Activated Charcoal for Your Teeth
posted: Jun. 18, 2021.
The internet and social media are buzzing with ads and promotions about the latest miracle ingredient- activated charcoal. This black substance can be used on everything from your hair to your skin to your teeth. With so much hype, we figured it’s time to take a look and give an honest opinion on whether using activated charcoal to whiten your teeth is actually a good idea.
When my wife first asked me if she should try it on her teeth, my gut reaction was that it was way too abrasive. Luckily she listened to me. At the time, I hadn’t researched it much and there hadn’t been too many studies on its effectiveness. Looking at the data now, it seems that activated charcoal may very well be the trendy way to whiten teeth, but it’s certainly not the safest for your teeth.
First, let’s look at what it is and what it does. Activated charcoal is not new. It’s been used for medicinal purposes, such as the emergency treatment of poisoning, for years. Activated charcoal works on your teeth in the same manner it works internally in the body. Activated charcoal’s pores bind with rough parts on teeth, usually surface stains and plaque, making it easier to remove the yellowing substances. The idea is that once it has been given enough time to stick to the rough spots (stains) on your teeth, it can be removed and will take the plaque, food particles, and surface stains with it. This is how the activated charcoal succeeds in whitening teeth – by getting rid of surface stains in one brushing.
At first, this sounds great, almost like the miracle product it claims to be. However, because it latches onto grittiness found on the surface of teeth, activated charcoal only works on surface stains and does not change the color of teeth that are deeply stained or naturally yellowing. Furthermore, and most importantly, the abrasiveness of the charcoal, combined with the brushing against the teeth’s enamel, can cause thinning and erosion of the enamel. Because enamel does not replenish itself, the damage is permanent. Once enamel becomes eroded, teeth will actually begin to look more yellow as the darker inner layer, the dentin, begins to show through the tooth. So, the immediate whitening you may achieve could cause your teeth to look more discolored in time. Unfortunately, the discoloration due to eroded enamel cannot be reversed.
The ADA has published multiple articles citing that the effectiveness of activated charcoal has not been substantiated. (See links below) Given the potential long-term damage to your teeth, Anderson Pediatric Dentistry stands by the recommendations of the American Dental Association (ADA) in recommending that our patients steer clear of activated charcoal on their teeth and instead, seek products that have been endorsed with the ADA Seal of Approval, which guarantees that these products have been evaluated by the ADA for safety and effectiveness.
We encourage you to come in and speak with us about your whitening options. We can recommend safe options that suit your goals and needs without compromising the long-term health of your teeth.
As always, we encourage you to make educated choices about your child’s oral health and invite you to read more about activated charcoal and its effects.