Whitening 101, part II- charcoal toothpaste

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I’ve been getting a lot of questions about charcoal toothpaste, so let’s chat charcoal.

If you’re interested in more tips about achieving best whitening results, I’ll try to throw some pearls in here as well.

Charcoal and activated charcoal are everywhere these days.  And thanks to social media experts and influencers with their Doctorates from the College of Deepest Pockets U., a faux buzz is flying around it


Charcoal has been marketed as a great organic alternative to whitening and keeping your teeth clean. Ironically, cooking with charcoal for sometime has been linked to cancer causing carcinogens.  But these days, it’s more about marketing and branding, than science and research. Charcoal has been used for a considerable amount of time if you’ve ingested poison, to help counter it, thanks to its absorbent properties, and that’s partially how they’re using it to whiten your teeth

FIRST, There has not been a single credible study regarding using charcoal and its effects.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that charcoal may not whiten your teeth. But lets not talk about if it does or does not just yet,  lets talk about how. Charcoal’s chemical properties which make it work are that it is abrasive, or rough. The more abrasive something is, the better it is at scrubbing stains away (think of a Brillo pad vs a sponge when trying to clean your dishes). Not only will you remove stains, but it can potential remove your enamel.  Enamel is the outer layer on your tooth, and if you wear it off, you can’t get it back. Charcoal can remove the outer stained layers, but if used too much, and if using sometime too abrasive, once the enamel is worn off, the next layer of tooth called dentin. Dentin is naturally yellower than your white enamel, so if you wear the outer layer off your tooth you will have inadvertently went from a stained tooth, to lighter, to permanent yellow dentin. The other way Charcoal works is that it has an absorbent property (again, why charcoal is sometimes used if someone ingested something poisonous). The theory is that because charcoal is very porous, it can actively bind to bacteria or stains, and remove them.

SO, charcoal toothpaste works because you need to brush your teeth with it. And by brushing hard enough, hopefully you will have scrubbed away the stain?

I’m very hesitant with any product that works by rubbing on your tooth, because if you rub, or scrub, your tooth too hard, you will wear your enamel down. Even your toothbrush can be harmful if used with too strong a hand.

Some whitening toothpastes can also be very abrasive. Again that’s not to say that they don’t work, but you should understand the how’s, and once understood, this can help avoid side effects

If you brush your teeth too hard, regardless if you’re using the softest tooth brush in the world, you can rub your gums away too. And gums do not grow back. Your gums are held to the outer layer of your tooth by gingival fibers, and those fibers are connected to cementum, the portion of your tooth hidden by your gums. Cemenum is yellow. If you brush too hard you can sever those fibers, and boom! You have receding gums, and the beginning of bone loss around your teeth. Esthetically, now your teeth are yellower, more susceptible to cavities, wear, and sensitivity.

So be careful. Ask your dentist about tooth brush abrasion, RDA values of toothpastes, and what toothbrushes works best (electric may not be the answer for you).

In general, I only recommend a soft bristled toothbrush. But I’ve tried different brands, and not all soft heads are equally as soft. And make sure you’re not brushing too hard. If you’re not sure, ask your dentist.  

Pearl: A good rule of thumb though that I’ve found is to look at your toothbrush. If you notice that your toothbrush bristles are flaring, and are perpendicular from where they started, you’re brushing too hard. Hold off on the spinach there Popeye, you actually may be doing damage to yourself.

So to sum up, I like charcoal to bbq food with, and be careful, your toothbrush may be hurting you.

Any question feel free to set up a consultation with us at Koppelman Dental, https://www.koppelmandental.com/contact-us/