s causing it. But people can also experience more severe cases of tinnitus that can affect a person’s ability to complete everyday activities, which has a larger impact on their lives. For people facing these more severe cases of tinnitus, treatment may be necessary to increase their quality of life. It’s also worth noting that tinnitus seems to worsen with age, so while symptoms might not be a problem one year, they may be more significant and distracting the next.

If you have tinnitus that is caused by the misalignment of the TMJ or an injury to the mouth, that’s a condition that can be corrected by Dr. James McCreary and our team at McCreary Family Dentistry. We will work to relieve your symptoms by realigning the jaw or adjusting your bite with routine dental care. Sometimes we won’t even have to go this far, because an oral infection or gum infection may be causing your problem. We might also recommend other life changes, such as dietary adjustments and medication.

If you're experiencing tinnitus-like symptoms and have ruled out various other reasons for it, contact our Pensacola, FL office today. Dr. James McCreary and our team will carefully analyze your situation and put you on a treatment course so that you can kick the symptoms for good.

Mouthguard Protection

January 20th, 2021

Let’s talk about mouthguards and night guards—two crucial appliances that protect your child’s teeth and jaw.

We could talk about how important a mouthguard is when your family leads an active life. Mouthguards protect teeth, delicate mouth tissue, and jaws from accidents and impacts. 

Or if someone in the house grinds his or her teeth at night, waking up every morning with tooth or jaw pain, we can talk about how a night guard can be a quality-of-life-saver.

But we’re not going to talk about any of these important topics today. Instead of looking at how a guard protects your child, today we’re going to look at how you can help children protect their mouthguards.

If you want their guards to last longer, work better, and stay (and smell!) cleaner, some basic tips make all the difference. Here are some important rules to share with your child.

  • Keep your guard clean.

This can’t be stressed enough. Without a good cleaning routine, your guard can become discolored, develop an unpleasant odor, and even cause illness. Not very appealing, right? Happily, keeping mouthguards and night guards clean isn’t difficult.

When you wear your guard, whether during daytime activities or through the night, the same plaque that is present in your mouth makes itself at home your guard. And when your night guard or mouthguard is in its case, that dark, moist environment makes it a perfect breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

As soon as you take your mouthguard out, rinse it off. Brush with a soft toothbrush to remove all the plaque, saliva, or food debris that might be lingering in your appliance. (If you are on the playing field, in the park, or at some other inconvenient location, rinse it and brush as soon as you can.) Toothpaste can help get your guard its cleanest, but can be too abrasive for some appliances.

Once you’ve cleaned it, let your guard air dry in a clean spot for about 30 minutes. Air drying helps prevent bacterial growth. After your guard has dried, return it to its case.

Once a week, you might need to give your guard a good soak in a mouthwash or other dental cleaning solution.

Since cleaning instructions can be different depending on which type of guard you have, be sure to follow our instructions if you have a custom guard, or follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions if you have a store guard.

  • Keep it safe.

When your guard isn’t in your mouth, it should be in its case. Floating loose on the bathroom counter or tumbling around in your gym bag puts your guard at risk for breakage and bacteria.

And don’t forget to clean your case thoroughly every few days and air dry it as well. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, mold, and other unwelcome guests can collect in your case, too.

  • Keep it only as long as it’s in good condition.

You can purchase mouthguards from sporting or drug stores, or Dr. James McCreary can make a mouthguard or night guard designed to fit your teeth perfectly. These appliances are made to be strong and durable, but they’re not indestructible. Over time they can wear down or become damaged, especially if you treat them carelessly.

Bacteria can lurk in dents and cracks, and you can cut your mouth on rough, sharp, or broken edges. But if your guard isn’t fitting properly, don’t resort to self-help! Trying to repair, reshape, or trim your appliance yourself is not a good idea, because it might affect its fit and protective ability.

Any sign that your guard isn’t fitting properly or shows signs of wear and tear could mean it’s time for a replacement. You can replace a store model, or ask our Pensacola, FL team about repairing or replacing your custom guard. A mouthguard that doesn’t fit, doesn’t keep you safe.

Take care of your guard, and it will take care of you. The reward for the small amount of time and effort you put into caring for your mouthguard or night guard is a smile that will last you for a lifetime. That’s a benefit we can talk about all day!

Pros and Cons of Veneers

January 13th, 2021

You might have a small chip in a tooth from an unfortunate encounter with peanut brittle, or even several chips from a touch football game that got a little out of hand. Perhaps you have a gap in your teeth that you’ve always wanted to address. Or it could be that you are not happy with the shape or color of your teeth, and are looking for a straighter, brighter smile. In all these cases, veneers may the perfect solution for you.

Veneers are one of the most dramatic ways to improve your smile:

  • Realistic Appearance: A dental veneer is a thin shell of porcelain that is bonded to your tooth. Because they are semi-translucent, much like actual enamel, veneers look like natural teeth.
  • Rapid Transformation: Normally, the application of veneers requires only a few visits. Your tooth will be shaped to accommodate the veneer for a smooth, flat appearance. A mold will be made to ensure an exact fit. On a subsequent visit, the new veneer will be bonded to the tooth permanently.
  • Whiteness that Lasts: Veneers are stain-resistant, so if you are looking for a long-lasting bright smile, they are a good option. (If you are getting only a few veneers, it is a good idea to have your natural teeth whitened to the shade you desire before the veneer color is selected. Veneer color is permanent.)

There are also some aspects to consider before going ahead with the procedure:

  • Be Sure About Your Decision: Veneers are a permanent choice. Some enamel might need to be removed for the veneer to fit and the surface of your tooth will be treated to allow the veneer to bond to it properly.
  • Check Your Overall Dental Health: You should have a check-up before starting the process to make sure your teeth and gums are healthy enough for veneers. If you have severe orthodontic issues, grind your teeth, or have a habit of clenching your jaw, your veneers will be put under pressure they were not designed to take. We can let you know if you are a good candidate for this procedure.
  • Expense: Veneers are more expensive than some other options, such as whitening and bonding, but can offer more benefits. Veneers will cover staining that whitening cannot eliminate. Their translucent quality makes them look more realistic than bonding, and they are also far more stain resistant. The cost of a crown might be comparable, and a crown is recommended if there is significant damage to the underlying tooth. If you are looking for cosmetic improvement only, veneers leave more of the tooth intact.
  • Longevity: Veneers do not last forever, and will need to be replaced eventually. However, they can have a life expectancy of ten to 15 years, and we can give you tips to keep your veneers looking and lasting their best.

If you decide veneers are right for you, give our Pensacola, FL office a call. We will be happy to discuss the procedure with you and help you discover the best possible path to your best possible smile.

Tooth Protection and Winter Sports

January 6th, 2021

Just because it’s cold out there doesn’t mean you’ll give up keeping fit and active! Winter is the season for some of our favorite team sporting activities, and when you’re donning your protective gear, don’t forget to protect your teeth as well.

  • Basketball

This sport actually tallies one of the highest counts of dental injuries. Running, jumping, and diving for the ball on an unforgiving court can lead to tooth and jaw injuries.  And for every ten men on the floor, it seems like there at least 50 flailing elbows in the paint.

  • Hockey

Notorious for the toll it takes on teeth, hockey is a game of sticks, ice, and whizzing pucks. And when your sport’s penalties include the terms hooking, slashing, and tripping, the more protection, the better.

  • Skiing

When you are flying down the slopes, combining powdery snow and speed, mouth protection is a good idea. This also applies to snowboarding and other snow sports.

  • Wrestling

Grappling and pinning in close quarters can lead to unintended injuries after accidental contact with the mat or your opponent.

Different uniforms, different equipment, and different playing fields, but all these sports have one thing in common—the easiest way to protect your teeth while playing them is with a mouth guard.

Mouthguards generally come in three forms:

  • Over the counter, ready-made appliances. These are available in drugstores and sporting goods stores, but might not be a comfortable fit as they are pre-formed sizes.
  • The “boil-and-bite” option is a mouthguard form placed in hot water. You then bite down to shape it to your mouth and teeth.
  • Custom mouthguards can be fabricated just for you through our Pensacola, FL office. These appliances are designed to fit your individual mouth and teeth, so provide a better fit and better protection. They are also usually more durable and more comfortable. If you wear braces, you definitely need a custom mouthguard to prevent an injury to your mouth or braces caused by an ill-fitting appliance.

Whether you play on a team or pursue individual athletic activities, keeping safe as you keep fit is your first priority. We would be happy to discuss your mouthguard options for any sport, any time of year.

A Brighter Smile for the New Year

December 30th, 2020

The beginning of a new year is the perfect opportunity for a fresh start for you and your smile. At McCreary Family Dentistry, a brighter smile is quick and easy!

Given the latest in whitening technology, whiter teeth are only an appointment away. Teeth whitening is a safe, quick, and inexpensive way to create the dream smile you’ve always desired. We can offer a safe method that corrects tooth discolorations that may have been caused by staining, aging, or chemical effects.

So, start the new year off right and get a whiter smile today! Give us a call at our convenient Pensacola, FL office to schedule an appointment!

Losing a Baby Tooth

December 23rd, 2020

It seems like yesterday. There you were, comforting your baby through sleepless nights, soothing her with a dentist-approved teether, celebrating as that first tiny tooth poked through her gums. And now here she is running to show you that same tooth, wiggly, loose, and almost ready for the Tooth Fairy. Now what?

Be Prepared

Children normally lose that first tooth somewhere around the age of six, but a year or two earlier or later is not uncommon. If you ever took a business class, you might have heard of the inventory method called “First In, First Out.” Baby teeth operate much the same way! The two bottom front teeth, followed by the two upper front teeth, will probably be the first teeth your child loses. Once you notice some wiggling, let your child know what is going on and reassure her that it is a normal part of growing up.

What to Expect with that First Loose Tooth

Normally, baby teeth become loose when the pressure from the permanent tooth below gradually breaks down the roots of the primary tooth. If your child has a loose tooth, encourage him to wiggle, not pull. Typically, gentle wiggling is all that is needed to free a tooth that has lost most of its root and is ready to be replaced. Avoid pulling or forcing the tooth, because that can cause injury to the root area if the baby tooth isn’t ready to come out. Call our Pensacola, FL office if you have any questions about loose teeth. Dr. James McCreary and our team also have suggestions if the baby teeth don’t become loose on schedule, or if they stubbornly remain in place even after the adult teeth have started to show up. One important note—if your child ever loses a tooth through accident or injury, call us at once. We might need to provide a spacer to give your child’s permanent teeth the proper time and space to come in.

Celebrate this Milestone with Your Child

The arrival of the Tooth Fairy is a familiar way to mark the occasion, and she can leave your child a note, a small gift, even a brand new toothbrush. Or explore other options!

If your child is fascinated by stories and traditions, learn about El Ratón Pérez (Perez the Mouse), a familiar tooth-collector in many Spanish speaking countries, or his French cousin, La Petite Souris (the Little Mouse). In other parts of Europe, Asia and Africa, children throw teeth on the roof, drop them in a glass of water, or hide them in a slipper. This is a great opportunity for you and your child to explore the world!

If your child likes science, look into books that explain the biology of baby and adult teeth in an age-appropriate way. You could print a chart of the primary teeth and take notes on each lost tooth as it makes way for the permanent tooth below. Or track her progress with photos showing the baby tooth, the gap left by the tooth, and the adult tooth as it comes in.

Losing that first tooth is an important moment for your child—and for you. Be prepared to celebrate another milestone together, and always feel free to talk to Dr. James McCreary if you have any questions about this new stage in your child’s life.

Can a Night Guard Mean Sweet Dreams for Your Child?

December 16th, 2020

Sometimes the reason for a poor night’s sleep is obvious. Maybe your child watched a scary movie. Or loaded up on sugar before bed. Or can’t get to sleep after a night of computer screens or video games. Not much we can do about these problems.

Sometimes, though, the cause of your child’s sleep difficulties is dental in origin, and that is something Dr. James McCreary can help with.

Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a very common childhood dental problem. While children with this condition sleep, their jaws clench and their teeth grind against each other throughout the night. When to suspect children might suffer from bruxism? When they experience:

  • Frequent headaches or facial pain
  • Waking with a sore jaw, or popping or clicking jaw sounds through the day
  • Teeth which are chipped, cracked, flattened, worn down, or sensitive
  • Waking up tired, because grinding affects the quality of sleep
  • Siblings who complain about nocturnal grinding noises, which affect the quality of their

Pain and fatigue are unpleasant enough, but there are additional serious consequences for those who suffer from bruxism. Our jaws are extremely powerful, and clenching and grinding can put hundreds of pounds on pressure on teeth and jaws over a few hours of sleep.

These forces can lead to damaged teeth and dental work, and problems with the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, the complex hinge that allows our jaws to move up and down, back and forth, and side to side.

Clearly, prevention is clearly a much better option for a healthy smile. And one of the simplest and most effective treatments for preventing the damage caused by bruxism is a night guard.

Night guards fit over the affected teeth to prevent them from touching directly, saving tooth and enamel from injury and wear. Not only do night guards prevent contact, they spread the biting forces of the jaw over the surface of the guard to greatly reduce their impact. And because they also stop the jaw muscles from clenching tightly, there’s no excess stress placed on the temporomandibular joint.

For all these reasons, a night guard is pretty much a slam dunk for adults who grind their teeth. But for children, it’s not necessarily an automatic decision. Why?

  • If tooth grinding is mild and appears to be limited to baby teeth, children often outgrow the condition. Your dentist can let you know if you need to do more than monitor the situation.
  • Sometimes it seems like your child’s smile changes from day to day. Between losing baby teeth and erupting adult teeth, this beautiful smile is a work in progress. A fitted night guard might not be a perfect fit while your child’s teeth are still coming in and shifting position.
  • Finally, jaw and facial pain can also be caused by problems with your child’s bite or misaligned teeth, and that might mean that an orthodontic consultation is in order.

But if you suspect your child is suffering the effects of night time grinding and clenching, give our Pensacola, FL office a call. A thorough examination will provide you with the best diagnosis and solutions for helping your child retain a healthy smile and regain a healthy night’s sleep.

And if a night guard is recommended, a dental professional is the best person to see for the most effective night guard.

While over-the-counter products are available, a custom night guard is designed to fit your child’s individual teeth and mouth perfectly. Impressions or 3D scans are taken in the office, and a guard is fabricated with the precise shape, strength, and thickness needed to protect young teeth. And, as a bonus, custom night guards offer the most comfortable fit for the most comfortable night’s sleep.

