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Social Media Sensation: Activated Charcoal

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The newest buzz in social media regarding dental care has been the use of activated charcoal for tooth whitening. Initially, I deemed it another “do-it-yourself” whitening sensation that would lose its hype, but I was wrong. There is still a continued conversation on this trend, and even toothpaste brands that now contain charcoal. It is definitely now worth further exploring, particularly so you have an informed perspective. There have been YouTube videos and social media posts of celebrities using activated charcoal, which brings more attention to the topic. Dental professionals need to be aware of what’s going on in social media, as these are questions that patients will ask.

It is stated in Drug Store News that activated charcoal reportedly “removes stains without abrading the enamel or using chemical bleaching agents” by absorbing stain particles and eliminating them. Additionally, the activated charcoal “balances the PH of the mouth while protecting against the growth of pathogens and cavities.” These seem like great benefits, but the harm that may be caused and the long-term effects on one’s dentition are not known. Medical professionals have urged against the use of activated charcoal in the oral cavity because of its actual use in medicine. It is used to absorb poison in the stomach from overdoses. So, regular use in the oral cavity is not recommended. The ADA spokesperson Dr. Kim Harms has commented on the unclear effectiveness of the use of activated charcoal.

My initial thoughts are that due to the abrasiveness of activated charcoal, its use can lead to enamel deterioration and erosion. There is no evidence stating that it is more effective than whitening toothpaste, and it does not have the ADA Seal of Approval. When it comes to toothpastes that contain activated charcoal, which supposedly has the benefits but not the abrasiveness, studies still need to be conducted to determine the effectiveness and side effects. I would also suggest that patients with crowns or veneers do not use these toothpastes because it may cause staining. The dental community continues to recommend peroxide based whitening products at home and in a dental office as well as fluoride based toothpaste to strengthen teeth.

We will see what occurs in the next few months or even years if the use continues. The dental community will have to take a really good look at this current craze.