Everyone aspires to have sparkling white teeth to smile with confidence. Sacrificing favorite foods is not an option, so people are doing everything possible to maintain the natural shine of the teeth. The latest among at-home teeth whitening solutions is charcoal toothpaste. With a long history of effectiveness in treating poisoning and acute overdose, charcoal now entered into the cosmetic, wellness, and dental care space, thanks to the much-hyped “detoxifying” property. There is nothing wrong with using something which is marketed as a natural and eco-friendly way to whiten teeth and eliminate bad breath. But before you start using something for oral care, you should know whether it is effective and safe.

Activated charcoal, used in making toothpaste and beauty products, is in use for thousands of years. Its effectiveness as an absorbent or attracting particle is well-studied in hospital toxicology and air-filtering systems, but there are not many studies that validate its effectiveness as teeth whitening and safety. You can buy charcoal toothpaste almost everywhere with a long list of claims, but be careful as its abrasive property could affect your teeth.

You can maintain the natural whiteness of your teeth by brushing with regular fluoride toothpaste. If you want to make your teeth extra white, let your dentist do the job professionally as excessive use of fine abrasive particles for long could erode natural enamel—the top surface of your teeth, making them sensitive.

What is Activated Charcoal?

Materials like coal, wood, peat, coconut shells, and other natural substances are used in making common charcoal. It is then oxidized under extreme heat to convert it into activated charcoal. This activated charcoal is used in making oral care and beauty products.

Oxidation under extreme heat creates internal pores or spaces in charcoal, making it effective in trapping chemicals. Internal pores increase their absorption capacity, making them effective in removing fine particles from the teeth’ surface.

The particulates of activated charcoal present in charcoal toothpaste are sharper, making it a better stain remover. But abrasive property could harm teeth and gums. Experts believe the extra fine particulates might get stuck in crevices and filling. One main concern is the absence of fluoride—the much-needed teeth strengthening agent—in charcoal toothpaste. So, choose your charcoal toothpaste after reading the ingredient list, and use it as your dentist recommends.

Charcoal Toothpaste for Whitening: Does it work?

If you go by the chemical and physical properties of active charcoal, a common ingredient of charcoal toothpaste, its abrasiveness makes it a better stain remover. It is found to be effective in removing biofilms, thus controlling bacterial growth and bad breath. But, these properties are not unique to charcoal toothpaste only, as your regular fluoride or medicated toothpaste is as effective, that too without the concerns of enamel erosion caused by abrasive property.

Unlike popular belief, teeth whiteness is not just about cleaning the top surface of the enamel. The whiteness comes from the intrinsic cleaning below the enamel. Charcoal might be effective in removing stains from the surface, but there is no evidence to validate its effectiveness in removing intrinsic stains. The whiteness you see could be because of the color contrast. Seeing white in the black background makes whiteness more distinct.

Activated charcoal is negatively charged, so it makes it effective in attracting positively charged molecules. Absorbing capacity, along with sharpness, makes it a good ingredient for toothpaste, but lack of scientific studies makes it difficult for a health-conscious person to replace scientifically proven fluoride toothpaste.

Is Charcoal Toothpaste Safe?

Charcoal toothpaste may help you brighten your teeth, but there is no concrete scientific evidence suggesting long-term benefits. Oral care professionals warn against its regular use as it could erode enamel and increase the sensitivity of the teeth. Since most of the claims are unproven, you should be careful in using charcoal toothpaste.

The sharp particulates of abrasive charcoal can remove stains, but this sharpness could irreversibly damage enamel and gums. Overuse of charcoal toothpaste could expose dentin, thus making your teeth look yellowish. Dentin exposure will make your teeth sensitive to acidic foods.

Experts are more concerned about the lack of fluoride in charcoal toothpaste. Fluoride is essential for teeth protection, so if your toothpaste lacks fluoride, you are at higher risk of tooth decay. The stain-removal property of charcoal is overhyped, as fine particles of charcoal could get deposited in crevices and cracks.

If you are wearing orthodontic devices, activated charcoal particles could affect the material used in making the devices, especially veneers, bridges, and clear aligners. Its effectiveness in killing bacteria is not proven, so you will not get the desired refreshing effect after teeth cleaning.

