With so many different teeth whitening products on the market, it's easy to feel overwhelmed…
You’ve read about charcoal teeth whitening on social media and can’t imagine this could possibly work. After all, isn’t charcoal a black substance used to barbecue food? Actually, activated charcoal has become a popular natural health product for some years now. You’ve probably even seen it in trendy food products from ice cream to pizza crust. It’s also used in hygiene and beauty products for skin, hair, and now for teeth whitening. But does it really work? Here’s everything you need to know about charcoal and if it truly has the miraculous abilities everyone is talking about.
What is activated charcoal?
Activated charcoal is a substance that has proven to be useful for a number of applications. Because it is processed with high heat, the porous nature of charcoal is activated, allowing it to attract positively charged molecules.
Once activated, charcoal is made into a fine powder and mixed with other materials such as coconut shells, bone char, olive pits, coal, and sawdust. Sounds a little dicey doesn’t it? All of the additional materials are natural and considered safe. The charcoal is processed to remove anything that can be harmful to humans.
Once prepared, the porous nature of charcoal is activated, allowing it to trap and remove some of the most harmful substances to the body, including free radicals.
How is it used for medical purposes?
Activated charcoal is not only able to trap unwanted substances, but also cannot be absorbed by the body. Instead, it is excreted, taking all those unwanted toxins with it. It’s like a purifying filter for your body.
In 1834, an American physician used it to treat a patient for mercury poisoning. Since then it has proven to be very effective for several medicinal uses, including the prevention of overdoses and emergency poison treatments. It can bind to drugs and poisons in the body, reducing them by as much as 74% in adults, alleviating the negative effects.
What are the beauty benefits of activated charcoal?
As a skin treatment, activated charcoal can purify pores and treat acne. It has also become a go-to teeth whitening product as of late. Teeth whitening has become a booming industry in the past 10 years, with dozens of products available through dental offices, as natural home remedies, and over-the-counter products. But does activated charcoal actually work as a whitening product?
Can activated charcoal safely whiten teeth?
Although activated charcoal is FDA approved for a wide range of uses, the American Dental Association feels that there isn’t any formal evidence that it works as an effective teeth whitener. Therefore, it’s not approved for use in dental treatments.
So, why is everyone raving about it? Some have found that it can be effective in absorbing plaque and substances that can cause staining. It works by binding to toxins, which in theory could help to whiten teeth.
Should I use toothpaste with activated charcoal?
While the porous nature of activated charcoal provides some whitening effects, the abrasive nature of charcoal can be damaging to your teeth. Charcoal can wear down your enamel if the product you use proves to be too abrasive. Enamel does not replenish itself, which means the damage can be permanent. This can increase your risk of tooth decay.
When we refer to abrasion of the teeth, we are looking at the erosion of the enamel and dentin. Enamel wears away over time, and when you add extra abrasion into the mix it can make natural erosion happen faster. That’s why we always advise patients to avoid whitening toothpaste and products that can increase abrasion.
According to the Relative Dentin Abrasivity (RDA) guide, you should never use dental products with a score over 200. This guide measures abrasiveness for FDA approved dental products. Most activated charcoal powders they score between 70 to 90, while whitening toothpaste scores between 100 to 200 RDA. Always make sure you are using an activated charcoal toothpaste at the lower end of the scale.
Should I use charcoal toothpaste?
We recommend all of our patients speak to us before using any form of whitening products. This is because there are many factors that should be considered first. What is good for one patient might be harmful to another.
Products like charcoal toothpaste can prove harmful if the soft dentin in your teeth is exposed. The abrasion from the charcoal will expose your dentin and increase your risk for disease and tooth decay.
One option is to “smear” the toothpaste over your teeth using your finger instead of a toothbrush. This will reduce the amount of pressure applied to your enamel, resulting in a less abrasive effect. This will be more effective in whitening while reducing harm to your enamel.