Charcoal — it’s all the rage right now. You can now find the ingredient in products like shampoo, facial masks, deodorant and even toothpaste, and they’re all selling like crazy.
But the American Dental Association has issued a warning about charcoal toothpaste, saying that more research is needed to determine whether it’s truly beneficial for your teeth. According to the ADA, some research has already been conducted that suggests charcoal-based toothpaste can have negative effects, including enamel abrasion. The research also suggests internet advertisements for raw charcoal products aren’t really telling us the truth.
“Internet advertisements included unsubstantiated therapeutic claims — such as antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and oral detoxification, as well as potentially misleading product assertions,” says the ADA.
The ADA looked at dozens of studies about charcoal-based toothpaste and determined that there simply isn’t enough research to substantiate “safety and efficacy claims.” There need to be larger studies, dentists say.
The group wants dentists to warn their patients that there isn’t enough information to suggest they use charcoal toothpaste. One dentist in Michigan said she’s even warning against using the product, claiming that it can turn teeth gray, and that it may not be safe for your mouth.
“Some of the particles of charcoal are getting lodged underneath the gums and have to be surgically removed,” Amanda Sheehan, DDS, told the Detroit Free Press.
It’s abrasive and can even lead to gum recession, she said. And she insists she would never use it herself.
Others argue that the product doesn’t have negative effects — it’s just that charcoal toothpaste won’t necessarily help your smile. These critics explain that toothpaste doesn’t touch your teeth long enough to have the whitening effect some charcoal-based product manufacturers promise.
Dentist Gregg Lituchy told Harper’s Bazaar that it’s OK to use charcoal toothpaste to remove surface stains, but not to use it as a whitening tool. He said most toothpaste won’t actually whiten your teeth.
A search on Instagram reveals a ton of posts from folks leaving recommendations for charcoal toothpaste products they like. But when it comes to real teeth whitening, most dentists say that bleaching products are the true way to get it done.
Why do so many folks want to have whiter teeth? As we age, our tooth enamel wears thin, making teeth more likely to retain surface stains. That’s what makes charcoal-based products even less helpful: For older folks, the color is more likely to stick to the teeth.
If you’ve been squeezing the latest charcoal toothpastes onto your toothbrush, let us know! We’d love to hear whether it works for you.