Activated charcoal is showing up in everything these days. Soaps, shampoos, face masks and most especially teeth whiteners have become popular. So what is this mysterious black substance, and will it really brighten your smile?
As with many natural remedies, there are naysayers that insist that the issue needs “much further study.” But there is loads of anecdotal evidence that suggests activated carbon can remove surface stains from your would-be pearly whites.
That being said, there are definitely a few things you should know before diving into this alternative remedy for whitening your teeth. So before you start brushing, here’s the lowdown on activated charcoal.
What Is Activated Charcoal?
Activated charcoal is a powder that’s made by natural oxidizing substances like coconut shells, olive pits and peat by exposing them to extreme heat. The fine, black grains that result are highly porous and also extremely absorbent.
Because of its absorbent nature, activated charcoal is able to bind to toxins and odors. That’s why it’s sometimes used as a treatment for accidental poison ingestion*. It prevents the toxins in your gut from being absorbed into the bloodstream.
The same principle applies to teeth whitening. Activated carbon bonds to the stains on your teeth and removes them.
(*Immediately consult a physician if you are someone you know is suffering from accidental poison ingestion.)
Activated Charcoal: It’s Not Like BBQ Coals
In case you’re wondering, activated charcoal is not the same as the coal you use to grill your steak with. Yes, they are similar. But barbecue coals release carbon dioxide when heated, a substance that can be carcinogenic.
Activated charcoal, on the other hand, doesn’t contain those types of toxins.
Is Activated Charcoal Safe For Your Teeth?
Because of active charcoal’s abrasiveness, overuse can damage the enamel on your teeth. But the same can also be said of many chemical teeth whiteners.
And while it’s not something you want to apply every day, if used correctly, activated charcoal can be a safe way to remove surface stains.
The main mistake people make is using a toothbrush to scrub their teeth with the powder. But because of its absorbent nature, this isn’t actually necessary.
A safer way is to use activated charcoal is to wet a bit of the powder with water and apply the paste gently to your teeth using your finger. Let the charcoal stay on your teeth for a few minutes so it has a chance to bind with surface stains. Then rinse your mouth until all of the paste is gone.
Will Activated Charcoal Work on All Stains?
Activated charcoal works by binding with the stains on the surface of your teeth. But if your teeth are deeply stained, naturally yellow or discolored from medication, you may want to speak to your dentist as AC is not effective in these cases.
Other Precautions for Activated Charcoal
While activated charcoal may be good for your teeth, it’s not so great for your clothes. So be careful when applying it as it can stain.
How To Whiten Your Teeth With Active Charcoal Step By Step:
- First, buy your activated charcoal in powder, capsules or tablets. If you do buy it in tablet form, keep in mind you’ll have to crush them down to powder before use.
- Use a very small amount of the powder and add just enough water to form a paste.
- Gently apply the paste to your teeth using your finger. It’s very important NOT to brush your teeth with the powder because it’s grainy and can be abrasive to your enamel. Also, try not to get in on your clothes as it can stain.
- Let the paste sit on your teeth for at least three minutes, so it has a chance to bind with any surface stains.
- Rinse your mouth thoroughly with water until all remnants of the paste are gone.
What About Toothpastes With Activated Carbon?
The effectiveness of any whitening toothpaste is going to vary brand to brand. Dentists recommend that you check the label for the RDA or Relative Dentin Abrasivity. According to the FDA, it’s best to use products with a score of 200 or below.
Most whitening pastes score somewhere around the 100 to 200 mark. But always be sure to check the label.
The Nitty Gritty on Activated Charcoal Powder
Although it’s a little freaky seeing your teeth covered in black paste, activated charcoal can be an effective way to remove coffee, tea and other surface stains.
But like any teeth whitener, overuse can damage your enamel. And once your enamel is eroded, it actually makes your teeth more prone to staining.
In other words, this is not something you want to do every day. And again, remember that scrubbing your teeth with activated carbon and a toothbrush is not recommended.
Let it sit on your teeth and it will do all the work for you.
After that, just rinse and keep smiling.
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