Charcoal teeth whitening is a growing beauty trend. Long touted by some alternative medicine and natural living bloggers as a way to remove “toxins” from the mouth, beauty vloggers and YouTube celebrities have taken up the torch and begun promoting activated charcoal as a miracle tooth whitening solution. But is it?

With nothing more than a toothbrush and some activated charcoal powder, you can remove surface stains from your teeth over the course of just a few days. The process, while somewhat cumbersome, is not prohibitive, requiring only that you brush, gently and continually, for two to five minutes daily until you have achieved your desired level of whiteness. However, while activated charcoal does in fact work to remove surface stains, here are two things to keep in mind about its efficacy:

  • Activated charcoal only works on surface stains, like those caused by coffee, tea, and sports drinks
  • Prolonged use of activated charcoal can remove tooth enamel, exposing the underlying dentin and causing a permanent yellowing of your teeth

If you have deep stains, such as those caused by tetracycline or fluorosis, or if your staining is the result of aging, activated charcoal, like any topical whitener, will likely enhance the discoloration. Because activated charcoal can only remove topical stains, those deeper stains will be accentuated when surrounding tooth structure is lightened.

The best way to avoid unforeseen consequences of tooth whitening is to talk with a cosmetic dentist about professional options that work to lighten even the deepest of stains – along with alternative options, like porcelain veneers, that can be used to address stains that will not respond to topical whiteners.

How Abrasive is Activated Charcoal?

Unlike baking soda or similarly abrasive ingredients used in toothpaste, charcoal does not remove stains by buffing them off. Instead, charcoal binds to the stains and lifts them from teeth. In the process, however, the abrasiveness of charcoal also serves to remove tooth enamel, increasing the risks of dingy and yellowed teeth.

According to the American Dental Association, there is not enough information about activated charcoal for there to be an official stance on its safety and efficacy as a tooth whitener.

However, in one study cited by the ADA it was found that using a mixture of activated charcoal and table salt was, “…not only ineffective (the teeth had a yellow cast, which the authors attributed to removal of the enamel during the brushing, revealing the dentin underneath), [they] also documented concave cavities on the labial surfaces of the anterior teeth following use.”

Increased risks for cavities? Enhanced discoloration? Activated charcoal begins to sound less and less like an alternative to tooth whitening and more and more like a fast-track to oral health and beauty issues.

Stick With the Professionals

The truth is, it is always best to work with a cosmetic dentist when you are whitening your teeth and Phoenix cosmetic dentist Dr. Donald Wilcox offers a comprehensive selection of teeth whitening services, including topical bleaches, dental bonding, and porcelain veneers, enabling him to address even the most severe tooth staining. If you are unhappy with the appearance of your teeth, we welcome an opportunity to meet with you and discuss your concerns, and to help you find the best solution for your needs.

Call Desert Smiles at 602-978-1790 to schedule a consultation and learn more. Located in Glendale, Dr. Wilcox serves Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler, and all surrounding areas of Arizona.

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