Activated charcoal has recently become a popular trend for DIY teeth whitening, but medical professionals are warning against smearing the charcoal-derived black mixture on teeth.
Fox News reported that YouTube user Mama Natural posted a video detailing how to use activated charcoal to whiten teeth, and by Monday morning the video had amassed more than 1.5 million views.
But dentists are concerned about using this method for teeth whitening, saying it could lead to tooth erosion and enamel deterioration.
The online video shows host Genevieve brushing her teeth with the supplement for three to five minutes before rinsing, then stating she has seemingly whiter teeth. The advertisement advises that the product can be purchased in capsule form online or in health food stores.
Genevieve says in the video that charcoal is highly absorbent, referring to it as “some of the most absorbent material on the planet.” She claims that hospitals have a supply of charcoal on hand to absorb poison from a person’s body.
“The same reasoning works for our teeth. It absorbs bacteria, toxins, and staining, and makes them whiter as a result.”
Dentists say that, while the cosmetic result of this cleaning method may hold true for some people, the long-term internal effect may harm other people’s teeth. Charcoal teeth-whitening products have not been evaluated or approved by the American Dental Association, and a spokesperson for the organization said this product is concerning because its abrasiveness isn’t known.
Dr. Susan Maples is a Michigan based dentist and author of Blabber Mouth: 77 Secrets Only Your Mouth Can Tell You to Live a Healthier, Happier, Sexier Life. She told Fox News that the supplement may be dangerous because there simply isn’t enough evidence available to show if the supplement is beneficial.
“I worry about the long-term effects of a video like this. Teeth are the only part of the ectoderm that does not replenish or heal itself – once it’s gone, it’s gone. You can color your hair, you can pierce your skin, damage your nail, shave an eyebrow – all of that comes back.”
Dr. Maples said the difference between using an approved dental tool either in the home or at a dentist’s office, and a DIY remedy like charcoal, lies in their approaches. She explained that approved products seep through the enamel and into the inner layer of the tooth known as the dentin, which influences tooth color.
Because no-one knows how severe the charcoal supplement may be, it could well leave teeth blotchy or stained. In addition, the product could leave tooth enamel susceptible to erosion and deterioration, which can lead to cavities and sensitivity.
“When you lose enamel, teeth get sensitive and darker in color because you’re close to the part of the tooth that has the depth of the color. Since you can’t grow it back, the only thing you can do is cover it up with restoration.”
Dr. Maples strongly recommends that patients interested in whitening their teeth should either use formally tested dental procedures, or at-home whitening trays provided by the dentist.
“My fear with the charcoal is people will do it periodically just to do it, and over time we’ll see too much erosion.”
On the topic of activated charcoal, this black detoxifying substance which is traditionally used medicinally to help treat poisoning or drug overdose, is now being added to a multitude of consumer products, creating a sensation on social media with their disturbing color.
CTV News reported that a Toronto ice cream shop, iHalo Krunch, is making headlines with its black activated charcoal infused coconut flavor, which also comes in a black waffle cone.
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Owner of iHalo Krunch, Charlene D’Aoust, said, “People love it, they love the color. We put just enough that it actually adds the color to the cone without having to add food coloring but that it’s still safe to consume.”
Well Juicery is a Calgary based business that has also joined the trend with its recently launched cold-pressed lemonade line that includes an activated charcoal beverage.
Zack Lister, company co-founder, said that the charcoal drink named Ink is currently their best selling product, even outselling their green juice. He had a theory as to why this is occurring.
“I think a lot of that has to do with the marketing aspect as well, especially these days with all these Instagram influencers and people looking for cool content.”
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Josh Gitalis, a medicine practitioner and clinical nutritionist in Toronto, said that activated charcoal is traditionally used in acute cases, like poisoning, because it can bind up toxins in the gut by the process of absorption.
“It uses an electrical charge and there are microscopic spaces in the activated charcoal where all the toxins go into, and then it helps your body eliminate it so you’re not absorbing it into the bloodstream.”
Gitalis says he always keeps activated charcoal at home and when traveling in the event of food poisoning or consumption of contaminated water. He advises buying certified activated charcoal that has a Natural Product Number and only administering it after calling a poison control center for guidance.
Some health experts are warning that taking activated charcoal at the same time as prescription drugs can interfere with their absorption. Andrea Hardy, a registered dietitian in Calgary, said the tiny amount of activated charcoal being added to mainstream food items, like ice cream, won’t hurt unless consumed in extremely large quantities.
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She also adds that it probably won’t have any major beneficial effects either.
“If people are looking for it truly for gut health, I think there are far better things that are going to promote gut health than using activated charcoal.”
[Featured Image by Babyboom/Shutterstock]