Scary movies, a late night sugar rush, mesmerizing video screens—not much we can do about those! But if your child is suffering lost sleep and painful mornings because of tooth grinding, give us a call. A night guard just might be the key to sweet dreams.

Why Do Molars Seem to Get More Cavities?

December 9th, 2020

Probably because, for many kids, molars do get more cavities. So let’s answer two better questions: Why do molars get more cavities? And, how can we help prevent them?

It’s the Pits. (And Fissures.)

The reason molars are so useful—and more likely to develop cavities—is because of their shape. Unlike our front teeth, which are used to bite through foods, molars are used to grind and chew. That’s why they are so much larger, with a flat surface on top. Well, not exactly flat.

When you look at a molar, you’ll notice that the top isn’t really smooth at all. It’s covered with little indentations known as pits and longer grooves called fissures. These irregular features both trap food particles and make it more difficult for bristles to clean them away. Cavities in molar surfaces are so common that they even have a specific name: “pit and fissure cavities.”

But molar biology does not mean tooth decay is inevitable! There are steps you can take to protect your children’s molars as they grow, while you’re providing them with dental strategies that will keep their adult molars healthy and cavity-free.

Preventing Pit and Fissure Cavities

  • Don’t Just Brush—Brush Effectively

The first step in preventing any kind of cavity is brushing properly. Your child should be brushing at least two minutes, at least twice each day. And while the time we spend brushing is important, technique is also key.

When you’re showing your child how to brush, be sure that the tops of molars, upper and lower, get brushed thoroughly, with special emphasis on cleaning pits and fissures. Make sure the toothbrush is small enough to fit your child’s mouth comfortably and reach all the tooth surfaces. Replace worn-down brushes or electric toothbrush heads after three to four months when they no longer clean as effectively.

Your child will probably need adult supervision from toddler years through the early years of grade school to learn how to brush properly. This is time well spent, as your child learns cavity-preventing brushing techniques which will last a lifetime.

  • Eat a Tooth-Healthy Diet

Plaque bacteria use the sugars in our food to make acids. These acids break down the mineral strength of tooth enamel and eventually lead to cavities. And because pits and fissures are great hiding places for bacteria and food particles (especially sticky ones), molars are even more at risk for cavities. Limiting sugary, sticky foods like sweet treats and simple carbs helps reduce that risk.

Acidic foods like flavored juices, sour candies, sodas, and power drinks also weaken enamel and can leave teeth more vulnerable to decay. Help your child avoid cavities by limiting acidic foods and drinks, making them part of a balanced meal, and/or rinsing with water after eating.

  • Use Fluoride Toothpaste

Fluoride toothpaste not only reduces the risk of cavities, it also helps strengthen enamel that has been weakened by bacterial and dietary acids. Win-win!

  • Ask About Sealants

Sealants are invisible, safe coatings which protect molars by preventing food and bacteria from getting trapped in their uneven surfaces. The top of the molar is first treated with an etching solution to allow the sealant to bond tightly to the tooth, a thin coat of sealant is painted on, and then it’s hardened under a curing light. That’s all there is to it.

Sealants are often recommended when children’s permanent molars first erupt, when they are especially at risk for cavities. Sealants can last from three to five years (or even longer), and studies have shown a dramatic reduction in cavities for patients who use sealants compared to patients with untreated teeth. Depending on your child’s individual needs, Dr. James McCreary might recommend a sealant for baby molars as well.

  • Regular Exams and Cleanings

It might be hard for you to tell if your child’s molars have been affected by sticky plaque, or sugary foods, or acidic drinks, or inadequate brushing, or any other potential cavity-causers. It’s not a difficult job for Dr. James McCreary, though! Through regular checkups and cleanings at our Pensacola, FL office, we will discover any conditions that might lead to cavities, and, if necessary, treat small cavities before they lead to more serious decay.

Statistically, childhood molars have a greater chance of developing cavities than incisors and canines. Help your child beat the odds by understanding why these teeth are at risk and by working with your dental team to give your child years of healthy teeth now and a future filled with beautiful smiles!

‘Tis the Season—for Healthy Dental Choices!

December 2nd, 2020

It might be the most wonderful time of the year, but if you’re dashing through the snow to an emergency dental appointment, you’re not feeling very jolly. And post-holiday, no one wants to start off their New Year’s Resolutions with “Get Cavities Filled.” How to survive the sweetest of seasons with enamel and fillings intact?

Candies and sweets would normally be on the naughty list, but we’re not Scrooges! Indulging in a treat or two is part of the holiday fun, and we have some advice for how to enjoy them guilt-free. But first, some treats are definitely more naughty than nice. Which are the ones that are better as decorations than desserts?

  • Candy Canes

If you’ve ever suffered a chipped or cracked tooth after an innocently biting down on a much-harder-than-expected piece of candy, you know that caution is in order. That’s why we tend to take our time with candy canes, letting them dissolve slowly in the mouth. Of course, the drawback to this strategy is that now we’re slowly bathing our teeth in sugar, encouraging the growth of plaque and cavity-causing bacteria.

Candy canes, peppermints, and other hard candies are potentially bad for your teeth when you crunch away, and definitely bad for your teeth if you let them dissolve slowly.

  • Gumdrops

Glistening, colorful gumdrops. Roofing your gingerbread house, trimming a gumdrop tree, or simply sitting in a bowl, they are one of the sweetest ways to decorate for the holidays. And when we say “sweet,” we mean that literally. Most gumdrops are basically made of corn syrup and sugar—and then rolled in more sugar.

But their sugar content isn’t the only problem. This is sugar in an extra-gummy form that sticks between our teeth and around our gums.

  • Toffees, Caramels, Taffy

They might come in lovely ribboned boxes, but these extremely sticky foods are not a gift to your teeth.

Not only do chewy candies stick to enamel, they stick to fillings, crowns (especially temporary crowns), and orthodontic wires and brackets. No one wants an unexpected trip to the dentist or orthodontist because dental work has been damaged or dislodged!

  • Gingerbread Houses

Nothing says the holidays like a gingerbread house—chewy, sticky gingerbread covered with hard sugar icing, gumdrops, and peppermints. Great for your décor; not so great for your dental health. Eat one gingerbread man if you’re in a spicy mood and leave your architectural masterpiece intact.

  • Fruitcake

If you need an excuse to turn down fruitcake, here’s a perfect one: most fruitcake is not great for your teeth. Candied fruit is, well, candied, and dried fruit is sugary, sticky, and chewy. There are delicious exceptions, of course, but even a delicious fruitcake is very high in sugar.

Well, this list wasn’t very jolly. So as a little holiday gift for you, here are some suggestions to help you enjoy your desserts in the healthiest way possible.

  • Be choosy.

Just like you search for the perfect presents for your family and friends, take the time to choose the perfect holiday treats for yourself. If you are worried about cavities, or have a temporary crown, or wear braces, or have cracked a tooth before, or are just generally concerned with your oral health, stay away from sticky, hard, and excessively sugary desserts.

What can you accept from your holiday hosts with a grateful (and relieved) smile? The occasional soft chocolate should be nothing to stress about—and if you make it dark chocolate, you’ll actually get nutritional bonuses like magnesium and antioxidants. Cakes, cupcakes, cookies, pies—yes, they are made with lots of sugar, but it is the holidays after all. Just be sure to follow our next suggestions to make that slice of cheesecake guilt-free.

  • Eat sweets with a meal.

Saliva does more than keep our mouths from getting dry. It also helps prevent cavities by washing away food particles and neutralizing the acids from food and bacteria, which damage enamel.

Eat dessert with a meal, and you benefit from increased mealtime saliva production. When you snack throughout the day, this acid-neutralizing ability is greatly reduced.

  • Rinse after eating.

Rinsing your mouth with water after a meal or a snack, especially a sugary one, also helps wash away the sticky sugars and carbs, which oral bacteria convert into acids.

  • Brush immediately. (Maybe.)

It’s always a good idea to brush right after eating—well, almost always. If you’ve been eating acidic foods like citrus or colas, the acids in the food can weaken your enamel just enough to cause some potential enamel damage if you scour your teeth immediately after eating. We often recommend waiting about 30 minutes to brush to give your enamel a chance to recover.

But every mouth is different. If you wear braces, or tend to get food stuck in your teeth or dental work, or have any other concerns, ask Dr. James McCreary for the best times and methods for holiday brushing.

You don’t want to ho-ho-hope that we can fit you in at our Pensacola, FL office to treat a cavity or a cracked tooth. Make your holiday dessert list and check it twice, and make sure you’re brushing and flossing more often if you’re indulging in seasonal treats—give yourself these two gifts, and you’ll be ringing in the New Year with a beautiful, healthy smile. Sweet!

The Truth about TMJ

November 18th, 2020

TMJ is the quick way of referring to your Temporomandibular Joint. Pardon the pun, but that’s quite a mouthful! What is this joint, what does it do, and, if your Dr. James McCreary and our team have told you that you have a TMJ disorder, what can we do to help?

The Temporomandibular Joint

Your two temporomandibular joints are amazing works of anatomical design. These are the joints where the temporal bone in the skull meets the mandible bone of the jaw, and allow our mouths to open and close, move back and forth, and slide from side to side. Muscle, bone, and cartilage work together to provide easy movement and to cushion the joint. But sometimes, the joint doesn’t work as smoothly as it should, and this can lead to Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMD.

When Should You Suspect You Have TMD?

You might have TMD if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Painful chewing
  • Pain around your TMJ, or in your face or neck
  • Earaches
  • Changes in your bite
  • Jaws that are limited in movement or lock open or shut
  • Clicking, popping or grating noises when you open and shut your jaw

There are many conditions linked to TMD. If you grind your teeth at night, have arthritis in the jaw, have suffered an injury or infection in the area, or have problems with your bite, for example, you might be more likely to have TMJ problems. If you suspect you have TMD, or suffer from any of the symptoms listed above for an extended period, give us a call.

Treating TMD

During your visit to our Pensacola, FL office, we will check your medical history, and examine your head and neck. We can take an X-ray or scan if needed for further examination of the joint. Because there is no real scientific agreement yet about the best way to treat TMJ disorders, a conservative treatment plan is often best. If you do show signs of TMD, we might first suggest relaxation techniques, over-the-counter pain relievers, or the use of ice packs or moist heat compresses. A change to a softer diet can help, and you should stop chewing gum and making any exaggerated jaw movements.

If these self-care practices aren’t effective, we might suggest a nightguard. This appliance is a comfortable and flexible mouthguard custom fitted for you, and will bring relief from teeth grinding when worn at night. If this treatment is not effective, talk to us about other options.

Luckily, most cases of TMD are temporary and don’t become worse over time. But any persistent discomfort is a good reason to visit us. Whether you have TMD, or any other problem causing you pain in the head or jaw, we want to help.

Dental Fear in Children: Brought on by parents?

November 11th, 2020

A study conducted in Washington State in 2004 and another conducted in Madrid, Spain in 2012 both reported findings that support a direct relationship between parents’ dental fear and their child’s fear of the dentist.

The Washington study examined dental fear among 421 children ages 0.8 to 12.8 years old. They were patients at 21 different private pediatric dental practices in western Washington state. The Spanish study observed 183 children between the ages of seven and 12 as well as their parents.

The Washington study used responses from both parents and the Dental Sub-scale of the Child Fear Survey Schedule. The survey consisted of 15 questions, which invited answers based on the child’s level of fear. The scale was one to five: one meant the child wasn’t afraid at all, and five indicated he or she was terrified. The maximum possible points (based on the greatest fear) was 75.

Spanish researchers found a direct connection between parental dental fear levels and those among their kids. The most important new discovery from the Madrid study was that the greater the fear a father had of going to the dentist, the higher the level of fear among the other family members.

Parents, but especially fathers, who feared dental procedures appeared to pass those fears along to every member of the family. Parents can still have some control over fear levels in their children. It is best not to express your own concerns in front of kids; instead, explain why going to the dentist is important.

Dr. James McCreary and our team work hard to make your child’s visit at our Pensacola, FL office as comfortable as possible. We understand some patients may be more fearful than others, and will do our best to help ease your child’s anxiety.

Brushing Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making

November 4th, 2020

It’s great that you’re enthusiastic about your dental health! Here are some tips from Dr. James McCreary and our team to make sure you are getting the most out of your brushing by avoiding common mistakes.

Choose the right brush

In almost every case, a soft brush provides the right amount of bristle-strength to clean your teeth and gums effectively. Hard bristles can damage sensitive enamel and gum tissue, so treat yourself kindly. Also, choose a brush head that’s the right size for your mouth, since a toothbrush that’s too large can be uncomfortable and unable to reach all the areas you need to brush.

Don’t keep your brush too long

Three months is about the average life of a toothbrush. Over time, bristles become frayed or worn and lose their effectiveness. It’s also a good idea to replace your brush after an illness.

Be gentle

Even with a soft brush, it’s possible to brush so hard that your enamel and gums are affected. Think of yourself as massaging your teeth and gums rather than scrubbing them.

Use proper technique

Using a “sawing” back-and-forth motion is hard on your enamel and misses plaque and debris between the teeth. Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle, especially at the gumline, to gently remove plaque. Use short strokes or a circular motion to clean as much of the surface and between the teeth as possible. Make sure you cover all the surfaces of your teeth: outside, inside, and chewing. And don’t forget your tongue!

Take your time

Brushing twice a day for two minutes each time is the standard. Most people brush much less; try using the stopwatch on your phone or a two-minute timer to make sure you are spending enough time brushing. On the other hand, if you brush too hard or too often, remember that over-brushing can lead to problems for your gums and enamel.

Your daily routine might be fast and furious, but your dental routine requires a gentle, methodical approach. Ask at your next visit to our Pensacola, FL office, and we will be happy to help you design the perfect brushing practices for your busy life.

What's in toothpaste and how does it work?

October 28th, 2020

Dr. James McCreary and our team recommend that you brush your teeth two to three times a day, for at least two minutes each time. But have you ever wondered what’s in toothpaste and how it actually works? The mouth is home to more than 500 types of microorganisms that feed on leftover food that gets stuck on and around your teeth. Toothpaste is the best line of defense against all those pesky microorganisms (especially when you brush two to three times a day). Here’s how it works.

Abrasives

Toothpaste contains mild abrasive additives that combat microorganisms and fight plaque. When you brush, the abrasives in toothpaste dislodge food particles and microorganisms more effectively than if you simply brush your teeth with water. The abrasives also work to remove food stains and polish the surface of the tooth. Some toothpastes include ingredients like triclosan and Xylitol. These chemicals prevent the growth of bacteria that produce plaque. Plaque not only causes cavities, but it can also lead to more dangerous issues like periodontal disease.

