You may have noticed, charcoal is everywhere. Charcoal toothpastes, charcoal face masks, charcoal teeth whitening, and even charcoal supplements are in news feeds and social media!
From a dental perspective, if you have asked yourself the question of whether or not charcoal toothpastes are good for you, I congratulate you for questioning something that has gained popularity so quickly. Is charcoal toothpaste a marketing ploy? How well does it work? Is it safe?
What is Charcoal Toothpaste
Lets take a look at what we know about activated charcoal (the main ingredient in charcoal toothpaste), and then you can make an educated decision on if this product is right for you or not.
Also called activated carbon, activated charcoal is known for its detoxifying abilities. After it is created using a high heat process with materials such as coconut shells, the end product has millions of tiny pores which trap the toxins and other chemicals, shown to be very effective in medicine to aid in toxin removal if ingestion occurs.
The Bad and The Ugly
As a dentist, my number one concern in using charcoal toothpastes is it ERODING YOUR ENAMEL.
Charcoal by nature is an abrasive material, even after it is activated and finely ground it has the abrasiveness similar to that of grinding sand on your teeth. At this point there is no regulation on the abrasiveness of the toothpastes being put on the market. If that alone doesn’t sound concerning, listen up… you could damage your enamel permanently, putting in microscopic scratches and eventually reducing the thickness and strength.
True, you are removing stains from your teeth due to the activated charcoals binding capabilities, however you are only removing extrinsic stains (surface stains) often caused by the foods and beverages you are consuming (see our blog on 7 Common Foods and Drinks that Stain Your Teeth). This is much different than whitening your teeth. Whitening your teeth happens on a deeper level, removing intrinsic stains (stains deep within the structure of your tooth).
But keep in mind, “at what cost to your teeth are you removing those stains?” And additionally, due to the abrasive nature of charcoal toothpaste, you may be removing those stains by removing small layers of your enamel. By putting microscopic scratches into your teeth, those scratches will trap stain faster, thus you use the toothpaste more, now you are on a never-ending hamster wheel. Eventually it could lead to a much costlier dental bill.
Now that you know the bad and the ugly, lets focus on the good. Charcoal toothpastes help raise the pH of your mouth, thus reducing the acidic plaque that causes decay on your teeth, additionally by keeping the pH balance of your mouth more basic it may help reduce bad breath, and who doesn’t want that! And, of course, charcoal toothpastes have been shown to reduce stains on your teeth.
Now in this dentist’s opinion, keep the charcoal under the grill and not in your mouth. It has been my research and experience that the good of charcoal toothpastes does not outweigh the bad and ugly. But I encourage you to do additional research if this is a product you are wanting to try or continue.