Is Activated Charcoal All That?

email_4c5fb5a8237a4a168cb745ea92a70be9The latest beauty trend to take the Internet by storm is (drumroll please) … activated charcoal, the substance used in emergency rooms to treat accidental overdoses and poisonings.

Because of its ability to absorb toxins and pollutants, activated charcoal is now being added to everything from soaps and facial masks to juices and even toothpaste. During late summer, a famous YouTuber, Mama Natural, went viral using activated charcoal to clean and whiten her teeth. She claimed that the product she purchased in a health food store in capsule form was highly absorbent and would absorb the bacteria, toxins and staining on our teeth, thus making them whiter.

The truth? Activated charcoal does have natural adhesive properties that can bind with surface stains such as wine and take them off your teeth. But if your teeth are naturally yellow, you need a bleaching agent to whiten them.

The danger? It is not known whether using a charcoal supplement in this manner could be harmful for your teeth. The abrasiveness of the supplement has not been tested and could leave the tooth enamel susceptible to deterioration and erosion. If you really want to try it, don’t brush with it — just make the paste out of the charcoal and dab it on, wait three minutes and rinse.

The products? There are many activated charcoal toothpastes and powders on the market. But please note:

  • The American Dental Association has not given the ADA Seal of Acceptance to any charcoal teeth whitening products.
  • The Food and Drug Administration has approved charcoal as a drug only for limited use as an over-the-counter poison treatment.
  • Medical professionals warn against taking charcoal regularly. The concern is that if the product can take toxins out of the body, it can also take out nutrients.

Safer alternatives? If you are looking to whiten your teeth during the holidays, try an ADA-approved over-the-counter product or tray-based home bleaching system or have your teeth whitened in the dentist’s office.

Six Tricks that Treat Your Teeth

email_10ddcd4271c246f198988ed449f56ce2-jpg_w484674cd363-91e1-480f-9249-a1d0e0107f15During this month of candy and costumes, the health of our teeth is often forgotten. So here are some tricks that can help keep scary things from happening to your teeth.

  1. An apple a day keeps the dentist away. There are a wide variety of delicious apples available now, and this firm, crisp fruit helps clean plaque from the teeth and freshens breath. Other crisp fruits and raw vegetables, such as carrots and celery, do the same, and their antioxidants help protect gums and other tissues from cell damage and bacterial infection.
  2. Bag the chips for plain popcorn. Plain popcorn is 100 percent whole grain and contains plenty of fiber and only around 31 calories per cup (compared to 139 calories for regular potato chips.) It’s also considered one of the detergent foods for your teeth. BUT, avoid the hard kernels and make sure any popcorn wedged between your teeth is removed. Otherwise, it can wreak havoc on your teeth by cracking them or fostering bacterial growth.
  3. Brush before you drink or eat. It’s counterintuitive, but brush your teeth about an hour before you drink wine or other sugary, acidic foods and drinks. This reduces the number of bacteria in the mouth and keeps you from “feeding them,” as well as helps prevent staining from dark drinks.
  4. Change your toothbrush every two to three months. Researchers have found that toothbrushes can be loaded with germs and bacteria — and even be a breeding ground for tiny microorganisms. You can also soak your toothbrush in alcohol, mouthwash, or a solution of half water and half hydrogen peroxide to help control the germiness.
  5. Brush your teeth first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening. You should immediately brush off the plaque and bacteria that have built up as you sleep. And, at night, your saliva dries up, so it’s best to have all the plaque cleaned off the teeth before you go to sleep. Once a week, brush with baking soda, which will remove stains and whiten teeth!
  6. Keep the dark chocolate treats for yourself! Avoid the sticky and hard candies and separate out the dark chocolate for your treats. Recent studies have found that dark chocolate (not milk chocolate) helps fight cavities, plaque and tooth decay!

Dental Sealants: Cost-Effective Protection for Your Teeth

email_13d63edc3b4743fbb24f83ed1e633005If your dentist has talked about dental sealants for you or your child, you may be wondering if they are really necessary. The answer is: Yes! Recent research has shown that they do add a lot of value.

What are Dental Sealants?

Dental sealants are basically an extra layer of protection for your teeth. They are made out of a thin, resin film that bonds to the chewing surfaces and fills in the pits and grooves where bacteria like to reside. While they are not a substitute for brushing and flossing, sealants provide added protection against cavity formation.

Why Do You Need Them?

Even the most meticulous brushers and flossers cannot clean every single crevice in their teeth, especially those molars in the back used for chewing — a favorite hangout for leftover food and cavity-causing bacteria. Sealants help keep those bits of food out of the back teeth and can stop bacteria and acid from settling there.