Fluoride

Fluoride is key ingredient in toothpaste. As the microorganisms in your mouth feed off the leftover food particles, they leave behind acid and sulfur byproducts that wear away the enamel of the teeth. This is the fancy, technical way of saying that the acid on your teeth causes cavities. As for the sulfur byproduct –well, that’s just a fancy, scientific name for bad breath. Fluoride works to fight the acid and help protect the teeth. By brushing, the fluoride is incorporated into the tooth enamel, which in turn makes the tooth more resistant to acid and plaque.

Flavoring and Sweetening Agents

Not all toothpaste tastes the same, right? The type of flavoring or sweetening agents added to the toothpaste doesn't have anything to do with fighting microorganisms and plaque, but taste is one of the most important selling points in finding a toothpaste brand you like. Flavoring agents mask the taste of some of the other ingredients in toothpaste, and without those agents chances are nobody would be brushing their teeth two to three time a day.

Root Canal FAQs

October 21st, 2020

Most people hear the word root canal and panic. With today’s state of the art equipment and improved local anesthetic devices, and some knowledge, a root canal does not have to cause panic. Root canals are a common dental procedure, done quite often at our Pensacola, FL office.

Why do I need a root canal?

There are several reasons why Dr. James McCreary may suggest a root canal including:

  • An infection in your tooth that has reached the nerves
  • A deep cavity that cannot be filled because the pulp and nerves are also effected
  • Injury to the tooth
  • A deep cracked tooth
  • Broken tooth
  • Repeated fillings of the effective tooth

What is a root canal?

A root canal is a dental procedure that is used to prevent the loss of a tooth and relieve pain. Inside your teeth is pulp which consists of soft tissue blood, connective tissue, blood vessels, and nerves. When the pulp becomes infected, swollen or diseased a root canal is necessary to save your tooth. During a root canal, Dr. James McCreary will remove the infected pulp. The tooth’s root canals and pulp chamber of your tooth will be cleaned, so all the diseased pulp is removed and then your tooth will be sealed.

What to Expect During a Root Canal

Your root canal will start out just like any other dental procedure. We will go over any questions you may have, and then numb the area surrounding the tooth. After the area is numb the root canal will begin.

The amount of time it takes to do your root canal varies depending on number of roots that need to be cleaned. Most teeth have one root canal, while others have between two and four. For a single canal, the procedure usually lasts less than an hour. The more canals your tooth has the longer amount of time it will take and in some cases, you will require more than one visit.

How much pain will I have after a root canal?

Once the local anesthesia wears off, your pain can be controlled by over the counter pain medications such as Ibuprofen, Naproxen, or Acetaminophen. In some cases, Dr. James McCreary may prescribe a prescription dose of pain medication. Within two days you should be feeling much better and able to return to your regular lifestyle.

Is periodontal disease genetic?

October 14th, 2020

One of the most enjoyable parts of looking at family pictures is finding resemblances. You have your father’s brown eyes and your grandmother’s curly hair. You’ve got your aunt’s basketball height and your cousin’s freckles. But some similarities might not be so appealing—could one of those be a family tendency toward gum disease?

Studies have shown that periodontal disease appears to have some kind of genetic component, especially for serious diseases and those that appear early in the patient’s life. Aggressive periodontitis, for example, a relatively uncommon disease which causes rapid bone loss around certain teeth, is often more common among members of the same family. Other studies suggest there might be a genetic link between our immune response and the development of chronic periodontitis. So far, however, the link between genetics and gum disease is still under investigation.

We do know that environmental factors are an important trigger for gum disease. Failure to brush and floss, smoking, diet, stress, medical conditions such as diabetes—all can influence the health of our gums. The best way to overcome these factors is your own proactive approach! Thorough brushing and flossing, regular checkups and cleanings, proper nutrition, and avoiding smoking are all time-tested ways to keep your gums and teeth healthy. If you have a medical condition, proper treatment and medication will also help protect your oral health.

During your examination with Dr. James McCreary at our Pensacola, FL office, please tell us about any family history of periodontal disease, your own gum care routine, and any habits or conditions which might influence your health. We can tailor treatment and offer suggestions for prevention based on a thorough knowledge of your medical history. We have many options available today for preventing and treating gum disease. Let’s make sure all your family albums are filled with beaming smiles—that’s the most appealing resemblance of all!

Smoking and Dental Implants

October 7th, 2020

Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to replace a missing tooth with an implant. While an implant will restore the appearance of your smile, you also know that there are many reasons that an implant will improve your health, too.

A missing tooth causes structural problems as well as cosmetic ones. Remaining teeth can shift to fill the gap, leading to wear and bite problems. Without the stimulation of biting and chewing, bone tissue under the lost tooth gradually shrinks and is resorbed. The shapes of our jaws, cheeks and lips can be affected. Replacing a lost tooth with an implant can not only restore the appearance of your smile, but maintain it.

And implant procedures have a very high rate of success. Implants are made of materials compatible with the body, and surgically placed in the jaw to act as anchors for replacement teeth. The implant will actually integrate with the bone growing around it for strong, stable, and long-lasting support. After the time it takes for the implant to integrate and the area around it to heal, a crown, designed to match your own teeth perfectly, will be securely attached to the implant post.

What can you do to help the healing process? Follow our instructions carefully. Dr. James McCreary will give you suggestions for the time immediately following the procedure as well as instructions on the importance of keeping the area clean while healing takes place. And one very important favor you can do yourself? If you smoke, this is the time to stop.

Studies have shown that smokers have a significantly increased risk of dental problems and implant failures, and there are several theories as to why.

  • Smoking slows the healing process. Some studies indicate that smoking impairs blood flow in the gums, so that less oxygen and fewer nutrients are delivered to healing tissue.
  • Smokers tend to be more vulnerable to gum disease.
  • Smoking has been linked to a weaker immune system, so it’s harder to fight off an infection or to heal from one.
  • More marginal bone loss around implants is seen in smokers than in non-smokers.
  • Peri-implantitis, an inflammation of the gum tissue around the implant that can lead to bone loss and implant failure, is also more common in smokers.

Now that you have decided on a dental implant at our Pensacola, FL office, make one more decision to ensure the success of the procedure. Talk to us about ways to quit smoking before your implant, and how to reduce the chance of smoking-related complications. We know that quitting can be difficult, but your improved smile—and your improved health—are worth it!

Brushing Tips for Kids

September 30th, 2020

You’re all set for your happy morning and nighttime ritual. You’ve provided your son with his favorite action hero toothbrush and your daughter with her favorite flavored toothpaste. You’ve gotten them into the healthy habit of two minutes of brushing twice each day. You’ve introduced them to flossing. You have favorite brushing songs! Stickers! Gold stars! And, best of all, you’re teaching great brushing techniques.

Kids need the same basic brushing tools and skills as adults. What makes for the best cleaning?

Find the right brush

No matter how cute—or heroic—the brush, it needs to have soft bristles to protect enamel and delicate gum tissue. The head should be a perfect fit for your child’s mouth. And if the handle is easy to grip and hold, you have a winner.

Find the right toothpaste

The bubblegum flavor might appeal to your child, but it’s the fluoride that helps to prevent cavities. Talk to us about the right time to start using fluoride toothpaste and the right amount for your child’s brush.

Teach your child the angles

If your child is too young to brush alone, start geometry lessons early. Holding the brush at a 45-degree angle toward the gums will clean bacteria and plaque from the tooth surface and the gum line. And don’t forget the chewing surfaces and the insides of the teeth. When your child begins brushing on her own, coach her as she learns the best way to clean all the surfaces of her teeth.

Easy does it

Teeth and gums should be massaged, not scrubbed. Brushing too hard can damage not only tender gum tissue, but even your child’s enamel.

Learn to let go

No matter how comfortable and appealing the brush, after three or four months, it’s time for a change. Frayed bristles don’t clean as effectively, and making up for it by brushing harder isn’t the answer (see above). Also, toothbrushes can build up quite a collection of bacteria over time (see below), so a fresh brush is a must!

Everything in its place

A toothbrush should dry thoroughly between uses without touching other brushes. Placing a brush in a plastic container doesn’t let it dry and encourages bacterial growth. And a toothbrush needs its own space—touching toothbrush heads means sharing toothbrush bacteria. The best way to keep toothbrushes as dry and as germ-free as possible is to store them upright, without touching other brushes, in a clean, well-ventilated area.

Rinse and repeat

Your child should rinse his toothbrush before and after using it, and be sure to rinse his mouth as well. That should get rid of any leftover food particles brushing has removed.

Finally, keep up the good work! As you teach your child proper brushing techniques, and make sure she uses them as she grows, you are preparing her for a lifetime of great checkups with Dr. James McCreary at our Pensacola, FL office. Give yourself a gold star—you’ve earned it!

Can I use mouthwash instead of flossing?

September 23rd, 2020

While mouthwash goes a long way in improving your oral care, it is not a substitute for flossing. Mouthwashes and flossing provide different benefits that you should understand.

Mouthwash Benefits

Mouthwash comes in two categories. Some are considered cosmetic. This type of rinse provides temporary relief from bad breath and has a pleasant taste. These do not actually kill any bacteria.

Therapeutic mouthwashes provide the healthier benefits. These may contain different ingredients including fluoride or antimicrobial agents. This type is used to remove plaque buildup and reduce the potential for calculus formation. Therapeutic rinses can also help prevent cavities, bad breath, and gingivitis. In addition, Dr. James McCreary can prescribe special rinses to assist patients after periodontal surgery or other procedures.

Flossing Benefits

Flossing is what removes the plaque formation before it can harden and become calculus. While a rinse reduces buildup, only flossing will fully remove plaque, especially between teeth. The bristles on a toothbrush do not get between teeth completely. If plaque is not removed, it hardens into tartar or calculus. When this builds below the gum line, gum disease can start.

Types of Floss

Floss is available in a thin string form or a tape. It can be waxed or unwaxed. If you find flossing difficult, you might want to try a different type of floss. You can buy bulk floss in containers or purchase the disposable type with a plastic handle attached. This style can be easier for many individuals to use. Interdental picks are available for bridgework or other situations where regular floss cannot be used.

If you have questions regarding the best mouthwash or floss, or need tips for easier flossing, please ask our Pensacola, FL team for advice. We will be glad to give you solutions to help keep your mouth clean and healthy.

Make your child’s next visit to our office great!

September 16th, 2020

If you have been bringing your baby in for regular checkups since that first tooth arrived, you might expect that he or she is already familiar with Dr. James McCreary and our staff. Often, though, months pass between visits, which is a very long time for a child. How can you make your preschooler’s return visit a happy one? We have some suggestions!

Before Your Visit

  • Prepare your child for her visit. Simple explanations are best for a young child. You might tell your daughter that a dentist is a doctor who helps keep her teeth strong and healthy. Let her know a bit about what will happen. Being told, “You will sit in a special chair,” or, “Can you open wide so we can count your teeth?” will give her some idea of what it’s like to visit our office.
  • There are many entertaining books for young children about visiting the dentist. Reading some of these to her for a few days before the appointment will let her know what to expect.
  • Use playtime to prepare. You might count your daughter’s teeth or let her “play dentist” and brush the teeth of her favorite doll or stuffed animal.

When You Arrive

  • Your attitude can be contagious! If you treat a visit to the dentist like any other outing, chances are your child will too. Your calm presence is exactly what your child needs.
  • You might want to come a bit early to let your son explore the office. Bring a favorite toy or book to keep him entertained if you need to. A favorite stuffed toy can be a comfort in an unfamiliar place.
  • If you are with your child during his checkup, follow our lead. Don’t be concerned if your child seems uncooperative at first or even throws a tantrum—we are used to working with children, and have techniques to make his experience as relaxed and as positive as we possibly can.

We Are Here to Help

We are your partners in your child’s dental care. Call our Pensacola, FL office anytime for suggestions about making your child’s visit a comfortable, comforting experience. Our goal is to start your child confidently on the road to a lifetime of empowering dental visits and lasting dental health.

Osteoporosis and Dental Health

September 9th, 2020

What do we know about osteoporosis? We may know that this disease makes the bones more brittle and vulnerable. We may know that osteoporosis is the cause of many a broken hip or curved spine as we age. We may even know that, for a number of reasons, women are far more likely to develop this disease. What we may not be aware of is the impact osteoporosis can have on our dental health.

“Osteoporosis” means “porous bones.” It is a disease that makes the bones more likely to fracture or break, as the body’s careful balance of absorbing old bone tissue and replacing it with new healthy bone tissue is disrupted. We lose bone tissue faster than we can create new, dense bone tissue. Why is this important for our dental health? Because the fitness of our teeth depends on the fitness of the bones surrounding and securing them in our jaws.

How does osteoporosis affect dental health?

  • Osteoporosis reduces density in the bones and bone tissue that hold our teeth in place. Studies have shown that women with osteoporosis have significantly more tooth loss than women without the disease.
  • Periodontitis, or gum disease, can also cause deterioration in the bone surrounding the teeth. This is a time to be proactive with gum health to avoid infections and further bone loss.
  • Denture wearers may find that their dentures no longer fit properly due to changes in bone structure. Bone loss needs to be addressed promptly to avoid having to replace dentures.
  • Rarely, bone-strengthening medications for osteoporosis can lead to serious jaw problems after dental procedures that involve the jawbone (such as extractions). Always tell us any medications you are taking before we schedule any dental treatment.

Unfortunately, osteoporosis often has no symptoms at all—until the first bone fracture. Checking our bone density is important as we age, and one way of discovering changes in bone density is through your regular dental checkups at our Pensacola, FL office. We can pinpoint changes in your X-rays through the years and will recommend that you see your physician if there is any indication of bone loss. If you have already been diagnosed with the disease, we have ideas to help maintain the health of your teeth and bones.

Many factors can increase your chance of developing osteoporosis. Age, illness, personal habits, medications, diet, genetics—any number of conditions can affect our bone health. Talk to us about osteoporosis. Dr. James McCreary would like to work with you to provide prevention and treatment to keep your teeth and bones strong and healthy for a lifetime of beautiful smiles. And that’s certainly good to know!

Keep Those Teeth Shipshape, Matey!

September 2nd, 2020

September 19th is just around the corner, and you know what that means—Aye, matey, it’s “Talk Like a Pirate Day”! Why do we have a “Talk Like a Pirate Day” and not a “Take Care of Your Teeth Like a Pirate Day”? You don’t need a treasure map to find the answers!

