Posted by Dr. Julie Boudreault On 13-02-2020
White teeth make smiling a pleasure and offer the confidence to be more social. If you feel your teeth are looking a little too yellow, there are many whitening options you can consider. With a trend towards finding more natural approaches to healthcare and beauty, activated charcoal has become a popular choice for teeth whitening.
However, before you consider any dental treatments or products, it is always best to speak to our team to ensure you don’t waste your time and money. Here we review activated charcoal as a teeth whitening option and what we recommend.
What is activated charcoal?
Activated charcoal consists of a fine-grain powder that is used for many different applications. Because it is sourced from several different natural substances from coconut shells to olive pits and peat to slowly burned wood, many people are using it as a safe alternative for teeth whitening.
How does activated charcoal work?
Because the powder is exposed to extreme heat, it is oxidized and becomes active. Activated charcoal becomes very porous which makes it extremely adsorbent. With its wide surface and absorbency, activated charcoal works differently than other absorbent substances. Its unique nature doesn’t soak up toxins.
Instead, it binds to them and allows them to be removed effectively. As a result, it has been used to aid in the treatment of poison ingestion and drug overdoses since the early 1800s. It can stop the body from absorbing toxins into the bloodstream and is still used to treat overdoses and poison ingestion today.
How is activated charcoal used?
Activated charcoal has been associated with many benefits, with scientific evidence available to back it up. This includes treatment for poison victims and overdoses, as well as reducing underarm and flatulence odour. It is also used in all kinds of beauty products from facial masks to shampoos. However, what happens when you use it on your teeth?
Does activated charcoal whiten teeth?
Activated charcoal can be found in a wide selection of dental products from toothpaste to tooth whitening kits.
Although these products claim to remove stains and plaque, the truth is there is no scientific evidence it actually works. In fact, due to a lack of evidence that supports activated charcoal as an effective and safe product for dental care, products containing the ingredient are not supported by the American Dental Association (ADA).
Does activated charcoal harm teeth?
There is some evidence that the abrasive nature of activated charcoal can be harmful to teeth. According to the ADA, it can actually wear down tooth enamel, which is needed to protect your teeth from tooth decay. Ironically, tooth enamel erosion can actually make your teeth appear yellower.
Precautions for Using Activated Charcoal for Teeth Whitening
If you still feel inclined to give activated charcoal a try, there are several precautions we would like to provide:
- Finessing use
Activated charcoal is sold as a powder that is mixed with water. You create a paste that is applied to your teeth. Some people use a toothbrush while others prefer to use their fingers. Because of the abrasive nature of the product, you are far better off using your finger, as the added abrasion of your toothbrush will just make things worse.
The deep black colour of the powder can stain your clothes, towels, and countertops so be careful when using it.
If you get too enthusiastic with use in the attempts to see better results, you could also be increasing the risk for enamel erosion. The ADA recommends you choose an activated charcoal toothpaste for whitening that has a relative dentin abrasiveness level of 250 or less. You should also limit use to short periods and continue to alternate brushing using a trusted, ADA recommended fluoride toothpaste.
- Other active ingredients
Pay attention to other ingredients listed on your activated charcoal toothpaste. Ingredients like sorbitol could trigger an allergic reaction. It is used as a sweetener, but it is also known for acting as a laxative, so avoid swallowing the product.
- Kids and pregnant women
Because it is not approved by the ADA or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it best avoided by kids, pregnant, and breastfeeding women.
Are there safer alternatives to natural teeth whiteners?
There are several alternatives we would recommend to help you get that whiter smile including:
- Brushing with a fluoride toothpaste can help keep teeth brighter
- Avoiding drinks that can contribute to teeth staining such as red wine, tea, coffee
- Avoiding smoking
- Using toothpaste with baking soda as a natural whitening ingredient
Don’t forget to book regular dental office cleanings for a thorough tooth polishing and plaque and tartar removal. This will also help keep teeth white.
What other whitening products are available?
There are many effective, safe whitening products available including over-the-counter whitening strips, gels, and toothpaste. As well, professional-grade treatments are also available and provide your best option for stunning results including:
- Day White
- Night White
- Rizet White
You should speak to our team before making any decisions. There are many factors that might make teeth whitening products and treatments unsuitable including:
- Sensitive teeth and gums or exposed roots
- An allergy to the ingredients or materials used in the kit
- Receding gums
- Defective restorations
- Gum disease
- Fillings, crowns and other restorations
But don’t despair, there are many other cosmetic dental options available to help you have the white smile you desire.
While we wouldn’t recommend activated charcoal as a teeth whitening option, we are available to offer recommendations that will prove effective.
If you still choose to use activated charcoal, we strongly advise you to follow our warnings and take every precaution to avoid the potential ill effects the products could have on your teeth.