If your social media feed is flooded with pictures of pitch black ice cream sundaes, impossibly dark hamburger buns, or videos of your friends brushing their teeth with what seems to be foamy soot, you are probably familiar with activated charcoal. What is it exactly though, and what risks do you run by brushing with it?
Charcoal is activated when it is burned at very high temperatures and then oxidized. The purpose of this process is to create a carbon-rich material with a high surface area. In the context of teeth whitening, the large pores of activated charcoal are thought to help lift away materials that stain the enamel. This sounds appealing, but before you spring for a trendy $5 travel sized tube, you should consider the damage this can cause your teeth.
Lightly abrasive materials, such as baking soda, are effective at treating surface level stains. However, when materials are overly abrasive, they run the risk of eroding your enamel. This is the case with activated charcoal. While they may provide a benefit with sparing use following a professional cleaning, regular use is unsafe. On top of its abrasive properties, activated charcoal toothpaste often does not have fluoride in it. This leaves teeth especially susceptible to decay.
Even if your bottom line is teeth whitening, activated charcoal may not be the route to go. Ironically, it can cause teeth staining in some cases. Your best bet is to maintain normal dental hygiene practices and perhaps seek a professional cleaning.
If you’re sad you can’t suds up with activated charcoal, you can opt for safer home remedies. Try brushing with 1 teaspoon of baking soda mixed with 2 teaspoons of water a couple times a week. You won’t have a tar colored smile to flaunt to your followers, but your pearly whites will thank you later.
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