  • High Seas Hygiene

The toothbrush as we know it, with easy to clean nylon bristles, was invented less than 100 years ago. Even toothbrushes with animal bristles weren’t easily available until a century after pirates sailed the seas. If pirates brushed at all, they probably used rags or twigs with frayed ends to clean their teeth. And rags and twigs just can’t take care of plaque the way careful brushing and flossing can.

Two minutes brushing in the morning and two minutes at night, with careful flossing each day, will help keep your teeth as white as a chest of pearls—and healthy to boot!

  • Dastardly Diet

Pirates were a scurvy lot—literally. Scurvy is a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C, a vitamin found in fresh fruits and vegetables. One of the many unpleasant symptoms of scurvy is bleeding, swollen gums. As you can imagine, months at sea on a pirate ship provided very few chances for fresh fruit and vegetables. As a result, sailors often had to live with gum pain and even tooth loss from serious gum disease.

We now know that eating a healthy diet is a key to oral health. In fact, it was a British naval doctor who discovered that bringing oranges, lemons, and limes aboard sailing vessels prevented scurvy—but sadly for our pirate crew, this discovery happened several decades after the Golden Age of Piracy. Fortunately, you have access to a bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables. Eat a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, and your teeth and gums will be all the better for it.

It’s not looking too good for our pirate crew, but let’s look on the bright side—even if a pirate did get a cavity or suffer gum disease, he could always see the ship’s dentist, couldn’t he?

  • Ship’s Dentist—Arrrr You Kidding?

If a pirate had a bad cavity, his best treatment option would probably be to ask a fellow pirate to pull the tooth. If a pirate needed a root canal, his best treatment option would probably be to ask a fellow pirate to pull the tooth. If a pirate had a cracked tooth, his best… well, you get the picture.

Luckily, it’s a different world today. Now we have dentists with years of education and training, modern tools and equipment, and the very best medical knowledge to treat all of our dental problems, big and small. See your dentist at least twice a year for exams and cleanings, and you will reap the bountiful rewards of regular, professional, proactive care.

Being a pirate for a day is fun. We all enjoy tales of a good treasure hunt. But you already have a treasure that most pirates could never hope to have—healthy teeth and healthy gums! And with proper care, this treasure can last a lifetime. Until next September 19th, fair winds and good checkups at our Pensacola, FL office be yours, matey!

Safety of Dental X-Ray Radiation

August 26th, 2020

We all want to live our healthiest lives. We know that part of keeping ourselves healthy is regular visits to our Pensacola, FL office for checkups and necessary dental work. And that dental work might require an X-ray. Should the amount of radiation in an X-ray concern us?

First, it is helpful to know that the radiation you are exposed to from a dental X-ray is very small. A set of most bitewing X-rays, for example, produces an amount of exposure about equal to the amount of background radiation we get from our normal surroundings in a typical day. We also take care to minimize your exposure even further by using specially designed equipment and protective shielding, and taking only necessary X-rays. If your child is very young, if you are pregnant, or if you have other health concerns, talk to us about the advisability of X-rays and whether they are essential to treatment.

Second, much of our careful general examination will be done visually. Dr. James McCreary can check for cavities and other problems and assess tooth and gum health. But sometimes, there are conditions which can’t be detected without an X-ray.

  • Decay that isn’t visible in an oral exam—if a small cavity develops between teeth, or is hidden underneath a filling, an X-ray will catch it before more damage can take place.
  • Infection—An X-ray will reveal infections such as abscesses that can damage both bone and tooth, and gum disease that has harmed bone and connective tissue.
  • Orthodontic and periodontal issues—We might need an X-ray to determine the spacing and development of your child’s incoming teeth and maturing jaw structure, to properly create braces for adults or children, or to place an implant within the jawbone.
  • If you are a new patient, it is helpful to have complete X-rays taken as a baseline of your current dental health and previous dental work. This baseline allows us to track tooth and jaw development, if necessary, and to evaluate any future changes that might be a concern. (If you have had X-rays taken in another office, we can help you have them transferred so we have a background of your dental history.)

Even though the radiation from a dental X-ray is minimal, be assured that we will never request any unnecessary procedure. When we recommend an X-ray, we do so to make sure there is no decay or infection threatening the health of your gums and teeth, and that we have the essential knowledge we need to treat any dental, periodontal, or orthodontic condition. Because we all want to live our healthiest lives—and part of that healthy life is both active and proactive dental care.

Can children be at risk for periodontal disease?

August 19th, 2020

You want to check all the boxes when you consider your child’s dental health. You make sure your child brushes twice daily to avoid cavities. You’ve made a plan for an orthodontic checkup just in case braces are needed. You insist on a mouthguard for dental protection during sports. One thing you might not have considered? Protecting your child from gum disease.

We often think about gum disease, or periodontitis, as an adult problem. In fact, children and teens can suffer from gingivitis and other gum disease as well. There are several possible reasons your child might develop gum disease:

  • Poor dental hygiene

Two minutes of brushing twice a day is the recommended amount of time to remove the bacteria and plaque that cause gingivitis (early gum disease). Flossing is also essential for removing bacteria and plaque from hard-to-reach areas around the teeth.

  • Puberty

The hormones that cause puberty can also lead to gums that become irritated more easily when exposed to plaque. This is a time to be especially proactive with dental health.

  • Medical conditions

Medical conditions such as diabetes can bring an increased risk of gum disease. Be sure to give us a complete picture of your child’s health, and we will let you know if there are potential complications for your child’s gums and teeth and how we can respond to and prevent them.

  • Periodontal diseases

More serious periodontal diseases, while relatively uncommon, can affect children and teens as well as adults. Aggressive periodontitis, for example, results in connective and bone tissue loss around the affected teeth, leading to loose teeth and even tooth loss. Let Dr. James McCreary know if you have a family history of gum disease, as that might be a factor in your child’s dental health, and tell us if you have noticed any symptoms of gum disease.

How can we help our children prevent gum disease? Here are some symptoms you should never ignore:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Redness or puffiness in the gums
  • Gums that are pulling away, or receding, from the teeth
  • Bad breath even after brushing

The best treatment for childhood gum disease is prevention. Careful brushing and flossing and regular visits to our Pensacola, FL office for a professional cleaning will stop gingivitis from developing and from becoming a more serious form of gum disease. We will take care to look for any signs of gum problems, and have suggestions for you if your child is at greater risk for periodontitis. Together, we can encourage gentle and proactive gum care, and check off one more goal accomplished on your child’s path to lifelong dental health!

Oral Health Problems: An indicator of overall health problems?

August 12th, 2020

If you are like many people, you might think of your oral health as separate from your overall health. After all, most dental coverage plans are distinct from health care coverage. However, your oral health goes far beyond being able to chew nutritious and enjoyable foods. Oral health problems may be an indicator of a variety of other health problems.

Links between Oral Health and Overall Health

In the late 1980s, researchers noticed a trend among patients who had recently suffered from heart attacks. As the Journal of the American Dental Association reported, they observed that these patients were more likely to have dental caries or cavities, periodontitis or inflammation around the tooth, and other forms of gum disease. Later studies found similar results, and dentists and doctors now recognize poor oral health as a risk factor for a variety of heart conditions, such as heart attacks, atherosclerosis, and coronary heart disease.

There are even more links between oral health problems and overall health problems. Some individuals do not find out that they have Type 2 diabetes until a dentist sees that they have periodontitis. If you have diabetes, worsening periodontitis can indicate that your diabetes is not under control.

Poor oral health is also associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Furthermore, poor oral health puts you at higher risk for respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, because harmful pathogens can enter your body through your mouth.

Take Care of Your Teeth

Keeping your teeth healthy remains important, especially as you grow older. Older adults are more prone to dental caries and other oral health problems, as well as to chronic diseases. While taking care of your oral health might not prevent a specific disease, a healthy mouth is a significant factor in your overall health.

You can take care of your teeth by continuing to brush twice a day and floss every day. Avoid consuming too many sugary and starchy foods, and drink water after each meal or snack to rinse your teeth. See Dr. James McCreary for regular checkups, and contact McCreary Family Dentistry if you have any concerns about your teeth or gums.

Airplane Oral Health Tips

August 5th, 2020

What’s in your carry-on bag? You’ve got your passport, ticket, and currency, but what about dental floss? Of course! You’re preparing for the trip of a lifetime, and we want to help make sure everything goes according to plan.

Part of your preparation before a long vacation should be a complete check-up at our Pensacola, FL office well in advance of your trip. If there is dental work to be done, now is the time to do it. No one wants to be stuck over the Atlantic with a toothache, and changes in atmospheric pressure can cause serious problems if you have a severely compromised tooth. Tell us when you are planning on traveling, and we can schedule any procedures that should be finished before you fly.

Now that you have the all clear to travel, what about maintenance once you’re on board for a long flight? Some airlines provide toothpaste and brushes for travelers. If you have questions about the quality of the water in the airplane restroom, use bottled water to brush. There are also single-use mini-brushes available for travelers that come loaded with paste and ready to use without any water at all. Crisp fruits and vegetables can help clean teeth on-flight if brushing isn’t an option, and drinking plenty of water will not only keep you hydrated, but help cleanse your mouth and teeth as well. Be sure to travel with floss, a travel-sized tube of toothpaste, and a brush in a well-ventilated container in case you face airport delays between flights.

Taking your electric toothbrush with you? Usually there is no problem bringing your electric toothbrush in your carry-on, but do check in advance to make sure this is allowed on your flight. Most electric toothbrushes have region-specific battery chargers, so find out in advance if you will need a voltage converter or plug adaptor if you are visiting another country. Check to make sure the head is in good condition before you go and replace it if necessary.

Once you’ve landed, try to keep your dental routine as close to normal as possible while you enjoy your visit. Regular brushing and flossing are still necessary, especially if you take the opportunity to explore the local desserts. We’ve given you some tips to make your flight more comfortable—now that you’ve reached your dream destination, the rest is up to you!

A Word to the Wise about Wisdom Teeth

July 29th, 2020

There are some pretty exciting rewards to look forward to as you transition from your mid-teens to your 20s. Driving! Voting! Graduation! But there is one rite of passage that you might not be looking forward to quite so much: getting your wisdom teeth. What are wisdom teeth? When are they a problem? And, most important, how can Dr. James McCreary help?

Children have 20 baby teeth that are replaced as they grow up with 32 adult teeth. The last to arrive are the four third molars more commonly known as wisdom teeth. But that “32” number is a little flexible. Some people never develop wisdom teeth at all. You can stop reading here if you are one of this carefree group. The rest of us have from one to four wisdom teeth. Some people have enough room in their mouths to accommodate wisdom teeth without affecting the alignment of their other teeth or their bite. But for many of us, wisdom teeth extraction is often the best and healthiest option.

When do wisdom teeth become a problem? Most generally, when there is simply no room for them to erupt properly. As a result, the wisdom teeth become “impacted.” An impacted tooth can cause you trouble in a number of different ways.

  • Completely Impacted Tooth

Some wisdom teeth never erupt at all, staying within the jawbone. If there are no problems with these teeth, your dentist might recommend leaving them in place. If your other teeth become crowded or otherwise affected, if cysts develop, or if other complications arise, these teeth should be extracted. Even if you are symptom free, regular exams and X-rays at our Pensacola, FL office are important for monitoring the condition of impacted wisdom teeth to make sure they remain problem-free.

  • Partially Erupted Tooth

A wisdom tooth can also begin to erupt, but never break completely through the gum tissue. The tooth and gum area can’t be cleaned properly, trapping food particles and bacteria. The gums can become easily irritated and even infected, and these teeth are much more prone to decay. When infection and rapid decay are present, extraction is often considered the best treatment option.

Dr. James McCreary might be the first to mention your wisdom teeth at your regular checkup, or you might be surprised to see a new tooth appearing while you are doing your nightly brushing and flossing. Impacted wisdom teeth can be symptom-free, or may present with pain, redness, swelling, or bad breath. Whenever the first signs of wisdom teeth appear, it’s time to discuss your options.

Your dentist or oral surgeon is your best resource for helping you decide on the wisest course of action for your wisdom teeth, whether it’s extraction or regular monitoring. After all, transitioning to adulthood is even more rewarding with a beautiful healthy smile.

Bedtime, Bottles, and Baby Teeth

July 22nd, 2020

Your beautiful baby is finally asleep, bottle clutched in tiny hands, dreaming sweet dreams with a charming milky smile.

Unfortunately, this lovely fantasy might lead to a rude awakening. If your child goes to sleep every night with a bottle, the chance of childhood cavities greatly increases. In fact, there is even a name for it—baby bottle tooth decay.

How Can Bottles Lead to Tooth Decay?

Cavities are created when oral bacteria produce acids that erode enamel, the protective outer coating of the tooth. These bacteria love to feed on sugar. Baby formula and even breast milk contain carbohydrates in the form of sugars. And this is not a bad thing!

Carbohydrates are essential for babies (and adults as well) for growth and development. Lactose, the sugar found in breast milk, is a carb that is easy for your baby to digest and helps good bacteria in the digestive system grow. Formulas with cow’s milk also contain lactose, and even the other kinds of sugars found in formula provide your baby with necessary, easily digestible carbohydrates.

But when your child goes to sleep with a bottle, those healthy sugars aren’t all being digested. Liquid can pool in the mouth bathing those perfect new teeth with sugar all through the night. That’s why we don’t recommend letting your child go to sleep with a bottle of formula.

And if your older child’s bottle is filled with juice or other sugared drinks, the effects are potentially much more harmful. Eventually, sugar left in the mouth all night will lead to the development of cavities, and in severe cases, to infection and even tooth loss. The upper front teeth are most often affected, but other baby teeth can become decayed as well.

How Can You Help Prevent Baby Bottle Decay?

  • Start early by gently wiping your baby’s gums and erupting teeth after each bottle or breast feeding with a clean, damp washcloth or gauze pad. (Even though breastfed babies have a reduced risk of early cavities, it’s still a good idea to clean their gums and teeth after feedings.)
  • Once those little teeth have come in, use a baby-size toothbrush to gently clean them. Talk to us about toothpaste—when and how much is appropriate for your child.
  • Babies generally require breastfeeding or formula at night to get the nutrition they need. It’s best if they finish their feeding before naps or bedtime so you have a chance to clean little mouths. If your toddler carries a bottle or sippy cup through the day, or insists on a bottle at night, talk to us or your pediatrician for ideas on how and when to substitute tooth-healthy options such as water.
  • Limit unnecessary or unhealthy sugars. Never put sugar-heavy juices and sodas in your child’s bottle or cup, or sugar or honey on a pacifier.

