The Charc(whole) Truth

Recently we’ve been hearing more questions about activated charcoal and its potential to whiten teeth. It’s an intriguing phenomenon in the whitening category and we wanted to share our findings and our verdict on whether it actually helps or harms oral health.

To begin, activated charcoal capsules & toothpaste are part of a larger movement toward natural healthcare. We support natural healthcare, and even recommend certain applications when in patients’ best interests, but our blanket philosophy that we’d like to share is to look at all trends – all-natural or not! – with a discerning eye.

Of course, our eye is drawn to the dental side of things! Here are a few things to keep in mind before jumping on the charcoal bandwagon.

  • It can be messy – Using an activated charcoal capsule instead of the toothpaste could be off-putting to sticklers for cleanliness because the method is messier, requiring you to break a capsule full of the powder open and put it on your toothbrush or straight into your mouth. If you choose charcoal toothpaste, you will find the process more like what you experience now.
  • It’s different from normal toothpaste – Charcoal toothpaste is probably not what you’re used to: in most cases it is black or grey in appearance and may have a gritty texture.
  • It could be abrasive – The ADA is concerned that activated charcoal is abrasive to tooth enamel, which is not good because when enamel is gone it is gone. In addition to that, once your enamel wears down dentin may appear below, and dentin has more of a yellow-white color, which would really put a dampener on whitening!
  • Less fluoride – Generally charcoal toothpastes tend to be formulated with less fluoride content than other toothpastes on the market, and a complete switch to charcoal toothpaste could impact your oral health situation.

With these things in mind, the most important point is that there is no scientific evidence that charcoal toothpaste whitens teeth. Could it? Perhaps, but findings have not been conclusive. Then the question is whether the payoff is worth it. FDA Hygienist Kelly summarizes our thoughts on charcoal well: “We recommend use of charcoal toothpaste for adults only and it is not recommended for daily use due to its abrasiveness.” While charcoal does have a naturally purifying quality, that alone doesn’t mean that we should use it daily, especially when it could roughen tooth surfaces and potentially offer more opportunity for bacteria to grow and cavities to form.

If you catch yourself weighing the options, remember there are many whitening methods on the market that are proven to work! We recommend our professional whitening service because the results are immediate and it’s done professionally, so you can be assured of the best result possible. Just give us a call at 207.781.5900 and we’ll be happy to arrange an appointment.