Charcoal Teeth are in the news headlines again. A new dental fad has recommended charcoal as a medium for brushing. The story originates from a self-described homeopathic healer, Natural Mama Genevieve, who recommends brushing with a charcoal slurry mix. Natural Mama shows YouTube viewers how after brushing with the charcoal, her teeth are whiter and cleaner. She claims the charcoal not only whitens teeth but also removes the bacteria and toxins from the mouth due to its super absorbent properties. Her research and reasoning? Hospitals use the charcoal method and its absorbent properties to treat patients in the emergency room who have overdosed on drugs, alcohol or accidentally drank poison. Sorry Mama Genevieve, but there is a big difference between the emergency use of charcoal to save someone’s life and the casual use of charcoal as a “new” super toothpaste.
Charcoal is very absorbent and is used in all emergency rooms to aid with patients who have been exposed to harmful products. Many times, it can be used early to save individuals lives. However, this therapeutic analogy does not work when dealing with the oral cavity and improving one’s oral hygiene.
Charcoal is very abrasive and the greatest concern for me is the destruction of good tooth enamel and the wearing away of the gums. This concept is very new and therefore no studies have begun to show how much break down occurs when charcoal is used as a dentifrice but if you have ever grilled some burgers in your back yard, and held some in your hands, you know it is a dense substance, like a rock, and abrasive. I can only imagine the long terms effects of using such a substance. I did have a patient present to my office who had consistently used bathroom cleaner, like Comet, to brush his teeth. His reasoning: he figured if it took the stains from the toilet, it would sure clean his teeth. His teeth and gums were a train wreck. Totally destroyed and incapable of repair. I fear the uneducated patient who uses charcoal after watching “Natural Mama”, would face the same fate.
The idea of removing bacteria is equally as flawed. The charcoal will remove no more bacteria than the simple act of flossing and brushing alone. In fact, the super absorbent properties of charcoal will actually have more devastating effects on the mouth due to the removal of all the moisture in the mouth creating a dry environment. A dry environment is the worse scenario for the mouth because it allows bacteria to breed and reproduce in high numbers causing higher rates of decay from the acidic breakdown of the bacteria. Moisture is the best anti-cavity mechanism as it dilutes the bacteria and keeps their by-products flushed away from the teeth. Removing it from the oral cavity is not wise.
Charcoal is another fad of tooth care that gets its 20 minutes of fame and will hopefully fade. There is no scientific dental benefit of using charcoal. In fact, it does more harm than good. The end result will be more costly dental treatment to fix its caustic effects on the natural dentition. The is no substitute for regular dental visits, daily brushing, flossing and a healthy diet.