Your Child’s Baby Teeth Are Important

Your child will start losing those baby teeth around the age of six, but primary teeth provide many irreplaceable benefits before they are, well, replaced. Using the teeth to bite and chew food helps form proper eating habits and develop jaw and facial muscles. Baby teeth help with speech development, and they serve as place holders to make sure the adult teeth erupt in the right spot. Losing baby teeth too early can interfere with all of these goals.

As soon as that first tooth makes its appearance, or by the age of one, bring your baby to our Pensacola, FL office for a first checkup. Dr. James McCreary and our team will not only make sure everything is going according to schedule, but we will check tiny teeth for enamel erosion and even cavities. Most important, we’ll suggest ways to prevent cavities and tooth decay with proactive dental care. We have many great ideas on making sure your little one’s teeth are healthy from bottle to baby teeth, preparing your child for a lifetime of beautiful, healthy smiles. And that’s a dream come true!

Do You Have an Ageless Smile? Let Us Help You Keep It!

July 15th, 2020

In your golden years, you’ve become a pioneer in tooth care. Yours is probably the first generation in history that can expect to keep most of their natural teeth for a lifetime. You can probably guess the reasons: better oral care, advances in dentistry, improved nutrition, and a lower risk for diseases that could weaken teeth and gums.

As a pioneer, you’re learning with your dentists, and one thing we’ve found is that teeth change with age, just like the rest of the body. Even if your teeth can remain strong and white, here are a few things you may have to cope with:

Cavities: Tooth decay is not just for kids anymore. Seniors often develop cavities on the lower part of the tooth near the root. Thorough flossing and brushing along the gum line is the best preventive measure.

Sensitivity: Gums recede over time, and good dental habits only slow the process. Receding gums leave more of each tooth exposed, and the newly uncovered areas have less enamel. As a result, these teeth may be much more sensitive to hot and cold. If you find your teeth become more sensitive, try a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth and be sure to tell Dr. James McCreary about it at your next checkup.

Difficulty brushing: If you have arthritis or limited motion you may have a hard time brushing your teeth. Consider switching to an electric toothbrush. There are also assistive devices available that make it easier to grip a manual toothbrush.

Other health problems: Diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses can cause symptoms in your mouth. Be sure to let us know if you have any health conditions, or if your condition changes. We can help treat symptoms that affect your teeth and recommend ways to maintain good oral health habits as part of your overall health program.

Oral Cancer

July 8th, 2020

Dr. James McCreary and our team want you to have the healthiest possible smile in the healthiest possible body. Oral cancer can affect the mouth, tongue, throat and jaw. Early detection is vital for the best possible outcome when treating this disease. That is why we check for symptoms of oral cancer at every dental examination.

What can you do to reduce the chance of oral cancer?  Reduce your risk factors. You can help prevent oral cancer by adopting these healthy habits:

  • Don’t smoke. Don’t chew tobacco. Don’t use a pipe. If you use any tobacco products, quit. Tobacco use is the single largest risk factor for head and neck cancers. Talk to us—we have suggestions for helping you break the habit.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. Heavy drinkers have a higher rate of oral cancer. More than one to two drinks per day can be considered heavy drinking, depending on factors such as weight, age, and even gender. Check with your doctor to find your personal definition of moderation.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables are a great addition to any menu.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. Help prevent sun-related lip cancers by always wearing a UVA/UVB blocking sun screen or lip balm whenever you are working or playing outside—and reapply frequently.
  • Some forms of the HPV virus have been linked to oral cancer, and those affected are generally younger and less likely to be smokers. Research indicates that the HPV vaccine, known for preventing several types of cancer, might also help prevent HPV-related oral cancers.
  • Schedule regular dental exams. We are trained to recognize oral cancer and precancerous conditions that you might miss.

Of course, cancer can occur even with the healthiest habits. Do come see us if you detect any of these symptoms:

  • A sore or ulcer that doesn’t heal, or persistent tenderness and pain in the mouth
  • Lingering sore throat, hoarseness, or vocal changes
  • Pain in the neck or ear that doesn’t go away
  • A lump, a rough or thickened area, or eroded tissue in the skin lining the mouth
  • Red or white patches in the lining of the mouth or on the tongue
  • Difficulties chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving the tongue or jaw
  • Numbness in the tongue or mouth
  • Changes in the way your natural teeth or your dentures fit together.

Not every symptom is caused by cancer, but it is important to rule out the possibility. We are trained to recognize early signs of oral cancer, and can recommend further tests if needed. Call our Pensacola, FL office immediately if you have any concerns. Early detection and treatment lead to the most successful outcomes.  

Make Brushing With Your Child Fun!

June 24th, 2020

It’s no secret that kids and adults have different priorities: your duty is to raise a happy, healthy child, but your little one’s only priority may be to have fun. When it comes to brushing teeth, it can be hard to combine a healthy habit with having fun. You might fear it can’t be done, but with a little creativity, brushing time can be a great experience for both of you!

Make It a Party

Brushing time doesn’t have to be a chore when you throw a little party! Get Mom and Dad together so the whole family can brush their teeth at the same time.

Let your child choose a song to dance to while you all brush for the required two minutes. Your son or daughter may grow to love this silly routine, especially when the parents are clearly dedicated to brushing their own teeth as well.

Big Kid Decisions

Kids love the responsibility of making “big kid” decisions. Keep a variety of toothbrushes, colors of floss, and toothpaste flavors on hand so they can choose something “new” each time they brush, just like when they visit our Pensacola, FL office.

Not only can this help them grow more comfortable with the idea of seeing the dentist, but they’ll love having the responsibility of picking what would be fun at brush time.

Practice Makes Perfect

It’s true that the only way to get better at something is to practice, practice, and practice. Have your child practice brushing on his or her favorite stuffed animal, and use that opportunity to teach your youngster how to hold the brush and use circular cleaning motions. Showing how you brush your own teeth can also be worthwhile.

There’s An App For That

Did you know there are lots of fun apps that encourage good brushing habits among children? Brands like Oral-B and Aquafresh have free apps you can download on your phone.

The child gets to select a character, scenery, and a song he or she would love to accompany the task of brushing. If you have a daughter, she might like to use the Tooth Fairy Timer, which allows her to pick her very own fairy as her brushing buddy.

The important things to remember when you seek to establish good brushing habits is to keep it fun and stay consistent with your routine. It may take some getting used to, but after a while your child will become familiar with brushing and might even look forward to the new dental routine.

Brushing Your Toddler’s Teeth

June 17th, 2020

At McCreary Family Dentistry, we know that brushing your toddler’s teeth can be an intimidating prospect. So we’re providing a few tips in the hope of making the process a lot more easy, effective, and all-around enjoyable for everyone!

Start by getting into a position that gives you control and enables you to see well into your child’s mouth. If you can see clearly, you will be able to maneuver the toothbrush better around your son or daughter’s mouth for a better quality of brushing.

It’s important to choose a time when your toddler is calm. Have your little one sit with his or her favorite stuffed animal, or play a fun movie in the background so your child can focus on something comforting while you’re brushing.

Using a circular motion, brush all sides of their teeth. Be sure to let your toddler have a turn after you’re done, to start getting used to it. This way, he or she is more likely to repeat the brushing and flossing exercise when your youngster is old enough.

Dr. James McCreary and our team agree that brushing and flossing need to be performed with kindness and care. To ensure your child learns good dental hygiene habits early on, be gentle and make this time a happy, learning time.

Your child should also have regular appointments at our Pensacola, FL office for checkups and cleanings to keep on track!

Adult Mouthguards

June 10th, 2020

You make sure your daughter wears her mouthguard to every soccer practice. Your son doesn’t step on the basketball court without his. Why not protect your smile as well?

Athletes of all ages in team or recreational sports can help prevent dental injuries with a protective mouthguard. If you bike or ski, play racquetball or squash, skate, or sky dive, a mouthguard will help keep your teeth and gums healthy as you keep fit.

Mouthguard Options

Our office will be happy to talk to you about whether a mouthguard is a practical addition to your workout gear. There are many options available to you, including:

Stock: Preformed appliances available at sporting goods stores and drugstores. These are the most affordable, but are a one-size-fits-all option and may not be a comfortable fit for you.

Boil-and-Bite: Also available at sports shops and drugstores. This guard is formed by placing it in hot water and then biting down to allow it to conform to the shape of your mouth.

Custom: Our Pensacola, FL office can create a personalized mouthguard just for you. Individual mouthguards are the most durable and comfortable option, in general, and provide the best fit for ease of talking and breathing while exercising. You may also have special dental conditions, such as the placement of crowns or braces, which could be a factor in your decision.

Whichever option you choose, remember to wear your mouthguard regularly while exercising. A proper mouthguard cannot only help prevent injuries to your teeth, but to your face and jaw as well. A healthy smile and a healthy body are a winning combination. The next time you visit Dr. James McCreary, let’s talk sports!

Water Features

June 3rd, 2020

Heading for the beach! Hiking to the lake! Keeping cool with a tall, frosty glass of ice water in a foreign bistro, or taking a refreshing gulp from the fountain in the park! Hot weather has arrived, and water is something we’re more conscious of now than most other times of the year. Even so, water as a dental feature? Glad you asked!

  • Recreation

Whether you want to bask in the heat or escape it, heading out for a day in or on the water works. And while you’re protecting your skin with sunscreen, think about protecting your teeth and mouth as well. With one small slip, any physical water sport—water skiing, water polo, surfing—can result in damage to your teeth or jaw. Bring—and use—the mouthguard you wear for sports like basketball or biking, and make sure you have a summer of smiles ahead of you.

  • Refreshment

Summer has a beverage menu all its own. Iced coffee and iced tea, a cooler full of sodas, fresh lemonade, fruity cocktails—so many refreshing ways to beat the heat! And we would never suggest that you turn down every frosty summer temptation. But do be mindful that dark beverages like tea, coffee, and sodas can stain teeth, sugary and acidic ones are damaging to your enamel, and alcoholic drinks can be dehydrating. Water, on the other hand, is always a healthy choice. It’s helpful for keeping your mouth and teeth clean, it often contains the fluoride that helps fight cavities, it’s hydrating—and, it has no calories! Be sure to make water a significant part of your summer beverage menu, and your body will thank you for it.

  • Rinse & Restore

Water’s importance to our bodies can’t be overstated! From major organs to individual cells, we need water. And one major benefit of proper hydration is healthy saliva production. Why is that important? Saliva plays a vital role in preventing cavities. It washes away the food particles that oral bacteria feed on, reducing their ability to produce the acids that lead to enamel erosion and cavities. Saliva even helps neutralize acids already in the mouth. Finally, saliva contains important calcium, phosphate and fluoride ions which actually help restore enamel strength after it has been exposed to oral acidity.

Summer goes by all too quickly. Protect your teeth during these warm, active months with a mouthguard. And whether you spend your free time outdoors, or visiting people and places, or keeping cool at home, be mindful of dental-friendly beverage options and always stay hydrated. You’ll be ready to greet fall with a beautiful smile and healthy teeth. “Water Features”? Perhaps a better title would be “Water Power”!

HPV and Oral Cancer

May 20th, 2020

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is best known as a sexually transmitted infection. In the United States, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease, with 79 million Americans currently infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to increasing risk for cervical cancer, HPV is a contributing factor in some cases of oral cancer. Each year an estimated 1,700 women and 6,700 men develop oropharyngeal cancer, which affects the tongue and throat.

Connection between HPV and oral cancer

There are more than 40 strains of HPV that live in the skin and mucosal areas. Some of these affect the genitalia, while others are found in the mouth and throat. Of the strains of oral HPV, only one, called HPV16, increases the risk of oral cancer, the Oral Cancer Foundation reports. A retrospective study conducted found that oral cancer developed an average of 15 years after exposure to HPV, making it a relatively slow-growing form of cancer.

In general, 80% of Americans will have an HPV infection at some point in their lifetimes, while 99% develop no ill effects. Getting oral HPV is associated with multiple sexual partners and engaging in oral sex; however, even some individuals who have been with only one partner may contract the infection. Although overall risk of oral cancer from HPV infection is low, it is essential to be proactive about oral health.

How to prevent HPV-related oral cancer

Scientists continue to study how HPV infections lead to oral cancer, so little is known about the progression of the disease. However, one recent study found that poor oral health, including gum disease and poor oral hygiene, is associated with oral cancer risk. Thus, being vigilant about brushing and flossing your teeth regularly may reduce HPV-related oral cancer. Getting the HPV vaccine also protects against the oral form of the virus.

Another key way to reduce mortality from oral cancer is to have regularly scheduled appointments with at McCreary Family Dentistry. Having Dr. James McCreary examine your mouth at least two times a year increases the likelihood that a sign of oral cancer, such as a sore or patch, will be detected. If you’re concerned about HPV-related oral cancer, please give us a call at our Pensacola, FL office for advice about oral hygiene and disease prevention.

Scheduling Dental Procedures When You’re Pregnant

May 13th, 2020

Pregnancy leads to so many changes in your body, so it’s no surprise that your teeth and gums are affected as well! Dental care is very important during these months, so let’s look at some of the concerns you might have about treatments and procedures.

  • Regular Exams and Cleaning

Yes and yes! Let us know you are pregnant when you make your appointment. Preventive care is especially important during pregnancy for keeping your gums healthy.

  • Periodontal Care

Swollen and tender gums are often one of the first signs of pregnancy. Hormonal changes can make your gums more vulnerable to irritation and infection. Early gum disease, called gingivitis, should be treated promptly to avoid a more serious condition called periodontitis. This form of gum disease can actually cause the gums to pull away from the teeth, leading to pockets where infection can develop. Talk to us about scheduling extra cleanings, if needed, to avoid the plaque build-up that leads to gum disease.

  • Regular Dental Work

If you need a cavity filled or a crown placed, talk to us about scheduling. It is important to keep your teeth healthy to avoid infection or more serious dental problems. If you do need restorative work, procedures are usually best treated during the second trimester, where morning sickness is less of a problem and reclining comfortably in the dental chair is easier than it would be in your third trimester.

  • Emergency Work

If there is a dental emergency, call us immediately. You shouldn’t put off emergency work, as the complications of pain and infection can be harmful to you and your baby.

  • Elective Treatments

If you are thinking about whitening your teeth or having other cosmetic dental work done, waiting until after your baby is born is usually recommended.

  • X-rays

Most studies suggest that dental X-rays, because they are so limited in focus, are probably safe during pregnancy. But since there is no definitive answer at this time, it’s recommended to wait until after your baby is born for elective X-rays. In case of a dental emergency, however, an X-ray might be a necessity. If you are worried, talk to us about the shielding we use during X-rays, as well as scientific agreement about the safety of dental X-rays.

