I often see charcoal toothpaste at stores (including 'organic' health stores) and I see the claims: "It cleans, it's natural, it detoxifies". The advertising is magnificent but is it actually helpful for teeth? Unfortunately, it gets a big thumbs down from Dr. Peter, a pediatric dentist, and owner of VK Pediatric Dentistry, located in Arlington, Virginia. Read more to find out why we don't recommend charcoal toothpaste for any of our patients or their parents.
Why Charcoal In the First Place?
Activated charcoal is created when you combine high-temperature and processed charcoal with an activating agent. This type of substance is highly porous with the ability to stick to surfaces. This process, known as adsorption (not absorption) in theory allows the charcoal to adsorb surface stains on your teeth. Charcoal is incredible effective as an abrasive for cleaning. Thus, with some clever marketing and a theoretical idea, charcoal toothpaste was created with the intent to remove surface stains (coffee, tea, etc) from teeth while remaining 'all natural' and truly, it's very effective at its purpose as an abrasive.
So what's the downside?
When your car gets dirty, do you clean the exterior with sandpaper? Probably not, so why would you use a very aggressive abrasive for your teeth? Charcoal is incredibly rough as a substance. Although there may be a noticeable improvement in the color of your teeth, you're actually removing an important protective layer of the teeth called enamel. Over time, this continues to break down and increases both sensitivity and cavity risk. Furthermore, most charcoal toothpastes don't include fluoride so they can use the 'all natural' marketing lingo, but, fluoride is one of the most important components of toothpaste as it protects teeth and makes them more resistant to cavities in the future.
What does the literature say?
JADA (the journal of the American dental association) published a review of the literature for charcoal toothpaste. The authors looked for randomized clinical trials and selected over 50 charcoal toothpastes and dentifrices from google.com and amazon.com for ascertainment of product claims.
Overall, they found quite a bit of unsubstantiated therapeutic claims - ie. claims that aren't supported by science: "antibacterial, antiviral, oral detoxification" as well as numerous product assertions. In three of the studies, there were reports of poor outcomes including increased cavities, enamel abrasion, and nonquantified negative impacts. Find the study here.
If you need some advice on our favorite kids toothpaste and which ones we recommend for our patients, check this post.
VK Pediatric Dentistry
5001 Lee Hwy, Arlington VA 22207
Schedule An Appointment Today in Arlington, Virginia at VK Pediatric Dentistry
If you haven't taken your child to a pediatric dentist yet or would like to schedule an appointment, Dr. Peter and the highly skilled team at VK Pediatric Dentistry are just a phone call away. Schedule an appointment online or call us today at 703-962-7814. We look forward to providing your children with a lifetime of healthy and happy smiles!