Have you heard the buzz about all things charcoal? You’ll find it in a lot of beauty products and health products these days.
The claim is that it cleanses and detoxifies.
When it comes to your teeth — it’s supposed to brush away stains and give you a beautifully white smile.
But is it safe and should you use it? Let’s examine the facts.
Activated charcoal is what you get after processing charcoal (made from things like coal, wood, or coconut shells) at high temperatures in the presence of a gas or activating agent. The result is a highly porous substance able to adsorb a variety of things.
Adsorption — different than absorption — is when molecules stick the surface of something (like a magnet to a fridge), rather than being absorbed by that thing (like water to a sponge).
The theory is that the charcoal in your toothpaste will be able to adsorb surface stains on your teeth. Charcoal is also abrasive — so scrubbing it against teeth can aid in removing some exterior staining.
Does it work?
If you use charcoal toothpaste, you might notice a temporary slight improvement in the color of your teeth. This is likely to be due to the abrasiveness of the charcoal, as well as the increased attention you might pay to those pearly whites while testing out the product.
Is it safe?
There are a couple concerns regarding the use of charcoal toothpaste:
- Some of these toothpastes do not contain fluoride, an essential component in the prevention of dental cavities.
- The abrasive nature of charcoal may damage your tooth’s enamel, the hard outer coating that protects your teeth from decay.
- Charcoal may actually cause staining in tiny cracks in your teeth or in any dental restorations present in your mouth. This will do the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.
What do the experts say?
According to the Journal of the American Dental Association, there are no studies (long-term or otherwise) that show the safety or efficacy of using charcoal toothpaste or other dental products containing charcoal.
Activated charcoal in itself is not a fad product. It has several useful and important applications, including filtering water and helping save patients in the case of a drug overdose or poison ingestion. Does it belong in your toothpaste? Probably not. If it can be harnessed in the dental world with the backing of scientific evidence, then we might change our minds.