Let Dr. James McCreary know about your pregnancy, and we will work with you to schedule exams or treatments at our Pensacola, FL office so that your dental experience is both comfortable and safe. If you have any concerns, call us immediately. We know your pregnancy brings many significant changes to your life, but our concern for your health and well-being—that’s unchanging!

Do you suffer from sleep apnea?

May 6th, 2020

At McCreary Family Dentistry, we know our patients love a good amount of rest each night in order to be energized for the day and week ahead. After all, without enough sleep, exhaustion during the day is the most immediate consequence.

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that could be an indicator of serious health problems. The most common symptom is loud snoring, but the condition is characterized by breathing that repeatedly starts and stops throughout the night, leaving you feeling tired in the morning. Other serious effects from sleep apnea could be potentially dangerous to your health if left unaddressed, a great reason to visit Dr. James McCreary.

Besides losing precious hours of sleep, sleep apnea also elevates the risk of heart attack and stroke, and may cause other conditions such as depression, irritability, high blood pressure, memory loss, and sexual dysfunction.

Anyone can develop sleep apnea, but it is more common among middle aged adults who are overweight. Dr. James McCreary can help you determine the cause and suggest possible treatment.

A common treatment for sleep apnea is an oral device that is designed to help keep the airway open. By bringing the jaw forward, the device opens the airway and discourages snoring. Dr. James McCreary and our team are experienced in sleep apnea appliances, and can prescribe a fitted device, as well as monitor its success each time you visit.

A continuous positive airway pressure mask, also known as a CPAP, is among the other treatment options you may opt for. A mask is fitted over the mouth and forces oxygen through the throat while you sleep, and the pressure holds the soft tissue and throat muscles open.

If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, visit our Pensacola, FL office. Our team at McCreary Family Dentistry can help you return to getting a better night’s sleep.

Choosing the Dental Filling Option that's Best for You

April 29th, 2020

Did you know there are as many types of dental fillings as there are flavors of ice cream? Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. Still, when you visit the dentist with a cavity, there are many filling options. Most of us just sit in the chair, open our mouths, and let the dentist work his or her magic. But have you ever stopped to consider what the dentist is filling and restoring your decayed or broken tooth with?

Five types of dental fillings

There are five basic kinds of dental filing material. The dentist decides which type to use based on the degree of the decay, the cost of the material, and the type of dental insurance you have.

  1. Dental amalgam, or silver fillings, have been used to fill cavities for more than 150 years. Dental amalgam is the most common type of dental filling. It's strong, durable, and less expensive than other types.
  2. Composite fillings, or white fillings, are popular because the color matches the rest of your teeth. Composite fillings are a combination of resin and plastic. They are more aesthetically pleasing than silver fillings, but are also less durable.
  3. Ceramic fillings are durable and visually appealing (tooth-colored), but they are expensive. They are made of porcelain and have been shown to be resistant to staining.
  4. Glass ionomers are typically used on children whose teeth are still changing. Constructed from glass and acrylic, glass ionomers are designed to last fewer than five years. The benefit of these dental fillings is that they release fluoride, which protects the changing tooth from further decay.
  5. Unless you’re a rock or movie star, gold fillings aren’t common. While a gold filling is durable, non-corrosive, and can last more than 15 years, it not only takes more than one dental visit to place, but, as you can imagine, it is expensive.

For more information about fillings, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. James McCreary, please give us a call at our convenient Pensacola, FL office!

Good Teeth Lead to Sporting Success

April 22nd, 2020

You already know that taking care of your teeth can help prevent tooth decay and the need for extensive work such as root canals or implants, which can be inconvenient and expensive. But the benefits of good teeth can go far beyond having an attractive smile and being able to crunch carrots and chew meat.

The American Dental Association explains that healthy teeth are linked to a lower risk for heart disease and diabetes. Furthermore, recent research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine states that good teeth can improve athletic performance among elite athletes.

Researchers examined the oral health of nearly 300 athletes in 25 sports at the 2012 Olympics in London. They looked for conditions such as dental caries, gingivitis, dental erosion, and periodontal disease, and asked about recent visits to a dentist.

Study investigators also asked athletes whether their oral health interfered with quality of life or athletic training and performance. The study concluded that poor oral health and fewer dental visits led to interference with preparation for competition.

This can happen for a few reasons. Tooth pain can disrupt sleep, which leads to slower reaction times. Oral health conditions can indicate chronic inflammation in the body, which means suboptimal performances on an elite level. Tooth pain can interfere with focus during training and competition.

Unfortunately, merely taking good care of your teeth won’t turn you into an Olympic gold medalist. However, the benefits can still be worthwhile. Even if healthy teeth provide little if any detectable gain in your athletic abilities, the potential benefits of maintaining a healthy mouth clearly go far beyond an attractive smile.

Practicing good oral hygiene and seeing Dr. James McCreary regularly can promote your physical health, and maybe – just maybe – you will start to achieve an advantage over your weekend athletic opponents.

Medication Can Lead To Xerostomia in Women

April 15th, 2020

Xerostomia, otherwise known as dry mouth, can be a side effect of many common medications. Drugs used for blood pressure, birth control, antidepressants, or cancer treatments may cause the dry mouth problems you’re experiencing. When you have dry mouth, you’re more likely to experience tooth decay and an increased risk of developing periodontal disease. Medication can sometimes be the cause of dry mouth in women, and lead to an increased amount of cavities.

You may not develop a cavity for years, but suddenly find more than one when you’re on medication for several months. This is due to there being less saliva in your mouth, which normally prevents bacteria from flourishing. When there is a lack of saliva flow, your mouth will be more likely to host tooth decay and be more prone to gum disease.

You may not notice it, but birth control can lead to inflammation of the gums and bleeding because of dry mouth. The condition can also emerge if you’ve undergone cancer treatments such as radiation, because your saliva glands may be damaged in the process.

Boosting saliva production is critical for treating xerostomia. Many over-the-counter saliva products are designed to help manage dry mouth. For women with severe cases of dry mouth and decay, we may recommend in-home fluoride treatments that offer extra enamel protection. This can come in the form of fluoride trays, prescription toothpaste, or a special fluoride rinse.

Other ways to relieve dry mouth include chewing sugar-free gum, limiting caffeine intake, avoiding mouthwashes that contain alcohol, sipping water regularly, using a humidifier at night, and stopping all tobacco use.

If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of dry mouth, contact our Pensacola, FL office to schedule an appointment with Dr. James McCreary. It’s wise to take medications that have been prescribed by your doctor, but it’s also smart to watch for any side effects. If you think a medication is causing you to have dry mouth, let’s figure out how to manage your symptoms as a team!

How does whitening toothpaste work and how effective it is at whitening teeth?

April 8th, 2020

Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste that has the American Dental Association seal of approval can help prevent tooth decay and relieve other conditions, such as bad breath, sensitive teeth, and gingivitis.

Beyond these health effects, another motivation for frequently brushing your teeth with high-quality toothpaste is to keep your teeth white. If you want whiter teeth but do not want to undergo in-office or at-home bleaching treatments, you might consider choosing whitening toothpaste for your daily brushing.

Why Consider Whitening Toothpaste

Whiter teeth are more attractive, which can help you feel more confident in your smile. Your smile is also one of the main components of the first impression you make on people in your professional and personal life. Having a whiter smile and greater self-assurance can send the message that you take care of yourself and are confident in your abilities.

How Whitening Toothpaste Works

The American Dental Association explains that all toothpaste has whitening properties because they help remove food particles from your teeth. To carry the American Dental Association seal for whitening, however, toothpaste must contain certain chemicals that help remove stains.

Unlike bleaching products, which contain carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide, whitening toothpaste only cleans the enamel rather than changing the color of your teeth. To obtain the benefits of whitening toothpaste, you need to use it regularly.

The Effectiveness of Whitening Toothpaste Varies

Due to individual variations in the color of your teeth, some people are more likely than others to achieve the desired results with whitening. Teeth that are tinted grayish are unlikely to respond well to bleaching, while brown teeth can sometimes respond, and yellowish teeth are most likely to become pearly white with bleaching.

If Dr. James McCreary and our staff believe that bleaching is not a viable option for you, proper oral hygiene and the use of a whitening toothpaste are your best bets for keeping your teeth as white as possible. In addition, avoid using tobacco products, and rinse your mouth after drinking coffee.

I don't brush while I'm at work. Should I?

April 1st, 2020

Yes, absolutely. A recent survey by Oral-B® reveals that despite knowing that a healthy, good-looking smile affects not only their personal wellness but their professional image as well, very few people (only 14 percent) brush and floss at the office regularly. What’s more, three quarters of people who responded to the survey said they ate twice or more a day at work.

Today, Dr. James McCreary and our team thought we would provide some tips for brushing at work.

  • Leave a toothbrush at work to increase your likelihood of brushing
  • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush won’t do a good job of cleaning your teeth.
  • Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner; this helps remove plaque and food particles from between the teeth and under the gum line. Tooth decay-causing bacteria still linger between teeth where your toothbrush bristles can’t reach.

And remember to brush for 30 to 45 seconds across visible parts of the teeth. Brushing after breakfast or lunch will eliminate any remaining food particles and odors. We recommend people brush their teeth twice and floss once a day to remove plaque and other harmful bacteria.

To schedule your next appointment with Dr. James McCreary at our Pensacola, FL office, please give us a call!

Dental Emergencies while Traveling

March 4th, 2020

You’ve planned your dream vacation. Your reservations are made. You’re packed and ready. You’ve even scheduled a dental checkup at our Pensacola, FL office to make sure you catch any potential problems, have finished any major work, and have an up-to-date chart.

But things don’t always go according to even the best of plans. So, what to do if you find you have a dental emergency while traveling? Dr. James McCreary and our team have some recommendations for problems that might arise.

  • Toothache—Rinse your mouth with warm water and use dental floss to remove any food particles. Never put aspirin directly on a tooth or gum tissue. If the pain persists, call a dentist.
  • Cracked or broken tooth—Immediately rinse with warm water to clean the area and apply cold compresses to the face to minimize swelling. Get in touch with a dentist.
  • If you lose a tooth—Keep the tooth moist at all times. Put the tooth back in the socket without touching the root if possible. If that is not an option, place the tooth between the cheek and gums or in milk. See a dentist as soon as possible.

Know where to get help if you need it! If you are traveling in the United States, the American Dental Association offers Find-a-Dentist, a website that can locate a member dentist closest to you. If you are traveling to another country, there are steps you can take to prepare for an emergency.

  • If you are out of the country and need to locate a dentist, your local embassy or consulate, your hotel concierge, or friends abroad can be a useful resource.
  • Before you go, check your insurance to see if you are covered while traveling.
  • If you have travel insurance, find out if it covers dental treatment and can provide information on qualified local dentists and translation help, if necessary.
  • Good dental care is available in many areas internationally, but it is important to know what standards are present in the countries you plan to visit. The Organization for Safety and Asepsis Procedures offers a checklist for safe treatment in their “Traveler’s Guide to Safe Dental Care.”

If you have any questions, Dr. James McCreary and our team are happy to do all we can to answer them. While it’s unlikely that problems will arise, we are always available if you need to contact our Pensacola, FL office. Bon voyage, and we look forward to hearing about your trip!

Dry Mouth and How to Treat It

February 26th, 2020

In fancy medical terms, dry mouth is known as xerostomia. It’s really just what it sounds like: a condition in which you don’t have enough saliva to keep your mouth moist. Dry mouth can be the result of certain medications you’re taking, aging, tobacco use, nerve damage, or chemotherapy.

Depending on whether you’re aware of the cause of your dry mouth, here are some simple ways to keep it at bay:

  • Avoid drinks that contain alcohol or caffeine
  • Avoid tobacco use, or lower your consumption of tobacco
  • Floss after every meal
  • Brush your teeth after every meal using a fluoride toothpaste
  • Avoid foods that have a high level of salt
  • Stay hydrated and drink water frequently
  • Consider using a humidifier at night

If you have any questions about dry mouth and how it is affecting you, give our Pensacola, FL office a call or make sure to ask Dr. James McCreary during your next visit!

The Origins of Valentine's Day

February 12th, 2020

When we think of Valentine’s Day, we think of cards, flowers, and chocolates. We think of girlfriends celebrating being single together and couples celebrating their relationship. We think of all things pink and red taking over every pharmacy and grocery store imaginable. But what Dr. James McCreary and our team would like to think of is when and how this joyous, love-filled day began.

Several martyrs’ stories are associated with the origins of Valentine’s Day. One of the most widely known suggests that Valentine was a Roman priest who went against the law at a time when marriage had been banned for young men. He continued to perform marriage ceremonies for young lovers in secret and when he was discovered, he was sentenced to death.

Another tale claims that Valentine was killed for helping Christians escape from Roman prisons. Yet another says that Valentine himself sent the first valentine when he fell in love with a girl and sent her a letter and signed it, “From your Valentine.”

Other claims suggest that it all began when Geoffrey Chaucer, an Englishman often referred to as the father of English literature, wrote a poem that was the first to connect St. Valentine to romance. From there, it evolved into a day when lovers would express their feelings for each other. Cue the flowers, sweets, and cards!

Regardless of where the holiday came from, these stories all have one thing in common: They celebrate the love we are capable of as human beings. And though that’s largely in a romantic spirit these days, it doesn’t have to be. You could celebrate love for a sister, a friend, a parent, even a pet.

We hope all our patients know how much we love them! Wishing you all a very happy Valentine’s Day from the team at McCreary Family Dentistry!

Sleep Apnea: How we can help

February 5th, 2020

At McCreary Family Dentistry, we understand that getting high-quality sleep is vital to maintaining your overall health. Insufficient sleep can lead to an inability to concentrate, motor vehicle accidents, and difficulty performing at work. Since approximately 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, this poses a significant public health problem. If you think you may have sleep apnea, talk to Dr. James McCreary and our team about devices that can help you get a good night’s rest.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a relatively common disorder in which breathing stops or becomes very shallow during the night. These bouts of paused breathing may last a few seconds or as long as several minutes. When 30 or more breathing interruptions occur per hour, sleep apnea leads to dramatic reductions in sleep quality. In many cases, this condition is caused by your airway becoming blocked or collapsed during sleep.

Anyone can get sleep apnea, but there are certain factors that increase your risk. Having small airways, being overweight, being male, or having a family history of sleep apnea increases the likelihood that you will develop the disorder. If you think you have sleep apnea, visit highly encourage you to visit our Pensacola, FL office for a thorough physical exam, comprehensive medical history, and a sleep study.

