Almost everyone wants whiter teeth but very few people take the required steps to actually get a whiter smile. More often than not, stained-smile sufferers turn to teeth whitening home remedies in the hopes that the solution they’ve been looking for is quick, cheap, and easy. Unluckily for them, if teeth whitening were so simple, there wouldn’t be millions upon millions of teeth whitening products on the market. Very few whitening methods actually work — and none are particularly cheap. While in-office teeth whitening prices have gone down in recent times, KöR and Zoom! whitening treatments (which are the two we offer our patients at Stanley Dentistry) are definitely more expensive than your average bottle of activated charcoal toothpaste.
The thing is, although cheap, that bottle of charcoal toothpaste might actually do more harm than good. Before you go out and jump on the activated charcoal train, find out why dental experts are skeptical of the black teeth trend.
Before we can jump into why we don’t recommend using charcoal on your teeth, we have to take a closer look at what charcoal actually is. In this context, we’re talking about activated charcoal — not the charcoal you grill or draw with. Activated charcoal has a long history as an anti-toxin because of its adsorbent quality. Adsorbent materials bind to toxins, as opposed to absorbent materials which absorb them.
Most charcoal is made with slowly burned wood that is oxidized under extremely high heat (that’s where the “activated” part comes in). Sometimes, other materials are used as well including coconut shells and olive pits.
Prior to the charcoal craze, doctors used activated charcoal to remove poisons/toxins from the stomach. However, it wasn’t until the last five years or so that people began contributing much more miraculous breakthroughs to charcoal. Because activated charcoal adsorbs toxins, a lot of people assume it can do things like cure cystic acne, balance digestive health, and remove enamel staining. While there are a ton of cool things charcoal can do, it’s not a miracle product. Using it won’t create a relevant change in the shade of your teeth — actually, in some cases, it will make your teeth more prone to staining.
Before we say anything else, let’s get something straight: all whitening toothpaste products are mildly abrasive. This is why we warn patients who have veneers to never use whitening toothpaste. It can permanently damage their veneers. Whitening toothpaste has small, abrasive particles that are supposed to mildly polish the enamel without scratching or weakening it. Tooth enamel is pretty strong so in most cases, whitening toothpaste is harmless.
However, with activated charcoal toothpaste, the abrasive particles are a lot larger and more damaging. Weakened enamel from abrasive toothpaste can lead to staining, tooth decay, and, in severe cases, tooth loss. Chances are, lots of people can use activated charcoal without suffering any bad side effects. Of course, with something as important as your teeth, it’s best not to risk it.
The FDA has approved activated charcoal for numerous uses but teeth whitening isn’t one of them. So far, the FDA and the ADA have yet to find any correlation between dental health/whitening and activated charcoal. They also haven’t found proof that activated charcoal is safe for dental use or ingestion.
When you’re looking for a potential toothpaste, look out for the ADA seal of approval. A toothpaste that the ADA approves is both safe and effective.
If you still want to try activated charcoal toothpaste, place the paste on your teeth using your finger and not a toothbrush. This decreases the likelihood of the abrasive particles damaging the enamel. For patients who really want to give the charcoal craze a go, we recommend the hello Activated Charcoal Epic Whitening Fluoride Toothpaste. It has had the most success with our patients in the past.
If you’re looking for a safer and more effective whitening toothpaste, check out our toothpaste guide.