Have you been naughty this year? Be careful, Santa Claus may bring you some charcoal… in your toothpaste. The charcoal toothpaste fad has taken the Internet and social media by storm. In fact, this holiday season, several charcoal teeth whitening products have landed on Amazon’s best sellers list.
The first use of charcoal for oral hygiene dates back to Ancient Greece. So what has prompted the return of charcoal paste and why are consumers so quick to buy it? Most of the hype for these products can be attributed to the product labeling and marketing tactics that use consumer-appealing claims like “natural tooth-whitening, eco-friendly, organic, detoxification, or antibacterial.” Since you can find advertisements and testimonials for these products across all social media platforms, as a dentist, patients frequently ask if this charcoal craze is the real deal or just a scam. Our response has always been to stick with the traditional whitening toothpaste that comes complete with the ADA seal and here’s why:
1. Does it work, is it safe? Very few studies have been done to determine how safe or effective these charcoal-based toothpaste products are. At this point, the whitening claim is only speculative and there is no information as to the long-term effect that these products may have.
2. Charcoal is abrasive. Picture brushing your teeth with sandpaper and that visual alone may deter you from ever using these products. Charcoal scratches the tough outer layer of your teeth, the enamel, increasing the surface roughness. This factor alone has a damaging ripple effect that leaves you susceptible to cavities, yellow teeth, and sensitivity!
3. You have an increased risk for cavities and periodontal disease (gum disease) since it’s much easier for bacteria and plaque to stick to a rough surface. Not to mention, charcoal toothpaste doesn’t provide the same cavity fighting benefit as traditional toothpastes. In a 2017 article published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, the top 50 charcoal-based toothpastes marketed on Google and Amazon were evaluated for their labeling and ingredients. Only 1 product was found to contain Fluoride, the ingredient most recognized for preventing cavities that is found in traditional toothpastes.
4. Use of charcoal toothpaste could make your smile more yellow! The layer of your teeth you’re looking to whiten is the enamel. By scratching and removing this layer, you are slowly exposing the underlying dentin layer, which has a more yellow color. The dentin layer is also more porous and can stain more easily than enamel.
5. Teeth are more susceptible to sensitivity when the protective enamel layer is worn away. For those of you who bought into the charcoal trend early, don’t panic! There are products out there that support enamel remineralization, meaning they can help to rebuild the lost enamel. Our recommendation would be MI paste, a special paste that binds calcium and phosphate to your tooth. Ask a team member for more information about this product at your next dental visit!
Overall, there is a general lack of information to support the use and safety of charcoal toothpaste. It looks like this product makes the naughty list! But here’s what we do know, the best and safest way to whiten teeth is to use a whitening toothpaste with an ADA seal, avoid foods that stain like tea, coffee, wine, or tobacco and to have regular dental cleanings. If you’re looking for a real whitening boost for the holidays schedule a consultation with our team for our professional whitening service.
-Your Bela Family Dentistry Team
Brooks, J. et al. 2017. Charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices: A literature review. JADA. Vol. 148 (9).Pg 661-670.
Pertiwi, Y. et al. 2017. Surface changes of enamel after brushing with charcoal toothpaste. Journal of Physics. Vol 884.
ADA 2018. Natural teeth whitening: Fact vs Fiction. https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/w/natural-teeth-whitening