Pros of Charcoal Toothpaste

Almost all big toothpaste brands sell charcoal toothpaste claiming everything under the sky to suit your teeth whitening needs. Tall claims apart, here are some of the benefits you can expect from your charcoal toothpaste:

  • Charcoal toothpaste with abrasive fine-particle helps in removes superficial stains
  • Stain removal makes your teeth appear brighter
  • Activated charcoal absorbs extrinsic stains, but its effectiveness in removing intrinsic stains isn’t proven
  • It binds with acidic components found in plaques and alters the pH value of the mouth, thus accelerates the removal of plaques
  • Negatively charged particles could help in controlling bacteria count, thus relieving bad breath
  • Unlike other chemically loaded options, it is definitely a better eco-friendly alternative

Cons of Charcoal Toothpaste

Just like any other detergent-based toothpaste, charcoal toothpaste can help you in maintaining the natural shine of your teeth. But it has some side effects, which include:

  • Much hyped, the abrasive property could damage your natural enamel
  • Enamel erosion and dentin exposure could make your teeth appear yellow
  • It is not effective in removing intrinsic stains
  • Enamel erosion could increase teeth sensitivity
  • Fine particles could affect your gums
  • Fluoride absence could make your teeth weak

Alternative to Charcoal Toothpaste for Teeth Whitening

Your natural teeth are too precious to experiment with something that has not passed scientific scrutiny. There is no shortage of scientifically proven teeth whitening formulations. So, you should buy the American Dental Association (ADA) approved over-the-counter teeth whitening products if you want to make your teeth extra white. Here are some of the safe and effective teeth whitening options:

  • Ask your dentist to prescribe some ADA approved whitening toothpaste
  • Whitening strips can give you quality brightening results
  • It is always better to let your dentist do the teeth whitening job professionally as excessive
  • brightening effort at home could damage permanently
  • Look for whitening products that contain blue covarine and hydrogen peroxide, but use it as per instructions

Natural Home Teeth Whitening Solutions

In today’s hectic life, it is tough to manage time to visit a dentist frequently. Even if you can manage some time, professional teeth whitening is not cheap. So, it is better to try something with proven benefits at home to keep your teeth white forever.

  • Keep hydrogen peroxide at home and rinse the mouth with the diluted solution at least once a week.
  • Baking soda is highly effective in cleaning the deep pores of your teeth and giving your extra white teeth. It creates an alkaline environment, which helps in controlling bacteria count in the mouth. But be careful with applying, as it could affect your gums.
  • Apple cider vinegar is known for its antimicrobial properties.
  • Oil pulling with virgin coconut oil is effective in removing plaques and bacteria from the mouth. For quality results, swish 1-2 teaspoons of coconut oil for 10-20 minutes and then spit it.
  • Most importantly, brush twice daily with recommended toothpaste. If you are an aggressive drinker of teeth staining beverages, like tea, coffee, and red wine, you should pay extra attention while brushing.
  • Avoid eating sugary foods and don’t forget to rinse your mouth properly
  • Charcoal toothpaste is good, but you should avoid using it regularly.

How much do professional teeth whitening costs?

Dentists are trained to whiten your teeth without harming the natural enamel. The cost of teeth whitening at a dental clinic could be on average $600. But it could rise to $1000, depending on products used, location, and of course, dentist charge.

Bottom Line

If labels like “herbal”, “eco-friendly”, “natural”, “pure”, “anti-bacterial”, “anti-fungal” influence your decision, then you should be a little cautious while buying charcoal toothpaste. These tall claims are like “too big to fall” claims. Charcoal toothpaste might be good for teeth whitening when used judiciously, but not better than your regular fluoride toothpaste. It can help you remove superficial stains, but in the long run, can damage your enamel and dentin, thus making your teeth yellowish. You have every right to choose your teeth whitening products, but when it comes to charcoal toothpaste, wait for some more years until the scientific community comes with concrete results. Meanwhile, let your dentist whiten your teeth using scientifically approved chemicals and procedures.

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Published by Dr. Daniel Bronsky

Dr. Daniel is an orthodontist at Invis London.

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