Charcoal toothpastes and tooth powders are all the rage! They are the subject of hundreds of cosmetic blogs and how-to videos. The hashtag #charcoaltoothpaste results in over 17,000 images on Instagram! Countless brands are available through various online vendors.
Marketers and fans of charcoal toothpaste and powders claim that charcoal is the perfect ingredient for cleaning and whitening teeth.
This claim is based on the absorption properties of activated charcoal. Many people know that charcoal is helpful in treating patients who eat or drink something poisonous. This is because the activated charcoal is very porous and absorbs the poison. That same absorption is the basis for the cleaning and whitening claims of charcoal toothpastes and powders.
The assumption is that activated charcoal will clean the teeth by absorbing bacteria and whiten the teeth by absorbing stains.
Activated charcoal toothpastes and powders are also popular because they are generally much less expensive than teeth whitening products. Everyone wants white teeth, and the thought of getting results for the cost of a tube of toothpaste is too tempting to resist.
There is also the novelty of using something black to make your teeth more white!
Unfortunately, we do not really know what activated charcoal toothpaste does and does not do. There is currently not enough scientific research to support the claims of greater cleaning and whitening action. What little research is currently available on charcoal products does not support any advantages over traditional toothpaste.
More research is needed before any real benefits can be confirmed.
We do know that any whitening effect someone gets from using charcoal products is not actual teeth whitening. Teeth whitening requires a chemical that penetrates enamel and oxidizes chemicals that cause discoloration. Teeth whitening literally changes the color of the tooth from the inside out.
A toothpaste cannot do this. Even “whitening” toothpastes do not do this.
Instead, they make the teeth look whiter by polishing away surface stains. Anyone who drinks coffee, smokes or uses other tobacco products, or drinks tea and red wine will experience staining of the teeth. These stains build up on the outer surface of the tooth. Any toothpaste that claims whitening power, including charcoal toothpaste, is only polishing away the external stains from the enamel, not literally changing the color of the tooth from the inside out.
Therefore, the whitening effect you see from using charcoal products is no different from the results of a traditional whitening toothpaste.
We don’t know.
There is a lack of research showing evidence of either safety or danger to enamel. The American Dental Association recently published a scientific literature review of all of the published research studies on charcoal products for teeth. Their conclusion was that since there isn’t enough scientific support, they cannot give a green light on charcoal products.
Another concern dentists have with activated charcoal products is that many people are using DIY or homemade products, which cannot be studied. The mixture you make at home of charcoal from capsules and coconut oil may have a much more abrasive texture than a product made specifically for teeth.
The abrasion of gritty whitening toothpaste can actually remove enamel!
This means that as you are brushing, you are removing more than just the surface stains. When enamel gets thinner, it becomes more yellow over time, no matter how much you whiten!
Call today to schedule a consultation with one of our dental experts. We can answer all of your questions about the use of charcoal products, and recommend other products that have been proven safe!