Please Don’t Try to Whiten Your Teeth with Charcoal

Many conversations are occurring on the internet about tooth whitening. Some offer good advice. But some are pushing ideas that are simply harmful in some way. Before you try some method that you find online check with your dentist. Be certain that what you are planning to try will not damage your teeth.

A case in point is the current trend that suggests the use of charcoal to whiten your teeth. Please don’t try this. Duringcharcoal toothpasts - paid -shutterstock 1017408808 the last two years people have been discovering new ways to use activated charcoal for their health and beauty needs. One such use is cleaning skin with charcoal, which absorbs the oils and stains. The thinking seems to be that if charcoal works so well for the skin, it should also work for teeth, making them whiter.

Charcoal is “wood that has been placed inside a low oxygen environment like a steel or clay box and heated to over 1000 degrees F.” The lack of oxygen ensures that the wood cannot be lit nor can it burn. The heating process removes water, tar, gasses, and other elements in the wood through melting or evaporation. What remains at the end of the process is pure carbon and ash. Brushing with charcoal means that you are rubbing a very hard substance against your delicate teeth.

While most toothpaste contains abrasive elements that clean your teeth, these elements are significantly less damaging that charcoal. In fact, the abrasiveness of the charcoal can actually damage your teeth by eroding the enamel on your teeth. What immediately appears to be whiter teeth will fade over time, making the teeth appear yellow. When charcoal is used incorrectly or too often, it erodes the enamel. When the enamel is eroded, what becomes visible is the underlying dentin.

The effect of a long-term use of charcoal to brush your tooth to whiteness is actually harmful to your teeth. What people do not seem to understand is that damage to tooth enamel is permanent. When you remove the enamel, you cannot replace it.

We recommend oral hygiene products that have earned the Seal of Acceptance from the American Dental Association (ADA). This seal has not been given to charcoal. In fact, the ADA included this statement in an article in its journal last year: There is “insufficient clinical and laboratory data to substantiate the safety and efficacy claims of charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices.”

Before risking permanent damage to your teeth and gums, always use products that pass two tests: the seal of the ADA and the recommendation of your dentist.

Frequent Marijuana Use and Your Mouth

In the last four-and-one-half years (since 2013) the use of has doubled in the U.S. Marijuana is used both medically and recreationally. As most people know, there are psychological and physical effects of marijuana. But do you know what it does in your mouth?

Whether marijuana is smoked, baked into foods or applied as a topical cream marijuana can have a number of harmful marijuana-pixabay cco - 1832435 640effects. Its use can cause an immediate increase in heart rate, dilation of the blood vessels and circulation interruptions. This results in an increase in blood pressure and a decrease in the ability of the ability of the blood vessels to carry oxygen throughout the body. Some very limited studies have suggested that the risk of heart attack is five times more likely to happen in the first hour of marijuana use. Although users typically report feeling relaxed, calm or sleepy, marijuana can also cause anxiety, paranoia and hallucinations.

It is important that your dental hygienist and your dentist know about your marijuana use before administering any drugs.

The first effect of marijuana in your mouth is typically dry mouth. Many people have attributed this response to the effect of smoking marijuana. A few limited studies have suggested, however, that this effect may occur with other uses of the substance. Dry mouth fosters tooth decay. In fact, research confirms that when compared with non-users, marijuana users have significantly higher incidence of tooth decay. Other effects of marijuana use at least monthly include

  • increased risk of periodontal disease
  • increased risk of head and neck cancers (marijuana contains carcinogens)
  • appearance of red pre-cancerous lesions
  • development of non-cancerous discolored patches
  • thick, white patches forming on your tongue and the lining of your mouth
  • stomatitis-like lesions, uvulitis and gingival enlargement.

It is important that your hygienist and your dentist know about your marijuana use because they will need to look for and monitor any of these effects.

Some dentists do not look for effects of marijuana use when examining patients. Because of the oral risks associated with marijuana use, please inform your dentist.

At Complete Dental Care of Salem, VA, we do not judge; nor do we ever share any information about your health with others. Please keep this in mind when you come into the office and help us to help you by informing us about your marijuana use. The goal is always to improve your dental and general health.

Are Swollen Taste Buds a Real Thing?

Your taste buds (which allow you to enjoy various flavors) are located on the tiny round bumps at the back of your tongue (called papillae). Your taste buds can be swollen due to irritation of the taste buds, or they can be damaged or burned. Taste buds typically regenerate every week or two. But they can be damaged in several ways. There are small projections in the taste buds that are a bit like hairs. They send messages to the brain – particularly about tastes. If they are damaged, you cannot taste your food. Swollen taste buds are not uncommon. The National Institutes of Health tongue of purple smiley- pixabay cco - 42842 1280estimates that 200,000 people seek treatment for problems with their sense of taste.

