Can Charcoal Teeth Whitening Damage Your Smile?

Charcoal Teeth Whitening is Popular On Social Media. But What Do Dentists Think?

You may have seen people on social media using various kinds of charcoal to either clean their teeth or to achieve whiter teeth. While charcoal isn’t an innately harmful substance, there are lots of good reasons why you should use other methods to whiten your teeth.

Why Charcoal?

It might seem counterintuitive with its black color, but charcoal actually does have a history of being used as a toothpaste or scrub to clean teeth. It was used for that purpose by ancient Romans, the English working class of the 18th century, and even in some developing countries today. It’s now being touted as a natural way to whiten teeth in some parts of the Internet. While anecdotes and stories are plentiful, there aren’t any current scientific studies that have proven or disproven the advertised benefits of charcoal for teeth whitening, according to the Pharmaceutical Journal.

What we do know is that in the centuries since charcoal was first used for dental care, we’ve come up with some much better options. Looking to simple, natural products for a better lifestyle is not a bad thing in itself, but in this case, there are some serious problems that can arise from its use.

Problems with Charcoal for Teeth Whitening

The main danger with using charcoal to whiten your teeth is that it’s a very abrasive substance. The grittiness it provides does remove surface stains and plaque from your teeth, but it’s so harsh that it also wears away the top layer of the tooth, called the enamel. Basically, your teeth may get whiter, but they are doing so because you’re taking off the surface enamel, which is a natural ivory color. Repeated use and brushing with charcoal can actually start to wear through the enamel, revealing the soft yellow layer called dentin below, according to the American Dental Association.

This problem is compounded by the fact that using charcoal often leaves behind gray or black specks on the teeth and gums. That prompts many people to brush even harder to get rid of them, worsening the possible abrasive effects. It’s not known what effect a charcoal scrub or paste has on modern-day dental work, like fillings, crowns and veneers, but it’s fair to say it’s probably as wearing on them as on your teeth.

We also caution patients against using some of the available charcoal toothpastes, because they lack fluoride and other useful ingredients most people find beneficial in their toothpaste. Fluoride in particular shouldn’t be skipped if you, like most people, have any trouble with tooth decay or gum disease.

Better Whitening Choices

The American Dental Association says a better choice for whitening teeth without the harmful side effects is to use a whitening toothpaste that carries the ADA Seal of Acceptance. You can be confident that these toothpastes are safe for your teeth and will also provide effective whitening without damaging the enamel.

Other natural ways to help your teeth stay white include keeping a healthy at-home dental regimen. We recommend brushing twice a day for at least two minutes each time, and flossing between your teeth daily. To reduce staining or yellowing of your teeth, you also can avoid foods and drinks that stain your teeth, like cola, coffee, tea, red wine and other acidic and dark-colored foods. Smoking and tobacco use can also quickly yellow your teeth. And, keeping up with a regular dental cleaning schedule will help your teeth look their best on a daily basis.

Finally, there’s always the safest and most effective whitening option: In-office dental whitening performed by trained and qualified medical professionals, like we offer.

How Your Dentist Can Help

If tooth whitening is a concern for you, the first thing we always recommend is a dental exam, to assess any possible underlying problems that are discoloring your teeth, like decay or enamel loss. You should know if you’re considering using charcoal or any at-home whitening method that not all teeth can or should be whitened. Your qualified and experienced Monterey Peninsula Dental Group dentist can help you determine what the best way is for you to get a brighter smile.

For some people, ADA-approved at-home bleaching products may be the way to go, while for others, in-office or chairside teeth whitening is a better choice. If it is, we offer completely safe, highly effective professional teeth whitening to our patients who are in search of a whiter, brighter appearance for their teeth. Schedule an appointment today or ask your dentist about the best whitening options for you at your next appointment.  

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