Who Gets Them?

The earlier an individual gets sealants, the better. Sealants can be provided once the molars break through, so dentists offer them to children around age 5-7 (when first molars come in) to ages 11-14 (when 12-year-old molars come in). Adults, particularly those who are cavity-prone, may also benefit from sealants. Sealants can be applied over areas of early decay to prevent additional damage to the tooth.

Do They Work?

The short answer is: YES! A 2013 Cochrane review assessed the results of 34 studies involving sealants, with 12 of those studies comparing outcomes of sealants to no sealants. The conclusion was that sealants are effective in reducing cavities for at least four years after each application. In fact, one randomized trial of 8 to 10 year olds found that cavity rates were more than twice as high for those without sealants than for those who had sealants. A more recent review of studies published in August has come to the same conclusions.

Are They Safe?

Some people may be worried about the small amount of bisphenol A (BPA) that is contained in sealants. This chemical found in plastics has been linked to early-onset puberty, infertility and some cancers. However, according to the American Dentistry Association, an individual is exposed to more BPA by breathing air, handling a cash register receipt, using cosmetics or coming into contact with dust.

If you have questions about dental sealants, please call us at (336) 765-0904 or visit our Enlighten Dental Care website.

Let’s Stop the Great Floss Debate

It is the kind of headline that makes those of us in the field of health and dental care cringe:
Medical benefits of dental floss unproven.

Wait, what?! EDC_floss

First, let me tell you, flossing works. As a dentist I know this. And time and again, the media comes out with stories about whether it is necessary. (Maybe journalists are tired of flossing, we’re not sure!)

Why does it work? Flossing is the best way to remove particles of food from between your teeth. These particles encourage the growth of bacteria, which then cause tooth decay and gum disease. If you floss, you are less likely to leave particles of food in your teeth, leading to less bacteria growth and less risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

It’s that simple.

But what about that Associated Press article, and all the articles that went viral right after it came out?

Here’s what happened.

The federal government has recommended flossing since 1979. It was first recommended in a surgeon general’s report and then in the dietary guidelines, which are issued every five years and must be based on scientific evidence.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, last year the AP asked the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture to provide proof that flossing works. Then, this year, the flossing recommendation was removed from the federal dietary guidelines.

So the AP reviewed 25 studies on flossing and concluded that the evidence for flossing was “weak, very unreliable,” of “very low” quality, and carries “a moderate to large potential for bias.”

So yes, perhaps the highest standards of scientific evidence have not been applied to studies on flossing. But does that mean it doesn’t work? It is important to remember that while the benefits of flossing may be unproven according to the highest scientific standards, it does not mean the benefit has been disproven.

The fact is, floss is inexpensive, and it only takes a few minutes a day to remove the food particles. And as dentists, we can always tell who is flossing and who is not.

For more reasons on why you should floss, see our blog from last November: Is Flossing Really Necessary?

Should Children Be Discouraged from Sucking Their Thumbs?

child_sucking_thumbAn interesting study published in the journal Pediatrics found that children who bite their nails and suck their thumbs are less likely to develop certain allergies, including those to cats, dogs, grass and house dust mites.

The researchers studied the habits of 1,000 children in New Zealand and found that 31 percent were frequent nail biters or thumb suckers. They then did skin prick allergy tests on the subjects when they were 13 and 32 years old, and they found that he number of children showing sensitivities toward allergens was lower among those who had sucked their thumbs or bitten their nails. — about 38 percent compared to 49 percent.

But this doesn’t mean that parents should encourage their children to suck their thumbs!

Thumb sucking (or pacifier sucking) is a natural reflex for children, and it makes them feel secure and happy. The unfortunate side effect is that after permanent teeth come in, intense thumb sucking  can affect the alignment of the teeth.

Children should stop sucking their thumb (or pacifier) between the ages of 2 and 4, when the permanent teeth are ready to erupt. Here are some ways you can encourage your child to stop:

  • Give praise for not sucking his or her thumb.
  • Find other ways to calm your child’s anxiety or soothe him or her.
  • For older children, involve them in choosing a method to help them stop.
  • Ask your dentist to talk to your child about what could happen to the teeth if thumb sucking continues. Ask the dentist to offer encouragement to stop.
  • If he or she has trouble stopping, putting a band-aid on the thumb or a sock on the hand at night may be a reminder about the habit and why stopping is a good idea.

If you need help with your child’s thumb sucking habit, please contact Enlighten Dental Care for a consultation. There are dental and orthodontic devices that can disrupt the experience of sucking the thumb.

