There are dozens of over-the-counter teeth whitening products available, some of which work very well, while others are a waste of money. One relative newcomer to the whitening marketplace is activated charcoal. Is it worth trying, or should you spend your money elsewhere?
What Is Activated Charcoal?
Activated charcoal is a product that’s been around for many decades, but has only recently surged into the limelight across several consumer health and beauty fields, including teeth whitening.
It’s a form of carbon which has been processed to make it more porous. This increases its surface area and raises the amount of a substance that it can absorb. It is used medically to treat cases of poisoning or drug overdoses, to ‘soak up’ toxins and carry them safely through from the digestive system.
It’s this absorbing action is that makes it an interesting choice for teeth whitening. The idea is that applying a paste made from activated charcoal to your teeth sponges up the impurities and bacteria that cause discoloration, helping to prevent new staining from happening. It’s also said to whiten teeth a little by lifting surface-bound debris from the enamel.
Does Activated Charcoal Work?
The theory is certainly plausible, and many people have reported good results. However, as of yet no formal studies have concluded that charcoal is a particularly effective way of whitening teeth, at least in comparison to professional bleaching treatments.
Is It Safe?
Activated charcoal is authorized for general health use, although there are no specific guidelines for or against using it for teeth whitening. Dabbing the charcoal paste onto your teeth is unlikely to cause any issues so long as you stay within safe limits. However, be very careful not to inhale the dry powder, as this can cause a serious medical problem called pulmonary aspiration, which requires immediate treatment.
The major drawback for dental use is that the powder is highly abrasive, even when softened into a paste. Don’t be tempted to brush your teeth with it, or even rub it in too vigorously. This may well speed up any whitening effect, but it’ll also scrape off a layer of protective tooth enamel. This not only increases the risk of decay, but it can actually worsen discoloration as the softened, damaged surface absorbs staining agents more easily.