What irritates taste buds sufficiently to cause swelling? Here are some common causes of taste bud irritation.

  • Dry mouth
  • Burns, cuts or injuries to your mouth or tongue that cause swelling and inflammation.
  • Acid that rises up the throat due to acid reflux
  • Eating very spicy foods or very spicy foods
  • Eating extremely hot or cold food or drinking very hot or cold beverages
  • Infections (flu, colds, fungal infection, bacterial infection)
  • Smoking
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Dental problems
  • Medications that are highly acidic on your tongue

The taste buds can be white or bright red in appearance. They may also have blisters filled with fluid (pustules on the tongue). Under normal conditions taste buds are not visible to the naked eye.

Because your body regenerates the taste buds regularly, swollen taste buds typically resolve quickly on their own. If, however, you have long-term swelling or your sense of smell is also affected, you should see a doctor. Swollen taste buds are sometimes symptoms of tongue cancer, which makes it critical that you see a doctor or dentist for long-term symptoms.

Treatment for swollen taste buds is determined by the cause of the problem. If the cause is infection, for example, the appropriate treatment is antibiotics. In some cases other medications may be prescribed to reduce the swelling. Other treatments may include:

  • Quit smoking
  • Brush and floss your teeth at least twice each day
  • Use a special toothpaste and rinse to treat chronic dry mouth
  • Using a warm salt water gargle several times each day
  • Hold ice chips on your tongue to reduce the swelling
  • Take medication to reduce acid reflux

Your doctor or dentist will talk with you about the best treatment options for you.

If you believe your chronic compromised sense of taste might be due to swollen taste buds, come in. Let’s determine the cause and find the right treatment for you.

My Mouth Is Burning!

Your mouth is burning, but you have not had anything hot to eat or drink. What is going on?


It might be Burning Mouth Syndrome (BMS), a very real condition (also known as "stomatopyrosis"). It is painful and frustrating,

and it typically affects middle-aged or older women. Burning mouth syndrome affects nearly 1.3 million Americans.


Here is the essential information you might need to know.graphicstock-portrait-of-aged-women-doing-yoga-exercise - SM H0zkv2sF-Z


Here are two definitions:


The International Association for the Study of Pain defines burning mouth syndrome as "a distinctive nosological entity characterized by unremitting oral burning or similar pain in the absence of detectable mucosal changes, and "burning pain in the tongue or other oral mucous membranes." 


The International Headache Society defines it as "an intra-oral burning sensation for which no medical or dental cause can be found."


Symptoms of Burning Mouth Syndrome

  • Moderate to severe burning in the mouth
  • Tingling or numbness of the tip of your tongue or elsewhere in your mouth
  • Metallic or bitter taste
  • Dry or sore mouth

Often the symptoms intensify over the course of the day. But the pain usually subsides at night.

According to the Mayo Clinic: “Whatever pattern of mouth discomfort you have, burning mouth syndrome may last for months to years. In rare cases, symptoms may suddenly go away on their own or become less frequent. ... Burning mouth syndrome usually doesn't cause any noticeable physical changes to your tongue or mouth.”


Causes of Burning Mouth Syndrome

Sometimes, the cause of burning mouth is easy to identify and diagnose. It is not uncommon, however, to be unable to identify a cause of the burning. Among the possible causes of burning mouth syndrome are the following:

  • Damage to nerves that control taste and pain in the mouth
  • Hormonal changes
  • Dry mouth – often cause by other disorders and medications (Diabetes, Sjogren’s syndrome).
  • Deficiencies in nutrition
  • Oral candidiasis (a fungal infection in the mouth)
  • Acid reflux
  • Poorly fitting dentures, allergies to denture materials
  • Anxiety and depression (although sometimes burning mouth can cause anxiety and depression).

In some cases, more than one of these factors are causing the burning


Diagnosing Burning Mouth Syndrome

Diagnosis is typically based on your medical history, an oral examination, and a general medical exam. This might suggest that your primary care physician and your dentist could work together. Some tests are often made to assist in the diagnosis:

  • Blood tests for infections, nutritional deficiencies, diabetes or thyroid conditions.
  • Oral swab test for oral candidiasis.
  • Allergy testing for some foods, denture materials (when appropriate), or other types of allergies.

