Charcoal is having a moment. Over the last few years, it has been everywhere: in our food, our skin treatments, and even our toothpaste. But is this actually a good thing, or is this a trend that has gone off the rails?
Charcoal Has Its Benefits
Charcoal products didn't take off without a good reason—and it's not just that captivating deep black color. Charcoal is known for its detoxifying properties, and it has plenty of legitimate medical uses, including in reversing poisonings and overdoses.
It also is abrasive and cleansing. That's why you see it in so many facial scrubs and skin cleansers. But just because charcoal legitimately benefits one line of use doesn't mean it is safe in other products.
Charcoal in Whitening Toothpastes
One spot where charcoal has made a big splash is in dental care—specifically, whitening toothpaste. According to the marketing materials, these kinds of toothpaste will lift out set-in stains and leave your teeth polished and sparkling white. It sounds good. Maybe too good to be true?
In my observation, it is. And once you dig into the topic, it's easy to see why.
Scrubs: Good for Skin, Bad for Teeth
Exfoliating dead skin cells is a great way to eliminate dull skin and bring younger cells to the surface. Since the skin is a replenishing organ, using abrasive charcoal on it isn't a problem; so long as you don't rub too hard and use the products as directed, you are unlikely to experience long-term damage.
Our teeth are not like our skin. Each tooth is covered in a protective layer of enamel, and once it is damaged or removed, it is gone for good, leaving your teeth vulnerable.
Charcoal toothpastes don't work like other whitening products. Whitening kits function by opening the pores of the teeth, allowing the trapped-in stains to release. Once you stop using the kit, the pores close, leaving the teeth looking brighter for anywhere from several months to a few years.
But charcoal toothpaste? It's a scrub for your teeth. While it might leave your teeth whiter, it does this by scratching the enamel on your teeth, removing it over time. This then leaves your teeth weaker, more vulnerable to decay, and in the end, duller.
Skip the Charcoal for Whitening
If your goal is to make your smile whiter, there are safer options to choose from, even if your goal is to stick to natural products. When it comes to toothpaste, stick to those that aren't abrasive and contain ingredients to strengthen the teeth, such as fluoride or real nano Hydroxyapatite. You only get one set of permanent teeth; make them last a lifetime.
-- Dr. Jen, DDS, MS