Natural health remedies and holistic medicine is becoming more and more popular as popular sentiment continues to sway in the direction of natural care. In many ways, natural alternatives can be a great solution for patients. However, some natural health trends seem to do more harm than good. One that all dentists undoubtedly know about today is charcoal toothpaste. Tubes of coal-black toothpaste began popping up on store shelves a couple years ago, and today, different varieties can be found in many drugstores across the Chicago area, not to mention a plethora of options on Amazon and other online retailers. |
Some of our patients wonder whether or not natural charcoal whitening treatments are worth trying, or even if they should be tossing out their old toothpastes altogether for this “natural whitening solution.” Our opinion? Not quite yet. Continue reading to discover the truth about black toothpastes.
Charcoal toothpaste probably seems like a new trend, but this natural remedy has actually just been brought back to life from ancient traditions. Romans actually used tree bark as rudimentary “toothbrushes” to brush charcoal onto their teeth to clean off plaque. Other records show us that charcoal popped up throughout many different cultures and time periods as an early form of toothpaste. The charcoal sold in stores today purports that charcoal is effective in gently whitening teeth by removing deep surface stains. It can also detox the mouth and freshen bad breath by lifting odors.
Is this the same charcoal used on a grill?
Actually, no; charcoal in today’s natural toothpastes is “activated,” which means it has been broken down into a silty powder due to exposure to intense heat. The benefits of activated charcoal are fairly well known. Evidence shows that it can actually decrease absorption in the body of certain poisons or chemicals. That’s why activated charcoal can be given as treatment for some instances of drug overdoses.
Can it whiten teeth?
When it comes to activated charcoal’s effects on teeth, the scientific evidence isn’t really there. The American Dental Association reports that no conclusive studies have determined whether charcoal is effective at whitening—let alone safe for teeth. The ADA cautions that rough, gritty srubs, like charcoal toothpaste may actually be counterintuitive for whitening. A rough textured paste can slowly erode enamel, which can cause dentin, the naturally-yellow layer underneath enamel to show through more clearly. This is a natural process that happens as people age, but excessive exfoliation can speed up the process.
Charcoal Toothpaste: Keep or Toss?
When it comes to protecting teeth and receiving safe whitening care, we recommend to always opt for the treatments and procedures that have significant studies and research behind them. While charcoal toothpaste may not necessarily be harmful if used occasionally, it is not proven to effectively whiten. In that case, it may be simply more convenient to use an ADA-approved gentle whitening toothpaste. In addition, most natural charcoal toothpastes lack fluoride, an ingredient we highly recommend in your toothpaste. Fluoride is an incredibly beneficial mineral that strengthens tooth enamel and has been proven to reduce tooth decay in both adult and child patients. Simply put, more studies are needed to show whether charcoal toothpaste is safe or effective. Until then, we recommend whitening systems approved by the American Dental Association to preserve tooth enamel while lifting surface stains for a more radiant smile. For more information on how to whiten safely and effectively, call our Skokie office to schedule a cosmetic consultation with Dr. Abraham Stein or Dr. Zachary Weiss at The Stein Center for Advanced Dentistry!
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