If the title of this article caught your attention I’m sure you are wondering if charcoal toothpaste actually works to brighten your smile. With so many new trends out there these days it’s always hard to know if something will actually work for you and so if you’re anything like me, you research the topic until you are comfortable with a decision. Today I am not going to share with you a personal testimony – because there are plenty of those out there for you to view I’m sure – but rather some information regarding the use of charcoal toothpaste that I believe is important for people to know prior to using it. I take no stand – whether for or against- the use of charcoal toothpaste, my feeling is that it very well may work for some and not for others. Everyone is an individual with differing needs, circumstances, and expectations, so the effectiveness of a product like this will be dependent on all of those factors. Can charcoal toothpaste whiten your teeth? Maybe. Is charcoal toothpaste bad for your teeth? Maybe. Read on to learn a little bit more about this latest trend.
A Dentist's Perspective On The Charcoal Toothpaste Trend
1. There Is A Potential For Staining.
Most importantly, you should be aware that the pigmentation in charcoal is dense. This means that it can stain countertops, sinks and any other surface it comes into contact with. This is especially true if there are any cracks, grout lines, porous surfaces etc. that the product can get trapped into. You should take care to apply the product carefully to avoid spilling and to wipe surfaces clean immediately after.
Just as charcoal can stain countertops and surfaces, it can also stain margins of white fillings and crowns/bridge work. You will want to use this product with caution if you have any dental work in your mouth for this reason.
2. Activated Charcoal Can Be Very Abrasive.
Most forms of activated charcoal are more abrasive than regular toothpaste. What this means is that if you brush regularly with charcoal you can develop gum recession and increased tooth sensitivity. In fact, gum recession leads towards root exposure of teeth. Root structure is naturally more yellow than tooth structure and therefore can actually create an overall darker appearance of teeth. Knowing this would lead one to reason that perhaps using charcoal toothpaste should be an every once in a while type activity, similar to tooth bleaching.
3. Charcoal Toothpaste Only Has The Ability To Remove Extrinsic Staining.
This means that this type of product only aims to remove stains that are on the surface of teeth, not stains that are incorporated into the tooth itself such as dark staining from poor enamel formation, genetic defects, discoloration from silver filings, or traumatized teeth. The action of activated charcoal is such that it can bind toxins and stain, removing them from the tooth surface as it is brushed. However if there is stain that the charcoal cannot get to (such as inside the tooth layers) then the product will be ineffective on this type of stain.
4. There Has Been No Scientific Research To Date Proving Effectiveness.
This is not to say that charcoal toothpaste does not work, in fact there are many personal testimonies out there of people that use charcoal toothpaste and swear by their results. This is just to point out the fact that there are no “gold standard” research studies that can back up these claims.
5. Be Careful Not To Swallow/Ingest Activated Charcoal.
Activated charcoal can render certain medications inactive and therefore can interfere with their effectiveness. You should always consult with your doctor if you take any daily medications to be sure that accidental ingestion of charcoal toothpaste would not interfere with the effectiveness. Aside from medication interactions, ingestion of activated charcoal can cause GI irritation and discomfort in some people.
6. Charcoal Toothpaste Can Be Made At Home.
Just like many other household products, charcoal toothpaste is something that you can make for yourself at home with just a few ingredients. A quick search on Pinterest or Google for “DIY charcoal toothpaste” and you can find multiple easy recipes to follow to create your very own toothpaste.
7. Charcoal Toothpaste Is Not ADA or FDA Approved.
The main reason for mentioning this is to make you aware that these products you may buy are not regulated which means the strength and ingredient contents will differ and are not governed. More potent varieties may actually lead to more staining on your teeth, especially if you have previous dental work, as mentioned before.
8. Most Do Not Contain Fluoride.
While this may be a plus for some people who do not wish to use fluoride, there are many people who greatly benefit from cavity prevention fluoride in their toothpastes and, without it, may be more subjected to future cavities. As of the time this article is published, there is only one type of charcoal toothpaste that does contain fluoride.
9. Activated Charcoal Has Been Used For Years.
Just like many other things that have become “trendy” in recent times, the use of activated charcoal is something that has been around for quite some time yet is currently gaining popularity in the world of dental care. This is not a “new ingredient” but something that has been used for medicinal purposes (of varying degrees but mostly in cases of poisoning) since ancient times.
10. Charcoal Infused Toothbrushes Are Not As Effective As Charcoal Toothpaste.
Given the fact that to produce the intended results the charcoal needs to be activated – the use of charcoal toothbrushes seems to be ineffective. It would make sense (although this is not proven by me or anyone else) that after a few uses of a charcoal toothbrush, the activation component of the charcoal would no longer be present. When you compare this to using a fresh bit of charcoal each time in toothpaste, one could reason that charcoal toothbrushes are less effective but maybe a combination of the two products could produce the best results.
Whatever you decide about your feelings towards this new oral health trend, do what feels right for you and discuss it with your dentist if you have questions or concerns. And keep this information in mind, you never know when it may be useful (like Trivia Night perhaps)! Keep smiling friends!
About The Author
Dr. Mikaeya Kalantari has been a practicing pediatric dentist for over 7 years working in both the children's hospital setting and private practice. She has had a wealth of experience treating children of all ages, and medical conditions. When it comes to serving children, she feels the importance of communication between the dentist and parent can not be emphasized enough. Dr. Kalantari practices in her family owned dental office in Mission Viejo, California.