Charcoal Toothpaste: What Is It?

by Colgate Contributor

Woman with a perfect smile

Everyone loves a burger or some grilled veggies, 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 regular charcoal in the presence of a gas, causing it to become more porous. This is why, according to Scholar Research Library, activated charcoal can effectively absorb and trap 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, activated charcoal's absorbent properties mean it can interfere with other medications you take, such as hormonal birth control, and render them ineffective.

Why Charcoal Toothpaste?

Using charcoal as a teeth-cleaning method is nothing new. According to Center for Dental Education and Research, AIIMS; oral hygiene maintenance is crucial for prevention of various oral diseases. Oral hygiene practices across the country vary largely and people in peri-urban and rural areas use traditional methods of oral hygiene like powders, bark, oil and salt etc.

The last decade has seen a reemergence of charcoal-based toothpastes with claims of whitening, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and breath freshening properties. After reviewing a number of studies, the researchers concluded that more evidence is needed before they can confidently establish the safety and effectiveness of charcoal pastes.

The resurgence of charcoal pastes has been observed and it can be mainly attributed to consumers' desire to find more efficient and effective ways of whitening teeth. This has led to various global dental school currently concluding studies in order to test charcoal toothpastes against other whitening pastes and products and closely monitor the effect of charcoal on tooth enamel. The study used real extracted teeth from donors to measure qualities like abrasion and shade of whiteness. The researchers are looking to publish their promising results in the near future.

Is Charcoal Toothpaste Right for You?

When you think of putting black toothpaste on your toothbrush, do not worry about the taste: you are not brushing with chunks from your barbecue grill. It may be black, but the charcoal incorporated into the paste is closer to the soft consistency of baking soda. Many charcoal toothpastes also contain flavoring agents, just like any other whitening toothpaste. Center for Dental Education and Research, AIIMS assessment mentions that "India is a vast country with a large population of over 1.27 billion people; 70% resides in rural areas and a vast majority in urban area resides in slums or the less developed peri-urban areas.Traditional methods of oral hygiene practices in India include commercial toothpowders or custom made charcoal or tobacco-based toothpowders, bark of neem or mango tree, or simply water and finger method"

Since many of these toothpastes have not yet been given the Indian Dental Association's recommendation, you should probably check with your dentist before using any toothpaste containing charcoal or look for IDA's seal of approval as the seal assures that the toothpaste meets the standards set by the Indian Dental Association. They may want to review the list of ingredients with you or caution you to avoid using a scrubbing motion when brushing since charcoal paste may be more abrasive than your normal toothpaste.

As per Indian Dental Association, if you are 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.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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