Maria Iavarone, RDH
Activated Charcoal Toothpaste or Powder
Activated charcoal toothpaste and powders have been gaining popularity the past few years. Ads have been flooding social media. You may have seen the YouTube videos and the Pinterest before and after photos. It has become a true dental fad. Charcoal is not only a trend right now, but historically ancient Romans used charcoal, amongst other products to clean teeth. As a dental hygienist, I get questions about charcoal toothpaste often. Does the toothpaste actually whiten the teeth? Does it help prevent gingivitis? Is charcoal toothpaste effective and safe to use?
Unfortunately, the answer is unclear on the effectiveness and safety of using activated charcoal toothpastes or powders. The Journal of the American Dental Association did a literature review of 118 articles and smaller studies done on charcoal and charcoal-based toothpastes. The conclusion was that there was insufficient clinical and laboratory data to substantiate the safety and efficacy of charcoal and charcoal-based toothpastes. Larger-scale and well-designed studies are needed to establish conclusive evidence (Brooks, Bashirelahi, & Reynolds, 2017). The Pharmaceutical Journal states, there have been no scientific studies published that support the effectiveness of charcoal toothpastes in tooth whitening, oral hygiene and any claimed preventative effects (Greenwall & Wilson, 2017).
From information I have gathered from journal articles written on the subject, activated charcoal toothpastes are seemingly effective in removing surface stains from coffee, tea, red wine,etc. This is most likely due to the abrasive nature of activated charcoal. There has not been enough evidence to show that activated charcoal toothpaste has an effect on whitening yellow teeth. Activated charcoal is characteristically absorbent,however in the form of a toothpaste, it may be the abrasiveness that is contributing to the removal of the stain. The abrasive nature of activated charcoal can be seen as a potential concern as well. Activated carbon is more grainy than traditional pastes and can potentially cause damage to the teeth (Potts, 2018). There was not much information supporting gum health, however some reviews claimed that a side effect was gum irritation. There are a lot of positive claims and a lot of negative claims, yet no claim is supported by enough clinical evidence to be deemed as true.
In conclusion, we have to take this information lightly because there is not enough substantial evidence to support these claims. Because activated charcoal toothpastes and powders have grown in popularity, there are a lot of companies making this type product right now and some may be putting harmful ingredients into the mix. RDH magazine claims that some foreign brands of toothpaste may contain toxic ingredients. We must exercise caution when buying a product like this. Several charcoal toothpastes or powders on the market right now do not contain Fluoride, which is the key ingredient for cavity prevention. If you’re using a charcoal toothpaste without Fluoride, your dental professional may recommend supplementing with a Fluoride mouth rinse. My recommendation would be to read the ingredients carefully when purchasing toothpaste, especially if it is not from a reputable company. Be cautious if using activated charcoal toothpaste or powder and do not use it long-term until more research has been published to support the safety and efficacy of the product.
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Greenwall, L., & Wilson, N. H. (2017, July 13). Charcoal toothpastes: what we know so far. Retrieved February 16, 2019, from The Pharmaceutical Journal: https://www.pharmaceutical-journal.com/opinion/correspondence/charcoal-toothpastes-what-we-know-so-far/20203167.article?firstPass=false
Potts, K. (2018, July 1). Marketing Ingenuity or Beneficial Dentifrice? Retrieved Februrary 16, 2019, from RDH Magazine: https://www.rdhmag.com/articles/print/volume-38/issue-7/content/marketing-ingenuity-or-beneficial-dentifrice.html