If you’ve turned on the television lately there is a fair chance you will have seen advertising for charcoal toothpastes which claim to remove stains and whiten teeth. Activated charcoal products have taken the world by storm and you may be surprised to know that it’s nothing new. Charcoal toothpaste dates back to 27BC when it was used by the Romans in combination with crushed bones and oyster shells to keep their teeth sparkling clean.
But how effective is modern activated charcoal toothpaste? Are these claims are based on solid scientific data? Read on as we explore some commonly asked questions.
‘There is a lack of scientific data to support the use of these charcoal pastes and powders’
British Dental Journal
Does it absorbs toxins?
Yes. Activated charcoal is highly absorbent and is great for absorbing toxins in the body. For this reason, it is sometimes used to treat poisoning. However, the effectiveness of this on your oral health is questionable as toxins do not play a major role in the tooth decay process.
Will it prevent cavities?
A 2019 review by the British Dental Journal found that charcoal provides little protection from decay. The missing active ingredient from most charcoal toothpastes is fluoride, this means your fluoride free charcoal toothpaste cannot remineralise or repair damaged tooth structure.
Will it whiten my teeth?
Charcoal toothpaste does not contain a whitening or bleaching agent and will not whiten your teeth at all. However, charcoal is an abrasive compound and is very effective at removing surface stains and discolouration from teeth. Scientifically formulated toothpastes contain mild abrasives and will safely remove stains.
Will it damage my teeth?
As mentioned, charcoal toothpastes are highly abrasive. This means instead of whitening teeth, it scrubs away the outer layer of enamel exposing fresh enamel. A 2017 study from the Journal of Physics found that charcoal toothpastes increased the surface roughness of enamel. The abrasive nature of charcoal toothpastes has also been found to damage some dental work. Many charcoal toothpastes make claims of low abrasiveness but these claims have not been verified.
Is it safe to use?
There is no evidence that charcoal itself is bad for your health. However, there is possible health risks related to the carcinogenic polyromantic hydrocarbons in charcoal. Unfortunately, we don’t have any long term studies relating to oral exposure to activated charcoal.
So what can you take from all this? Should you give up using your charcoal toothpaste? There are some charcoal based toothpastes that also contain fluoride and are quite effective for preventing cavities and strengthening enamel. However, it is important to remember that unlike mainstream toothpastes, there is limited research into charcoal toothpastes.