Safest Teeth Whiteners
The safest ways to whiten your teeth explained
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Charcoal toothbrushes are one of the latest trends in dentistry. They have soft bristles infused with activated charcoal.
Activated charcoal is made by heating charcoal with gas to activate it and make it porous. This allows it to trap chemicals within those pores. The charcoal’s porous negative-charge draws in the positive-charged toxins.
Activated charcoal works like a sponge and is commonly used to treat poisonings, hangovers, and even high cholesterol.1 However, its use in dentistry is not new.
“Charcoal used in dentistry has been in existence since ancient Greece,” says resident expert and licensed dentist Dr. Nandita Lilly. “Charcoal is eco-friendly, herbal, and natural.”
This may explain why so many people are opting for charcoal in their oral hygiene routines.
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Dr. Lilly does not believe dentists should recommend charcoal toothbrushes just yet. “I believe that, although charcoal’s attributes are promising, there is currently insufficient scientific evidence to substantiate the cosmetic and health benefits of charcoal,” she says.
Dr. Lilly’s viewpoint is typical of the dental industry. They don’t outright oppose the use of charcoal toothbrushes but would prefer to see more scientific evidence to support their use.
With the popularity of charcoal dental products increasing, researchers have been spending more time investigating their benefits.
One clinical study found that after 6 weeks of use, charcoal toothbrushes remove more plaque than toothbrushes with standard nylon bristles.2 The charcoal-infused bristles also appeared less worn, suggesting that they may last longer compared to nylon bristles.
Another study looked into charcoal in toothpaste. It compared activated charcoal, blue covarine, hydrogen peroxide, and microbeads to see which was more effective at whitening teeth. They found that toothpaste containing charcoal was less effective than toothpaste containing blue covarine or microbeads.3
There is currently not enough evidence to support the use of charcoal toothbrushes over other kinds of brushes. According to the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), there is no evidence to show that dental products with charcoal are safe or effective.4
People should instead, consider products that have the ADA Seal of Acceptance.5
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People thinking about using a charcoal toothbrush should carefully consider the pros and cons.
“Charcoal promotions claim that it is a tooth-whitening, oral-detoxifying, antiseptic, antibacterial, and antifungal,” says Dr. Lilly.
As well as the many purported benefits, there may be some downsides to using charcoal toothbrushes.
Here are some of the known benefits of charcoal toothbrushes:
Most charcoal toothbrushes are made of all-natural materials. They typically have a wooden handle, often bamboo.
People who prefer to use all-natural products may choose charcoal toothbrushes over traditional ones for this reason.
Activated charcoal is absorbent and may be able to absorb substances that stain teeth, such as chemicals in coffee or wine. By doing so, charcoal toothbrushes may be able to remove or prevent stains and whiten teeth. However, there are no studies to support the claim that charcoal can do this.6
A study of 50 participants used a charcoal toothbrush and a standard toothbrush for a week each. They found that the charcoal toothbrushes retained around half the bacteria that regular toothbrushes retained.7
These low levels of bacteria mean that charcoal toothbrushes could help freshen breath and aid in plaque removal better than standard toothbrushes.
Here are some downsides of charcoal toothbrushes:
“Charcoal is an abrasive material and can cause cavities by damaging the enamel and making it more prone to decay,” says Dr. Lilly.
Enamel is not formed of living cells, and so when the surface is worn away, it cannot repair itself.8
According to Dr. Lilly, “charcoal can also stain existing fillings, thereby necessitating the need for further restorative dental treatment."
As with all charcoal products, charcoal toothbrushes may leave a black residue. This can happen when the bristles begin to wear, and the charcoal leaks out.
This may stain the face, the sink, and any fabrics it comes into contact with. However, toothbrushes are typically less messy than other charcoal products, such as powder, toothpaste, or tabs.
Certain people should not use any products containing activated charcoal. This includes people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, people who take birth control, and anyone who takes any kind of oral medication.
This is because people may accidentally swallow some of the charcoal, which can lead to oral medications not working.
As well as charcoal infused toothbrushes, there are a variety of other activated charcoal products available.
Toothpaste that contains charcoal is becoming very popular, partially because it’s easy and inexpensive to replace regular toothpaste with a charcoal variation.
Additionally, a lot of charcoal toothpastes lack fluoride, a mineral known for its ability to strengthen teeth and prevent tooth decay.9 A study in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) found that only 8% of products they reviewed contained fluoride.4
With charcoal powder, people have to mix it with water to create a paste, which they then apply to their teeth. It can be messier than other kinds of charcoal dental products, as the powder may spill or spread more easily.
These are similar to standard whitening strips but are infused with activated charcoal. They work in the same way as normal teeth whitening strips.
In conclusion, even though charcoal has been around for centuries, there isn’t enough evidence-based research to conclude its efficacy.
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