Does Charcoal Toothpaste Work?
Recently, we have had several patients ask, “Does charcoal toothpaste work?” From Facebook to YouTube, DYI and store bought charcoal toothpaste seems to be the new trend for teeth. Let’s objectively look at what is in the product and how it affects our teeth.
In researching charcoal toothpaste, I am always fascinated at our ancestors and their attempts to find products that would effectively clean their teeth. Ingredients such as ashes, burnt eggshells, crushed bones, herbs such a mint and salt, and even powdered CHARCOAL were all used by Greeks, Romans, and Chinese. These early ingredients make me so thankful for our modern day products!
So let’s look at the theory behind how charcoal works and what kind of everyday uses it has in our lives. Interestingly enough, we find activated charcoal in quite a few products. It is extremely porous and effective at removing toxins. It is a key component in our water filtration system. Those lovely water filters many of us use, contain activated charcoal in the filtration component. Charcoal carbon filters remove chlorine, sediment, volatile organic compounds, taste, and odor from our drinking water. Another fascinating use for activated charcoal is it’s use in modern medicine. Activated charcoal is a go to for hospitals with patients that need emergency toxin removal. Accidental or purposeful overdose of many over the counter and pharmaceutical drugs such as aspirin, cocaine, morphine, or Tylenol can be reversed with proper and swift administration of activated charcoal. Fascinating!
Let’s make one thing clear, we are referring to activated charcoal not the lumps you throw on the grill! Activated charcoal has oxygen added to it to increase the porosity. Commercial BBQ briquettes have lighter fluid and are toxic to humans! So just to be EXTRA clear here, do NOT confuse your BBQ grill with your tooth grill!
Now that we know activated charcoal can do some amazing things, let’s look at its effect on teeth and why it may or may not work as a toothpaste. The theory is that if you smear that black smudge all over your teeth, it could absorb the toxins, stain, and plaque that have accumulated on your teeth. In theory, I can’t say that it is a bad idea. The ADA hasn’t been able to scientifically say whether is is harmful for helpful for your teeth due to a lack of studies. What I can say is that teeth whitening is a BILLION dollar market and companies such as Crest and Colgate haven’t picked up on the activated charcoal band wagon. And let’s just say, if if it works, there is money in it and it is proven to be safe, they WILL come out with a similar product.
I do have a couple BIG concerns about the charcoal toothpastes. First, these toothpastes do not have fluoride in them. I have a big fear that some patients will use this and only this as a toothpaste and set themselves up for significant tooth decay. Brush (with a fluoride toothpaste), floss, and use mouth rinse daily. Second, the charcoal is if consumed in large quantities can be extremely dangerous. It can quickly dehydrate you and even small amounts could affect the way your medications are absorbed. A third concern is the abrasiveness of the charcoal. It doesn’t appear that the type of charcoal is very well regulated in the products. Abrasiveness can lead to significant enamel wear or damage to existing crowns, veneers, and fillings.
In summary, charcoal toothpaste may work to whiten teeth. Due to a lack of studies and scientific evidence, the ADA and most professionals are not in favor of patients trying this method. If you do choose to use the charcoal toothpaste, continue to brush with a fluoride toothpaste and floss twice a day.
There are many other proven, scientifically studies, great whitening products out there. We offer Zoom whitening and I am always happy to talk to patients about their many whitening options.
While this is a fun and interesting topic, let’s go over the lawyerly information or what I like to call, the use common sense stuff… Don’t DYI it, get an fda approved toothpaste from a reputable brand. If you have any unusual symptoms such as bleeding gums, enamel loss, or increase in sensitivity, stop using the stuff and make an appointment with your friendly dentist.
If you would like additional information, check out the links below!
Thanks for spending part of your day with us!
Dr. Kelly Dove
Nixa Smiles Dentistry
“Where we are right under your nose!”