If you like to consider yourself on the cutting edge of health and beauty trends, then you’re probably familiar with the phenomenon that is activated charcoal.
From face-masks to anti-aging products to toothbrushes and toothpastes, no health product has remained untouched. With summer barbecues on the mind, however, your first thought of charcoal may still be what you load your grill up with to cook your burgers and hot dogs.
If you are wanting to explore the touted health benefits of charcoal, don’t think you can just repurpose that charcoal in the grill to brighten your teeth! We might first think that charcoal is just charcoal, but there’s a difference between charcoal and activated charcoal.
Both charcoal and activated charcoal are derived from carbon. Activated charcoal is much more porous than grill charcoal, however. And because of its larger surface area, activated carbon has the ability to filter out more than charcoal can.
This video from WebMD highlights some of the common theories around the idea that charcoal can make your teeth whiter. The video debunks many of the claims and highlights how this product could actually affect your teeth. Keep reading to learn more!
Is all charcoal the same?
Before you go rubbing your toothbrush on the grill, it’s important to note the difference in different types of charcoal. Activated charcoal is a fine black powder comprised of a combination bone char, coconut, shells, peat, petroleum coke, coal, olive pits or sawdust. The charcoal is “activated” by processing it at very high temperatures. The high temperatures change its internal structure, reducing the size of its pores and increasing its surface area. The activation is what differentiates this type of charcoal from the type used on your barbecue grill, even if both are made from the same basic materials.
Activated charcoal is incredibly porous and also has a negative electrical charge, which causes it to attract positively charged molecules like toxins and gases.
What is activated charcoal used for?
The Mayo Clinic notes that activated charcoal is traditionally used in the emergency treatment of certain kinds of poisoning. It helps prevent the poison from being absorbed from the stomach into the body. In fact, they also caution that while activated charcoal may be available without a doctor’s prescription; before using this medicine it’s important to call a poison control center, your doctor, or an emergency room for advice.
Can I use it on my teeth?
If you choose to use activated carbon on your teeth, you wouldn’t be the first. In fact, the ancient Romans used it as one of the powders they brushed their teeth with.
However, while it fell out of fashion for centuries, over the last decade brushing with activated charcoal has reemerged. The Journal of the American Dental Association reviewed many studies on the most popular claims of tooth whitening, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and breath-freshening properties. However, the research was inconclusive, and they determined that more work needed to be done to substantiate any health claims.
Can it hurt my teeth?
The main concern with using activated charcoal in oral health is that it might be too abrasive for your teeth. If used regularly, it could end up damaging your enamel. Enamel is the hard, protective layer on the surface of your teeth that once is gone, doesn’t regenerate. In addition, once it is removed, the yellowish layer below will be exposed.
Another concern is that, since activated charcoal is so powerful at removing all things it comes in contact with, it could actually absorb beneficial things like medications.
While activated charcoal has been FDA approved for many health uses, the American Dental Association has not currently approved any activated charcoal products in dentistry. Now, from a professional’s point of view, is it detrimental to your health? Probably not. However, will activated charcoal actually make your teeth brighter? Probably not.
Just like with any new health product, it’s important to discuss using activated charcoal toothpaste or toothbrush with your dentist. If you are looking for a whiter smile without the risks of ruining your enamel, then there are numerous at-home and in-office treatments that are available. Give our office a call today if you’re looking to brighten your smile!