Charcoal Teeth Whitening: Does it Actually Work? (Side Effects and Dangers)
Charcoal is an abundantly available substance that was first used to fuel fires over 5,000 years ago and to heal wounds over 3,000 years ago. The Egyptians gave birth to the idea that charcoal could be used as a fuel source and a medicine, but not until the invention of new activation techniques in the 20th century did its potential as a medicine really come to the fore.
In the last decade or so activated charcoal has switched from being something used in hospitals as a remedy for poisonings, to something used in homes across the country as a detox aid, a treatment for digestive disorders, and more. It has been hailed as a miracle substance and as its popularity has risen, so has the list of apparent benefits.
One of those benefits concerns its apparent ability to whiten teeth. It may not seem like the most obvious choice when it comes to teeth whitening, but there are some truths to the claim. The question is, can it really whiten your teeth the same as bleach and other whitening agents or is this just another new-age fad built on marketing, assumptions, and anecdotal evidence?
Basics of Using Charcoal for Teeth Whitening
A teeth whitening toothpaste differs from a “normal” toothpaste in that it doesn’t contain any (or as much) fluoride and contains a highly abrasive substance. The idea is that this substance will help to scrub away the stains that have formed on your teeth, bringing out the natural whiteness underneath.
And it really does work, but only to an extent and probably not how you think.
There are a number of things that can discolor your teeth and these discolorations can occur on the “outer” or “inner” tooth, also known as extrinsic or intrinsic stains. Some causes of discoloration result from dental plaque, which occurs on the outer tooth and can be scrubbed away, but others are the result of food or drink stains and these cannot be easily scrubbed away.
A whitening toothpaste will also not work on tartar, which is basically ingrained plaque. The idea behind charcoal for teeth whitening is that it is both abrasive (so it can effectively scrub away plaque and extrinsic stains) and highly absorptive, so it can soak-up those stains.
Does it Work?
In theory, the idea behind charcoal for teeth whitening is sound. It certainly rings true with what we know of activated charcoal and what over a century of modern medicine has told us. The problem is that it’s not easy to prove and there have been no studies verifying that it can indeed absorb stains from the tooth.
There have been studies to show that it can whiten the teeth, but this may be the result of its abrasiveness, in which case it may be no more effective than any other whitening toothpaste.
One thing that it cannot do, is bleach the teeth, and activated charcoal will not work on teeth that have been stained as a result of coffee, tea, wine, cigarettes, age, medication, and other factors. All of these stains occur on a part of the tooth that charcoal toothpaste, and any other toothpaste, just cannot reach.
So, while it might perform as promise, it won’t provide the complete whiteness that many consumers seek and it’s also not as pleasant tasting (or looking) as other popular whitening toothpastes.
The Best Charcoal Whitening Toothpaste
Commercial charcoal toothpaste comes loaded with a number of additional ingredients and may use very little actual charcoal. It’s important to read the label and do your research in advance if you want a brand that lets the charcoal do the talking and doesn’t rely too much on flavorings, additives and additional abrasives.
You can also make your own activated charcoal toothpaste using activated charcoal and a base of coconut oil. It’s an easy, natural alternative to expensive commercial brands and if you’re struggling with the scent or flavor you can also add a few drops of spearmint or peppermint essential oil.
Side Effects of Charcoal Whitening Toothpaste
There are a few potential issues with charcoal whitening toothpaste that consumers need to be aware of:
What Actually Works
As mentioned above, charcoal will not give you a bright, white smile unless you have minimum discoloration to begin with. If you have had your teeth whitened recently and have developed some discoloration as a result of plaque formation, then it might turn them white again, but the average user will simply not see the results they want.
The only way to attack those intrinsic stains and get guaranteed whiteness every time is to use a teeth whitening gel like the one available in the Snow store. These teeth whitening kits are designed to be safe, gentle and effective, and they are available at a fraction of the price of the average dentist teeth whitening service.
If you are worried about the abrasiveness of charcoal, first try our charcoal floss here!