Activated charcoal promises brighter teeth without chemicals. In this article you can read why the natural whitening agent works – and still damages the teeth in the long run.

Activated charcoal for teeth: The risky tooth whitening at a glance

In recent years, activated charcoal has become increasingly popular as an alternative to chemical tooth whitening. Numerous testimonials on the internet clearly show with before and after pictures that the charcoal can indeed lighten the shade.

Nowadays, activated charcoal (for teeth) can be bought in several forms:

• Powder - Activated charcoal comes as a regular black powder without any additives

• Capsules - These are bitten into the mouth before brushing and make it easier to use

• As an additive - More and more manufacturers are adding activated charcoal to their toothpastes to improve the effect

The following section first discusses pure activated charcoal in powder form. This is followed by experiences with activated charcoal as an additive in toothpaste.

In the manufacturers’ advertising, there is always talk of the “cleansing effect of charcoal”. Activated carbon is mainly used to filter pollutants.

In fact, (activated) charcoal has been used in medicine for centuries – even today it is still used in tablets that absorb toxins from the gastrointestinal tract. The reason for this becomes clear under the microscope: other substances can easily attach themselves to the rough surface. Activated charcoal therefore actually binds contaminants & pollutants to itself.

However, the benefit of activated charcoal in cosmetic products is controversial. The whitening effect has a different reason: Why is activated charcoal harmful to teeth?

In the short term, the black powder removes impurities from the teeth – but the main reason for this is not any secret properties, but simply the powder itself.

The grains of the charcoal act like a kind of sandpaper that scrubs discolouration from the teeth. After a few applications, the teeth can actually become brighter. Conventional toothpaste cleans teeth in the same way. In addition to ingredients such as fluoride, small cleaning particles contained in the toothpaste ensure a radiant smile.

Compared to toothpaste, however, activated charcoal has a significantly higher abrasion. And this is exactly why it is advisable to avoid the black powder (or even other whitening agents such as baking powder).

While the high abrasion really does make teeth brighter in the short term, the use of activated charcoal can have exactly the opposite effect in the long term.The grains wear away the protective layer of the teeth bit by bit and lead to painful & expensive dental complaints, especially in old age. It also roughens the surface of the teeth – making it easier for plaque and colour pigments to stick over time.

So brushing regularly with activated charcoal is not only risky for your dental health, but can also negatively affect the natural shade of your teeth.

Activated charcoal is not only available in powder form (which has a MUCH too high abrasion), but is also increasingly used in activated charcoal masks, soaps or even as an additive in normal toothpastes.

Nevertheless, you should remain sceptical, because in most cases activated charcoal seems to be just a sales argument for marketing:

• Activated charcoal can indeed bind pollutants to itself - but by the time you open the tube at home, the charcoal has already been in contact with the other ingredients of the toothpaste for weeks (and has thus already lost the pollutant-binding effect).

• It is also possible that the activated charcoal increases the abrasion - although toothpaste with high abrasion is not automatically harmful, it is better to use a sensitive version, especially for sensitive teeth. This cleans particularly gently.

By the way, the abrasion is indicated by the RDA value. Normal toothpastes have a value between 40-80.

Summary: Activated charcoal is so useful for your teeth

It is doubtful whether the black powder really works as the manufacturers claim.

Although there are no long-term scientific studies, there is much to suggest that the activated charcoal contained in toothpaste has long since reacted with other ingredients by the time you brush your teeth and no longer has any effect in your mouth.

There is no doubt, however, about the risks of too much abrasion – especially as a pure powder, activated charcoal can permanently damage teeth and even lead to more discolouration & gingivitis.

What are the alternatives to activated charcoal?

If you want to use activated charcoal primarily for white teeth, then there are some other ways to remove tooth discolouration.

In this white teeth guide, I go over the causes of discolouration & the most effective measures to remove it. If you are interested in this topic, please read on.

You should not expect miracles from natural teeth whiteners – most of the time you can only get back the genetically determined shade of your teeth. If you would like to have your teeth whitened beyond this, then this is usually only possible with chemical aids (i.e. professional tooth whitening in a doctor’s practice).

If anyone tries to sell you a supposed miracle cure, you should be sceptical.

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