Every time you log onto the internet, someone seems to be touting yet another new teeth whitening method. Currently, people are promoting the use of activating charcoal as a stain remover and natural tooth whitening remedy, but does it actually work? Like most things, the answer is a little complex. Here's what you need to know about this issue.

Research Doesn't Support the Claims

When you read articles online about using activated charcoal as a tooth whitening solution, it certainly sounds like it has a lot of support in the dental community. The truth is, there is no compelling evidence this substance works as people claim. In a search of studies involving the use of charcoal and dental products that included the ingredient, researchers found there was insufficient data to support the tooth whitening claims. Additionally, the American Dental Association has not recommended the use of charcoal or similar products for tooth whitening.

Now, that doesn't mean the product absolutely does not do anything to whiten teeth, but some of the claims made by proponents may be blown out of proportion.

Limited Tooth Whitening Benefits

Having said that, though, charcoal does have one important property that may contribute to whiter teeth. Activated charcoal is a favorite in the medical community because it can absorb toxins. This is why it is often administered to people who have swallowed poison or ingested an excessive amount of medication. The charcoal absorbs the excess chemicals, which may help save the patient's life.

When charcoal is applied to the teeth, it has been shown to absorb plaque and other substances on the tooth's surface. Since plaque is a common cause of tooth discoloration, the teeth may appear a little lighter once the plaque and any additional surface stains are removed by the charcoal.

To be clear, though, the charcoal only eliminates stuff on the tooth's top layer. Since stains typically build up over time and many layers, your teeth may not get as white as you want them. It may require months upon months of using charcoal powder to charcoal toothpaste to obtain the brightness you desire.

Charcoal May Damage Teeth

Although activated charcoal may whiten your teeth a bit, you still shouldn't use it for this purpose. The top reason is charcoal powder and toothpaste is pretty abrasive, meaning it can wear away your tooth enamel. In one study, researchers noticed a charcoal toothpaste eroded the tooth enamel to the dentin after consistently brushing a test model for six minutes every day. In addition to opening you up to tooth sensitivity and cavities, this kind of damage can derail your goal of obtaining whiter teeth because dentin is typically yellow in color and will make your teeth appear discolored when it shows through the enamel.

Another reason you want to avoid using charcoal powder and charcoal toothpaste is it may actually turn your teeth gray. Charcoal is black, and small amounts will find its way into the tiny crevices, holes, and cracks in your teeth. No matter how well you rinse, it may be difficult to get rid of the gray stains, so your teeth may end up looking worse than when you first began.

In the end, it's probably better to opt for more traditional teeth whitening services, such as in-office visits with a cosmetic dentist. Even over-the-counter strips and kits will likely provide better results than activating charcoal simply because they can penetrate the tooth's surface to remove more layers of stains without damaging the enamel. Just be sure to follow the directions of the dentist and packaging to avoid an adverse outcome.

For more information about using charcoal for tooth care or to make an appointment for a professional whitening session, contact a dentist in your area.