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Brushing with Charcoal: Not so Black and White

You may have noticed several articles posted on your Facebook newsfeed that discuss charcoal toothpaste and how it is superior to the regular toothpaste your dentist may recommend. Be aware that many of the claims for using charcoal are not backed up by scientific evidence. These include that charcoal toothpastes can be used for brushing your teeth to detox your oral cavity while making your teeth naturally whiter.

Let’s talk about the first claim of using charcoal to detox your teeth and gums. The charcoal found in these toothpastes is called activated charcoal. Where does activated charcoal come from? Charcoal becomes activated when it is heated with a gas making it more porous. The porosity of the charcoal is what helps adsorb toxins. Charcoal has been recommended in the 1900’s by the World Health Organization for the treatment of poisoning and overdoses. At this point, no scientific research has found that activated charcoal detoxes your teeth and gums. Therefore, claims that charcoal in your toothpaste is antibacterial, antifungal and anti-viral are unproven.

The second claim states that brushing with charcoal makes your teeth whiter. And that may initially occur only because you have to brush much longer to remove the black toothpaste out of your mouth. Conversely, if you have several fillings or microcracks in your teeth, the charcoal can gather into these crevices and become hard to remove, leaving a dark stain color behind, the exact opposite of what you were trying to achieve. The scientific research shows that brushing with charcoal will abrade the outer surface of your teeth which is the enamel. What most people don’t realize is that our tooth color is mostly determined by the second most inner layer of our teeth which is called the dentin. Dentin happens to be yellow in color and using teeth bleaching products will lighten the yellow color resulting in whiter looking teeth. If you abrade your enamel and thin it out using charcoal, you will actually start to make your teeth look more yellow because the thinner enamel will reveal more of the yellow dentin layer.

The long term effects of using charcoal in your toothpaste is unknown. Also be aware that charcoal can not fortify, strengthen or remineralize your teeth. Toothpastes containing fluoride are best to do so. If you want healthy and whiter teeth, stick to the tried and true method of seeing your dentist every six months for a cleaning and check up.

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