You have probably been seeing it everywhere–activated charcoal seems to be the next, great, health product helping with everything from detoxing your system to whitening your teeth. While we may not be detox experts, the team at Meyer Family Dentistry does feel pretty qualified to comment on the teeth-whitening aspects of the activated charcoal trend.
Here’s the scoop: activated charcoal may be ok to use as a kind of stain-fighting “mask” for your teeth, but avoid tooth powders or toothpastes that contain it. These products, whether homemade or purchased at your local pharmacy or health-food store, could be far too abrasive to be good for your teeth – and could even lead to further staining and yellowing!
Activated charcoal is similar to other charcoals in that it is made of charred coal, wood, or coconut hulls (probably the most common charcoal in health products these days). To make charcoal “activated” or appropriate for medical and cosmetic use, manufacturers heat common charcoal along with a gas that creates greater internal space or “pores.” These pores are what trap chemicals or other substances and clear them from the body. Because of this ability to trap substances, activated charcoal has long been used in emergency rooms for poisonings and overdoses, keeping substances from being absorbed into the stomach.
This absorptive quality may actually help whiten your teeth when it is applied as a sort of plaster, allowed to remain on the teeth without scrubbing for a time, and then rinsed thoroughly from the mouth. It is pretty messy, so be ready to clean your sink – and maybe the whole bathroom – afterward. This whitening mask can be made using activated charcoal capsules from your local drugstore or health food store mixed with a little water until it is thick enough to stay on your teeth. But be aware that if your teeth are darkened or discolored by age or intrinsic staining, your charcoal mask will not make your teeth any brighter. If you see results, it is because it is lifting the top layer of surface stains.
We do not recommend using activated charcoal as a scrub or making use of commercially available charcoal containing toothpaste. Why? There has not been enough research conducted on the effects of charcoal on tooth enamel for anyone to claim that it is entirely safe. Our belief is that abrasives do more damage than good and should be avoided. After all, we want to preserve the protective surface of your teeth, not scrub it away!
If you do decide to use activated charcoal to clean your teeth, never use it more than once every other week, and do not scrub for an extended period of time. Over-scrubbing can even lead to a darkened or yellowed smile as enamel is damaged, not a whiter one.
If you want a really effective and safe tooth-whitening method, talk to us about our dental bleaching options. And if you have tried activated charcoal in the past, please share your experiences with us. We love to hear from our Overland Park dental patients!