Myth busting and fact finding – the truth about charcoal toothpaste and whitening teeth


Following research, which has suggested claims about oral healthcare products containing activated charcoal to whiten your teeth have been exaggerated, a charity has looked at the facts and myths surrounding this current health trend.

The Oral Health Foundation is examining these products following the publication of research showing that there is insufficient clinical and laboratory data to substantiate the safety and efficacy claims of charcoal and charcoal-based oral health products.

The charity is worried that consumers are using these products without fully knowing what they contain and as a result are not getting enough of the ingredients which actively protect their teeth. 

Speaking on this subject Dr Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, said: 'Activated charcoal is undoubtedly the current fashionable health ingredient, appearing in everything from face masks, deodorant, lip balm and increasingly frequently, from our point of view, toothpaste.

'The number of charcoal toothpastes and powders on the market is growing rapidly and are being marketed at through instafamous celebrity endorsements, but we believe shoppers may be being misled.

'Much of the time the celebrity has had professional tooth whitening and their white smiles are not a direct result of using the product. From a whitening perspective, there may be anecdotal evidence of their whitening potential but any effect they have will likely be superficial.

'Many toothpastes which claim to whiten our teeth are simply removing surface stains, and will not offer the long lasting bright white smiles which many users may be looking for, or being promised though advertising.'

New research has also suggested there is no robust evidence which currently supports the claims made by many of these increasingly popular products in terms of tooth whitening and, importantly, some products may be actually harmful as they do not contain the effective ingredients to help prevent tooth decay.

Toothpaste needs to contain 1350 to 1,500 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride to actively protect teeth from tooth decay, but many of the current toothpastes which contain activated charcoal fall well below this level and are putting users at an increased risk of tooth decay.

'I would advise consumers to ensure they do their homework before deciding to use a product with activated charcoal,' adds Dr Carter.

'There are many reasons why people want to have whiter teeth, and I advise them to speak with a dental professional to establish what the best option for them individually is. Some of the products may be over abrasive and if used too often can wear away the enamel on the teeth causing sensitivity. Be careful to check with a dental professional that the product you want to use is safe, but as long as the toothpaste has the correct amount of fluoride in it should be fine to use.

'But in the long term, it is important to understand that the only way to get the white teeth many people desire is through professional whiting services provided by a dental professional.'

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