Charcoal in medicine and even as a toothpaste is nothing new, going back millennia to ancient times. By the 1800s, researchers observed that charcoal could reduce or eliminate the toxic effects of poison when ingested. This was put to the test in 1831, when a French scientist downed a fatal dose of strychnine (a known poison) together with charcoal in front of his shocked colleagues at the French Academy of Medicine, suffering no ill effects.
For centuries, charcoal has been widely used to filter water, scrub surfaces, and as an additive in medications. More recently, activated charcoal has been used to mitigate the effects of poison or drug overdoses thanks to its ability to grab and absorb impurities.
With charcoal face masks, mouthwash, and body treatments, it’s safe to say this ancient “fad,” reborn, isn’t going anywhere. Still, there are things you need to know about charcoal toothpaste so you can ensure you are getting the most out of your brushing experience.
How does charcoal work?
First, know that you probably shouldn’t use the charcoal left over after grilling to brush your teeth. That’s because the charcoal in toothpaste is not shaved briquettes, but rather, “activated charcoal,” meaning the charcoal is heated with a gas to increase the size and number of pores that absorb chemicals and other impurities. Anyone who’s used a charcoal filter to purify water should be familiar with the concept; similar with teeth, the charcoal binds with impurities, removes stains and plaque and even freshens your breath.
Limitations of charcoal toothpaste
While there truly is not much of a downside to charcoal toothpaste, there are limitations to what it can do. While charcoal toothpaste can whiten your teeth, it can’t get to the core of teeth that are discolored from injury or years of dental issues. Likewise, charcoal toothpastes do not contain active ingredients, like fluoride, that protect your teeth from decay or plaque, nor are there any sensitizing agents for those with sensitive teeth. That’s why dentists recommend using charcoal toothpastes as a supplement to regular fluoridated toothpaste, not exclusively.
Protect your enamel from damage
Before commercial charcoal toothpastes were readily available, buying activated charcoal from the health food store was the first step in whitening or cleaning teeth. You could apply it straight on your teeth and wait for the charcoal to absorb impurities and bind to stains before gently rinsing it away. This is one way to ensure your enamel is not damaged. While commercial toothpastes are much more convenient, there is a slight risk of scratching your enamel if the charcoal toothpaste or powder is abrasive. As such, the Food and Drug Administration has placed guidelines on U.S.-made toothpaste, restricting the degree of abrasion. Buying toothpaste that is made in the U.S. is a good way to be safe.
Regardless of the condition of your teeth, activated charcoal can benefit your dental hygiene routine and is a fad that is here to stay. Just remember, man cannot brush with charcoal alone. If you have questions about teeth whitening and oral health, it’s always best to ask your dentist during your regular check-ups. Patients in the Las Vegas area trust the team at Dedicated Dental to keep their smiles beautiful. Since 2006, Dedicated Dental has been serving Henderson families. We would love to meet yours! Take this important step for your dental health and make appointment today by calling (702) 566-5509 to speak with one of our friendly office staff!