Treatment Options

Several treatment avenues are available for people with sleep apnea. One popular option is to wear an oral appliance. For example, a mandibular advancement device (MAD) looks like a sports mouthguard and slightly repositions your jaw, to keep your airway unobstructed. Another option is a tongue-retraining device (TRD), which holds your tongue in place to ensure that your airway stays open during the night.

For individuals with mild-to-moderate sleep apnea, dental devices are a smart option. Many patients enjoy improved sleep, reductions in snoring, and less fatigue during daytime hours. If you’re curious about getting an oral appliance to help with your sleep apnea, please consult our team at McCreary Family Dentistry. After a consultation and examination, we can fit the type of device that works best for your condition.

Beneficial Beverage or Damaging Drink?

January 29th, 2020

Talking about a healthy diet usually means talking about food. After all, our teeth and gums need protein, vitamins, and minerals to stay strong and free from cavities and gum disease. But let’s not forget the part liquids play in our diets! What we drink can actually have a dramatic effect on our dental health.

Beneficial Beverages for Our Teeth and Gums

  • Water, water, water!

Water is always a healthy option. Besides being a nutrient in its own right, water washes away food particles as we eat, dilutes the acids in our mouth that can lead to cavities, and often provides the fluoride, which reduces our risk of tooth decay. Also, water helps with the production of saliva, which cleanses our mouth and helps neutralize the acids which cause cavities, gum disease, and bad breath.

  • Milk

Milk provides the calcium and vitamin D that are essential for bone and tooth health. If you are worried about the fat content in milk, low-fat options will still deliver the nutrients your body needs.

  • Vegetable juices

These juices provide important vitamins and minerals without the sugar levels of fruit juices. If that 100%-leafy-green smoothie is a bit bitter, add a small amount of fruit to the mix, but remember to avoid too many acidic, sugary additions.

Drinks that are Less than Ideal

  • Sugary beverages

Regular soft drinks, fruit juices, energy drinks, and sweetened tea and coffee provide bacteria with the sugar they use to produce acids. These acids, over time, weaken our enamel and lead to cavities.

  • Acidic drinks

Any acidic beverages, such as soft drinks, sports drinks, or citrus juices, provide their own acids that can erode tooth enamel.

  • Drinks that stain our teeth

Red wine, coffee, black tea, fruit juices, colas—even sports drinks!—can leave our enamel stained and discolored.

Should we give up all these problem drinks completely? Can’t we start our day with orange juice and a cup of coffee, or down an energy drink after a workout? The important takeaway here is to recognize which drinks can damage teeth and gums, and to minimize any harm they might cause. If you are going to drink something sugary or acidic, don’t sip it. Sipping lets the sugars and acids linger in the mouth. Drink with a meal. Chewing increases saliva production, which helps wash away harmful sugars and acids. Try using a straw for drinks that stain teeth. And it’s always best to rinse with water immediately after drinking anything sugary, acidic, or staining.

Best of all, try to include as many nourishing beverages as possible in your diet. Keep your mouth healthy with a steady routine of brushing and flossing for at least two minutes twice a day. Don’t forget to schedule regular checkups and cleanings at our Pensacola, FL office so Dr. James McCreary can monitor your teeth and gums and remove plaque and stains if they develop. And if you have any questions about the healthiest beverages out there, let’s have a glass of water and discuss.

Dentin Tooth Sensitivity Treatments

January 22nd, 2020

Dentine hypersensitivity can be described as a sharp and sudden pain caused by cold food and beverages. It’s present in more than half the population and result from receding gums that expose the root surfaces of your teeth.

That being said, hypersensitivity can be triggered by forceful tooth brushing, teeth whitening products, gum disease, and erosion from acid reflux, bulimia, or highly acidic foods. Symptoms can range from moderate to severe, depending on the cause and how quickly it’s treated.

Tooth sensitivity begins when the dentin develops some exposure. This layer that surrounds the nerve of the tooth is usually covered by gum tissue, but when recession takes place, the dentin can get exposed and the pain begins. The dentin contains numerous pores that run from the surface of the tooth inward. This direct connection to the nerve and blood supply of the tooth can be affected by external stimuli, such as the triggers cited above.

The good news is there are several different ways to treat dentinal hypersensitivity at McCreary Family Dentistry.

Treatment of dentin tooth sensitivity begins by making an appointment with Dr. James McCreary. We encourage you to begin treatment sooner rather than later in order to figure out the cause and to reduce the pain you’re experiencing. In most cases, quick treatment options will solve the problem, including the use of desensitizing toothpaste, switching to a soft-bristled toothbrush, starting a daily fluoride rinse treatment, or minimizing teeth grinding with the help of a custom mouthguard.

For more serious cases, we may recommend you get crowns put on problematic teeth, start a gel or varnish fluoride treatment, or even schedule a surgical gum graft or root canal, depending on the cause and severity of your pain.

If you’re concerned about any tooth sensitivity you’re experiencing, please give our Pensacola, FL office a call and schedule an appointment. Dr. James McCreary and our team want to help you identify the cause of your pain, and give you the best possible treatment plan. We look forward to seeing you to help alleviate discomfort and solve your tooth sensitivity.

Preventing Toddler Tooth Decay

January 15th, 2020

You do everything you can to protect your toddler with safeguards large and small. Installing that complicated car seat. Figuring out which sunscreen is best for delicate skin. Spending weeks childproofing your home. But all the work protecting your child is more than worth it because the rewards are so great. And one more everyday precaution that brings great rewards is protecting your toddler from tooth decay.

  • Start Early

The time to start your baby’s dental care is even before that first tooth arrives. Carefully wiping the gums with a clean, damp cloth after feeding gets your child used to the idea of brushing and removes bacteria that might irritate the gums as the teeth begin to erupt. As soon as those teeth arrive, gentle brushing with soft bristles will keep bacteria and plaque from causing tooth decay and gingivitis. We can recommend toothpastes formulated especially for toddlers and suggest the best ways to brush.

  • Mind The Menu

We know that sugary foods aren’t healthy for your toddler’s teeth. Bacteria in the mouth feeds on sugar, and a sugar-heavy diet results in more of the bacteria and plaque which cause cavities. But sugar is not the only food that is not tooth-friendly. For example, foods like citrus fruits and juices can also be a problem. Acidic foods can actually weaken enamel after eating and leave teeth more vulnerable to cavity-causing bacteria and plaque. We have suggestions for tooth-healthy snacks and the best times to brush after eating if you and your child indulge in a treat.

  • Don’t Misuse Bottles & Sippy Cups

Your toddler might still use a bottle at night or a sippy cup throughout the day. Juices and even milk contain sugar that increases the risk of cavities, and if your child goes to sleep with a bottle or cup, these liquids pool in the mouth overnight allowing bacteria to flourish.  If your toddler wants a drink at night or between meals, water is a much better option.

Those tiny teeth are important for so many reasons. They enable children to bite and chew efficiently, to pronounce sounds properly for speech development, and to save space for adult teeth so they erupt in the right place. Dr. James McCreary and our team recommend that your child visit our Pensacola, FL office after the first tooth comes in, and always by the first birthday. We will make sure your toddler’s teeth are developing as they should be and suggest ways to keep them cavity-free. Your toddler’s healthy, beautiful smile is a reward worth protecting!

Chewing Gum: Fact and Fiction

January 8th, 2020

Remember all the things your parents would tell you when you were growing up to scare you away from doing something? Like how lying might make your nose grow, misbehaving meant you wouldn’t get money from the tooth fairy, and swallowed chewing gum would build up in your stomach and stay there for years?

Maybe that last one stayed with you well beyond your teens, and occurred to you every time you accidentally (or purposely) swallowed a piece of gum. We don’t blame you. It’s a scary thought.

But is it true?

We hate to take the fun out of parental discipline, but swallowing a piece of chewing gum is pretty much like swallowing any other piece of food. It will move right through your digestive system with no danger of getting stuck for months, let alone seven years.

This doesn’t mean you should start swallowing all your gum from now on, but if it happens accidentally now and then, there’s no need to panic.

Another common gum myth is that sugar-free gum can help you lose weight. Although it is preferable to choose sugar-free gum over the extra-sweet variety, no studies have show that sugar-free gum will help you lose weight.

If you pop a piece of gum in your mouth after dinner to avoid dessert, it could help you avoid eating a few extra calories every day. But the consumption of sugar-free gum without any other effort will not help you shed pounds.

 If you really enjoy chewing gum, we strongly encourage you to select sugarless gum, because it lowers your risk for cavities. Many brands of sugarless gum contain xylitol, a natural sweetener that can, in fact, help fight bacteria that cause cavities and rinse away plaque.

So if you can’t kick the gum habit altogether, sugar-free is definitely the way to go!

If you have any questions about chewing gum, feel free to contact Dr. James McCreary at our Pensacola, FL office.

Healthy Resolutions for Healthy Teeth

January 1st, 2020

Every January 1st, you have your resolutions ready. No more nail biting. Lose ten pounds. Stop smoking. None of us are happy about those annoying bad habits we’ve picked up over the years. But if nothing else has helped you keep your resolutions, maybe seeing how they can improve your oral health will give you some extra willpower.

  • No More Nail Biting

You can easily see how nail biting affects your fingernails, but its effects are more than cosmetic. The pressure this habit puts on tooth enamel can lead to cracks, chips, and enamel erosion. Nail biters have a greater risk of bruxism, or teeth grinding. (More on that below.) And the transfer of germs from fingers to mouth and mouth to fingers is a vicious circle that can lead to illnesses and infections in both fingers and mouth.

  • Cut Down on Junk Food

Sugars and carbs help pack on the pounds, no doubt. Did you know that they can also help create cavities? Sugar is a favorite food for oral bacteria, which allows them to produce acids which attack and weaken tooth enamel. And carbs? They convert easily to simple sugars. Choose nutritious snacks and beverages, and you will keep those teeth healthy. You might even lose a few pounds!

  • Lower the Volume

If your partner complains about sleepless nights thanks to your nocturnal teeth grinding, or your friends ask you to quit chewing on that cup of ice while they’re trying to watch a movie with you, listen to them! (If you can hear them over the grinding and chewing.) Bruxism can fracture teeth, cause headaches and jaw problems, and might even lead to loose teeth. Chewing hard foods can have the very same effects. Too much pressure from any source can damage your teeth. Grinding, chewing ice, crunching down on hard candies—any habit that’s loud enough to annoy others could be a warning to be more careful of your teeth.

  • Don’t Put That in Your Mouth!

Helping you eat and chew nutritious foods—of course. Smiling—absolutely. Ripping off a piece of duct tape, tearing open a potato chip bag, holding your dog’s leash while you look for your keys, opening a tight bottle cap—no, no, no, and really no. Fractures and chips are common injuries when you use your teeth as tools. Your teeth have a crucial job to do, but that job description never includes “scissors” or “nutcracker” or “bottle opener.” Take that extra minute and find the tool you need!

  • Drink in Moderation

Along with all the other consequences of over-indulging, too much alcohol in your diet can be bad for your oral health. Alcohol, especially paired with sugary drinks, helps create that acidic environment that leads to weakened enamel. More than that, it’s dehydrating. Without sufficient hydration, we don’t have the optimal saliva production we need to fight cavities. After all, saliva helps wash away food particles and bacteria, neutralizes acids, and strengthens enamel through remineralization. Ring in the New Year—moderately!

  • It’s Time to Quit

Cigarettes, pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco—there is no tobacco product that is healthy for your body or your teeth! We’re all familiar with the discoloration tobacco can cause, but it also has serious oral health consequences. Oral cancer, gum disease, early tooth loss—all these conditions have been linked to tobacco use. Today there are more methods than ever before to help you quit. Make this your year!

You don’t have to wait for the New Year to start working on healthier habits. If you’d like to tackle teeth grinding, banish nail biting, stop smoking, or work on any other habits that can damage your health and your teeth, talk to Dr. James McCreary at your next visit to our Pensacola, FL office. And, don’t forget—resolving to see us twice a year for a checkup and a cleaning is a resolution that’s extremely easy to keep!

Is a Crown Necessary for My Child’s Baby Tooth?

December 25th, 2019

Part of the charm of your child’s smile is those delicate, diminutive baby teeth. We enjoy those smiles while we can, because soon enough, primary teeth make way for the adult teeth that will last your child a lifetime. So you might be surprised if Dr. James McCreary and our team recommend a crown for your child’s baby tooth. Is this procedure necessary when the tooth is going to fall out eventually anyway?

Yes, it really is. If a primary tooth is lost before its normal lifespan, several problems can arise.

  • Biting and chewing—a full set of baby teeth is best for proper chewing and digestion. And chewing also helps develop face and jaw muscles.
  • Speech development—primary teeth help guide speech production and pronunciation.
  • Spacing—a baby tooth serves as a place holder for the adult tooth waiting to replace it. If a primary tooth is lost too early, teeth may drift from their correct location and cause overcrowding or misalignment.

When is a Crown Necessary?

The enamel in a baby tooth is thinner than the enamel found in adult teeth, and a cavity can spread quickly throughout a tooth. Within a short period, the tooth’s structure might be too weak for a regular filling. Sometimes the pulp inside the tooth becomes injured or infected and an endodontic treatment is necessary to remove pulp tissue from inside the tooth. The interior will be filled, but the delicate enamel surrounding it will be fragile. Or an accident can leave a tooth fractured or broken, but still vital.

In each of these cases, a crown will protect the tooth from further decay or damage, and will allow the tooth to function normally until an adult tooth is ready to replace it.

What Types of Crowns are Available?

By far the most common choice for a primary tooth is a stainless steel crown. These crowns are prefabricated and can be fitted snugly to your child’s individual tooth. They are easy to place, less expensive than other crown alternatives, and will last until the tooth is ready to fall out in its proper time. If your child suffers from a metal allergy, or a more natural looking crown is necessary, talk to us about other possible options during your appointment at our Pensacola, FL office.

Sure, preserving a baby tooth that was never designed to be permanent seems contradictory. But saving a tooth that helps your child develop proper eating habits, speech production, and correct adult tooth alignment? Those are benefits that will last a lifetime.

Common Wisdom Teeth Problems

December 18th, 2019

Have you ever wondered why people have wisdom teeth? These are a third set of molars that come in behind the rest of all your other teeth, usually during early adulthood. Scientists and anthropologists believe that wisdom teeth are a result of evolution, because our ancestors needed these extra teeth to handle their primitive diets. Nowadays, the average diet consists of fewer hard-to-chew foods, which renders wisdom teeth largely superfluous.

