Activated Charcoal: TRENDY or TRUSTFUL?

Information about TEETH WHITENING is easily one of the most common topics that my pateints ask about daily. With recent social media posts and advertisements about ACTIVATED CHARCOAL toothpaste and their claims to whiten your pearly gates, I thought I would share some of what I've learned about these products. 

Activated charcoal is not to be confused with charcoal used to BBQ with. This non-toxic dark powder is made when a variety of natural products are combined and oxidized under extreme heat. It was first used to absorb accidentally ingested poisons and is still used in medical emergencies to counteract drug overdoses.

Although beneficial for the above reasons, activated charcoal is NOT approved by the American Dental Association (ADA) or The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for dental use. Studies suggest that activated charcoal is too abrasive for the tooth's outer layer, otherwise known as the enamel. When the tooth's enamel is roughened, worn down or destroyed, the integrity of the tooth is compromised resulting in sensitivity, decay and broken or fractured teeth. The abrasive powder is also known to scratch the material used in fillings, crowns and veneers.

When brushing with activated charcoal, most people observe the characteristic darkening of the teeth and surrounding tissues. Aggressive brushing and longer brushing times are necessary to remove the activated charoal from your teeth, resulting in a "whiter" color. Some people also experence a laxative effect, and/or an allergic reaction caused from the sorbitol that is added to the product.

If you are still not convinced or just feel like you need to try it for youself, I highly recommend following up with a fluoridated toothpaste. The fluoride will help to repair and strengthen the tooth's enamel and reduce any sensitivity you may experience. 

Other natural and safe at-home teeth whitening alternatives that are backed by scientific evidence include brushing with baking soda mixed with water to make a paste or hydrogen persxoide diluted with water for a rinse. You can also look for over the counter whitening products that have the ADA seal of acceptance or talk to me about in-office options that provide a more rapid result!

Miranda Norvell, RDH, BASDH Miranda has been practicing dental hygiene since 2006 and has received a postgraduate degree in dental hygiene. She is a native Texan, mother of two boys and wife of one lucky man. Her enthusiasm for her own education is demonstrated through her excellent clinical skills and interpersonal relationships within our patient family.

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