Charcoal Toothpaste for Teeth Whitening: Is It Effective?

Everyone seems to want a whiter, brighter smile; and with that end, look for different ways to achieve this goal. One of the products, or group of products, is activated charcoal. Charcoal has been used for years in emergency rooms to treat certain overdoses because it absorbs the toxins. With this in mind, charcoal has become very trendy, and is used in many cosmetic products from facial masks and scrubs to toothpastes, but is it safe or effective for teeth whitening?

Teeth are composed of two layers: enamel on the outside and dentin on the inside. Enamel is a very hard, smooth white material that is translucent (reflects the color beneath it). Dentin, the inner layer of the tooth is naturally yellow. Like everything in the human body, there are varying degrees of shades for both enamel and dentin.

Stains can be intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic stains are stains on the inside of the tooth and a topic for another day. Extrinsic stains are surface stains on the enamel and what most products aim to tackle, charcoal toothpaste included.

Charcoal is a powder produced from coal, shells and other natural substances oxidized under high heat. This powder is abrasive, therefore, in theory, scrubbing away stains. This claim has not been proven.

Abrasive particles however can remove thin layers of enamel, and in patients with exposed root surfaces, also abrade the much softer root. As the enamel thins, the underlying dentin becomes more visible, remember the enamel is translucent, and the teeth can appear darker. The opposite effect of what you are trying to achieve. The enamel also becomes rougher and therefore can pick up more stain, again the opposite effect. This thinning of enamel and root surface can also cause sensitivity.

The ADA, American Dental Association, has issued a statement that there is no evidence that charcoal is safe or effective for whitening your teeth, and may actually harm them. If you are looking to brighten your smile, visit your dentist for an examination and discussion on safe and effective whitening options for your particular situation.

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