A common topic clinicians get asked about lately, is whether charcoal toothpaste is safe and effective. In recent years there has been a boom in popularity of this type of toothpaste, and its supposed whitening properties. But does it really work or is it all just a fad?
Charcoal toothpaste is comprised of natural materials such as coconut shells, wood and peat which are slow burned to create the charcoal. Following this, the materials are heated in the presence of gas to make them more porous so that they are able to absorb more chemicals and toxins. This is the process which turns normal charcoal into activated charcoal, which is often what you see advertised on most charcoal toothpaste brands. It should be noted that many charcoal toothpaste brands contain little to no fluoride, meaning that if you are prone to decay or have weak teeth, this type of toothpaste will not be as effective at maintaining the health of your teeth as conventional fluoride-based toothpastes.
The main draw of charcoal toothpaste is its advertised whitening properties. So, will it actually whiten your teeth? The answer to that is both Yes and No. To understand how tooth whitening works you have you understand intrinsic and extrinsic staining. Extrinsic staining is quite easy to remove as it sits on the surface of the tooth, whereas intrinsic staining is embedded into the pores of enamel and therefore requires special bleaching agents to remove. Due to charcoal toothpaste being abrasive it can remove extrinsic staining, but an important thing to keep in mind is that while it does remove staining it also removes small amounts of enamel as well. Therefore, it doesn’t actually ‘whiten’ teeth, but rather slowly wears away the enamel and any extrinsic staining on that enamel. Over time, charcoal toothpaste use can actually be counterproductive as the more enamel that is worn away, the more the yellow layer underneath the enamel (dentine) is seen.
Proceed with caution. Intermittent charcoal toothpaste use shouldn’t wear your enamel away too much, while also possibly removing some of the extrinsic staining on it. The recent spike in popularity of charcoal toothpaste has only just brought it to the forefront of mainstream attention, meaning that research on long-term use of this type of toothpaste is limited. For example, little is known about charcoal toothpaste’s effect on dental restoration work and how abrasive it could be to veneers or implants. Also, due to the general lack of fluoride in these types of toothpastes, consistent use of them does little to protect your teeth from the onset of decay. We dentists love prevention and can suggest other options, but we’ll leave the decision whether charcoal toothpaste is right for you or not, up to you the consumer.
However, if whiter teeth are your priority, getting dedicated whitening by your dentist is proven to yield effective and safe results. At Ballina Coast Dental we use the Pola Advanced Teeth Whitening System to create brighter smiles. For more information, call (02) 6686 3810.