These days charcoal is no longer only found on your barbecue; it has become quite the beauty and culinary trend. You can find it in your lemonade, your face masks and even in your toothpaste, but is charcoal toothpaste everything it’s cracked up to be?
What is charcoal toothpaste?
As you can probably guess, charcoal toothpaste is made with charcoal that’s typically derived from bone char, coconut shells, peat, petroleum coke, coal, olive pits or sawdust, but it’s not the stuff you see lying around in your fireplace. It’s an activated version that has been heated with gas. Hailed as a teeth whitening holy grail, it’s made into toothpaste or powder to turn your pearly whites pearly white, and the beauty world can’t get enough of it.
Is its claim true?
Why is activated charcoal such a big beauty fad, you ask? The substance has been used in medicine for thousands of years for its detoxing properties. It’s porous which means that it absorbs dirt and impurities. It acts like a magnet that attracts toxins which is why it has been used in a medical capacity to counteract poisoning and drug overdoses.
The theory is that because charcoal absorbs impurities it should be able to remove stains from teeth, kill bacteria and eliminate toxins from your mouth. So far so good, but the only problem is, there’s very little proof that charcoal toothpaste benefits your teeth at all.
Should you really put charcoal toothpaste in your mouth?
Charcoal toothpaste is not actually approved by the American Dental Association and it’s believed to have less of the desired effect than people think. Its purpose is to remove stains from your teeth and sure, it might be able to eliminate the appearance of surface stains left by coffee or red wine, but it’s not long-lasting. It certainly doesn’t have the power to remove deeper stains that materialise from within the tooth itself.
Charcoal toothpaste is abrasive and it could actually make your teeth more discoloured. It wears away at your enamel to expose the darker, more sensitive dentin beneath (biting into an ice cream becomes very painful!). It can also cause the surface of your teeth to become uneven, allowing bacteria to get trapped in the gaps.
We need fluoride to prevent tooth decay. Charcoal toothpaste often has very little or no fluoride in it so it’s not actually protecting your teeth as well as it should be. As for getting rid of toxins, your mouth is not like your liver or kidneys, there are no real toxins to get rid of. It can, however, impact the efficacy of the oral medication. It’s not enough to cause significant risk unless you swallow it, but it’s advisable to speak to your doctor about the possible impact.
Why not try these alternatives instead?
So it looks like the verdict is out on whether charcoal toothpaste actually does any good for your teeth, but as it stands, the positives are few and far between. Your best bet is to steer clear of charcoal toothpaste altogether but all is not lost on the teeth whitening front. Instead, seek out tried and tested methods that work like teeth whitening strips or a fluoride toothpaste designed to tackle stains.
You can even get your teeth whitened professionally by dentists. The procedure, ‘chairside bleaching,’ sounds scary, but it’s safe. If you’re not convinced and you still do want to use charcoal toothpaste, then consider using one with a decent amount of fluoride and brush your teeth with it very gently once or twice a month to limit abrasions.