Charcoal Toothpaste: Does it Really Whiten Your Teeth?
Charcoal toothpaste has long been lauded as a natural way to whiten your teeth, but the buzzy ingredient seems to be having a moment. A stroll down nearly any cosmetic or health aisle will confirm its recent popularity. From charcoal supplements to deodorants and facial scrubs, it seems activated charcoal is helpful for just about everything.
So, when it comes to charcoal toothpaste, it’s reasonable to wonder if it’s all just hype. As with any health trend, discerning fact from fiction can be a challenge. There’s often a grain of truth behind every fad and a few important caveats.
Is Charcoal Toothpaste Safe?
Let’s start with the obvious questions. Is charcoal toothpaste even safe? The answer is yes. When used as directed, activated charcoal is generally considered a safe ingredient. In fact, it’s sometimes used by doctors in hospital settings.
Made by exposing pieces of wood, coconut shell, peat, and petroleum to high pressures and high heat, activated charcoal is a naturally porous material. This porous quality of activated charcoal allows it to trap chemicals and other substances—which is why it can be helpful to treat people who have ingested poison.
Benefits of Charcoal Toothpaste
Many of the supposed benefits of charcoal toothpaste have not been proven; however, there is evidence that it can remove superficial stains on the teeth through abrasion. The gritty texture of charcoal acts like a scrubber that can buff away grime on the surface of your teeth such as coffee stains or residue from smoking.
Important Caveats to Consider
Don’t skip fluoride.
Our dentists strongly recommend using fluoridated toothpaste because it both cleans and strengthens the enamel of the teeth, preventing tooth decay. Because charcoal toothpaste does not contain fluoride, we advise against using it every day. If you do try charcoal toothpaste, use it sparingly and default to a fluoride toothpaste for your regular brushing routine.
Mind the grit.
Some patients experience unwanted side effects from brushing with charcoal toothpaste. The little black specks of charcoal have a way of lodging into the cracks and crevices in your mouth, such as your gums or the margins around a filling. This can cause irritation and inflammation or even damage to your dental work.
Watch out for sensitivity.
Charcoal toothpaste creates friction across the surface of your teeth, which can aggravate your enamel and can break it down over time. As a result, some patients report increased sensitivity as a result of using charcoal toothpaste. Before you jump in on the charcoal trend, be aware that you might notice additional discomfort and wear on your teeth when using charcoal toothpaste.
Set reasonable whitening expectations.
While charcoal toothpaste can scrub away surface stains, it doesn’t have a proven ability to create a deeper whitening effect. In fact, most toothpaste whitening options only target the outside of the tooth. While you might notice a small difference in the color of your teeth after using charcoal toothpaste, don’t expect a dramatically whiter smile. If you’re after a more significant transformation, talk to your dentist about better at-home or in-office whitening options.
Activated charcoal is not a miracle ingredient when it comes to teeth whitening. If used in moderation, charcoal toothpaste can be a helpful way to remove surface stains on your teeth; however, it should not be your primary choice for toothpaste. Instead, we recommend using standard, fluoridated toothpaste. If you do choose to try charcoal toothpaste, be sure you understand its whitening limitations and the risk of increased sensitivity, wear, and irritation.
Are you interested in learning more about your teeth whitening options? Let us know! Our staff and doctors love to demystify the science of teeth whitening. We offer a range of over-the-counter or in-office whitening options at many different price points. To schedule an appointment at our beautiful Williamsburg, V.A. office, give us a call or send us a request through our website.