Activated Charcoal to Whiten Teeth

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A DIY trend has emerged recommending the use of activated charcoal to whiten the teeth. At first, users would have to go to their local health food store to purchase activated charcoal capsules, open the capsule, and make a “paste” with the charcoal powder and water. Shortly after that, smart marketers started manufacturing ready-made pastes and powders. Is this whitening method safe and effective?

What exactly is activated charcoal? Charcoal is derived from wood, coal, or other materials. It becomes activated when “high temperatures are combined with a gas or activating agent to expand its surface area.” The process transforms the charcoal into a porous material that draws out and attracts impurities like a magnet thus leaving the area clean.

Should activated charcoal be used as a tooth whitening agent? This process most likely began in someone’s bathroom and not in a controlled dental laboratory. More traditional and legitimate testing needs to be performed to determine if the process is effective and safe. The American Dental Association has released the following statement: “Dental clinicians should advise their patients to be cautious when using charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices with unproven claims of efficacy and safety.”

The biggest safety concern with using activated charcoal is the potential for dentin abrasion and erosion, and where the product falls on the Relative Dentin Abrasion (RDA) scale. Using these agents long term can cause harmful abrasion, erosion, sensitivity, and the need for restorative treatment.

If you’re looking to whiten your smile, it’s best to seek the advice of dental professionals. Always consult with your dentist and while shopping over the counter, search for products with the ADA seal of acceptance.

Comprehensive Dental Care v. Need-Based Treatment

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As the new year begins, you may be thinking of ways to increase revenue in your practice. Although this approach isn’t new, comprehensive dental care is only routinely followed by about 20% of dental practices. Most procedures on the doctor’s schedule involve one tooth based on an acute condition. The comprehensive approach won’t apply to every single patient, but it will definitely be beneficial for a fair number of patients.

Many dental professionals forget that they are the expert when it comes to dental care, and simply focus on the task at hand. It’s extremely prudent to take a step back and look at the entire picture or the patient as a whole. Also, seeing patients every six months for years and years makes the team tend to overlook potential treatment that has been on the patient’s “to-do” list. Following are some tips to help implement the comprehensive approach:

  1. The Comprehensive Examination- The comprehensive examination is an all-inclusive oral health evaluation usually performed on a new patient. However, it’s also important to do a comprehensive exam on established patients at least every three years. This exam includes a thorough evaluation of the medical history,  a full set of x-rays, periodontal charting, existing dental conditions, short-term treatment, and long-term treatment goals.
  2. The Comprehensive Treatment Plan- The comprehensive treatment plan includes prioritizing needs and creating a long-term strategy. This opens the door for a one on one discussion with the patient and should include plenty of time for discussion and questions. Visual aids should be incorporated and time should also be allotted with the financial coordinator to make any necessary financial arrangements.
  3. Re-evaluation of the Treatment Plan- It’s imperative to revisit the original treatment plan and update as needed. Referencing the original plan at least once per year reminds the patient that you’re valuing their overall health and not just treating immediate issues. The re-evaluation also takes into consideration any new technologies and treatment options. Team members should be included in the re-evaluation process because patients spend a lot of one on one time with them as well.

Taking this approach will not only ensure that patients are receiving the best care but also increase production and satisfaction in the practice.

A Patient's Guide to Basic Restorative Dentistry

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Crowns, Fillings, Implants, and Bridges are just some of the terms your Dentist may have mentioned during your appointment. Restorative dentistry is the phrase used to describe how missing teeth are replaced or the restoration of damaged or decayed teeth. The goal is to maintain your smile, prevent future issues, and restore proper form and functions thereby keeping you comfortable and happy. What do these common terms mean?

  1. Crowns- also referred to as “caps.” A crown is a custom-made restoration that is permanently cemented to the tooth. The tooth is prepared for the crown by reducing the size and shape. Impressions are taken and usually sent to a laboratory where the crown is fabricated. A temporary crown is placed on the tooth while the permanent crown is being made. Crowns are necessary when there isn’t enough viable tooth structure left for a filling. This procedure is changing and evolving making it easier and more time efficient with the usage of dental scanners.
  2. Fillings- A filling is necessary when the tooth has decayed (a cavity). Before the filling is placed, the dentist will remove the decay and then fill the area with gold, silver (amalgam), or composite resin (tooth-colored). The most common material used today for fillings is tooth-colored composite resin. This resin is available in many different shades and can be matched to most all shades of enamel.
  3. Implants- Although unfortunate, sometimes a tooth must be extracted (pulled). Today, we are very fortunate to have implant technology. An implant is usually a titanium “screw” that is placed into the bone acting as the root of the tooth. An “abutment” goes into the implant and sticks out above the gumline so that a crown can be cemented to the abutment.
  4. Bridges- A bridge is another restorative treatment to replace a missing tooth. It’s usually three teeth in a row and is one solid piece cemented to the adjoining teeth on either side of the missing tooth. On either side of the missing tooth is a natural tooth (referred to as the Abutment) with an “artificial” tooth in the middle (referred to as the Pontic).

