Are Charcoal Based Toothpastes and Toothbrushes Good For Your Teeth?
I’ve noticed a bit of a buzz about charcoal based oral healthcare products lately. At our holistic dental practice in Melbourne my patients have asked me questions about it. Charcoal as a toothpaste has been around for years and predates modern toothpastes. My dad, who grew up in pre-war Manchester, would tell us to use charcoal when we ran out of toothpaste.
Charcoal is being promoted as a way to make you teeth brighter, whiter, and healthier naturally. The reality is a little different, and caution should be used when considering using these products.
Charcoal has long been promoted as a sponge for the bodies toxins. When we must remove amalgam fillings from patients we provide charcoal tablets to assist in this process. Charcoal is often used as a mild detoxifier. Some charcoal-based dental products claim that they are able to use this sponge feature to naturally, and safely, remove stains from your teeth.
Alas, the truth is little more damaging.
Charcoal has been used historically as a toothpaste because of its ability to remove stubborn stains, rather than its holistic healing properties. It is a heavily abrasive compound that as it strips away the stain it also takes a layer of tooth with it. This part of the tooth, the enamel, does not grow back. Ironically, over an extended period of use the whiter enamel layer is worn away exposing the more yellow, dentine, part of you tooth.
When I think of my dad telling us to use it instead of toothpaste, I must think about in the context that his family used it to remove stubborn English tea stains. I also must acknowledge that he had all his teeth taken out before he was 30 years old.
If you want whiter teeth then it needs to be done on a molecular level with a bleaching agent. The most common is a version of hydrogen peroxide. Bleach breaks down into its basic state of water and oxygen, it is this oxidation process that removes the stain. It is a far more predictable, conservative, and long-lasting way of whitening your teeth.
If you wish to use charcoal as a detoxifier for your mouth and teeth, and there is little evidence to suggest this will work, then you can simply chew on a charcoal capsule and let the residue sit in your mouth.