We all want a brighter, whiter smile. However, if you aren’t cautious about your teeth’s color at a very young age, your past habits may have a lasting impact on your smile. Whitening is an option that will help lift tooth stains and restore your smile to a whiter, brighter appearance.
One of the questions our patients keep asking us is if charcoal toothpaste works for teeth whitening.
There’s a lot of buzz around charcoal toothpaste and its ability to whiten teeth.
But are these claims true?
We’re going to explore the pros and cons of using charcoal toothpaste so that you can make an informed decision on how you want to whiten your teeth.
What is Charcoal Toothpaste?
Charcoal toothpaste is a specialty type of toothpaste that’s formulated with activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is a fine powder made from natural substances that have been oxidized under intense heat. It is not the same charcoal you use in a grill or barbecue.
Activated charcoal isn’t something new in the medical field. Because of its high absorbency, it’s used by doctors to treat overdoses and remove toxins.
But the use of activated charcoal in toothpaste is a relatively new thing. This type of toothpaste is typically marketed as a whitening toothpaste because the charcoal is believed to help remove surface stains.
How Does Charcoal Toothpaste Work?
Charcoal toothpaste is marketed as a teeth whitening product, but how does it work?
Much like baking soda, charcoal is an abrasive substance. The theory is that if you brush with charcoal, it will scrub away stains.
Activated charcoal is also highly effective at absorbing toxins, so it’s also believed that its absorption power can help whiten your teeth by absorbing stains.
Charcoal’s porous surface has a negative charge, so it attracts positively charged molecules, like toxins.
Given charcoal’s absorption properties, it makes sense why people would want to use this substance for teeth cleaning. However, the research on charcoal toothpaste is limited and inconclusive.
Not all charcoal toothpaste is effective, either.
Let’s weigh the pros and cons of charcoal toothpaste to learn more.
The Benefits of Charcoal Toothpaste
There are some benefits to using charcoal toothpaste.
May Remove Surface Stains
There’s anecdotal evidence that charcoal toothpaste can remove surface stains. But that’s only because the charcoal itself is abrasive. What this means is that the charcoal can scrub away surface stains, but it’s also removing your enamel at the same time. Enamel, unfortunately, doesn’t regenerate. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.
May Get You to Brush Longer and Focus on Your Oral Health
One indirect benefit of charcoal toothpaste is that it may get you interested in taking care of your oral health and get you to brush for longer.
May Help with Bad Breath
Because charcoal can absorb toxins, this type of toothpaste may help with bad breath.
Some people also believe that charcoal toothpaste can help prevent future surface stains, but there is little evidence to back up this claim.
The Cons of Charcoal Toothpaste
While there are many advantages of charcoal toothpaste, there are some cons that you need to consider.
Activated Charcoal is Abrasive
One of the biggest drawbacks of charcoal toothpaste is that it’s abrasive. With daily use, it could wear away tooth enamel and actually wind up making your teeth look more yellow.
It Does Not Remove Stains Below the Tooth’s Surface
Even if charcoal is effective at removing surface stains, it can’t remove any stains that are below the surface. If you’re truly interested in teeth whitening, you will want a product or procedure that can tackle both surface and intrinsic stains (those below the surface).
Surface stains are called extrinsic stains, and they’re usually caused by things like coffee, tobacco, red wine and certain foods. These are the types of stains that can be removed with whitening toothpaste and other whitening treatments.
Intrinsic stains, on the other hand, come from within your tooth. They may be caused by weak enamel, trauma, overuse of fluoride or the use of certain medications.
It May Stain Dental Restorations
If you have bridges, veneers, white fillings or crowns, using charcoal toothpaste may actually stain these restorations. These types of stains cannot easily be removed and may make your restorations more noticeable.
Long-Term Effects and Safety are Still Unknown
Activated charcoal is a natural product, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s safe for long-term use. The truth is that we still don’t know the long-term effects and safety of charcoal toothpaste.
