Charcoal has been used for medical reasons, but what is activated charcoal and how does it whiten teeth?

What is activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal is not very much different from the charcoal that you might use on a barbecue. The main difference is that it has been treated with a gas that leaves it with small empty cavities. It’s a bit like a hard, black sponge! It is odourless, tasteless and completely safe if swallowed.  However, dentists are not convinced that it can’t do harm to the exterior of teeth if used carelessly.

Is activated charcoal is good for teeth whitening?

Activated charcoal can be bought in tablet form in pharmacies and health shops. You grind the tablets up preferably with a small amount of water mixed with the charcoal as a paste. Then smear it onto your teeth where there are unsightly stains. There are also toothpastes available that contain activated charcoal.

Because charcoal is an abrasive, it does actually work to remove some stains and plaque on your teeth. These external stains tend to make your teeth appear unnaturally yellowish, so in fact the charcoal does work to some extent by removing the stains.

The limits of charcoal as a teeth whitener

As acrtivated charcoal mostly acts as an abrasive, it only really affects external grittiness and superficial stains. It doesn’t penetrate any further into the teeth, so does not remove deeper stains.

For this, your dentist can help you with teeth whitening products that you can use yourself. Even better, they may suggest that you book yourself in for a teeth whitening session with them. Teeth whitening performed by a dentist is much more effective and 100% safe.

Dangers of using charcoal

Although charcoal in powder or paste form is completely inert and safe if you swallow it. Dentists do say that it can be dangerous if used too abrasively. Using charcoal with too much pressure can lead to erosion of the enamel on the outside of the teeth. Enamel helps to protect the more delicate and biologically important interior of the teeth.

Better teeth whitening techniques

There are a number of substances that can help to penetrate the outer layers of your teeth quite well and tend to oxidise the stains on them.

Dentists prefer to use a bleaching agent like hydrogen peroxide to remove deeper stains. If you are interested in learning more about other teeth whitener methods, click here.

Prevention is best

Even better than dealing with unsightly and embarrassing stains after they have appeared, there are several ways to prevent them from developing. Being careful of your diet and avoiding food or drinks that stain teeth like coffee, red wine and curry, can help.  Don’t forget that regular brushing and flossing can keep your teeth a more natural white appearance as well.