Charcoal has been used to clean teeth for centuries and this ancient cleaning technique has been brought back into the modern era as the latest teeth whitening trend.
Charcoal is being used to whiten teeth because it binds with everything it comes into contact with – and this includes stains, tartar, bacteria, and viruses. Tartar is responsible for the discolouration of the tooth enamel and charcoal has the ability to bind with it and pull it off of the external layer of the teeth to reveal the pearly whites beneath.
The charcoal used for whitening teeth is not the variety which can be found in supermarkets which is primarily used for BBQs. Charcoal for teeth whitening is a combination of nut shells, coconut husks, coal, wood, and other carbon-rich objects which have been activated. There are two ways to activate charcoal.
The first method is through the use of high temperatures and the other is a combination of chemicals and high temperatures – the chemicals are used to reduce the time it needs to be under heat and speeds up the overall process which makes it the preferred method.
The activated charcoal becomes very porous. The porosity of the charcoal is responsible for the tartar’s ability to bind to it. Activated charcoal is considered to be 100% safe for human use, whereas de-activated charcoal can cause severe adverse effects. Therefore, it is important to only use activated charcoal for teeth whitening and to ensure that the brand purchased is reputable and honest.
Activated charcoal is available as a paste, powder, and in capsule form and each form has been shown to render similar results. Up until recently, the capsule form and the paste form have been the most popular products on the market, while the charcoal toothpaste variety has only recently become the more popular product of choice.
Charcoal can also be used to reduce cavities by making the mouth less acidic and it can prevent bad breath by killing toxins and odour causing bacteria.
Unfortunately, activated charcoal for teeth whitening may be too good to be true and can result in negative side effects. Damage to the teeth through prolonged use is one side effect as the charcoal will eventually erode tooth enamel, and the removal of bacteria, while good for bad bacteria, can result in good bacteria being extracted from the body.
Good bacteria is essential for good gut health and a lack of good bacteria will result in an individual falling ill. Charcoal also absorbs medication which can have life-threatening risks for some individuals.
There is not a lot of scientific evidence to support the touted benefits of activated charcoal for teeth whitening and some people have reported bleeding of the gums and sensitivity after using activated charcoal products. However, there are numerous reviews and ‘before and after’ photos available online from satisfied customers.
Most brands do advise that their products be used for 3-5 consecutive days and then to cease use for a few months.
Black toothpaste and toothbrushes have some controversy surrounding them. However, they may offer a cheaper alternative to whitening strips or UV treatments to remove tea, coffee, and numerous other stains from the teeth.