If you are looking for home teeth whitening tricks, you’ve probably come across the suggestion that activated charcoal can whiten your teeth naturally. The problem is that, like many of the natural techniques you’ll come across, it probably doesn’t work.
The Theory behind Activated Charcoal
Activated charcoal is a form of carbon that is porous like a sponge. The small holes allow activated charcoal to absorb organic molecules, and it’s long been used medically for its ability to absorb toxins.
But the different molecules that can be absorbed by activated charcoal include tannins, which are common stain-inducing molecules found in red wine, tea, coffee, and other staining foods and beverages. The thought is that by absorbing these molecules activated carbon can whiten your teeth.
Is Activated Charcoal Safe for Teeth?
The good news about activated charcoal is that it’s pretty safe for your teeth. It’s not at all acidic, and it’s quite soft. Your tooth enamel measures a 5 on the Mohs scale of hardness, but activated charcoal only measures a 1-2, so it’s significantly softer than your enamel and won’t abrade or scratch your teeth.
But activated charcoal isn’t so gentle on your gums. The grittiness of it can be quite irritating, and may result in receding gums if you brush with it. The good news is that you don’t have to brush with it, anyway. It supposed just works like a sponge, so put it in your mouth, rinse, and spit. You can also swallow it, which some activated charcoal advocates suggest, because it’s completely safe and can remove toxins from the digestive system.
Does Activated Charcoal Work?
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been enough research to determine the effectiveness of activated charcoal, but it probably doesn’t work. After all, the charcoal is a pretty passive agent–it doesn’t really have the power to draw stain molecules out of the enamel. And we get further anecdotal support of its ineffectiveness from this beauty blogger, who saw no results after using it every day for a week.
But if you look online you’ll find this account of great results from activated charcoal by another beauty blogger. What gives? Actually, it’s pretty easy to explain. This other blogger was also rinsing with peroxide, which is a proven teeth whitening agent, and the active compound in most whitening used in dental offices as well as over-the-counter whiteners.
Of course, it’s also possible that the two bloggers were using activated charcoal with different levels of potency. Activated charcoal is graded according to its ability to absorb staining molecules. This is called the molasses number or caramel number because it is measured by seeing how much staining the charcoal can absorb from molasses or caramel.
We don’t know what the molasses number for the activated charcoal these two bloggers used. In fact, they probably don’t even know, because it’s often not disclosed on the label.
But, most likely this has nothing to do with it, and activated charcoal likely stays around as a fad because it hasn’t been disproven yet. The good thing is that because it isn’t harmful on your teeth, there’s not much to lose from trying it, as long as you avoid irritating your gums.
But if you are looking for truly effective ways to whiten your teeth, including porcelain veneers, please call (619) 299-5925 for an appointment with a San Diego cosmetic dentist at Strober Dental today.