Does charcoal toothpaste work?

Well, it certainly catches your eye.

There’s been a huge increase in social media posts promoting the best activated charcoal toothpaste recently. Every trendy Insta influencer seems to be using it and showing off their gleaming smiles. The question is, is this another one of those celebrity health fads or will charcoal toothpaste make your teeth whiter? With the huge endorsements and glowing reviews, charcoal toothpaste has caught everyone’s attention.

But does charcoal toothpaste work?

does charcoal toothpaste work

What is ‘special’ about activated charcoal toothpaste?

The key ingredient is ‘activated charcoal’. But what on earth is that? It’s basically a powder made from carbon rich substances like coconut shells, wood and coal. The charcoal is heated up with gas and ‘activated’.

So how is charcoal toothpaste meant to work?

Now that it has been ‘activated’, the carbon parts in the toothpaste are meant to stick to unwanted chemicals on your teeth. These include those that cause staining. Once the carbon has bound to the chemicals they cause the stains to disappear. Charcoal is quite abrasive and may also act to remove surface stains from your teeth. These are the stains that build up on the outside layers, but not the actual colour of the teeth.

What are the risks of using charcoal toothpaste?

It’s incredibly abrasive

The rough texture of charcoal toothpaste may work to remove external stains from your teeth.

But it’s so coarse it may also remove the enamel layer.

Now, this is a problem. Unfortunately, unlike bone or skin, teeth will not regenerate. If you lose that enamel layer it’s gone for good. This can actually make your teeth look more yellow and increase sensitivity. Scientific Research has also shown that charcoal can roughen the tooth surface. This makes it easier for plaque to stick to it and cause tooth decay.

It doesn’t contain fluoride

A lot of the off the shelf charcoal toothpaste doesn’t have fluoride in them. Fluoride is scientifically proven to protect your teeth from cavities. If your toothpaste doesn’t have fluoride in then you’re at higher risk of developing cavities and needing fillings.

My verdict – does charcoal toothpaste work?

Marketing is a clever game.

It’s highly likely that the people you see in Insta posts have had cosmetic dental work done before the charcoal toothpaste endorsement. Professional teeth whitening, veneers and composite bonding can all make your teeth look incredibly white. The way marketing works is a company will look for someone to endorse their product that looks aspirational and therefore encourages you to want to be like them.  There is often no scientific trial that proves that person’s teeth are white as a result of using the charcoal toothpaste.

In fact, I don’t know of even one scientific trial which states any charcoal toothpaste benefits. That same social media influencer is also likely paid to post images of the toothpaste on their feed and then receive money if you buy using their link.

So don’t be fooled.

So does charcoal toothpaste work?

The easy answer, no.

The only long-term way to remove staining is through professional teeth whitening with a dental professional. The hygienist will remove surface staining in a safe way, protecting the enamel layer.

The only way to actually lighten your teeth is dental bleaching.



Author
Dr Gareth Edwards Dentist Author

Dr Gareth Edwards BDS (Hons) MFDS RCPS (Glasg) is a dentist who qualified with honours. Practicing in Bournemouth and Poole,  he has a keen interest in orthodontics and aesthetic dentistry and is a certified Invisalign and Six Month Smiles provider. For more information click here.

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