Is Charcoal Toothpaste the Answer to Whiter Teeth?
Activated charcoal—the kind that's found in your summer barbecue pit—is everywhere. There’s charcoal lemonade, charcoal ice cream—and even to clean your teeth afterward.
“Charcoal is a product of burning wood, peat, coconut shells, or other organic materials and it has been used throughout the ages for medicinal purposes, including cleansing the mouth,” says Kenneth Magid, DDS, an adjunct clinical associate professor at NYU College of Dentistry. “Proponents and marketers of charcoal toothpaste claim the ability to absorb toxic substances in the mouth and whiten teeth,” he adds.
But does charcoal toothpaste actually work? We asked several dentists to break it down.
This video shows you how to naturally whiten your teeth with a banana peel:
Does charcoal toothpaste work?
Charcoal toothpaste (like the trendy charcoal supplements and beauty products) is made with activated charcoal, a form of the chalky carbon that’s been treated to become extra porous. And because it's porous, it's able to attract toxins. The theory is that activated charcoal will grab onto stains and germs, leaving you with a whiter, cleaner smile.
“Charcoal toothpaste has become very popular lately, but the literature is insufficient on whether charcoal toothpaste is beneficial for your teeth,” says Lauren Levi, DMD, a dental oncologist at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. In fact, the American Dental Association (ADA) reviewed all the research on brushing with charcoal toothpaste (and charcoal powder), and according to their findings in theJournal of the American Dental Association, there isn't enough evidence to back up charcoal’s so-called teeth-beautifying benefits.
Is charcoal toothpaste safe to use?
Our experts don’t think the research needs to catch up to the trend. In fact, there's some evidence that charcoal toothpaste might actually be bad for your smile. Many charcoal toothpastes don't contain fluoride—the ingredient that helps fight cavities—which can lead to an “increased risk of developing tooth decay,” says Dr. Levi.
Charcoal’s whitening claims are also a little iffy, according to the experts. While charcoal's abrasive texture wouldn’t remove deeper stains on your teeth (like the kind caused by smoking), Dr. Magid explains, proponents claim that it could help buff away surface stains. Makes sense, right? But the truth is that charcoal toothpaste might actually betooabrasive.
Since charcoal toothpastes aren’t regulated by any agency or approved by the ADA, “many of the products may be too abrasive for regular use and can possibly remove the enamel outside of the teeth or damage porcelain restorations such as veneers or crowns,” Dr. Magid says. Once the enamel wears away, there’s no way to regrow it, and on top of that, it can actually make your teeth look duller and darker instead of brighter. This is “due to the underlying dentin showing through,” Dr. Magid says, which is the part beneath the enamel. In addition to darkening your smile, wearing down your enamel will also make your teeth more sensitive to temperature and prone to cavities. Think: pain from biting into an ice cream pop.
There are also some concerns about the “detoxing” properties of activated charcoal, since the substance can act like a magnet for things you want in your body in addition to toxins. “There is some concern that activated charcoal may interfere with medications taken orally, rendering them less effective,” Dr. Magid explains. While the small amount found in charcoal toothpaste probably isn’t super worrisome, it's still important to talk to your doctor about how it might affect the medications you're taking.
The bottom line: Don't use activated charcoal on your teeth
Given the lack of science supporting the claims of charcoal toothpaste and the concern that it might actually damage your teeth, dentists generally don’t recommend it. “Not only do charcoal toothpastes not meet the criteria that I would use to recommend them, but they may be too abrasive and damaging to teeth," Dr Magid says. "They also may not have the fluoride or other preventive components that I feel are important in preventing dental disease,” Dr. Magid adds. Stick to a regular toothpaste with fluoride instead. “Nothing beats brushing teeth twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste,” says Dr. Levi. If you're looking to brighten your pearly whites, here are the best teeth whitening products, according to dentists we polled earlier this year.
If you’re set on working charcoal into your grooming routine, try a charcoal face mask or one of these ultra-hydrating ones instead.
Video: Does This Actually Work?! Charcoal Teeth Whitening Carbon Coco Review
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