Activated charcoal is a popular topic these days. It’s hard to be on social media and not see someone using it for teeth whitening purposes.
You can smear it on your face, wash your hair with it, and even brush your teeth with the black powder.
I have to admit, I was quite shocked when I first saw activated charcoal being used for teeth whitening. My first reaction was there was no way this could be safe!
It turns out there’s a bit more to the story behind activated charcoal and teeth whitening.
Even though it’s relatively new to the health and wellness space, activated charcoal has actually been used for quite some time.
But what we really want to know is – does it make yellow teeth turn white?
Let’s get to the bottom of what we know about activated charcoal and teeth whitening.
What is Activated Charcoal Teeth Whitening?
Activated charcoal is an age-old material with various uses. However, it gained recognition at the end of the 20th century and has only grown in popularity since then for teeth whitening.
In 1834, an American physician used activated charcoal to save the life of a patient who accidentally ingested mercury chloride. Since then, many safe and effective uses of the substance have been discovered, including using it to brush your teeth.
But I’m not talking about the charcoal that’s commonly used on the barbeque—although they are both made from the same base materials.
Activated charcoal is a finely milled black powder made from coconut shells, bone char, olive pits, coal, sawdust, or other materials. The charcoal is processed with high heat, which “activates” it. This changes its internal structure, making it more porous than regular charcoal.
It’s also processed in this way to rid it of any additional substances that are harmful to humans. It has a chemical composition that makes it a useful substance in a variety of situations.
Here’s a basic chemistry lesson on activated charcoal.
Activated charcoal has a negative electrical charge, which attracts positively charged molecules. Toxins and gases have a positive charge, causing them to be absorbed by the charcoal.
You’ve probably heard of nasty free radicals and the damage they can cause in your body. Yep. Charcoal traps those too.
Since it also has a porous texture, this adds to its efficiency in trapping unwanted substances. The best part is that activated charcoal cannot be absorbed by the human body; allowing it to carry toxins out of the body through excretions.
Medical Use of Activated Charcoal
Due to its unique properties, activated charcoal has many medicinal uses and healing properties.
One of the most valuable ways this material has benefited modern medicine is by preventing overdoses. Because activated charcoal has toxin-binding properties, it’s often used as an emergency poison treatment.
It can bind to a variety of over the counter and prescription drugs in order to reduce their effect. Studies show that activated charcoal can reduce drug absorption by up to 74 percent in adults.
Activated charcoal does have its limits though—in medical situations it is only used on a case-by-case basis.
Activated charcoal and other health benefits
Some medical professionals claim that activated charcoal may improve kidney function.
This is due to its toxin-binding qualities, and through reducing the number of waste products that the kidneys have to filter. This is especially beneficial for those suffering from kidney disease, a disease in which the kidneys can no longer properly filter waste products.
Also, if you are one of many people struggling with high cholesterol, activated charcoal has been shown to lower cholesterol. It’s able to bind cholesterol acids in the gut, limiting the amount that the body absorbs. One study conducted showed that cholesterol was lowered by 25 percent by taking activated charcoal each day for four weeks. Other studies also proved that activated charcoal prevents the absorption of “bad” cholesterol.
Activated charcoal has uses that span from medicine to natural beauty. It has become very popular to use activated charcoal in skin treatment. Applying it to the skin is said to purify the pores and treat acne.
Is Activated Charcoal OK for Teeth Whitening?
In the past decade teeth whitening has become a global industry. From dental office bleaching treatments to DIY home remedies, the perfect white smile is well sought after.
Can activated charcoal safely whiten teeth? There’s no formal evidence that activated charcoal whitens teeth.
However, activated charcoal has been FDA approved for many health uses. The American Dental Association has not currently approved any activated charcoal products for dentistry.
Though, observations suggest that using activated charcoal on your teeth is effective in absorbing plaque and other compounds that stain teeth. Meaning, the chemical properties of activated charcoal is a natural teeth whitener. It doesn’t neutralize the toxins—it binds to them, resulting in whiter teeth.
A Word of Caution: Is Activated Charcoal Too Abrasive?
I want to warn against using charcoal toothpaste that is too abrasive.
Since teeth do not regrow or replenish, using a substance that could potentially wear down the enamel may be detrimental. So it’s important to find a good charcoal toothpaste that isn’t too abrasive.
The whitening ability of charcoal exists in its porosity, while the trouble resides in its abrasiveness.
Relative Dentin Abrasivity (RDA) is a guide to measure abrasiveness for all FDA approved dental products and the FDA recommends a score of 200 or below.
Activated charcoal powder scores about a 70 to 90 on the RDA scale while most whitening toothpastes score between 100 to 200 RDA.
Always check the abrasiveness of activated charcoal toothpaste.
Use In Charcoal Toothpaste Moderation
Always consult with your dental professional before going ahead with any kind of teeth whitening procedure.
Abrasion of the teeth is when the enamel and dentin wear away over time due to abnormal process. When performing oral hygiene at home, avoid abrasion from applying too much force when brushing, using hard bristled toothbrushes and foreign substances.
Once the soften dentin in your teeth is exposed, abrasion happens at a faster rate and your oral health is more readily compromised. Protecting the tooth enamel helps maintain a healthy smile and lowers your risk for disease.
When it comes to activated charcoal for teeth whitening, discretion is advised. I have seen patients whose teeth suffered erosion due to the overuse of charcoal.
I also suggest you consider smearing the product on your teeth instead of brushing it on. This allows the product to effectively whiten the teeth without harming your enamel.
The Bottom Line
There is rational for using activated charcoal for teeth whitening – it may help absorb discolorations in your tooth enamel. Activated charcoal has been anecdotally seen to whiten teeth, but use extreme care when brushing the substance onto your teeth.