Activated charcoal, known for its ability to neutralize toxic substances, has long been used in water filtration and poison treatment. But in recent years, it’s exploded in popularity, being put to use in everything from ice cream to face masks to shampoo. Browsing wellness blogs and Instagram feeds, you’re likely to come across dozens of these photogenic, jet-black products touting activated charcoal’s ability to cleanse, freshen, and detoxify.
One of the more recent examples that’s been gaining popularity is activated charcoal toothpaste, said to remove stains, whiten teeth, freshen breath, and aid in dental health. But there are some important things to know before getting onboard with this new trend in dental care. Read on to find out more.
1. What Is Activated Charcoal and How Does it Work?
Regular charcoal is generally made from burning coconut shells, peat, coal, wood, or similar substances. To become activated charcoal, it’s heated with a gas, which gives the particles a porous surface that attracts and bonds to other substances. This is what makes activated charcoal so effective at trapping toxins, poisons, and impurities.
2. Activated Charcoal Can Be Abrasive
If too grainy, charcoal can have the opposite of the desired effect, actually wearing away at teeth’s protective enamel and causing them to appear darker as more of the inner dentin is exposed. As students in restorative dental hygiene training know, enamel is important for protecting against tooth decay, so it’s important for the activated charcoal used in dental products to be extremely fine. Dental professionals also recommended using charcoal toothpaste no more than once a week, and being gentle when using it, to limit the risk of enamel wear.
3. It May Remove Stains, but It Won’t Whiten Teeth
Although charcoal toothpaste may leave teeth looking whiter by removing surface stains, students in restorative dental hygiene college should be aware that it doesn’t actually whiten teeth. Surface stains, which are confined to the enamel layer, come from a variety of sources, such as coffee, red wine, and cigarettes. It’s these superficial discolorations that are removed by charcoal treatment, but while it can have a striking impact, deeper stains below the surface enamel will remain. For this reason, charcoal can’t compete with a traditional whitening treatment, no matter how dramatic the results may first appear.
4. Charcoal Toothpaste Won’t Interfere With Medications As Long As It’s Not Swallowed
Because of its detoxifying properties, some have expressed concern about charcoal toothpaste interfering with medications. This is a justified concern, given that the medical purpose of activated charcoal is to do exactly that: prevent the body from absorbing drugs and other foreign substances. That being said, the amount incidentally consumed while using charcoal toothpaste is very minimal and should be harmless, as long as it’s being spat out after brushing.
5. Students of Restorative Dental Hygiene Training Should Be Cautious
Overall, the safety and efficacy of activated charcoal toothpaste is still under debate. In addition to questions about its effectiveness and risks, charcoal-based toothpastes may also lack fluoride, a key ingredient in traditional toothpastes that protects teeth from decay.
More study is required to weigh its overall risks and benefits, but in the meantime, it’s no replacement for traditional toothpastes and whitening treatments.
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