Why It’s Time to Ditch the Charcoal Toothpaste

Every so often a brand-new fad comes along that’s just guaranteed to give you a brighter, whiter and more beautiful smile. One of these most recent trends is using charcoal toothpaste to help whiten teeth and it’s been endorsed by celebrities. However, a group of dental students has spent a year taking an in-depth look at how charcoal toothpaste could help to whiten teeth, and whether there are any detrimental effects of using such an abrasive substance on your teeth. The students were prompted to do this study because of the high numbers of patients coming into the dental office and asking about charcoal toothpaste.

So, does it work? The short answer is no, although it may help to get rid of some surface stains on teeth, for example, coffee. The students found that initially using charcoal toothpaste could be helpful, but there could be a high cost. Unfortunately, charcoal toothpaste contains a gritty substance and students discovered that it resulted in a significant loss of tooth enamel. As the tooth enamel wears away, it exposes more of the dentin of the teeth.

Dentin is the tooth substance that lies just underneath tooth enamel, and which contains the natural color of the tooth. Far from making teeth whiter, as the dentin is exposed, teeth will darken. In fact, using charcoal toothpaste could have the very opposite effect of whitening them.

After using charcoal toothpaste on teeth in the lab, students examined them under an electron microscope and were able to assess the level of tooth abrasion. Unfortunately, once you lose tooth enamel, it doesn’t grow back, and the students discovered that once charcoal got into the dentin, the teeth started to become greyish in appearance.

Using Charcoal Isn’t a New Invention

Although using charcoal toothpaste might be new to this century, it’s certainly not a recent invention. The ancient Romans used to use charcoal and ashes, and various other substances to whiten their teeth. One of the ingredients they used was limestone, and even today modern toothpaste can contain bicarbonate which is contained in limestone, so they might have had the right idea with that ingredient at least!

If You Can’t Whiten with Charcoal, Then How Can You Whiten Your Teeth?

Charcoal might not be a safe or desirable way to whiten your teeth, but there are lots of other tooth whitening options that are effective, and which will not harm your pearly whites. Possible ways to whiten are over-the-counter products such as tooth whitening strips, other types of whitening toothpaste and whitening mouth rinses.

Using Over-The-Counter Whitening Agents

Over-the-counter whitening choices can be appealing because they are low-priced, but there are a few things that you need to bear in mind. Firstly, when used safely and correctly these whitening products won’t make much difference to the color of your teeth because they only contain low concentrations of whitening agents. Secondly, it is essential to use these products exactly as described on the packet. Don’t be tempted to leave whitening strips on your teeth for too long or to use them too frequently because instead of whitening your smile, your teeth could become grayer, and there is a risk that you will damage your tooth enamel.

If you want to use a whitening product such as toothpaste, then check the ingredients to make sure it isn’t too abrasive. Just like charcoal toothpaste, some whitening toothpaste can be very harsh on teeth and could permanently damage them. When you use a whitening toothpaste, don’t expect to see a significant effect on the color of your teeth because they are only designed to lift some surface stains.

If you want to use a whitening mouth rinse, then look for one that contains fluoride because this will help to harden and protect your tooth enamel. Just like other over-the-counter whitening options, whitening mouth rinse won’t make a terrific difference to the appearance of your teeth because it’s in contact with them for such a short time.

When to Choose a Professional Tooth Whitening

Over-the-counter products are useful if you only want to achieve a minor improvement in the appearance of your teeth, but if you are looking for something a little more, then visit your dental office. Another advantage of choosing a professional tooth whitening treatment is that it’s incredibly safe and as you only have one set of adult teeth, it’s best not to take any chances with your dental health.

A professional tooth whitening treatment is affordable and highly effective, lightning the overall color of your teeth by several shades. Most dental offices offer two main ways to whiten your teeth as you can choose an in-office whitening treatment, or you can whiten at home using a custom whitening kit. Some people prefer to use both procedures to get the very best effects.

Choosing an in-Office Whitening Treatment

An in-office whitening treatment is the quickest way to brighten your smile. During this treatment, your lips and gums are protected before your teeth are painted with professional strength whitening gel, which is far stronger than anything you can buy over-the-counter. Your dentist may choose to activate the whitening gel with a laser, helping the gel to penetrate your tooth enamel more efficiently and more quickly. The gel can be wiped off and reapplied several times during your appointment.

Whitening at Home

A custom home tooth whitening kit will include whitening trays made to fit precisely over your teeth which can be filled with prescription strength whitening gel. You will be shown exactly how to use the trays and given information as to how long to wear them. It usually takes a couple of weeks to get the full effects, but you should begin to see a difference within just a few days. One of the nice things about having a whitening kit is that you can always reuse the whitening trays when you want to top up the results, provided the position and shape of your teeth haven’t changed.

Regardless of which treatment you choose, your dentist will want to examine your mouth to determine if teeth whitening is suitable. It is essential to have a check-up before teeth whitening, even if you’re going to use over-the-counter whitening products. Any problems including tooth decay, crumbling or leaking fillings or other restorations, or signs of gum disease must be treated before you can safely and comfortably whiten your teeth.


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