There has been an increase in the popularity of charcoal toothpastes and charcoal-related products, such as toothbrushes with charcoal incorporated into the bristles. Their success has been mainly due to trendy marketing campaigns and novel packaging.
No scientific evidence that charcoal toothpastes work
However, as reported in Dentistry magazine and the Pharmaceutical Journal, there is no scientific evidence that charcoal is effective at teeth whitening, improving oral hygiene or controlling halitosis (bad breathe). Additionally, some studies have even found some charcoal toothpastes to be harmful, as they do not contain effective amounts of fluoride to help prevent tooth decay. In fact, the Oral Health Foundation is looking into these products to determine their effectiveness and safety.
According to Dr Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, "The number of charcoal toothpastes and powders on the market is growing rapidly...but we believe shoppers may be being misled....From a whitening perspective, there may be anecdotal evidence of their whitening potential, but any effect they have will likely be superficial. Many toothpastes which claim to whiten our teeth are simply removing surface stains, and will not offer the long-lasting bright, white smiles, which many users may be looking for, or being promised through advertising. I would advise consumers to ensure they do their homework before deciding to use a product with activated charcoal."
Looking at the facts
Activated charcoal has a high absorptive capacity. It's effect in toothpaste is mild abrasion and absorption of tooth surface (superficial) stains. There is no clinical evidence that charcoal toothpaste has any effect on internal stains or whitening of teeth. Also, the effect of charcoal toothpaste on fillings, crowns and veneers is unknown. However, it may have some effect when used to delay the recurrence of surface staining after professional cleaning and polishing.
The addition of activated charcoal to toothpastes often means that other agents may not be included because they will be absorbed by the charcoal. Toothpastes should contain between 1350 to 1500 parts per million of fluoride to actively protect teeth from tooth decay. Many charcoal toothpastes fall well below this level, putting users at an increased risk of tooth decay. You should always check the fluoride content of your toothpaste to ensure you are getting its protective effects.
Charcoal toothpastes contain particles of charcoal that may accumulate in crevices, fillings and cracks in teeth, sometimes resulting in grey/black lines around fillings, crowns and veneers. Additionally, charcoal toothpastes are black in colour, which can result in prolonged brushing or excessive brushing force to remove the colour, leading to the abrasion (wearing away) of teeth enamel.
Points to consider
Charcoal toothpastes may remove surface staining on teeth, but the extent of stain removal has not been clinically reported.
You should carefully consider the fluoride content of toothpaste to ensure it offers a protective effect from tooth decay.
Charcoal toothpastes can build up grey/black lines around fillings, veneers and crowns, which may need replacing.
Charcoal toothpastes may be effective when used to delay surface staining after professional cleaning and polishing.
As Dr Carter says, "In the long term, it is important to understand that the only way to get the white teeth many people desire is through professional whitening services provided by a dental professional."
At Elmsleigh House Dental Clinic, our dentists will listen to your concerns about the colour of your teeth, assess your needs and tailor our teeth whitening treatment to give you a natural-looking, brighter smile.
Our teeth whitening treatment is a safe procedure that uses the dental bleaching agent carbamide peroxide to whiten your teeth. You will have high-quality mouth trays made to fit your teeth precisely, and will be shown how to apply the carbamide peroxide gel. The carbamide peroxide penetrates the enamel of your teeth and oxidises the pigment bonds in the dentine, which brightens your teeth without damaging them.