If you ever walked down the aisle of the local drug-store, you have probably spotted a few odd items here and there, in particular for oral care. From bamboo brushes and vegan floss to UV light retainers, another to make the list more recently has been activated charcoal.
Barbeque comparisons aside, perhaps we keep an open mind and look at the science behind this little black rock.
Activated charcoal is a fine-grained black powder made from a variety of natural substances, such as coconut shells, olive pits, slowly burned wood, and peat.
Oxidized under extreme heat, the powder then becomes activated which is not only porous but highly absorbent further allowing it to bind to toxins and odors. The powder becomes activated when oxidized under extreme heat. Activated charcoal is very porous and highly adsorbent. It also has a wide surface area.
Unlike absorbent substances, activated charcoal’s adsorbent nature allows it to bind to toxins and odors, rather than soaking them up.
Activated charcoal shouldn’t be confused with the charcoal you use for barbecuing.
Although similar, barbecue charcoal is manufactured to be a fuel and emits carbon dioxide when heated. It may have a carcinogenic effect on health. Activated charcoal, on the other hand, doesn’t contain these types of toxins.
Activated charcoal’s adsorbent nature has been referenced in medical literature for centuries. In the early 1800s, activated charcoal started to gain prominence as a treatment for accidental ingestion of poison.
Because it can stop certain types of poison from being absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream, it’s still used for this purpose today. It can also counteract drug overdoses.
You can find activated charcoal in facial masks and shampoos. Because of its ability to bind to toxins, some people believe activated charcoal can whiten teeth, too.
Before you start brushing with this grainy black substance, here’s what you should know.
Black Charcoal vs. White Teeth
You can find an array of dental products containing activated charcoal on store shelves, from toothpastes to kits. Products containing this ingredient claim to remove coffee stains, wine stains, and plaque.
But despite its popularity, there’s no scientific evidence backing up activated charcoal’s benefits for teeth. Despite this lack of scientific evidence, some people still swear by activated charcoal’s ability to benefit oral hygiene.
Do’s & Don’t’s
It’s important to protect your teeth by using products that won’t wear down enamel. Since overuse of activated charcoal products can lead to teeth erosion, use them cautiously. You can also alternate it with a fluoride toothpaste.
To reduce abrasiveness, try using your fingers to rub activated charcoal on your teeth rather than applying it with a toothbrush.
Keep in mind that some activated charcoal products contain other ingredients, like sorbitol.
Before using activated charcoal, consider checking in with your dentist to determine if it’s the right choice for you.
If you do decide to try activated charcoal to whiten your teeth, use it only in moderation. Activated charcoal is abrasive and shouldn’t be used long term, as it can erode tooth enamel.