Does Activated Charcoal Really Work?

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In recent years, activated charcoal has found its way into a lot of products. You can find activated charcoal shampoo, face masks, deodorant, and even smoothies. But you’ll be hard pressed to find any scientific backing to its medical and cosmetic uses.  

Activated charcoal is carbon that has been heated or treated to increase its absorptive power. The result of superheating carbon is a black power known as activated charcoal. This charcoal has absorbent qualities. Many uses activated charcoal to absorb toxins, which is why you’ll find it in many products nowadays.  

Benefits and Risks of Charcoal

Though many of charcoal’s benefits have yet to be proven, there are some clear upsides. Activated charcoal has water filtration—meaning it traps impurities and harmful substances. It also detoxes the digestive system by absorbing toxins and poisons. There have been many claims that activated charcoal whiten teeth. The purification and absorbent qualities of activated charcoal can benefit your teeth but its teeth whitening effects have not yet been proven. It may be a short term answer to whitening your teeth, but whether or not charcoal has long term effects on your teeth is still to be determined.

Oral health products that contain active charcoal claim that the ingredient has properties including antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and detoxifying. There hasn’t been significant research done to support the claim of active charcoal’s teeth whitening abilities or oral health. It was also not been proved to be ineffective, there just hasn’t been enough laboratory or clinical data.

There have not been any proven risks of active charcoal. However, people taking medication should consult with a doctor before taking-in active charcoal. Because of its absorbent nature, charcoal can interfere with medication, including birth control.

What Dentists are Saying

The American Dental Association has not given the seal of approval to activated charcoal. When studying charcoal, the ADA claim that more studies need to be done before they can determine its effectiveness and safety.

Dentists will often warn against overusing active charcoal. Brushing with the very absorbent active charcoal can lead to enamel deterioration or even tooth erosion. Enamel cannot be replaced, and erosion leads to tooth sensitivity. Activated charcoal can leave your teeth vulnerable to decay and infection. It is still to be determined if charcoal does long term damage.

Charcoal seems to be a viable option for occasional brushing, but the real problem comes when you replace your toothpaste. Your teeth need fluoride to be protected against decay. When you replace your toothpaste with charcoal, you are not only depriving your teeth of fluoride, but you can also be weakening your teeth’s enamel. Some toothpaste with active charcoal will also contain fluoride, but not nearly enough fluoride. If you add active charcoal to your dental routine, don’t let it replace your regular toothpaste.

Before using any teeth whitening products, consult with your dentist. Most dentists will recommend that you brush with fluoride toothpaste twice a day and floss daily. Good oral hygiene will lead to whiter teeth.