What Dentists Want You to Know About Those Charcoal Toothpastes That Promise Whiter Teeth

Charcoal is everywhere these days: in drinks, skin care, hair care. It's also gaining popularity as a way to care for your teeth, with "natural" charcoal toothpastes being praised for their whitening benefits. But is it actually safe to brush with charcoal?

"Just because something is popular doesn't mean it's safe," Ada Cooper, DDS, a spokesperson for the American Dental Association (ADA), told POPSUGAR. In September 2017, the ADA published a review of the studies that had been done on charcoal dental products to that point, and found that there was not sufficient science to substantiate charcoal's cosmetic or health benefits. In fact, charcoal toothpastes may be doing more harm than good.

"Charcoal toothpastes often contain a variety of ingredients, and the safety of those ingredients hasn't been established," Dr. Cooper said. "One ingredient is bentonite clay, a diverse mineral which can sometimes contain silica, a known human carcinogen."

And while charcoal toothpastes are often touted for their ability to whiten teeth, they may also be damaging to the tooth's surface. "Charcoal is recognized as an abrasive mineral to teeth and gums," she explained. "Using materials that are too abrasive can actually make your teeth look more yellow, because it can wear away the tooth's enamel and expose the softer, yellower layer called dentin."

Plus, many of the charcoal products don't contain important ingredients like fluoride, which helps reduce the occurrence of cavities. So, if you're interested in trying charcoal toothpaste, it's best to discuss it with your dentist first. "Use your dentist as a resource of information when it comes to homeopathic products on the market," Dr. Cooper said. "Just because something is presumed to be 'natural' or 'healthy' doesn't necessarily mean that it is."