Ask Your Dentist: Can You Clean Your Teeth With Charcoal?

Dentists recommend that you brush your teeth at least twice a day, but it's also important to remember that you should use a high-quality toothbrush. Australian retailers now offer consumers dozens of types of brush, but it's often difficult to decide which one is best, particularly with more obscure brands and varieties like charcoal toothbrushes. These look like normal toothbrushes, but the nylon bristles are infused with charcoal powder. Learn why some people recommend charcoal toothbrushes and find out if it's safe to use these products.

How activated charcoal works

People have used charcoal in a variety of ways for many years. Indeed, World War I gas mask makers often used the mineral to protect soldiers from chemical exposure. Activated charcoal is rather like conventional charcoal, but manufacturers adapt the material for medicinal uses. To do this, you just heat the material with a special gas, which causes the charcoal to expand.

The expanded, porous surface of activated charcoal means that the material is particularly effective at absorbing toxins. As such, health food stores sell activated charcoal for a host of health and beauty uses. For example, if you swallow something poisonous, activated charcoal can counter the toxicity while you wait for medical attention. The material can ease bites and stings and can also whiten teeth.

Activated charcoal and teeth

Activated charcoal (sometimes called Binchotan charcoal in health food stores) can potentially absorb the coloured tannins that you find in many foods and drinks. Dark, colour-rich products like tea, coffee and red wine can stain your teeth over time, but brushing with an activated charcoal toothbrush can absorb these problematic compounds. That aside, these toothbrushes are unlikely to whiten teeth as quickly as other treatment types your dentist can offer.

Activated charcoal also has other potential benefits. The mineral is naturally antibacterial and antifungal, so regular brushing with a charcoal toothbrush could help you get rid of the bacteria that could cause gum disease or tooth decay. Health food experts also say that activated charcoal can absorb excess mouth acids, which could help lessen the risk of bacterial growth. 

You can also buy activated charcoal in a powder form. Indeed, some beauty bloggers recommend this form of the product over a charcoal toothbrush. Users combine the charcoal powder and water in equal amounts before rinsing with the mixture for a few minutes. You can also brush your teeth with the paste to help remove stains.

Things to consider

While activated charcoal has been around for some time, more clinical studies are necessary to understand the full benefits of the chemical. Activated charcoal can also cause some side effects. Most people can use the material safely for a short period, but if you swallow too much charcoal, you can suffer with constipation and black stools. More rarely, the material can cause problems with the digestive system, particularly if you suffer from a condition called reduced peristalsis.

Healthcare professionals also recommend that pregnant women should talk to their doctor before using a charcoal product. Furthermore, some medicines can interact with the mineral, and doctors also warn that alcohol can cause problems when mixed with activated charcoal.

For most people, activated charcoal is generally harmless and can help whiten teeth over time. However, some people can suffer serious side effects if they use charcoal products, so you should always contact your dentist before you use activated charcoal.

For more information on oral health, contact a dental practice like Swansea Family Dental.