Charcoal Toothpaste: Is It a Safe Way to Whiten Your Teeth?

Activated charcoal has become an exciting new health trend — not only in terms of dietary health but also in dental care. Yet even though it could seem healthy, it could actually be dangerous to your teeth. Here's what you need to know.

What is Activated Charcoal and How is It Used?

Activated charcoal is a black powder made out of burned material. Activated charcoal is most frequently used to prevent poisoning because it’s porous enough to absorb certain toxins. The activated charcoal does no harm and soaks up toxins and poison in the stomach. This ingredient can be used by both animals and humans in this way. Consequently, activated charcoal has become a popular ingredient in many foods and soaps.

When activated charcoal is put in toothpaste, it's intended to whiten your teeth because the charcoal is used to lift stains from your teeth and to make your teeth look brighter and whiter. And it doesn't have to be included in toothpaste, either: some people just buy activated charcoal powder and use it like they would use baking soda. But while this may initially appear to be very effective, there are some dangers as well. 

What Does Activated Charcoal Do to Your Teeth?

The reason activated charcoal is able to lighten stains on your teeth is because it's made out of fine, abrasive grains, which wear the stains off. This is a lot like using baking soda, which also isn't recommended by many dentists. Since the charcoal is abrasive, it can cut through the plaque and then start wearing down the enamel on your teeth. Enamel can't be replaced: your teeth will become vulnerable to cavities and sensitivity.

What Do Studies Show About Activated Charcoal?

One of the reasons that dentists are hesitant to recommend charcoal toothpaste is that it hasn't been shown to actually be helpful. Activated charcoal is used in many health remedies because it soaks up toxins in the stomach, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it does much with your teeth.

Studies haven't shown that it improves your dental health, so you may not actually gain any benefits from using activated charcoal on your teeth.

What Are the Side Effects of Activated Charcoal?

Some dentists have cautioned that activated charcoal might actually have the opposite effect. In the short-term, it looks as though your teeth are brighter because stains and plaque have been rubbed away. But long-term, your tooth enamel will wear down. The dentin inside of your teeth will start to show: that's the "meat" inside of your teeth. The dentin is a darker color, so your teeth will look a darker shade.

Since tooth enamel can't be regrown, long-term use of charcoal will be cumulative. If you decide to try this method, you need to be careful not to wear anything down but the actual plaque.

Should You Use Activated Charcoal for Teeth Whitening?

With all that in mind, even though charcoal tooth whitening isn't necessarily good for your teeth, it may not be the worst thing available. Some dentists say that you can use it every month or so, in order to scrub stains from your enamel.

Fine charcoal toothpaste, if you’re careful, won’t cause much damage to your teeth, and activated charcoal is perfectly safe to ingest. But ultimately, other better and safer ways to improve the look and health of your teeth exist.

The truth is, most forms of at-home tooth whitening are dangerous to some extent. Bleaching agents can cause permanent tooth sensitivity. Abrasive agents, such as baking soda and charcoal, can wear down your tooth enamel and make you more likely to experience dental issues. Professional whitening is safer. Contact Milner Dentistry to start your consultation today.


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Springfield, IL dentist Dr. Milner specializes in family and cosmetic dentistry. Dr. Milner is dedicated to improving the health and beauty of his patients' smiles. Call our Springfield, IL dentist office to get started today!

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