It’s all the rage among the teen-set — activated charcoal for teeth whitening. Brands call it a “miracle mouth product” that turns your teeth black, then pearly white.
But does it work? And is it safe for teeth?
What it is Activated Charcoal?
Activated charcoal isn’t the same charcoal that you cook hot dogs and burgers on. This cosmetic charcoal becomes “activated” when high temperatures are mixed with gas. This combination causes it to expand and become porous, trapping the impurities around it.
Other Uses for Activated Charcoal
Activated charcoal has been used in emergency rooms to help with patients that may have overdosed or accidentally ingested hazardous chemicals. More than 50 published studies have examined the use of activated charcoal in ERs. The American Academy of Clinical Toxicology emphasizes that it should not be used routinely for poisoned patients but only for certain types of overdoses and only if it can be administered within an hour of ingestion.
While there are no published studies on charcoal used for whitening, there is one unpublished experiment presented at a dental conference that noted charcoal powder could become embedded in cracks or small holes in the teeth — doing the opposite of whitening.
What We Know About Activated Charcoal for Teeth Whitening
Manufacturers claim their charcoal-containing toothpaste and toothbrushes can “kill microbes and absorb gasses causing odor.” This claim has yet to be tested, as research is still ongoing.
We do know that charcoal is abrasive. If it’s too rough on teeth, the product can prompt pearly whites to look more yellow than before. Strong substances can wear away enamel and expose dentin—the softer, yellowish layer of a tooth.
Is activated charcoal safe for teeth? Well, its effectiveness has failed to be proven and the safety of charcoal whitening products is a big question mark.
When considering new dental products, remember to look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance. When you see it, you can be sure the product inside has been scientifically evaluated to be safe and effective.
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