Activated charcoal: Cosmetic wonder or hazard to your health?

Posted at 6:32 PM, May 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-08 10:59:17-04

It's a craze in the beauty industry to help you get those pearly whites, but at what cost is it taking on your oral health?

Dr. Todd Shatkin, Aesthetic Associates Centre in Amherst, says the latest trend in teeth whitening is activated charcoal. 

What is activated charcoal?

It's not the charcoal used in your backyard barbeque. Dr. Shatkin says it's a slightly abrasive powder usually formed by coconut and is used in many different aspects of the health industry. 

Activated charcoal is an absorptive property. 

It's used for cleansing, weight loss treatments, and skin care products. Now it's being used for teeth whitening to remove stains. 

How does it work?

A toothbrush is dipped into the powder and is brushed onto the surface of your teeth. The activated charcoal powder removes the extrinsic stains; stains that are caused by the food we eat, such as wine, coffee and food. 

"Charcoal based products would be good to remove the surface stain but it won't internally bleach or whiten the teeth from within," Dr. Shatkin said. 

Is activated charcoal safe to use?

Dr. Shatkin says yes.

He says, first, make sure the product you are using is FDA approved, and check the abrasiveness level

"The enamel is really pretty strong," he said. "If you're in the enamel your probably not going to do any harm to your teeth, but if the patient has worn through the enamel into the dentin it causes sensitivity and causes discomfort. If you use abrasive materials on the dentin, it will just make things worse."

Although Dr. Shatkin gives activated charcoal the OK to use, if it's FDA approved and says it won't cause any long-term ill effects, he says, in the end, it all comes down to good oral hygiene and visiting your dentist every three to six months.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Brittany Muller sat down with Dr. Shatkin to learn more.


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