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Does charcoal toothpaste actually whiten teeth?

People looking for a husky smile can reach for charcoal toothpaste, given its claims of being “natural” and its long history. But does charcoal toothpaste really whiten teeth? And what does it do so safely?

The answer is mixed. While charcoal toothpaste may brighten your smile a bit, it is not the best whitening agent to get out of there. Nor is this the safest option available, Drs. John Brooks, a clinical professor in the Department of Oncology and Clinical Sciences at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, told Live Science.

Related: Why are teeth yellow?

According to a study in the British Dental Journal in 1992, Hippocrates recommended it to his fellow Greensians, as charcoal has been used for oral hygiene in search of white whites. In the 1930s and 1940s, American manufacturers avoided charcoal-chewing gums and powder, which they claimed would turn fresh and white, a 2017 American Dental Association comment noted. Today health- and environment-related consumers can find floss, toothpaste, mouthwash, and even toothbrushes infected with activated charcoal that promises to whiten teeth and “detoxify” the mouth.

Given, activated charcoal is a well-established treatment for certain poisons and acute overdoses. Common charcoal is made from materials such as peat, coal, and charcoal, but making activated charcoal involves the additional step of regular charcoal heating in the presence of gas. According to MedlinePlus, a site operated by the US National Library of Medicine, “this process leads to the development of internal spaces or ‘pores’ of charcoal, which helps develop activated charcoal” trap “chemicals.

Many manufacturers claim that small holes in activated charcoal can likewise “detoxify” your mouth and remove stains from teeth. A 2017 review of charcoal-based toothpaste published in the Journal of the American Dental Association found that 96% of charcoal toothpastes claimed to whiten teeth and 46% claimed the ability to detoxify teeth. One problem: what it means to detoxify something, or at least not by mouth, is not scientifically agreed. And these claims are largely unsupported by the evidence. More than that, the safety and toxicity of these charcoal-based dental products have not been tested, Brooks wrote in a review of charcoal-based toothpaste.

“We’re worried [that these products are] harmful to the teeth” Brooks, the lead researcher for the 2017 review, told Live Science. In a 2019 study in the Journal of Applied Oral Sciences, researchers stained 90 cow’s teeth with concentrated black tea and then applied several tooth whitening agents to see which performed best. Although the activated charcoal was not the top performer (that honor went to the blue covarine, a whitening agent who works by coating the enamel in a film, temporarily making them appear whiter), it culminates in some whiteness after four weeks Occurred, researchers found.

However, a small study is not sufficient evidence to prove that charcoal is an effective or safe dental product. In fact, Brooks and many other practitioners are concerned that abrasive particles of charcoal achieve whitening by removing a layer of enamel – the hard outer surface on the teeth that helps prevent caries – which can effectively weaken teeth. And further yellowing can make them more vulnerable, Brooks said. .

Related: Why Are Teeth so Sensitive to Pain?

Brooks and his colleagues at the University of Maryland also reviewed mouthwash containing charcoal. In a 2020 study published in the British Dental Journal, they examined charcoal particles with electron microscopy and found that these particles were very sharp. “It’s essentially [like] rubbing your mouth with rocks,” Brooks said.

Brooks also warned that charcoal contains at least four hydrocarbons that have been recognized by the US federal government as potential carcinogens. There is an epidemiological evidence that charcoal-grilled meat is associated with certain types of cancer. One third of charcoal-based toothpastes also contain bentonite clay, which can also be carcinogenic. Their concern is that some people will go to extremes, using charcoal products more often than recommended in the hope that they will get a practical smile. In these cases, chronic exposure can be dangerous, especially because the toxicity of these products is unused, Brooks said.

According to Brooke, specifically approved by the American Dental Association, over-the-counter and prescription treatments that use peroxide as a whitening ingredient are a better alternative to charcoal.

But even these options are not “comfortable”, he said. After using the whitening treatment, people “may develop short-term sensitivity and gingival irritation,” Brooke said. Instead of thinking in terms of whitening your teeth, the best way to avoid side effects from whitening products is to “eat and drink things that darken teeth in the first place,” such as red wine, tobacco, and coffee , Brooks said.

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Originally published on Live Science.

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