These days we are all very influenced by social media and what well known people are doing. We don’t just follow logic when it comes to our buying choices.
I have recently had patients ask me about charcoal toothpaste. Now toothpaste doesn’t need re-inventing, we have ones that do what we need already. Why would charcoal be a good addition to a toothpaste? It’s black! Not logical!
Up to now I have had to say I don’t know any good reason to use it so can’t recommend it. Now though the UK expert in tooth whitening doctor Linda Greenwall has published a paper on charcoal toothpastes. Amazingly some of these pastes can be £20 as tube. She says that due to multiple celebrity endorsements and social media posts charcoal products are likely to continue to become more popular.
So, do they work? The short answer is no. Literature review shows insufficient evidence to support any health benefits they may claim to have. In fact, they could be less effective than regular toothpaste at preventing decay as they either have no fluoride or it is inactivated by the charcoal. There are possible health risks to them as they may contain carcinogenic hydrocarbons.
Some of the information supplied with them suggests that activated charcoal binds to tooth surface deposits, “holding” plaque, bacteria and stained materials in the charcoal, which can then be brushed away. This has not been proved or disproved by science, so should not be claimed as being true.
Charcoal based toothpastes can be more abrasive than regular toothpastes. So, teeth will start to wear and be more sensitive. Ironically this can also make them look darker long term. Patients with gum issues could find that charcoal may accumulate in the gum tissues causing the gums look grey/black.
What about tooth whitening? Well, there is no evidence to support any claims that charcoal helps to whiten teeth. In fact, it can stick along the edges of fillings or in the pits of the teeth giving a black stain.
So the morale of the story is not to be too quick to follow what the bloggers are doing. Something new is not always better! Traditional products are usually tried and tested.
If you would like advice on any matters relating to oral health do ask the team. If trying something new look for claims backed by research.
I won’t be trying charcoal toothpaste any time soon. Or drinking celery water either!