Crystal Lake, IL Dentist
77 E. Crystal Lake Avenue
Crystal Lake, IL 60014

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For starters, there are concerns about the abrasiveness of charcoal, which some say could damage enamel if used regularly. Others argue that charcoal isn’t specifically bad for teeth, it simply won’t do much for your smile in the longterm since the active ingredient isn't in contact with the tooth surface for enough time to have a meaningful whitening effect. Still, charcoal tooth treatments have found plenty of proponents 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.

What’s the difference between removing surface stains and whitening? Surface stains, come from the usual suspects: coffee, red wine, tobacco, and dark colored foods and drinks. They live on the enamel layer and can generally be removed with toothpastes or surface whitening treatments. Deeper stains are dark coloring that comes from within the tooth, sometimes as a result of trauma, weak enamel, certain types of medication, and even overuse of fluoride. Think of these as the underlying color of your teeth; no matter how dedicated you are to whitening the surface, a major lightening of tooth color can only come from bleaching treatments that penetrate below the outer surface of teeth.  

While charcoal can lift away plaque and food particles that lead to bad breath, the effect won’t be much more dramatic than what you’d get with any other toothpaste. Though there has been very little study on the abrasive effects of charcoal on teeth, most activated charcoal toothpastes feature abrasives like baking soda which can wear at teeth; especially those already prone to sensitivity. As a consequence we advise erring on the side of caution and brushing the paste on very gently to avoid wearing down the surface enamel, which can make teeth more prone to staining in the long run.

Speaking of enamel, don’t go throwing out your regular toothpaste just yet. Activated charcoal can be used as a supplement to brushing with regular toothpaste for people who are seeking a whiter smile, but it cannot be used in place of it.  Regular toothpaste gives us the fluoride we need to fight dental decay so it’s necessary to keep it as part of a daily regimen.

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