Over the past few years, charcoal-activated toothpaste has been making the rounds on many mediums. You may have seen it on television, online, and even in your friends’ social media profiles. Either way, many questions arise when talking about the effectiveness of charcoal toothpaste. Questions like, “Does it work? Is it better than whitening toothpaste? Is it safe? What does my dentist think about it?” And so on.
Today, your dentist wanted to clear up any misconceptions related to charcoal toothpaste and what other organizations are saying about its use. That way, you know that risks that come with it and whether it’s worth using to whiten teeth.
What is Charcoal Toothpaste?
Activated charcoal has actually been in use for a very long time. In ancient times, charcoal was used to alleviate symptoms due to poisoning. According to the National Institutes of Health, it was used to treat severe cases of toothpaste overdose, ironically enough.
In present day, charcoal is meant to be an alternative to more traditional methods of teeth-whitening. Ideally, it’s meant to provide a whiter, brighter smile in a more natural way, without the use of abrasive, bleaching agents typically found in teeth-whitening products.
How Does Charcoal Toothpaste Work?
Activated-charcoal is meant to adsorb toxins, poisons, or in this case stains on the teeth. It does this by adsorbing poisons into its million of tiny pores. Adsorption is a chemical reaction where elements bind to a surface, which in this case refers to the surface of your teeth.
The science of activated charcoal itself has been well-documented and used in other more traditional forms. Hospitals use it in their air-filtering systems to adsorb airborne bacteria and protect patients. If you have a water filter, there’s likely a sedimentary filter inside it that uses activated charcoal to remove chemicals from your tap water.
However, before you buy a $30 bottle of the stuff, you’ll want to consider what other institutions are saying about its effectiveness.
Is Charcoal Toothpaste Safe?
According to the American Dental Association, activated-charcoal toothpaste is far too abrasive to be used safely on teeth. It’s so abrasive, it can wear away tooth enamel. Since tooth enamel is non-regenerative, any enamel that’s worn off is gone permanently. This only exposes the naturally-yellow dentin underneath, so it’s more likely that you’ll have a more yellow and stained smile as a result.
Furthermore, there’s no evidence that charcoal toothpaste works better than whitening toothpaste or any treatment from a cosmetic dentistry. It’s use also poses many questions that are still unanswered. For example, we don’t know how good oral bacteria reacts to charcoal nor do we know how it reacts to medications patients are already taking. We also don’t know have an accurate measurement of how abrasive it is like we do with other teeth-whitening agents.
Because of these unknowns, your dentist can’t truly recommend it at this time. Instead, consider scheduling an appointment to have your teeth whitening in the office or via take-home whitening kits!
About the Author
Dr. Brian L. Eck earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. With over 35 years of experience practicing dentistry, Dr. Eck is a master of clinical expertise, including in cosmetic dentistry. To learn more about his cosmetic treatments and practice, contact him at (210) 361-8905 or visit his website.