Please Welcome Mary Katherine Taylor, DDS, to Enlighten Dental Care

Mary Katherine TaylorThere are some exciting changes at Enlighten Dental Care this summer!

After 38 years of practicing dentistry, Dr. Lee Salisbury will be retiring from private practice to start a new chapter in his life. With several new grandchildren, he is looking forward to spending time with his family and traveling with his wife.

We thank Dr. Salisbury for the time he spent at Enlighten Dental Care and the relationships he has established with the many patients in our practice. He wishes to convey his deepest gratitude for the privilege of serving as your dentist through the years!

We are also excited to welcome Dr. Mary Katherine Taylor to the Enlighten Dental Care team! Dr. Taylor is from Boonville, N.C., and attended Wake Forest University for her undergraduate degree. She graduated from UNC Chapel Hill School of Dentistry in May 2016. While in Chapel Hill, she trained with some of Dr. Salisbury’s and Dr. Driscoll’s colleagues, and she is deeply involved with the UNC chapter of the American Association of Public Health Dentistry.

Outside of work, Dr. Taylor enjoys playing volleyball, traveling, being outdoors and spending time with family and friends. Her genuine passion for dentistry and desire to serve others here locally made her the perfect addition to our practice family.

Dr. Taylor is accepting new patients. Please contact us at (336) 765-0904 to schedule your appointment today!

How Diabetes Can Affect Your Teeth

DiabetesIMGA recent study from the University of Nevada and Emory University Schools of Medicine found that people with diabetes are 1.46 more times likely to lose their teeth than people without diabetes. In addition, people with diabetes are more likely to lose their teeth earlier in life, as well as experience more severe and frequent periodontal disease and dental caries.

Two Types of Diabetes

There are two types of diabetes. People who have Type 1 diabetes (formerly called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes) have a total lack of insulin, which the body uses to convert sugar, starches and food into energy. With Type 1, the body’s immune system destroys the cells that release insulin.

In people who have Type 2 diabetes (formerly called adult-onset diabetes or non insulin-dependent diabetes), the body is unable to utilize insulin correctly and becomes insulin resistant. As Type 2 worsens, the pancreas may make less and less insulin. Type 2 diabetes can develop at any age, and the incidence in children is rising.

How Diabetes Affects Teeth and Gums

Anyone can develop gum disease, but past research found that many people with diabetes have low awareness of good dental health and are less likely to see a dentist. High blood glucose can contribute to bacteria growth, so if blood glucose levels stay high, teeth and gum problems will be worse. In addition, gum disease itself can increase blood sugar, which can lead to diabetic complications, thus leading to vicious cycle.

In addition, smoking is a very strong contributor to a bad case of gum disease, particularly if the person is over 45.

This latest study also found that after controlling several factors, older patients, those who did not floss and those with diabetic retinopathy had more dental loss than others.

What Can You Do?

People with diabetes need to be even more diligent about their oral care and make sure they inform their dental team about their diabetes. Brush and floss your teeth every day, don’t smoke and don’t skip dental check-ups. Be diligent about taking your diabetes medication and checking your blood glucose levels to keep everything under control.

A British study found that dealing with oral health problems of people with diabetes soon after diagnosis can save substantial money in medical treatments later on. So if you have diabetes and are experiencing red, sore or bleeding gums, schedule a dental appointment as soon as possible!

Get Screened! April is Oral Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Month

indexDid you know that every time you have a dentist appointment at Enlighten Dental Care, you are also being screened for cancer? We do a visual examination of all the soft tissues in the mouth, which includes manually extending the tongue to examine its base, palpating the floor of the mouth, and digitally examining the borders of the tongue and the lymph nodes surrounding the oral cavity and neck.

Why do we do this? Each year, there are approximately 45,000 new cases of mouth and throat cancer diagnosed, and about 13 percent of those die within the same year. Early detection means treatment is more likely to be successful, which is just one more reason why regular dental check-ups are so important.

Are you at risk for mouth and throat cancer? Here are some of the risk factors you may be able to minimize or control:

  • Use of tobacco products. This includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff. The amount and length of time you have used the product matters as well.
  • Heavy drinking is associated with oral cancer, particularly when combined with smoking.
  • HPV infection. Human papilloma viruses are involved in some cancers, and about 25 percent of patients with oral cancers are infected with the same HPVs as are seen with cervical cancer.
  • UV exposure. Lip cancers are more common among people who work outdoors or have prolonged exposure to sunlight.
  • Poor nutrition. Studies have found a link between diets low in fruits and vegetables and an increased risk.
  • Chewing betel quid. Usually used in other parts of the world, such as Asia, these are small parcels that typically contain areca nuts, wrapped in a betel leaf coated with slaked lime and may contain tobacco.

