If you’ve been looking for a home teeth whitening approach, you’ve probably come across claims for coal toothpastes. People claim that using activated charcoal toothpastes can whiten your teeth significantly. As a result of these claims, the products have grown in popularity, and now there are over 50 charcoal-based toothpastes out there.
To keep demand high, some of the products make much broader claims about the benefits of these toothpastes, including their antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and detoxification properties. These products offer no evidence of their claims. That’s probably because there isn’t any evidence. At least, that’s the finding of a new literature review published in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA). The review found that there wasn’t enough evidence to support the effectiveness or the safety of these toothpastes.
No Studies up to Standard
For this review, researchers looked in the scientific literature. They found 118 potentially eligible articles. Then narrowed this down to just 13 studies looking at brushing teeth with charcoal or soot. However, none of these studies met the inclusion criteria. The inclusion criteria were that it had to be a randomized, clinical trial, and that it had to have a follow-up duration of at least three months. Randomized clinical trials are considered the gold standard in medicine: they give us the best data available about the effectiveness of a treatment. A three month duration is good for any kind of preventive dental treatment. It’s hard to get reliable data over a shorter period than that.
So the only definitive finding that researchers could give was that there wasn’t enough data about charcoal toothpastes, and certainly not enough to justify any of the claims made by the products in their advertising. But the review did highlight the findings of the studies. Two of the studies claimed cavity reduction, but these claims were nonspecific. Three of the studies showed harms from the toothpaste: an increase in cavities, enamel abrasion, and some negative impacts that weren’t quantified. One study claimed that there was no harm from using the charcoal toothpaste. The other seven studies just talked about the use, but didn’t evaluate its safety or effectiveness.
For the second half of the review, researchers looked at evidence about the ingredients included in these charcoal toothpastes. They noted that many of the hydrocarbons found in coal are known carcinogens. However, they didn’t find much study on the safety of these ingredients for the oral cavity.
Researchers noted that other ingredients were also potentially harmful. Bentonite clay is included in about a third of the charcoal toothpastes. In the natural medicine community, it is believed that bentonite clay is very effective at cleaning teeth without abrasiveness. But some forms of bentonite clay are carcinogenic, as well.
Talk to Us Before Trying Home Remedies
In other words, although there is little evidence about the use of charcoal, there is more evidence of potential harms than there is of benefits. That means that, at this point, it’s hard to recommend the use of charcoal toothpaste.
Remember that charcoal isn’t really a biological product: it’s not grown or harvested. It’s not something that people and animals would naturally come into contact with or utilize. So there’s no reason to believe that it’s going to be inherently biocompatible. This is a case where it’s best to check the evidence first.
In general, it’s best to talk to us before starting any home remedy. We can talk to you about the research, our experience, and the experiences of other patients who have tried the remedy. We can also offer you allergy testing to make sure it’s compatible with you personally.