I had a lengthy chat with my dentist a couple years back regarding charcoal toothpaste. I tend to prefer natural medicine and was hoping charcoal would be a good alternative to the professional teeth whitening he offered. He was pretty blunt that I shouldn’t expect the same kind of results but said that there was no harm in using charcoal toothpaste. Now, I’m following the news and it seems like he and half the population was wrong. I’m worried I may have done permanent damage to my teeth. Is there a way to find out?
The latest class-action lawsuit is against Procter & Gamble, makers of Crest Toothpaste. However, there have been several others in the past and there are likely to be more down the road. The argument is that charcoal is so abrasive that it takes off layers of your enamel. And, while there’s certainly a case for it being harsh, studies have largely been inconclusive.
Studies on Charcoal Toothpaste are Inconclusive
When the American Dental Association (ADA) pulled every study they could find on charcoal toothpaste, the results were all over the place.
“Two studies offered nonspecific caries reductions, 3 studies reported deleterious outcomes (increased caries, enamel abrasion, nonquantified negative impact), and 1 study indicated only that brushing with raw charcoal had no adverse effects on oral hygiene,” the report said.
So, although the scales tipped in favor of it not being safe, it wasn’t by a wide margin. With that in mind, the ADA concluded “this literature review showed insufficient clinical and laboratory data to substantiate the safety and efficacy claims of charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices.”
The organization said dentists should “advise their patients to be cautious” when using charcoal toothpaste. If nothing else, though, claims that charcoal toothpaste is somehow good for you could also not be substantiated. In absence of evidence, most dentists would generally suggest not using something. Lack of an ADA seal is usually a solid indicator that a product is deviating from the trusted norms.
Even Still, Charcoal Toothpaste is Highly Abrasive
Many people like yourself turned to charcoal toothpaste in the quest for whiter teeth. It’s actually the abrasiveness of the material that gives it the ability to “whiten” by scrubbing off stains. The real question is whether it was so abrasive that it damaged enamel. Some studies did come to this conclusion by measuring the roughness of a tooth before using charcoal toothpaste and again after a month of use. With that in mind, it could theoretically damage your teeth in as little as a month.
However, each person responds differently to abrasive products to some degree. Habits and genetics, among other things, can determine the quality and strength of your enamel and, thus, your susceptibility to damage. That may be why the studies couldn’t prove anything. If they weren’t isolating for those factors, they would have different findings.
It Wouldn’t Hurt to See a Dentist
If you had damage from using charcoal toothpaste or anything else, you’d probably have telltale symptoms, like yellower teeth from thinning enamel, picking up stains fast due to rough enamel, or sensitivity. If you aren’t experiencing any of these issues, chances are your teeth have come through it ok. However, for your own peace of mind, you may want to get a thorough exam. It’s best to see a dentist who does a lot of cosmetic dentistry for this, as he’ll be more finely attuned to picking up minor changes Best of luck to you.
This blog is sponsored by Auburn AL dentist, Dr. Raymond Bolt.