Treating Burning Mouth Syndrome

Treatment is always individualized based on suspected causes of burning mouth. That said, there are a number of possible treatments, including:

  • Replacing or adjusting dentures
  • Dietary adjustments to respond to nutritional deficiencies
  • Treating contributing illnesses (diabetes, thyroid problems, Sjogren’s syndrome)
  • When possible, changing medications that may be causing or contributing to the problem
  • Taking appropriate medications (as recommended by your physician or dentist) to relieve dry mouth, to treat oral candidiasis, to mitigate pain from nerve damage, to relieve anxiety and depression.

What You Can Do to Manage Burning Mouth Syndrome

  • Sip water frequently
  • Suck on ice chips
  • Avoid hot, spicy foods
  • Avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol
  • Avoid products that are high in acid
  • Chew sugarless gum
  • Brush your dentures or teeth with baking soda and water
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco.
I Have White Gums! Why?

“White gums seem abnormal. But this morning I looked in the mirror while brushing my teeth and the gums are white. Why did this happen? What does it mean? What do I need to do?”

White gums typically indicate that something is wrong in your mouth. Yet there is no need to panic. White gums can be caused by canker sores or oral cancer or many other problems in between.white gums - paid -shutterstock 211849876

Leading Causes of White Gums

There are a number of common causes of white gums. Some are simple and easily treated. But they can be a symptom of oral cancer. What are these leading causes?

  1. Leukoplakia can turn parts of the gums white. Typically, white patches emerge that cannot be removed with your toothbrush. Although we do not know exactly what causes leukoplakia, many believe there is a connection with tobacco. Most cases are essentially harmless. However, some cases are precancerous or cancerous.
  2. Anemia can turn gums white. Usually caused by Vitamin B12 or Iron deficiencies, Crohn’s disease or celiac disease. Anemia involved a shortage of red blood cells, which carry oxygen and blood through your body. Many people with anemia have very pale skin. Sometimes this includes white gums.
  3. Canker sores can also turn portions of the mouth or gums white. These sores (ulcers) develop in the mouth or on the gums and may be painful. They tend to be oval or round and they typically are a light color in the center, ringed by red. These will not change the color of your entire mouth – just the area of the sore.
  4. Gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease (periodontitis). The most common cause of gingivitis is poor dental hygiene, although some conditions cause dry mouth which also contributes to the condition. About half of all Americans have gingivitis. In time, gingivitis can cause the gums to recede and turn white.
  5. Oral Lichen Planus produces lacy white patches on tongue, gums and inside the mouth. This chronic autoimmune condition may cause pain, gum inflammation, and bleeding gums. This condition puts people at risk of nutritional deficiencies and mouth infections of several kinds. It can also lead to oral cancer.
  6. Thrush is a yeast infection. This causes raised whitish sores on the inside of cheeks, on the tongue or on the gums. Older adults, diabetics, and babies are particularly susceptible to thrush.
  7. Extraction of a tooth. Occasionally, after extracting a tooth the immediately surrounding gums may turn white temporarily. They pink up in a few days.
  8. Professional tooth whitening. This process may cause the gums to appear brighter or white briefly. Normal color typically returns in a matter of hours
  9. Oral Cancer. One symptom of oral cancer is white gums. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 50,000 Americans will develop oral cancer or oropharyngeal cancer this year.

The causes of white gums can be difficult to differentiate, except those causes that clear up naturally in a matter of hours or days. It is vital that you see your dentist as soon as possible if your gums are white because oral cancer spreads very quickly. Tell the receptionist in your dentist’s office about the problem when you call for an appointment.

Other symptoms of oral cancer include

  • Other mouth sores
  • Bleeding inside your mouth
  • Growths or lumps in your mouth
  • Thickening of the skin inside your mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Pain in your tongue or jaw
  • Difficulty swallowing or chewing
  • Sore throat


The first step in treating white gums is a visit to your dentist. It is important to have a professional check of the area to rule out cancer and to identify the cause of your gums turning white. Different causes of white gums require different treatments. Your dentist will be able to identify the probable cause of the problem. She/he can then treat you or tell you how to treat the problem at home.

If you observe white gums, call to make an appointment with your dentist immediately. It is important to have an examination to rule out cancer or to identify it and begin appropriate treatment.

Although white gums usually are innocuous, sometimes they indicate cancer. My suggestion is that you not panic. Just see your dentist as soon as possible for an evaluation and appropriate treatment.

When we know there is a white gums issue, we make every effort to see you as soon as possible. If you observe white gums, call us for an appointment.



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