Here at Hospital Dental Group we always try to be on top of the latest trends. Some trends are helpful, and others tend to cause more harm than good. So when we heard that people were using activated charcoal to help whiten their teeth, we decided to step in and check out what was going on behind the curtain.

activated charcoal on teethIf you look around at all the trendy health blogs you see one thing with tooth whitening (well, two if you count oil pulling, which we talk about here) and that’s activated charcoal. Bloggers and vloggers all over are flaunting their soot covered teeth.

So what’s really going on here? Is this fad a way to get whiter teeth at home? Or is it another turn and burn scam to make a quick buck off of people who believe it’s proponents? Let’s take a closer look.

Activated Charcoal: The Promise

For years activated charcoal has been used as a purifying agent in things like air filters, and as an agent for treating things like accidental poisonings and drug overdoses. According to Dr. Mark Wolff, DDS, Professor and Chair of the Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Case at the New York University College of Dentistry, “Activated charcoal has been used for many things. It’s a purifying agent that absorbs impurities.”

From these humble origins, activated charcoal is now being touted as a superfine powder that’s made it’s way into the health and beauty market. Activated charcoal has been popping up in everything from face masks to cleaners and detox regimens. The idea is, if this excellent product cleanses impurities everywhere else, why not your teeth? Shouldn’t it be able to remove those stains and leave your teeth a beautiful shiny white?

“Like any abrasive, we’re worried about the effects on the gums and enamel on the teeth. We don’t know about the safety and effectiveness of it,”

-Dr. Kim Harms, DDS

Activated Charcoal: The Process

“Black is the new White” It’s proponents claim. The application is simple. Either buy some capsules, break them open, mix the powder with water and then brush. Take a full 3-5 minutes to brush it in there and then rinse away the charcoal leaving behind shiny, white teeth. Alternatively, buy a toothpaste containing activated charcoal as one of its ingredients and repeat the same process.

The idea is to remove any food stains left behind on the teeth with the abrasive charcoal and cut down on these major eyesores.

Activated Charcoal

Minneapolis-based dentist and spokesperson for the American Dental Association Dr. Kim Harms, DDS says to hold off. “There’s no evidence at all that activated charcoal does any good for your teeth,” says Dr. Harms. She worries about the potential damage the grainy substance can do to your teeth and gums. “Like any abrasive, we’re worried about the effects on the gums and enamel on the teeth. We don’t know about the safety and effectiveness of it,” she says. And according to Dr. Wolff, attempts to use charcoal in toothpaste haven’t been met with tremendous success.

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Unfortunately for proponents of the activated charcoal smile, the science isn’t in on this one. In fact, putting something so abrasive on your teeth has the chance to damage both your gums and your tooth enamel. Not a great tradeoff for something that hasn’t even been proven to work.Although your teeth probably WLL be whiter after using it, it’s not because of anything the charcoal is doing, but rather a side product of the brushing motion itself, as well as the water or other cleaning agents, found within the toothspaste you’re using.

Dr. Wolff gives us one piece of advice in parting, “Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” says Dr. Wolff. “I still recommend any of the mainstream whitening toothpastes or seeing the dentist. The mainstream whitening toothpastes are going to be safe. There are a number of products on the market that can be too abrasive.”

Wrap up

Sorry everyone, but we can’t in good faith recommend this product to anyone! We’ve looked at the arguments presented by both sides, but only one side can really back their claims up with evidence and scientific procedures, and that’s the guys who do this sort of thing for a living. Maybe in the future, we can find a way to get that activated charcoal out of a face cream and into toothpaste in a way that really helps, but today just isn’t that day. If you have any questions, feel free to message us by filling out the form on the right! Thanks for reading!