Remember a few years ago when oil pulling was the trending way to "naturally" whiten your teeth? It seems that trend has fizzled out and activated charcoal has taken it's place. Activated charcoal is the same substance hospitals use to treat alcohol poisoning. It is known for its ability to trap or bind to chemicals, preventing them from being absorbed by the body. In fact, if you Google search activated charcoal, the search will generate results ranging from teeth whitening, to full body detoxes and everything in between. These are new uses for activated charcoal and should be researched to evaluate safety and efficacy.
The question we should ask before jumping on the bandwagon: "Is activated charcoal a safe and effective way to whiten teeth?" The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) recently published a literature review on activated charcoal teeth whitening. They found that there is insufficient data to “substantiate the safety and efficacy claims of charcoal and charcoal based dentifrices." More studies are needed to conclude whether activated charcoal whitening has positive effects for the mouth and whether it is safe to use charcoal products to achieve such effects.
What does this mean for those of you who are interested in trying the latest whitening trend? Proceed with caution. As dental professionals we are trained to recommend treatment for our patients based on science and evidence. Given that we don't have the evidence yet, I would encourage patients to use the whitening options which have been studied and have been proven to be safe and effective. The tried and true way to whiten your smile is hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide whitening agents. And as always, optimal oral hygiene such as, brushing for two minutes twice a day and flossing once a day will help minimize future stains.
Charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices. Brooks, John K. et al.
The Journal of the American Dental Association , Volume 148 , Issue 9 , 661 - 670