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THE 'HYPE' OF CHARCOAL ORAL CARE PRODUCTS
In this blog, you will receive a personal review of data I’ve compiled from scientific studies.. Let’s get into it.
Charcoal toothpastes and mouthwashes have been recently innovated into the oral healthcare product market. There exist many marketing campaigns that portray activated charcoal to be effective in tooth whitening and improvements in oral hygiene. Below I will be addressing answers to very common questions to give all of you a background of charcoal’s properties before discussing its impact on oral health.
How is charcoal activated? Heating carbon-rich materials to very high temperatures frees up the bonding sites of the carbon.
What happens when charcoal is activated? It has a high absorptive capacity. In 1990, the World Health Organization (WHO) promoted charcoal for treating poisoning and overdoses.
How long does activated charcoal stay in your system? After ingesting, the activated charcoal binds to toxic molecules and enters the GI tract, leaving the body in stool.
Does activated charcoal whiten your teeth? No. Activated charcoal toothpastes include added agents that enhance tooth-whitening effects and agents that remove dental plaque from teeth. What has been proven is its effects on removing extrinsic (surface) staining on teeth due to its abrasive effects. However, true whitening products work by removing intrinsic staining.
Can Fluoride be added to charcoal toothpaste? No. The Fluoride will be absorbed by the charcoal, reducing its efficacy.
Does charcoal have antimicrobial effects? No.
What are the effects of charcoal on the GI system? Activated charcoal slows down bowel movements and may cause nausea and constipation. The charcoal binds to toxins in the GI tract, preventing it from entering the blood stream.
Does activated charcoal only bind to toxins? No. It binds to all kinds of things! Including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in your food. It can also bind to some prescription medications, rendering them less effective.
My Personal Experience With Charcoal Toothpaste:
Since charcoal toothpaste ingredients are usually ‘all natural,’ I was intrigued when it first came out (before I began dental school). One study was cited by the US National Library of Medicine NIH (NBCI), indicating that "charcoal left a significantly rougher surface of enamel when compared to a less abrasive toothpaste product. The surface roughness of the enamel after a simulated 3-months of use with the charcoal toothpaste was twice as rough as the enamel in the other tested groups." It is evident that charcoal toothpaste can be too abrasive and may thin out the outer layer of our teeth (enamel) over time. With my experience using it, I was not entirely pleased as a dental student, especially with all of my knowledge on the benefits of Fluoride in preventing tooth decay. Stay tuned for another blog in regards to this controversial topic :-). The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) conducted a literature review that stated that “Larger-scale and well-designed studies are needed to establish conclusive evidence.”
Charcoal toothpaste may work as an abrasive - only to remove extrinsic staining on your teeth, but its chemical composition does not remove intrinsic staining as professional whitening ingredients such as hydrogen or carbamide peroxide do. It does not prevent tooth decay unless it contains Fluoride - therefore, using charcoal toothpaste alone without supplemental Fluoride mouthrinse is not a sufficient way to clean your teeth. The American Dental Association, ADA, recommends choosing toothpaste with a relative dentin abrasiveness (RDA) level of 250 or less! Keep in mind, activated charcoal in the oral health industry is not approved by the FDA either, so I cannot quote its safety nor efficacy. Personally, I would prioritize tooth decay prevention when choosing a toothpaste.
Remember: The key with anything in beauty or medicine is to consider your options, weigh the risks, and consult a professional before committing to any major changes in your regimen. Always strive to be informed and only consider high levels of evidenced-based scientific articles.
"Don't trust everything you see. Even salt looks like sugar."
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