The emergence of activated charcoal dental products is one of the latest fads to hit the teeth whitening field. And while activated charcoal is a proven product for the removal of toxins, can it really whiten your teeth? And is it even safe to use on your enamel.
First, what is activated charcoal? Assuming that we all know what charcoal is, activated charcoal is not what you would use in your BBQ. To make activated charcoal takes an additional step of heating regular charcoal along with gases. This process creates tons of little pockets in the charcoal. It is now “activated” and all those tiny holes actually suck in and trap chemicals and toxins.
The use of charcoal on teeth goes back centuries. The theory is that the charcoal will draw out toxins and chemicals from the enamel. The removal of these substances will then brighten up the teeth.
And while in theory this does work, in reality it can not only damage your teeth but in the long run the regular use of charcoal can actually darken your teeth.
Charcoal is highly abrasive and the daily use of such abrasiveness can actually wear down your enamel, exposing the dentin layer underneath. And as the dentin is actually darker, the result is that your teeth will look darker–not the result you were going for!
But that is only the cosmetic side of things. Enamel does NOT grow back. It is very hard but once it is gone, or worn down, your teeth are going to be at risk. They will become more sensitive, they will be more prone to tooth decay and overall, they are going to be weakened.
The abrasiveness problem is compounded by the fact that most people use toothbrushes that are too hard and they also apply far too much pressure.
One other thing to consider is that an overly abrasive toothpaste will create multiple “scratches” on the otherwise smooth enamel. (This action was backed up by a clinical study of the effect on enamel of brushing with charcoal toothpaste) It does not take more than common sense to realize that a rough surface would create a much better place for plaque and bacteria to grab onto!
Overall, using activated charcoal on your teeth is not a good risk/reward proposition.
Yes, activated charcoal can draw out toxins, but this generally takes time. As almost all time spent brushing teeth is well under 2 minutes, this does not really give adequate time to effectively draw out the toxins and any discoloration.
And, as a final point, even the Journal of the American Dental Association stated that, “Dental clinicians should advise their patients to be cautious when using charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices with unproven claims of efficacy and safety.”
Considering all the above, the risks outweigh the benefits–especially for daily, regular use.
However, if you do want to use activated charcoal toothpaste, or other such products, our recommendation is to use it only occasionally and not to brush with it. Instead, you could just apply some paste to your teeth and let it sit on your teeth to potentially absorb toxins.
There are better and more effective ways to brighten your teeth. Hydrogen peroxide remains the safest and the most proven product out there.
Your dentist can provide professional whitening services, you can use at home bleaching trays, there are numerous whitening strip products and of course toothpastes with hydrogen peroxide.
And there are even studies out there that are supporting the use of specific oral probiotics (that naturally produce hydrogen peroxide) as an effective long-term means of whitening your smile.