It seems like overnight our pharmacies and grocery stores became filled with a vast range of activated charcoal-based cosmetic products. All kinds of new products—from facial creams to blemish-fighting solutions, masks and facial peels, and shampoos and conditioners—are now touting the benefits of activated charcoal. There’s also a huge range of dental products containing the ingredient, from toothbrushes to floss, mouthwashes, and toothpastes.
As this new wave of dental products has come on the scene, lots of people—including high-profile celebrities and social media influencers—have been raving about them as a budget-friendly, natural alternative to peroxide for tooth whitening. But some dental health experts and researchers have since warned the public that these products may not be all they think they are.
An Examination of the Main Ingredient for Students in Dental Assistant College
The activated charcoal ingredient found in all of these beauty and dental products comes from the likes of coal, peat, wood, nutshells, and bamboo. Activated charcoal differs in that it’s heated in the presence of gas, causing the substance to develop pores that can serve to trap chemicals and prevent them from being absorbed.
Because of this toxin-removing capability, activated charcoal has long been used orally as an effective method of treating poisoning and overdoses, and is also sometimes used to treat upset stomach and even hangovers. Consumers are largely attracted to charcoal-containing toothpastes because of manufacturer claims about the ingredient’s potential to both whiten teeth and detoxify the mouth.
Activated charcoal is added to most toothpastes in the form of a fine powder
Do Charcoal Toothpastes Actually Whiten Teeth?
Students in dental assistant school will be interested in the results of a 2017 scientific dental journal study that showed more than 95% of charcoal toothpaste manufacturers claimed their products had whitening benefits. More than 45% of them also claimed the benefit of mouth detoxification, with labels such as “anti-fungal” and “anti-bacterial” often found on the packaging. But dental professionals around the world today are saying there’s no study-based scientific evidence to prove these claims, with some research overwhelmingly disproving them.
Why Are Some Dental Health Experts Warning Against the Use of These Toothpastes?
Some dental health professionals have expressed concern that the abrasive nature of the fine activated charcoal powders added to dental products may be harmful to tooth enamel, possibly weakening teeth and harming gums with long-term use. As an added potential harm, researchers say many charcoal containing toothpastes omit fluoride—the key ingredient needed for combating tooth decay.
Additionally, students of dental assistant training should be aware that both the safety and toxicity of many of these toothpastes remain untested. This is concerning amid the revelation by researchers that charcoal contains no less than four hydrocarbons, and that many charcoal toothpastes also contain bentonite clay—all recognized by government health authorities as possible carcinogens.
Activated charcoal appears to have its place in the health industry for preventing chemical absorption, but additional research seems needed to prove its effectiveness and safety when used in dental products. With this in mind, many dentists will still prefer to recommend peroxide-based products for budget-friendly whitening, due to their proven effectiveness and safety.
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