These are just some of the more common restorative procedures performed in the dental office. As a patient, please voice your concerns and ask questions regarding your treatment and all available options. Communicate with your dental team to ensure you receive the best outcome for your situation.

Why you may have never heard about Silver Diamine Fluoride (SDF)

Silver diamine fluoride (SDF) is a “colorless liquid that has a pH of 24.4% to 28.8% (weight/volume) silver and 5.0% to 5.9% fluoride”. It has been used globally for decades in the treatment and prevention of decay. The FDA approved Silver diamine fluoride for the use of desensitization in 2014, and it became available in the U.S. in 2015. Although approved for use in desensitization, it is being used off-label to treat decay in specific situations.

There are some reasons why you may have never heard of it or been approached by a company representative to begin using it in your practice. Only one company in the U.S. sells SDF under the brand name Advantage Arrest (Elevate Oral Care, LLC). Perhaps the most important usage note of SDF is that it will stain most oxidizable surfaces black upon exposure to light because of the formation of a silver oxide layer. Skin and soft tissue will discolor within minutes to hours after contact and fade away within a few days as the tissue sloughs off and renews. Dentin and enamel with no demineralization may receive surface stain that can be removed with pumice. However, demineralized tooth structure will stain black permanently.

Permanent black staining may or may not be a deal breaker depending on the location of the tooth. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of placing SDF?


  1. Provides immediate relief from dentinal hypersensitivity
  2. Strengthens and hardens softened dentin
  3. Arrests active caries if applied at proper intervals
  4. Makes treatment available to patients who can’t afford extensive dental treatment, patients who can’t withstand treatment, or those who are unable to get to the dentist
  5. Can be used effectively to halt recurrent decay and prolong the life of extensive dental restorations or provide relief to questionable restorable teeth
  6. Provides clinical proof of hidden carious lesions
  7. Very cost effective and easy to apply, but caution must be used in application


  1. Permanent black staining of demineralized tooth structure and temporary staining of mineralized tooth structure and soft tissues
  2. Requires more than a single application
  3. Unpleasant metallic taste
  4. Can irritate gingival and mucosal surfaces
  5. Insurance may not cover
  6. Can’t be used on patients who are allergic to silver, pregnant patients, or in the presence of open soft-tissue lesions
  7. It’s corrosive to metal and glass

SDF is worth looking into for very specific cases and could be of use in your practice.

Dentistry and Social Media

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Once upon a time, advertising a dental practice included word of mouth, referrals, mailers, phone book ads, and very few other options. Today, while the marketing possibilities seem endless, there is a learning curve. With the introduction of the internet, advertising and marketing have evolved into this awesome opportunity which can be very cost effective for your budget and produce excellent results for your practice.

Participating in social media is mandatory these days because it’s estimated that 75% of consumers turn to social media for help with purchasing and personal care decisions. Therefore, using social media effectively can boost the power of your patient referral marketing programs dramatically and cost efficiently.

Following are strategies to help get your social media campaign off of the ground:

  1. Choose a team member to spearhead the project- Launching a media campaign is extremely important, and a team member who is fluent in social media or can learn it quickly should be in charge of daily handling. A marketing coordinator can either establish and run the campaigns daily, or teach a team member to manage the social media feeds. Social media accounts must be monitored and engaged with daily. It’s time-consuming, but the pay off can be enormous.
  2. Begin with Facebook- Facebook is the biggest hitter in the social media field and attracts the broadest range of media users. Facebook has a wide range of interests, and any person or business can join easily. Other platforms concentrate on specific content and certain demographics making them a little more involved and time-consuming. Facebook also interconnects effortlessly with other social media sites such as Instagram, Twitter, and Google+.
  3. Entice and encourage followers- Simply ask all patients to “like” your page and posts and have them “follow” the practice. Most patients will know what you want them to do and it’s certainly simple. Post interesting and informative material and have straightforward giveaways and contests. You have to give people a reason to want to follow you and take the time to read what you’re posting.
  4. Don’t stray too far from the topic- Be mindful of what you want to accomplish and don’t stray too far off topic in your engagement. Stay focused on dentistry and branding for your practice. Build the value of your practice by discussing continuing education courses taken by the team, new technology, awards, fun trips, and personal experiences of the team. You want to make the practice seem knowledgeable and professional while keeping it approachable and friendly as well.
  5. Don’t be limited to words- Graphics including pictures, meme’s, and gif’s engage people much quicker than words and can be humorous making patients want to see what you’ll post next.

Establishing a social media presence will be one of the most important steps in taking your practice to the next level and establishing what can be an incredible and cost-effective marketing tool.

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