Most people begin to experience wisdom teeth pain between the ages of 17 and 25. Our ancestors nicknamed them wisdom teeth because they appeared at a time in life when we supposedly grew wiser.

If you’ve already had your wisdom teeth removed, you know how painful they can become if they aren’t taken care of promptly. If not, watch out for discomfort in the back of your mouth and let Dr. James McCreary know right away if you think your wisdom teeth are coming in.

In some cases, people do not experience any problems or discomfort with their wisdom teeth. These patients may keep their wisdom teeth intact if there’s enough room in their jaw to fit them properly. But this is generally not the case, so wisdom teeth can cause several concerns, depending on which direction they grow.

Common problems include:

  • Damage to surrounding teeth due to the pressure from the emerging teeth
  • Infection that causes the surrounding gums to swell and become painful
  • Tooth decay due to the lack of room to clean the teeth properly
  • Impaction (when the tooth is unable to break through the skin)
  • A cyst that may damage the jaw, the surrounding teeth, and nerves

If you haven’t had your wisdom teeth removed yet, there are many symptoms to watch out for when they begin to grow. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain or stiffness in the jaw
  • Tooth irritation
  • Swelling of gum tissue
  • Crowding of other teeth
  • Spread of tooth decay or gum disease on nearby teeth

If you’ve noticed these symptoms, schedule an appointment at our Pensacola, FL office. Don’t forget: This is a common procedure that will take some time to recover from. Allow your mouth to heal, and then you’ll be able to get back to a normal routine quickly and be free from pain!

Intraoral Cameras

December 11th, 2019

It seems today’s technology has made every moment a camera-ready opportunity. (Just check your friends and their latest selfies.) What you may not expect is the opportunity to see a close-up of your teeth and gums in vivid detail the next time you’re in our office. But with intraoral cameras, Dr. James McCreary can use the most up-to-date tools to provide your most accurate diagnosis—and let you see for yourself exactly what we’re seeing.

Intraoral cameras were developed in the 1980s. This camera makes use of a sleek wand-style design to fit easily into your mouth. Using a camera lens and its own lighting, the camera is able to show hard-to-reach places in the mouth much more clearly and easily than can be seen using dental mirrors alone. Images are projected onto a monitor or screen, where both dentist and patient can get a detailed view, and images can be enlarged, if needed, to provide better definition.

What can an intraoral camera reveal? While X-rays are invaluable for discovering treatable conditions such as cavities, infections and bone diseases, there are some conditions that are not easily apparent using X-rays alone. Small cracks in a tooth, developing cavities near crowns or older fillings, fractures, early gum disease, even areas where plaque has been missed during brushing are visible in clear detail using the intraoral camera.

How does this improve your dental care?

  • We always want to use the least invasive procedure we can, and keep as much of your healthy tooth as possible. Finding small problems early prevents them from becoming large problems later.
  • If you are consistently failing to brush certain teeth, or if some areas of your gums show signs of neglect, we can show you directly what places you’ve been missing so you can adjust your brushing and flossing habits.
  • We can take photos if needed for your files so we have a detailed visual record of your dental status at any point in time.
  • Finally, you will be able to see for yourself the reasons we might suggest certain treatments, and be better informed about your own dental health.

We’re happy to offer the intraoral camera at our Pensacola, FL office as one of the tools we use to provide you with the most precise and thorough care possible. Ready for your close-up?

When do children usually lose their baby teeth?

December 4th, 2019

Many parents worry that their children’s teeth are not falling out on time. A lot of concerned parents want to know: When will my child lose his or her first baby tooth? At what age should the last tooth fall out? Is there a specific order in which the teeth are lost?

Dr. James McCreary and our team explain that a child's 20 baby teeth (primary teeth) typically come in by age three and begin to loosen and fall out on their own to make room for permanent teeth, which usually appear by the time your child is six. It is important to know that timing may vary, and girls typically lose their baby teeth earlier than boys. The last baby teeth will likely fall out by the time your child is 13.

So, which teeth do children lose first? Baby teeth tend to fall out in the order in which they came, which means the lower center incisors are usually the first to go when your child is between six and seven years old. The next teeth your child will lose are his or her top center pair, also called the upper central incisors.

It’s important to note that if a child loses a baby tooth early as a result of decay or an unforeseen accident, his or her permanent tooth may erupt early and potentially come in crooked due to limited space. If your child suffers an injury or has tooth decay, we encourage you to give us a call to set up an appointment with Dr. James McCreary.

While we know some children couldn’t be more excited to lose their baby teeth, we know others are anxious about this childhood milestone. When your child starts to lose teeth, our team at McCreary Family Dentistry encourages you to stress the importance of proper dental care on a daily basis.

Remember to:

  • Remind your child to brush his or her teeth at least twice a day. Supervise and offer assistance as needed.
  • Help your child floss his or her teeth at bedtime.
  • Limit eating and drinking between meals and at bedtime, especially sugary treats and drinks, such as candy and soda.
  • Schedule regular dental visits for your child every six months.
  • Ask about the use of fluoride treatments and dental sealants to help prevent tooth decay.

To learn more about baby teeth, or to schedule your child's next visit with Dr. James McCreary at our Pensacola, FL office, please give us a call today!

My child has canker sores! How can I help?

November 27th, 2019

According to the American Association of Pediatric Density, roughly one in five children suffers from canker sores. Canker sores are small sores that appear inside the cheeks, on the lips, on the surface of the gums, and under the tongue.

Even though, canker sores are not contagious, they do tend to run in families. There are several reasons your child may be suffering from canker sores including:

  • Children who have Vitamin B12, iron, and folic acid deficiencies tend to get canker sores more often than children who have normal levels of these vitamins and minerals.
  • Children who suffer from food allergies are also at a higher risk for developing canker sores. It’s difficult to determine what your child may be allergic to. If you feel strongly that the canker sores are related to an allergy, then a visit to an allergist is highly recommended.
  • Biting their lip or cheek can also result in a canker sore.
  • Any injury to mouth, where the skin breaks can cause a canker sore.
  • Brushing their teeth too hard can also be a problem.
  • Your child may be sensitive to an ingredient in their toothpaste. Try switching toothpastes and see if it makes a difference.
  • Emotional disturbances and stress are also factors to consider.

If your child has frequent canker sores a visit to our Pensacola, FL office will be beneficial. Canker sores are painful and usually last about 14 days. Dr. James McCreary may recommend one or a few of the following treatment options:

  • Avoid food that is acidic, salty, and spicy.
  • A toothbrush with soft bristles may be helpful.
  • Avoid mouthwash and toothpaste that contain SLS.
  • Do not feed your child foods that they may be allergic to.

Canker Sore Remedies

  • Eating yogurt that contains Acidophilus will relieve the pain and help the canker sore heal faster.
  • Put one teaspoon of baking soda in an eight-ounce glass of lukewarm water. Have your child gargle and swish it around his or her mouth several times a day. Not only does this remedy relieve the pain, the canker sore could be gone in as little as 24 hours.
  • Place a wet tea bag on the sore and hold it there for a few minutes several times a day. This remedy will help with the pain and quickly heal the sore.
  • Camphor, Benzocaine, Lidocaine, and Orajel are over-the-counter medications that can help.

If you have questions about your child’s canker sore, contact Dr. James McCreary to schedule an appointment.

Why Baby Teeth Matter

October 29th, 2019

Sleepless nights, crankiness, drooling—how can such tiny teeth cause such a big fuss? But all those uncomfortable days and nights are forgotten when your baby’s first teeth make their appearance. Why? Well, certainly because your child is happier, but also because you know baby teeth, or primary teeth, are important for your child’s growth in so many different ways.

  • Chewing and Eating

Your baby might enjoy solid foods at an early age, but real chewing doesn’t happen until all the baby molars appear between the ages of one to three years. This is the time to feed children size-appropriate and texture-appropriate foods so they acquire proper chewing and eating habits for healthy digestion. Chewing also helps develop your child’s jaw and facial muscles.

  • Developing Speech

Pronouncing many of the common sounds used in speech often requires tongue and teeth working together. If teeth are missing or there is a bite problem such as an open bite, it might be more difficult to pronounce words properly. This could be only a temporary delay, or it could require speech therapy when your child is older.

  • Setting the Stage for Permanent Teeth

Baby teeth not only help with speech and jaw development, but they serve as space holders for permanent teeth. If a primary tooth is lost too early, a permanent tooth might “drift” into the empty space. The adult tooth will not have the room to fit where it should, and crowding or misalignment can occur. This might cause orthodontic problems in the future.

  • Learning Healthy Dental Habits

You are your baby’s first dental health care provider! Wiping the gums and erupting teeth with a soft damp cloth after meals, gently brushing baby teeth when your toddler is young, teaching how to brush as your child gets older, helping to establish daily routines for brushing—all these practices will prepare your child for lifelong healthy dental habits.

  • Making the Dentist a Regular Part of Your Child’s Life

Your child should visit our Pensacola, FL office soon after that first tooth comes in, and definitely by the age of 12 months. Dr. James McCreary can help with suggestions for your brushing and flossing routine, make sure your child’s teeth are healthy and clean, and ensure that teething progress is on track. In later visits, we will examine your child’s primary teeth and gums, and treat any problems, such as cavities, before they can become serious.

It turns out that baby teeth really are a big deal. Talk to us about suggestions for caring for your toddler’s teeth and about any questions you may have about teething progress, jaw and facial structure, speech development, or any other concerns at any time. We want to have a happy relationship with your child from the very start for a lifetime of healthy and confident smiles.

Sleep Apnea: What a Dentist Can Do

October 22nd, 2019

You find yourself drowsy and irritable all day. Or you have trouble sleeping, and when you do, you snore loudly throughout the night punctuated with silent pauses where you aren’t breathing at all. Or your loved ones tell you that you’ve been keeping them awake with your snoring or frightening them awake when you gasp for breath. Whatever symptom may have brought you to the doctor, you’ve been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, and now it’s time to get this sleep disorder under control.

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the tissue in the back of the throat relaxes, partially blocking the airway, or structural problems in the mouth and throat (such as enlarged tonsils or tongue) obstruct air flow. The tissue around the air passage vibrates with every breath causing those annoying snoring sounds. More dangerous, an obstructed airway means that there is not enough oxygen getting into the lungs. The struggle to breathe wakes us, interrupting the deep sleep we need to function. Untreated, the results of sleep apnea can range from drowsiness and irritability to a greater risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Luckily, there are several approaches to combatting this form of sleep apnea, including life style changes, surgery or breathing machines, and orthodontic appliances.

  • Lifestyle Changes

Sleep apnea is more likely to affect those who are overweight, smoke, use alcohol, take certain medications, or sleep on their backs. If you can make changes in your lifestyle that will restore the quality of your sleep, this is a great first option.

  • Surgery or Breathing Machines

Sometimes obstruction of the airway is caused by structural problems in the throat or mouth. Tissue can be reshaped or removed during surgery to widen and stabilize the breathing passage. Or you might be prescribed a machine such as a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, which blows pressurized air through a tube and mask to keep the airway open during sleep.

  • Oral Appliances

Dr. James McCreary can also be an important resource if you struggle with obstructive sleep apnea. Many people suffering from this disorder prefer an oral appliance for its effectiveness, comfort, and convenience. One common oral sleep appliance is designed to support your lower jaw in a forward position. This jaw movement increases the open space of your airway as you sleep. Other appliances can prevent the tongue from blocking the airway and obstructing air flow. These appliances resemble mouthguards and retainers, and, like them, are custom made just for you. We will recommend the type of appliance best suited to your needs, and will take a model of your mouth and teeth so that a lab can craft an appliance that will be a perfect fit. We will adjust it for comfort if necessary, instruct you on its use and care, and schedule follow up treatment to make sure the appliance is treating your sleep apnea as efficiently as possible.

Whether you opt for a change of lifestyle habits, a CPAP machine, surgery, or an oral appliance, it is important that you treat this sleeping disorder. Left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can have many serious consequences. If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, talk to us during your next visit at our Pensacola, FL office. You deserve a good—and healthy—night’s sleep.

Caring for Your Cat’s Dental Health

October 15th, 2019

While you make sure your family is getting the best care possible, with regular dental checkups and cleanings at our Pensacola, FL office, there is one family member that might be hiding under the bed when it’s time for tooth care. Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition affecting adult cats—and it is completely preventable!

Periodontal disease starts when the bacteria in your pet’s mouth form plaque. The plaque can harden into tartar, and, if plaque and tartar spread under the gum line, can be responsible for a number of serious problems. Tooth loss, tissue damage, bone loss, and infection can be the result of periodontal disease. Professional dental treatment is important if your cat is suffering from periodontal disease, and your vet can describe the options available to you.

But, like with humans, prevention is the best way to assure these problems never develop, and there are several methods for avoiding plaque and tartar build-up.

Brushing: Yes, there are toothbrushes and toothpastes specifically designed for your cat! If a toothbrush is not working for you or your pet, there are cat-sized finger brushes available as well. Daily brushing is most effective, but try for at least several times each week. The process of introducing brushing should be a slow and gentle one, and seafood and poultry flavored pastes make the process more palatable. (Human toothpaste is not good for your cat due to its abrasiveness, and swallowing the foam might pose a danger to your pet.)

Anti-plaque rinses and gels: If despite your gentle persistence your cat simply will not cooperate with brushing, there are other options! Rinses and gels containing Chlorhexidine are effective and do not usually pose a problem for pets—although they might not take to the flavor. Rinses can be squirted inside each cheek or gels can be applied to the teeth with a toothbrush or finger brush. Talk to your vet to find the safest and most effective products.

Diet: Whether they use a particular shape and texture to simulate brushing or an anti-tartar ingredient, several pet foods claim to reduce the accumulation of plaque and tartar. Your vet is the best resource for nutritional suggestions to make sure your cat’s dental and physical diet is as healthy as it can be.

Whether you try brushing, rinses, gels or a tooth-friendly diet, patience and a gentle touch are the best way to introduce dental hygiene. Talk to your vet at your cat’s next checkup, and find out what you can do to keep your feline friend healthy and happy. An ounce of prevention might be worth a pound of purr!

What is a water pick and do I need one?

October 8th, 2019

Water picks, sometimes called “oral irrigators,” make an excellent addition to your regular home care regimen of brushing and flossing. Especially helpful to those who suffer from periodontal disease and those patients of ours undergoing orthodontic treatment with full-bracketed braces, water picks use powerful tiny bursts of water to dislodge food scraps, bacteria, an