During your dental exam, we are checking your face, neck and mouth for lumps, red or white patches, and sore areas that do not heal. If you have noticed any changes in your mouth or neck, it is important to let us know so that we can examine the area more closely. Don’t be afraid to speak up — the earlier a cancer is detected the better, and it may just save your life.

For more information, visit And schedule your dental check-up with Enlighten Dental Care today!

Top Health Reasons to Prevent Gum Disease

World Oral Health DayOn March 20, 2016, we celebrate World Oral Health Day, an international day to celebrate the benefits of a healthy mouth and to promote worldwide awareness of the issues around oral health and the importance of oral hygiene for old and young. This year’s theme is:

It all starts here. Healthy mouth. Healthy body.

Why do we place so much importance on brushing, flossing and regular dental health check-ups? One of the main reasons is to prevent gum disease — an inflammation of the gum line that can progress and become more serious and end up affecting the bone that surrounds and supports your teeth.

Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease can affect more than your mouth. In fact, more and more research is showing that the inflammation — not the bacteria in the mouth — is the factor that is associated with several other diseases. Beyond simply avoiding bad breath and keeping your teeth intact, here are some of the top reasons to prevent falling prey to gum disease.

  • Cognitive decline. Recent research found that gum disease may be associated with a faster cognitive decline in people who have early Alzheimer’s disease.  The scientists measured patients’ cognitive ability and inflammatory markers in their blood samples, and had their oral health assessed by a dental hygienist. When the researchers followed up six months later, they found that if a person had gum disease, they had a six-fold increase of cognitive decline, as well as increased inflammation.
  • Increased complications in patients with diabetes. Research has found that the relationship between gum disease and diabetes is a two-way street — people with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease, and people with gum disease who have diabetes may find it more difficult to control their blood sugar. Blood sugar that is poorly controlled can put people at risk of diabetic complications.
  • Increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Scientists believe that inflammation caused by gum disease is linked to and increases the risk of heart disease; however, no causal relationship has been identified. In addition, a study that looked for a link between stroke and gum disease found that people diagnosed with acute cerebrovascular ischemia were more likely to have an oral infection when compared to those in the control group.
  • Respiratory problems. Scientists have found that bacteria that grow in the mouth could be aspirated into the lungs and cause respiratory diseases such as pneumonia.
    Increased risk of cancer. Surprisingly, researchers have found that men with a history of gum disease were 14 percent more likely to develop cancer. Some cancers — including kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer and blood cancers — carried a 30 percent or more risk.

The three stages of gum disease are gingivitis, periodontitis and advanced periodontitis. Gum disease is treatable, and early intervention is important. If you have swollen, tender, red or bleeding gums — or any other signs of gum disease — schedule an appointment with Enlighten Dental Care today.

Dry Mouth — Not Good for Your Teeth!

Email_571b2d4fc9e54428bf8e0bb15357873fAre you frequently thirsty with a sticky, dry feeling in the mouth? During these cold winter months when the air is dry and many have colds and other viruses, you may have a condition called dry mouth.

Dry mouth, also known by its formal name xerostomia,” is a condition in which your mouth becomes unusually dry, most often because of a decrease in the production of saliva by the salivary glands. The condition can lead to bad breath, tooth decay, periodontal disease and even candidiasis infection because the oral microflora are disturbed.

What Causes Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth can be caused by several things, including:

  • Medications, such as antihistamines and antidepressants
  • Medical conditions (for example, poorly controlled diabetes)
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Caffeine
  • Spicy foods
  • Sleeping with your mouth open

What Damage Can Dry Mouth Cause?

A recent study found that sleeping with your mouth open can be as damaging for your teeth as drinking a fizzy soda before bed.

When your mouth is dry, the protective effect of saliva is removed. Why does this matter? Saliva has the natural ability to kill the bacteria in the mouth that produce acid. When acid levels in the mouth rise, that is when tooth decay and erosion occurs.

Treating Dry Mouth

If you’re experiencing dry mouth due to a certain medication, talk to your physician about changing the medication or decreasing the dosage. In addition, talk to your dentist about the condition. There are oral rinses that can increase mouth moisture, and there is also a medication that can increase saliva production.

Other things you can try to reduce dry mouth include:

  • Sucking on sugar-free candy or chewing sugar-free gum
  • Drinking water
  • Breathing through your nose instead of your mouth as much s possible
  • Using vaporizers to increase moisture in the air

And, most importantly, always brush with a fluoride toothpaste, floss and visit your dentist regularly. If you have questions about dry mouth, please call Enlighten Dental Care at (336) 765-0904.