Pros and Cons of Activated Charcoal Teeth Whitening

The idea of whitening your teeth with charcoal might seem counter-intuitive, perhaps even absurd, but after a significant number of videos, circulating the social medias of people using activated charcoal for such purposes, this controversial practice seems to have gained some legitimacy.

Let’s explore the pros and cons of activated charcoal teeth whitening in order to determine if there even is such a thing in the first place, and if so, if the hype behind it is worth it.

How it Works

While activated charcoal and the charcoal people use for barbeques have the same base material, their applications and nature are vastly different. Through processing with high heat, activated charcoal is “activated” and purged from the substances, harmful to humans, also becoming impossible to be absorbed by our bodies.

More importantly, at least in terms of its applications in medicine and oral health, activated charcoal is extremely porous throughout, an attribute that helps it attract, trap, and rid us off the unwanted substances in our bodies.

This is why activated charcoal is famous as an overdose preventative – it can suck the toxins in and out of the body.

Pros of Activated Charcoal Teeth Whitening

The main benefit of activated charcoal as it relates to teeth whitening is its porosity. It’s very effective against surface strains, a.k.a. extrinsic strains, which are on the enamel layer. Such stains are mostly caused by foods and drinks with a dark, saturated color, coffee and red wine being two of the most notorious culprits. So, if your diet consists of a lot of food and drinks like these, activated charcoal could prove to be quite useful.

Furthermore, given that it can be an effective extra step toward better teeth, and we all know that oral health is a realm where every extra mile is costly, it is rather inexpensive. You can buy an activated charcoal toothpaste or simply mix in some of the substance with water and/or your regular toothpaste. Certainly, a much cheaper option than an in-office whitening treatment.

Third, it’s quite easy and straightforward to use. You can simply apply it to your teeth, smear it on them, or brush it on. That being said, it’s crucial that you are gentle as otherwise this method can end up costing you a lot of money and pain. In fact, a lot of experts don’t recommend brushing with activated charcoal at all.

Also, because it’s such a powerful gravitational force for toxins, it mitigates bad breath as it pulls bacteria normal methods can’t.

Last but not least, activated charcoal doesn’t only whiten teeth, but can also polish them. Through its abrasive properties, activated charcoal smoothens the teeth exterior.

Cons of Activated Charcoal Teeth Whitening

The most pronounced con of using activated charcoal for your teeth is its abrasiveness, the same quality that makes it suitable for polishing. That power to extract toxins doesn’t come without a cost. Overexposure to activated charcoal, especially exposure that involves roughness of any kind, can be extremely detrimental to enamel and dentin.

To put things in perspective, enamel cannot be restored. Think of it as the main gate to a fortress – once it cracks, in most cases it usually eventually falls, and from there, an onslaught, or at least a hard fight is pretty much imminent. In the case of oral health, that first major crack can lead to tooth decay, gum diseases, tooth sensitivity, and other painful and costly conditions.

This is why if you’re going to use this method, you have to be gentle and do it in moderation, and remember even brushing with activated charcoal is considered to be on the edge of hazard by default.

The second con is actually a continuation of the first. If activated charcoal happens to eat away at your enamel due to incorrect use and leads to abrasion of your teeth, the ironic part is that besides everything else, your teeth will actually look yellow as the lower layer that will become exposed is inherently yellower.

Furthermore, the notion of activated charcoal teeth whitening is actually wrong by default.

Activated charcoal can’t actually make your teeth whiter. It can clean them from some persistent stains, and thus reveal their true colors, but it cannot change their actual shade. Think of it as the sea – even if you clean the sea from rubbish, you can’t make it turn from dark-green to turquoise.

If your teeth are inherently darker/yellower, that’s usually the result of trauma, medication, eroded enamel, medication, and other factors which can only be influenced by bleaching treatment that goes beneath the outer layer of the teeth.

Another thing also worth mentioning is that many activated charcoal toothpastes don’t contain fluoride, a substance which, in the right dosage, is essential in the fight against cavities.

Overall, it’s up to every individual to draw the line and make an objective, informed, all-encompassing decision. For those who don’t need any radical whitening, some moderate, careful use of activated charcoal could give them that extra spark they’re looking for in their smile. However, for people who’re after more drastic changes, more traditional, science-backed methods are probably the wiser option, especially considering that legitimate, scientific research on active charcoal teeth whitening is still in its dawn.

Image Credits: Teeth Whitening from Trum Ronnarong/Shutterstock

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