The little research we do have has been mostly inconclusive.
It may not be worth putting your oral health at risk when we have so many proven whitening treatments that have been heavily studied.
Some Charcoal Toothpaste Products Do Not Contain Flouride
Charcoal may be able to help with surface stains and even bad breath, but it’s not a replacement for fluoride when it comes to cavity protection. Some charcoal toothpaste products are fluoride-free, so you lose the cavity protection you get with regular toothpaste.
Fluoride will help keep your tooth enamel strong and protect against cavities and decay.
Charcoal Toothpaste May Not Be Appropriate for Everyone
Some people should avoid using charcoal toothpaste, such as:
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
- People taking oral medication
- People who are on birth control
Charcoal toothpaste may be absorbed by the mucus membranes in your mouth and, if ingested, could potentially interfere with the absorption of medications and other chemicals.
Another big drawback of charcoal toothpaste is that it can be messy. Even commercial charcoal toothpaste makes a mess when you spit. Be prepared for a longer clean-up time when you use this type of toothpaste.
Taking Care of Your Oral Health Can Brighten Your Smile
Charcoal toothpaste is just one of many options for whitening your teeth, but with so many unknowns, it may not be worth the risk to incorporate it into your oral health routine.
But taking proper care of your oral health can help naturally brighten your smile.
- Brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes
- Flossing once per day
- Coming into our office for regular cleanings
Avoiding smoking and limiting your consumption of tooth-staining food and drinks can also help keep your smile bright.
Is Charcoal Toothpaste Safe for Everyday Use?
Unfortunately, research on charcoal toothpaste is very limited, and more research is needed to better understand the long-term effects of this treatment option. However, what is known at the time of writing this is that charcoal isn’t safe for everyday use.
A few of the key issues with using charcoal toothpaste daily are:
- Excessive brushing with charcoal can cause enamel damage. Due to the toothpaste being abrasive, it is not something that you want to use regularly for teeth whitening.
- Charcoal can become lodged in the gaps between the teeth or even in small cracks in the teeth. If the charcoal is not fully removed, it will lead to the eventual staining of the teeth.
- Dental restorations are not the same as your regular teeth. If you use charcoal toothpaste, it can cause your restorations to become discolored and may stain older teeth.
- Some users report that charcoal toothpaste increases their tooth sensitivity.
Many charcoal toothpastes do not contain fluoride, which can help prevent tooth decay and cavities from forming.
Add in the lack of understanding of whether charcoal toothpaste is safe to use long-term, and it becomes a risky tooth whitening option. Instead of risking long-term side effects or staining your teeth, there is a better method of whitening that will help lift tooth stains and improve your smile.
What’s the Best Method for Teeth Whitening?
If you’ve decided against using charcoal toothpaste to whiten your teeth, there is one method that will work wonders: professional whitening. In our office, we can whiten your teeth, eliminate the risk of abrasive charcoal damaging your tooth’s enamel and help you achieve the pearly white smile you desire.
Two main professional methods of teeth whitening are available in our office:
1. In-office treatments can take up to four sessions to complete and will require you to have x-rays performed and a dental cleaning before your visit. Zoom whitening will involve whitening gel that stays on your teeth while the light helps amplify the whitening power. Multiple sessions of around 15 are required to help break up tooth stains and lead to the white smile you deserve.
2. Our dispensed whitening solution is a powerful form of whitening that uses a tray and special gel to whiten the teeth. Professional at-home treatments are allowed to contain more whitening agents and help you brighten your smile by wearing the tray for 30 - 60 minutes daily for up to two weeks.
Of course, whitening toothpaste is another option that you can incorporate into your daily dental routine, but the whitening will be minimal. One of the above professional treatment options will work best if you want the best chance of whitening your teeth.
If you want to remove teeth stains or discoloration, schedule an appointment with us to help you restore your smile.