Does charcoal toothpaste whiten teeth?
Charcoal toothpaste seems to be one of the trendiest dental products around. Bloggers and influencers on the internet swear by it for teeth whitening. It uses activated charcoal to absorb toxins and harmful agents. But does it actually work? And is it safe to use?
What is activated charcoal?
Activated charcoal is practically a form of carbon that has been treated to make the surface porous. These pores then trap particles (like dirt), which are swept away when the charcoal is washed off.
How does it work on teeth?
Because it can trap particles, it is said that charcoal toothpastes can absorb and remove extrinsic stains like those from tea, coffee and wine. It is also claimed that it can reduce bad breath by absorbing toxins in the mouth.
Are charcoal toothpastes safe?
Do they contain fluoride?
Most charcoal toothpastes don’t contain fluoride. Fluoride is the main ingredient which keeps your enamel strong and prevents tooth decay. A review from the British Dental Journal in early 2019 found that as little as 8% of charcoal toothpastes contain fluoride. The toothpastes that do contain fluoride may actually inactivate its beneficial properties. The study concluded that charcoal toothpastes provide little protection against tooth decay and may actually increase your risk of tooth decay.
Are they abrasive?
Charcoal toothpaste is certainly too abrasive for everyday use. Using a toothpaste that is too abrasive on your teeth will wear down your enamel. Over time this will reveal the underlying dentine, which is softer than enamel and more yellow in colour. Therefore prolonged use of these toothpastes may make your teeth more sensitive and more yellow in colour.
What about their detoxifying effects?
Activated charcoal can certainly absorb toxins. While charcoal toothpastes may lift away plaque and food particles, the effect may not be much greater than that of any other toothpaste. Generally, good brushing and interdental cleaning is sufficient to maintain oral hygiene.
Can they actually stain teeth?
The long term effects of using charcoal toothpaste are not yet known. The charcoal particles could get in the cracks and crevices of older teeth and leave dark stains. Likewise it is not yet known how charcoal affects materials that make up veneers, crowns, bridges and white fillings. Again particles of charcoal may build up between them leaving a black or grey line.
Do charcoal toothpastes actually whiten teeth?
Charcoal toothpastes can remove surface stains on teeth, such as those from tea, coffee and wine. These surface stains can also be removed with some whitening toothpastes (which also abrade away surface stains). This reduction in staining may give your teeth the appearance of being whiter. A major lightening of tooth colour can only come from bleaching treatments that penetrate below the outer surface of teeth.
The bottom line
Charcoal toothpastes may work well at removing surface stains, but the long term use of these products is still unknown due to limited studies.
What the British Dental Journal has found so far is that:
1 – Charcoal toothpastes are abrasive and wear away your enamel. In the long term this may increase tooth sensitivity and actually make your teeth yellower
2 – They don’t contain any fluoride (and if they do contain fluoride the charcoal toothpaste may actually inactivate the effect of the fluoride). This can lead to a higher risk of tooth decay
3 – They can leave stains around fillings and the gums
4 – There is not enough evidence of any whitening benefits, detoxifying benefits or any anti-fungal or anti-bacterial properties
Always speak to your dentist first about any concerns you may have about your teeth!