Dr. Youssef’s View on Charcoal Toothpaste

“Dr. Youssef, what do you think about this new charcoal toothpaste I’m using?”

Oh the number of fads that come and go in the world of Dentistry! Charcoal “whitening” toothpastes are one of the latest and most popular trends, and I get asked about them all the time by my patients. Here’s the scoop:

Charcoal in toothpaste serves as an abrasive agent which, if used properly and on the proper type of enamel, will remove surface stains that may be present on the enamel.  Could this make your teeth look cleaner? Yes. BUT, will it actually treat your teeth to change their color to a whiter shade? NO! And here’s why:

If you’ve ever used sandpaper to remove a layer off of wood, etc., then you have a visual for how charcoal toothpaste removes superficial stain off of teeth.  This is the same mechanism used by your dental hygienist at the end of a cleaning appointment when he/she “polishes” your teeth with the gritty material (prophy paste).  The difference between these two is MAJOR, considering the fact that your dental hygienist is a licensed professional who is trained to strategically use the material in a way to not harm your enamel or gum tissue! I have seen patients who, through aggressive use of charcoal dental products, have gotten some black specks of charcoal lodged deep into their gum tissue- not healthy or attractive!

In addition to knowing how to use this type of abrasive material, your dental hygienist is specifically trained on who to use it on, and knows how often to use it.  For example, patients who have certain enamel distortions or abnormalities could do some serious damage to the enamel of their teeth.  Also, patients who have periodontal disease with deep pockets could lodge the particles deep into their gum tissue (something like what happened to my patient which was mentioned earlier), and cause themselves some serious harm.  Lastly, even if you don’t have any enamel abnormalities or periodontal issues, if you use it excessively in frequency or force, serious harm to healthy enamel could potentially be caused.

So, in a nutshell, charcoal toothpastes are rough and could cause some serious damage- I’ve witnessed it!  They only remove superficial stain, which is what your dental hygienist does at your periodic dental appointments, in a safer, controlled, and more effective manner.  Is it worth the harm that I have seen it cause to my patients? Absolutely not- it’s so much safer to get your teeth professionally cleaned and polished! And if getting your pearly whites a few shades whiter is your main goal, then a whitening treatment (which goes beyond enamel to the dentin) is what you’re really looking for.  Ask me about it at your next appointment!


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