Does charcoal toothpaste really work?
Okay, let’s think about this for a minute:
charcoal is basically black blobs of carbon and ash residue.
We use it for barbecues, not for cleaning our teeth as, traditionally, it’s not that delicious.
Yet, here we are with yet another toothpaste variation hitting the market as research and development teams look for the latest way to get one over their competitors. You only need to visit a supermarket toothpaste aisle to see that teeth are big business. And you only need to scan the mind-numbing range of options – antimicrobial, tartar control, whitening, hypersensitive, smoker’s toothpaste, natural toothpastes. And we haven’t even started on the flavours.
Now we can add charcoal toothpaste to that list. Why? Isn’t the market confusing enough already? Apparently not.
What’s charcoal toothpastes claim to fame?
Cleaner, brighter teeth, or so it seems. This bizarre paste uses what’s called activated carbon which acts like a magnet to everything it touches in your mouth, be it tartar, bacteria and stains from coffee and tobacco. All this is then washed away when you rinse.
All this sounds like a pretty perfect model for toothpaste.
So what are the issues?
Abrasiveness, mainly. Charcoal is charcoal however you look at it and there are concerns that charcoal toothpaste is pretty much liquid sandpaper. Sceptical experts therefore advise caution as they fear frequent use could do even more than remove a bit of discolouring; it could scrape right into tooth enamel.
The other concern is the sheer absorption qualities of charcoal. Aside from all the things it’s supposed to latch onto, there are fears it could also absorb medications and reduce their effect.
Does charcoal toothpaste actually whiten?
Toothpastes generally aren’t noted for their great whitening power as they’re only on the surface of the tooth for a short time. The same seems to be true for charcoal toothpastes. They do, however, seem to be an effective stain remover.
And yes, stains are a different beast to actual whitening. Stains, such as coffee, tobacco and wine, stick to the outer surface of the tooth - the enamel. As a result, charcoal toothpaste can easily attack and remove these with a decent brush or two.
On the other hand, stains and discolouring within the tooth don’t budge quite so easily. They’re also generally caused by damage within the tooth itself. Medications can cause deep discolouring within a tooth, as can fluoride if overdone. Or simply weak enamel can cause a tooth to stain badly from within.
And while most decent toothpastes will make short work of surface stains, none is suitably qualified to deal with the deeper stuff, and that includes charcoal toothpastes. In fact, the only truly effective way to move this for a properly white set of teeth is through professional whitening. Sorry.
Should we use charcoal toothpaste?
Despite some concerns, it seems safe enough to use, albeit in moderation. Perhaps brush with a charcoal-based paste once a day and use a less abrasive option the rest of the time.