Experts say it doesn’t work and could even cause tooth decay
By Jenny Cook
Charcoal is everywhere at the moment. It’s in our facemasks, our deodorant, our lip balm and even our lattes – but perhaps the most bizarre place we’ve seen this particular ingredient pop up is in our toothpaste.
I challenge you to scroll through the Instagram ‘explore’ section without coming across some celebrity promoting charcoal toothpaste as a ‘miracle’ beauty product for those who want a brighter smile. However, some dentists have started speaking out against this latest trend saying that – quite apart from making teeth whiter – it may actually be causing tooth decay.
The Oral Health Foundation is worried that consumers are using charcoal products – loved by the likes of Nicole Scherzinger – without fully knowing what they contain. A statement from the charity reads:
“[We are] examining these products following the publication of research showing that there is insufficient clinical and laboratory data to substantiate the safety and efficacy claims of charcoal and charcoal-based oral health products.”
Experts are concerned that consumers are following the trend blindly and as a result are not getting enough of the ingredients that actively protect their teeth – potentially causing damage such as tooth decay. Speaking on this subject Dr Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said:
“The number of charcoal toothpastes and powders on the market is growing rapidly and are being marketed at through insta-famous celebrity endorsements, but we believe shoppers may be being misled. Much of the time the celebrity has had professional tooth whitening and their white smiles are not a direct result of using the product.”
“From a whitening perspective, there may be anecdotal evidence of their whitening potential but any effect they have will likely be superficial. Many toothpastes which claim to whiten our teeth are simply removing surface stains, and will not offer the long lasting bright white smiles which many users may be looking for, or being promised though advertising.”
Now, we’re not saying that charcoal is necessarily a bad ingredient that should be avoided at all costs and at all times – it just might be best left out of your oral hygiene routine. Earlier this year we spoke to dentist Dr Adam Thorne, who also voiced concerns about the growing charcoal trend.
“I’d be concerned about the potential damage that the grainy, gritty substance can do to your teeth and gums – and like any abrasive, I’d be worried about the effects on the gums and enamel on the teeth. We simply don’t know about the safety and effectiveness of it. If you want a gleaming white smile, I’d always recommend talking to your dentist first about using traditional whitening toothpaste for surface stains or specific whitening treatments for deeper stains or discolouration.”
The Oral Health Foundation’s statement adds “It is important to understand that, in the long-term, the only way to get the white teeth many people desire is through professional whiting services provided by a dental professional.”
Still keen on DIY whitening? Swap charcoal out for these alternatives…
Strawberries. This fruit has an abundance of a ‘magic’ malic acid, which naturally cleans and whitens the teeth.
Coconut oil. Swishing coconut oil between your teeth is likely to lessen the bacterial load in the mouth and has been shown to improve the health of the gums and whiten teeth.
Baking soda. “It does an excellent job at removing surface stains, but you should proceed with caution to prevent damage to your enamel,” say the bods at Colgate. Just be careful of overuse!
Cheese. Cheese can mechanically clean teeth as it is a natural cleanser, and has the added bonus of strengthening the tooth enamel and structure due to its high calcium levels. Always stick with hard cheeses, though.
The Oral Health Foundation draws on research published in the Journal of the American Dental Association.