Charcoal Toothpaste Won't Whiten Your Teeth And Could Actually Harm Them, Study Finds

If you've spent any amount of time on influencer Instagram, you've probably seen the videos of happy models scouring their teeth with charcoal and smiling at the whitened results -- but what do the dentists say about it?

A new study published in the British Dental Journal (BDJ) found that charcoal toothpastes don't live up to their whitening claims, and actually carry potential health risks as well as damage teeth.

Charcoal toothpaste is becoming increasingly popular in many countries around the world, including Australia, and the study aimed to give an overview of what scientists actually know about it.

The British authors of the paper noted for a start there was "insufficient evidence" to show that charcoal toothpaste had much demonstrable benefit on oral hygiene, based on a previous study of 118 papers.

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Charcoal toothpaste doesn't seem to whiten teeth, detoxify the oral environment, or have any antibacterial or antifungal properties, the previous paper said.

Charcoal was also found to be abrasive to teeth -- which "may result in the loss of tooth surface, in other words, tooth wear", according to the authors.

While many of these toothpastes claim they don't have this wearing effect, there has been no independent verification for those claims.

Dr Mikaela Chinotti, a spokesperson for the Australian Dental Association (ADA), told 10 daily that many charcoal toothpaste users are unaware fo the abrasion problem.

"When they say they whiten the tooth, it's through an abrasive nature rather than a bleaching nature," she said.

Chinotti said this 'sanding' effect is similar to how bi-carb soda acted when older generations used it as a toothpaste replacement.

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There are also aesthetic risks that come with cleaning your teeth with this black powder.

Chinotti said that "particles can lodge around the gums, so you can end up with a black lining." It is particularly obvious in patients with gum disease, who have more space for this powder to accumulate at the top of their teeth.

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The BDJ study also found that there were potential health risks associated with using some of these products; bentonite clay and polyaromatic carbons in charcoal have potential carcinogenic (cancer-causing) properties.

While bentonite clay is not considered harmful in itself, some of these clay products contain crystalline silica, which is a recognised human carcinogen when inhaled.

The authors stated this isn't an immediate concern for all charcoal toothpastes, but further research needs to be done.

For people who want to whiten their teeth, Chinotti recommends people consult with a qualified, registered dentist because "the same treatment isn't going to work for everybody".

She said that people have to consider why their teeth are the way they are -- smoking and certain diets can contribute to teeth staining so it's better to consult with a professional rather than a "face on social media".