You may have heard about the trendy new ingredient causing a buzz among the all-natural crowd. Charcoal. No, not the Kingsford briquets that you throw on your grill- but activated charcoal. Charcoal is said to be "activated" when it becomes heated or treated to increase its adsorptive (binding of gas, liquid, or dissolved solid molecules to a surface) powers.
Activated charcoal is showing up everywhere these days, from detox drinks, to acne masks, to you guessed it – toothpaste. But does it work? And more importantly, is it safe?
The short answers? No, and no. While you may notice a slight difference in the color of your teeth after using activated charcoal toothpaste, it may just be the black tint left behind from the charcoal itself or that it looks comparatively whiter after being covered in black paste. As for its whitening capabilities, it’s likely no more effective than simply brushing your teeth with good, old-fashioned fluoride toothpaste after eating- which brings up another problem. Activated charcoal kinds of toothpaste do not contain fluoride.
Fluoride works by protecting the teeth from acids found within the plaque that accumulates on your teeth between brushings. These acids eat away at the enamel of your teeth, causing cavities. Fluoride prevents these acids from damaging your enamel, and it can even stop and reverse already present tooth decay. Because activated charcoal toothpaste has no fluoride, it cannot do any of this.
So, is it safe? The truth is that's unknown. There have not been enough studies to prove whether it is or not. In fact, because it is not FDA-approved like fluoride toothpaste, there’s no way of knowing how much active ingredient can be found in any given tube of activated charcoal toothpaste- meaning you could be ingesting unsafe amounts of charcoal and not know it. This is especially dangerous because we really don’t know how much activated charcoal is safe.
The other issue with charcoal is that it is very porous. This porousness is what supposedly makes it a great whitener- the pores are said to absorb the stains- but they also make the charcoal itself very abrasive, which is dangerous for tooth enamel.
Ultimately, if you want whiter teeth, stick with FDA and ADA-approved whitening toothpaste, or speak to your dentist about in-office whitening treatments. You can also help your teeth out by avoiding foods that stain teeth such as coffee, red wine, and dark colored sodas. If you can’t part with staining foods, immediately rinse your mouth with water after enjoying them, and wait at least 30 minutes after brushing so as not to damage enamel and stain teeth in the process. If you have any questions or concerns about your teeth or your toothpaste, give Dr. Hill’s office a call at 469-640-9550.