Activated Charcoal - What's The Deal With This Popular Trend?

If you have been researching dental health options as of recent - or even if you haven't and you've simply been scrolling through your news feed as usual, you've probably seem something about Activated Charcoal Toothpaste. Whether it's being presented by a celebrity, being sold in a sleek midnight black tube and packaging, or popping up incessantly on your Facebook Feed - nothing is really telling us what it is and does. We're here to clear up any confusion you may be feeling about what Charcoal is and does for your oral health. 

Being on social media, you've probably witnessed a variety of ways that people are attempting to harness the powers of charcoal. People smear it on their face, apply it to their hair, and now are even brushing their pearly whites with it. 

What Is It & How Does It Work?

What many Americans think of when we hear the word 'charcoal' is BBQ or camping. The kind of charcoal used in hygiene products isn't that, although they are both made from the same base materials. Activated charcoal is a finely milled black powder made from coconut shells, bone char, olive pits, coal, sawdust, or other materials.

The charcoal is processed with high heat, which “activates” it. This changes its internal structure, making it more porous than regular charcoal. It’s also processed in this way to rid it of any additional substances that are harmful to humans. 

To dive deep into the chemistry side of things, activated charcoal has a negative electrical charge, which attracts positively charged molecules. Toxins and gases have a positive charge, causing them to be absorbed by the charcoal. You may have heard of 'free radicals' and the damage they can cause to your body. Charcoal helps to trap these.

Activated charcoal is especially helpful because of it's porous texture, adding to it's efficiency when trapping unwanted items. The best part is that it cannot be absorbed by the human body; it simply carries toxins out of the body through natural excretions.

Historically, charcoal has had a lot of uses, especially when applied medicinally. It's widely used to prevent overdoses and control incidents where someone has been poisoned. Due to activated charcoal has toxin-binding properties, it’s often used as an emergency poison treatment. It can bind to multiple over-the-counter and prescription drugs in order to reduce their effect. Studies have shown that activated charcoal can reduce drug absorption by up to 74% in adults. 

Other studies have found that activated charcoal can improve kidney functions due to it's toxin-binding quality which reduces the number of waste products that the kidney has to filter. It's also been said to purify pores and treat acne for skin treatment. 

So, Should I Put It In My Mouth? 

To begin with, there have been concerns about the abrasiveness of charcoal which some say could damage enamel if used too often, as well as charcoal’s tendency to absorb all sorts of things it comes into contact with, including good things like medications.

Others argue that charcoal isn’t specifically bad for teeth, it simply won’t contribute to your smile in the long-term, since the active ingredient isn't in contact with the tooth surface long enough have a meaningful whitening effect. Still, charcoal tooth treatments have found plenty of influencers who say that a regular coating of the stuff whitens their teeth and kills off bad breath-causing bacteria. The reality, as it so often is, may be somewhere in the middle. 

There is no official evidence that activated charcoal contributes to whitening teeth, but it has been approved by the FDA for a variety of health uses. The American Dental Association has not yet approved any activated charcoal products for dentistry. Though, observations suggest that using activated charcoal on your teeth is effective in absorbing plaque and other compounds that stain teeth. Meaning, the chemical properties of activated charcoal is a natural teeth whitener. It doesn’t neutralize the toxins—it binds to them, resulting in whiter teeth.

In Closing 

Like many things in life, choosing to use toothpaste or other products that include activated charcoal as an ingredient is wholly based on your needs. If you frequently take medications that you worry could be interfered with, or if you have weaker and more sensitive teeth than maybe using activated charcoal products isn't for you. If you're looking to try out a new health trend that appeals to you, you have our stamp of approval to go for it!

FDA approved activated charcoal products can boast plenty of oral health benefits. We encourage using innovative new ingredients, like we do here at Coral, keep an eye out for our product line-up to see if any Charcoal based products hit our shop soon. 

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