The Charcoal Craze
You’ve seen the advertisements on social media, seen the product itself sitting in your pharmacy’s dental aisle. But what is this crazy looking toothpaste and does it really work?
The ingredient in question, “activated charcoal,” is actually a treated form of carbon that is notable for its extreme porosity. It is these pores, with their many nooks and crannies, that theoretically allows the activated charcoal to absorb foreign entities (such as teeth stains) like a sponge.
Activated charcoal has been used for millennia in medicine for its absorbent properties. For example, a common usage used even in modern times is for someone who has overdosed or been poisoned to ingest activated charcoal in the hope that the activated charcoal will absorb enough of the unwanted substance.
But just because something sounds like it should work, doesn’t necessarily mean it will. A literature review (one of the highest levels of scientific research) conducted in 2017 concluded that there is “insufficient clinical and laboratory data to substantiate the safety and efficacy claims of charcoal and charcoal -based dentifrices (toothpastes).1”
Another concern with activated charcoal is its extreme abrasiveness which, overtime and with repeated use, can severely wear away the tooth’s outer layer, making one more prone to sensitivity and cavities and can even, get this, make your teeth appear duller.
If someone is actually serious about achieving a bright, healthy and beautiful smile, I recommend trying traditional over the counter whitening products or talking to your dentist about in-office whitening treatment. At Park Dentistry, we regularly achieve great whitening outcomes without the questionable side effects of activated charcoal.
Until next time!
1 Charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices. Brooks, John K. et al. The Journal of the American Dental Association, Volume 148, Issue 9, 661 – 670