Everyone loves a burger or some grilled vegetables, especially hot off the charcoal grill. You may be surprised to know that charcoal has quite a few uses besides cooking, and it is even showing up in toothpaste. Dental researchers and toothbrushers worldwide are starting to give charcoal toothpaste a try.
What Is Activated Charcoal?
Cooking charcoal (or even the kind used for artist's pencils) is made by slow-burning natural materials, such as wood, peat, or coconut shells. Activated charcoal is created for medical purposes by heating normal charcoal in the absence of oxygen, causing it to become highly absorbent. This is why, according to nutritionists, activated charcoal can effectively absorb and trap toxic chemicals, making it part of the standard treatment for accidental poisonings.
In addition, there are some claims that activated charcoal can alleviate intestinal gas, lower cholesterol levels, prevent hangovers (although charcoal doesn't readily absorb alcohol) and help regulate bile flow problems (called cholestasis) during pregnancy. However, Metro notes that activated charcoal's absorbent properties mean it can interfere with other medications you take, for example hormonal birth control, and render them ineffective.
Why Charcoal in Toothpaste?
Using charcoal as a teeth-cleaning method is nothing new. The ancient Romans brushed with everything from charcoal to tree bark, and the black powder can be found in a toothpaste recipe in a 19th century English homemaker's guide.
The last decade has seen a re-emergence of charcoal-based toothpastes with claims of whitening, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, and breath freshening properties. According to the Oral Health Foundation more research is needed to confidently establish the safety and effectiveness of charcoal pastes.
Is Charcoal Toothpaste Right for You?
When you think about putting black toothpaste on your toothbrush, don't worry about the taste: you aren't brushing with chunks from your barbecue. It may be black, but the charcoal incorporated into the paste is closer to the soft consistency of bicarbonate of soda. Many charcoal toothpastes contain flavouring agents, just like any other whitening toothpaste. According to studies, many toothpastes also contain bentonite clay (an allegedly detoxifying ingredient) or, more rarely, betel leaves (a plant chewed as a stimulant in many parts of Asia).
If you're someone who is prone to tooth decay, be aware that not all of these toothpastes will contain fluoride. Since most dentists want their patients to use fluoride in some form, your dentist may recommend a fluoride rinse to help strengthen your enamel.
Is charcoal toothpaste a fad or here to stay? Research on its properties is still emerging, but many people are finding that charcoal toothpaste is worth a try.