As dental professionals, we hear lots of questions about at-home “DIY” methods of whitening. We’re ALWAYS happy that you bring this up, because it shows you trust our opinions and it allows us to discuss the science ( you know Dr. Angart LOVES science) and biology (he’s even more crazy about this) behind these theories. We can also discuss the potential benefits and risk for your oral and overall health.
WHAT IS IT?
Activated charcoal is also known as activated carbon. Its commonly found in intestinal decontaminants (think to reduce the effects of food poisoning), and is sometimes used in hospitals and emergency rooms as well as air and water filters. The color is black, odorless and tasteless. It is non-toxic, but you should NOT breathe it in.
TEETH WHITENING WITH ACTIVATED CHARCOAL
Activated charcoal toothpaste is one of the biggest trends currently being advertised for whitening. It is unclear how activated charcoal affects the teeth and gums, or if it provides any oral health benefits. By not having clear safety standards, our concern is with the use of abrasives to brush teeth and what effect this may have on the gingiva and enamel. If you have gingivitis, dental restorations like composite fillings, crowns or bridges, it’s a very good idea to check with us to make sure that they will not be affected by this DIY method.
The recipe is simple. Empty the capsule onto your toothbrush, add a little water, and brush. Avoiding the mess, however, is not quite so simple. The powder is fine and remember NOT to breathe it in! Charcoal easily stains plastics, grout and clothing but is easy to wipe off non-porous surfaces.
While many people think they can accomplish amazing whitening results at home, based on reports in social media, they may be brushing more effectively and efficiently and that may make it appear the product works, there is no evidence to support any whitening effect for charcoal toothpaste. The results of brushing after one week can provide 1 shade difference, a modest improvement. It can also cause gum irritation and lead to tooth sensitivity due to the abrasivity too. Regardless of your whitening outcome, activated charcoal is an EXCELLENT way to confirm the importance of flossing. Charcoal binds to substances (think plaque), but if you don’t brush, floss and rinse it off properly, it will show you where the toothbrush does not get to (think – between the teeth stains!)
CAN I EXPECT RESULTS?
Most DIY methods of whitening take a few days at a minimum to show results, and may require continuing to use the method to maintain the results. If you are looking for something to work more long-term, talk to us about professional whitening as a treatment option, like KOR or bleaching trays.
WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT ORAL HEALTH? WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU HAD A PROFESSSIONAL CHECKUP AND CLEANING?
Its amazing how much cleaner, brighter and whiter your smile looks after a polish – that’s because the polishing paste used by dentists and dental hygienists is abrasive, and does an excellent job of scrubbing off surface stains, without the unintended contact with gum tissues. A quick trip to Dr. Angart, or our hygienists Jacque or Kim for a regular checkup can often yield the same results as activated charcoal.
WHAT IS THE NATURAL COLOR OF YOUR TEETH?
Not everyone has naturally “White” teeth. Some folks have a yellow-ivory color and others have a darker gray tint. This means that it may not be realistic to expect that bright white smile you see in photos or on TV and the movies. If you have a shade described here, we have a great KOR technique that can whiten even the darkest of teeth.