When you think of charcoal, what comes to mind? If you like to grill, you might think of a summer barbecue. If you’re an artist, you might think of charcoal pencils. But if you’ve been spending any time on social media lately, you might actually think of toothpaste.
Charcoal toothpaste and other dental products containing charcoal, such as whitening powders, have been making the rounds on Instagram and other social media apps in the last few months. So what’s the deal? Why are people brushing their teeth with something commonly used to cook meat or make art? And, more importantly, is charcoal something you should be using on your teeth or putting anywhere near your mouth in the first place?
Here’s what you should know about charcoal and your oral health.
What is Charcoal?
Charcoal is produced by burning natural materials, such as wood. The type of charcoal you’re likely to find in toothpaste or a tooth whitening powder is slightly different from the type of charcoal you would use for other purposes.
The charcoal that’s being added to toothpaste or used on its own as toothpaste is called activated charcoal. Like other types of charcoal, activated charcoal is produced by burning materials such as wood.
But the difference in activated charcoal is that the materials are burned in the presence of gas. The gas causes the charcoal to develop big inner pores. Thanks to those pores, activated charcoal is able to trap other substances and chemicals inside of it. That’s why it’s often given to people who ingest poison, usually as soon as possible.
Activated charcoal is also often found in water filters. The charcoal in the filter helps to trap impurities in the water so that you don’t drink them.
How Do Charcoal Dental Products Work?
Charcoal dental products are available in a few different formats. Some are in the form of powders, which supposedly whiten the teeth. To use the powder, you mix a small amount of it with water to produce a paste. You then apply the paste to your teeth and rub it in with a brush or a wet finger.
Some kinds of toothpaste also have charcoal added to them. You might even find toothbrushes that have bristles that are infused with charcoal.
In many cases, dental products that contain charcoal are produced by the same brands that make fluoride toothpaste. There are also companies that specialize in charcoal teeth whitening products or produce fluoride-free toothpaste.
Will Charcoal Help Whiten Your Teeth?
Since activated charcoal is so absorbent, some believe that it’s an effective tooth whitener and that it does a good job of cleaning the teeth. So far, there hasn’t been any research to back up that belief.
It’s worth noting that using a charcoal scrub on your teeth, even one designed specifically for tooth whitening, can actually make your problems worse. That’s because charcoal scrubs tend to be very abrasive. Frequently, a charcoal tooth whitening powder can lead to enamel erosion, which can make your teeth look more yellow.
Should You Use Charcoal Toothpaste?
Is charcoal toothpaste worth purchasing? It really all depends on what you purchase. Many kinds of toothpaste that contain charcoal don’t contain fluoride, so you are giving up the cavity-fighting abilities of a conventional toothpaste if you decide to try a product that uses charcoal.
If you’re really excited about trying out charcoal toothpaste, one option is to purchase a tube and only use it occasionally. That way, you can get your fun toothbrushing selfie to share on Instagram without putting your teeth at risk for erosion.
Of course, if you have any questions about whether charcoal dental products are worth buying, your dentist is there to answer them. They can also let you know about other methods of whitening your smile or improving the appearance of your teeth so that you can feel more confident.
Dr. John Paul Gallardo is a periodontal specialist in the Miami area offering patients custom oral health plans. He can recommend options that work for you and your needs. To schedule an appointment in Miami, FL, call 305-547-8687 today.