One of the most memorable social media trends of recent years involves using charcoal toothpaste to get a whiter, brighter smile. Plenty of people have posted photos of themselves brushing with what looks like black goop. The posts promise that the charcoal paste helps to whiten teeth, even though it looks like the opposite is true.
The question is, does it work? While lots of bloggers and social media influencers claim that it does, medical professionals point out that there are a number of risks involved in using activated charcoal, in toothpaste form or otherwise, to improve your smile.
The History of Charcoal
Using charcoal to clean or whiten the teeth isn't really a new trend at all. Back in ancient Roman times, people were using powdered charcoal as an ingredient in their toothpastes. Recipes for homemade toothpastes that date to the 19th century also feature charcoal as a key ingredient.
Activated charcoal has a long history when it comes to other medical uses. One of its primary uses is to help treat people who have been poisoned. The charcoal is thought to absorb certain toxins, helping to stop the process of poisoning. Interestingly enough, the National Institutes of Health points out that activated charcoal is often used to treat severe cases of toothpaste overdose.
Is Charcoal Toothpaste Safe?
If you are ready to jump on the activated charcoal bandwagon or figure that giving the trend a try won't hurt, you might want to rethink that idea. While you might not notice any negative effects right away, the American Dental Association warns that activated charcoal is too abrasive and will wear away your tooth enamel. Once the enamel is gone, it's gone forever. The layer beneath, known as the dentin, becomes more visible. Dentin has a natural yellow tinge, meaning that you're likely to be left with teeth that look more yellow or stained than they did to begin with.
What Are Your Other Options?
There are lots of ways to get a whiter smile that don't involve rubbing charcoal on your teeth. If you want to remove surface stains at home, you can try using a whitening toothpaste, such as Colgate Optic White Radiant, which contains a professionally recommended whitening ingredient, hydrogen peroxide, and whitens teeth both inside and out. Avoiding foods and drinks that stain teeth, such as wine, chocolate and coffee, may also help you get a brighter smile.
Your dentist can walk you through the various whitening treatments available, including in-office options and treatments you can do at home. The whitening treatment that's right for you depends on your budget, how quickly you'd like to see results and how dramatic you'd like your results to be.
When it comes to taking care of your teeth and improving your smile, you can't always trust what you see on social media. Remember that your dentist is there to help you make the best choices for your dental health and is happy to answer any questions you have about the latest dental trends and treatments.