Unless you've been participating in a social media detox for the last several months, likely you've heard of the latest teeth whitening trend - brushing with activated charcoal.
Users are posting videos of themselves on social media with a mouthful of black paste and – supposedly – whiter teeth afterward. Many of these posts have gone viral and attracted millions of views.
Granted, we’re all seeking healthier and safer ways to take care of ourselves. And most bloggers and other advocates offer advice with the best of intentions.
But what do the medical and dental communities have to say about it?
In this post, we’ll discuss activated charcoal and how safe and effective it is for teeth whitening.
What Is Activated Charcoal?
First of all, what is activated charcoal? Is it the same stuff you dump into your grill before you cook hamburgers and steaks?
Not exactly. In fact, activated charcoal is very different from the charcoal you use to cook with.
Activated charcoal is made from high-pressure gas being forced into granules of charcoal. This process creates “pockets” inside the particles. These pockets are what give activated charcoal its most well-known quality – the ability to absorb toxins.
If you’ve ever been treated for severe food poisoning or accidental overdose, chances are that activated charcoal was part of your treatment plan. It can absorb high amounts of toxins that could make you very sick or even kill you.
Because of its detoxifying and absorptive properties, many people conclude that it must work the same way on teeth. If it can pull impurities from your digestive tract, couldn’t it do the same for your teeth?
It sounds logical in theory, right? But the truth is that brushing your teeth with activated charcoal could potentially do more harm than good.
Is It Safe to Brush My Teeth with Activated Charcoal Powder?
In theory, the pores in activated charcoal should bond with surface stains and plaque on your teeth. This enables you to brush them away, leaving you with whiter teeth.
While this may be possible, chances are that you’ll brush away more than just stains.
Activated charcoal powder is harsh and abrasive. While you may succeed in removing some stains, you also take the chance of damaging your tooth enamel. Damaged enamel can lead to a whole host of problems, from cavities to tooth sensitivity.
Another possible risk is that your teeth could absorb some of the charcoal, leaving them stained or spotted. The same thing can happen to your gums too! Instead of a whiter smile, too much charcoal could stain your gums and leave them looking dingy and dark.
I Want to Try It Anyways – What Should I Do?
What if, despite the risks, you do decide you want to try brushing with activated charcoal?
Your best bet is to look for a toothpaste or tooth-whitening product that contains activated charcoal. These have been specially formulated with just the right amount of charcoal to achieve the whitening results you desire.
This is much better than buying activated charcoal at the store and trying to make a DIY toothpaste at home. You simply don’t have the expertise necessary to create a safe and effective formula (and neither do many of those bloggers).
Your best bet is to leave the mixing to the experts and choose a product that contains a safe, predetermined amount of activated charcoal.
Final Thoughts on Brushing with Activated Charcoal
Most of us want whiter teeth, and activated charcoal is one option for achieving that goal.
If you decide to try it, make sure you choose a product that’s professionally made and safe to use.
That way, you’ll keep your teeth and gums healthy – which is always the most important thing!