As a cosmetic dentist in Louisville, our team at Louisville Dental Associates understands the desire many of our patients have for a brighter, whiter smile. If you want a smile the dazzles, know that you’re not alone. Teeth whitening has quickly become the most popular and commonly performed cosmetic dental treatment in the U.S. In fact, teeth whitening is forecasted to become a $7.4 billion industry by 2024. Each year, Americans spend $1.4 billion on over-the-counter whitening products in an effort to achieve the brilliantly bright smile the desire.
In a rush to enjoy the benefits of a healthier looking smile, many people have tried the latest trend of brushing with charcoal toothpaste. Championed by celebrities and social media influencers, you may have noticed pictures or posts online of people brushing with a dark foamy substance that looks more likely to turn their teeth black than provide the brighter, whiter smile that’s promised. However, it won’t take long scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube to find someone singing the whitening praises of charcoal toothpaste.
What these testimonials won’t tell you is that using charcoal toothpaste to achieve a whiter smile may actually end up harming your oral health.
What is a Charcoal Toothpaste?
When most of us hear the word charcoal we think of the bricks used to heat the grill at cookouts. Fortunately, the charcoal used in toothpaste is not the same compound we use to cook chicken and hot dogs. Instead, the primary ingredient in these types of toothpaste is actually activated charcoal.
This type of charcoal is actually meant for medicinal use. To make it “activated,” regular charcoal is heated along with a gas, which causes the charcoal to develop large pores. Those pores give the charcoal the ability to absorb compounds like poisons and intestinal gases, two ailments active charcoal are used to treat.
So how does this type of toothpaste actually whiten our teeth? When brushed on our teeth, activated charcoal is supposed to trap the compounds staining our teeth and strip them away from our tooth enamel. While the science behind this claim isn’t completely without merit, there are some risks that come from brushing with toothpaste containing charcoal.
The Dangers of Charcoal Toothpaste
All types of whitening toothpaste include abrasive agents that work to scrub stains from tooth enamel. Whether charcoal or another abrasive agent like baking soda, including these types of compounds into toothpaste can carry some negative effects that include:
- Enamel erosion. In addition to absorbing stains from the surface of our teeth, non-ADA approved charcoal toothpaste can also cause enamel erosion. Along with making your teeth more sensitive, enamel erosion may actually have the opposite effect of making your teeth look more yellow, as stripping away enamel exposes the yellowish dentin that lies underneath.
- Increased risk of tooth decay. Using toothpaste that contains activated charcoal may also contribute to an increased risk of tooth decay and cavities. When tooth enamel becomes thinner it provides less protection to our teeth from the effects of harmful oral bacteria that contribute to decay and cavities. Additionally, most brands of charcoal toothpaste don’t contain fluoride, which actively works to help strengthen tooth enamel through a process known as remineralization.
- Untested ingredients. When you buy a tube of Crest or Colgate, your toothpaste comes with a seal of approval from the American Dental Association. This seals means that the product has been tested and approved as safe for your oral health. Most brands of charcoal toothpaste don’t carry the ADA seal, which means they have never been tested or approved. In fact, many brands of charcoal toothpaste available online make unsubstantiated claims regarding their safety or effectiveness. If you choose to use this type of product, know that what you put into your mouth may not have been tested as being safe to use.
How to Safely Achieve a Whiter Smile
As a cosmetic dentist in Louisville, our team at Louisville Dental Associates can help you to safely achieve the whiter smile you desire. If you want to dazzle with your smile, contact our office today to schedule a teeth whitening consultation. Our dentists will ensure that you achieve the brighter, whiter smile you desire safely, with no long-term damage to your teeth and gums.