It’s black news for charcoal toothpaste

A new report in the British Dental Journal (BDJ) has concluded that a range of harmful attributes surround charcoal toothpaste use.

Manufacturers of toothpaste containing charcoal typically claim it whitens teeth and removes stains, but the BDJ report found some products were harmful to teeth.

With the Australian Dental Association’s (ADA) Dental Health Week (DHW) approaching, the ADA wants to alert consumers to the risks associated with use of these products.

The BDJ report, ‘Charcoal-containing dentifrices’, evaluated all the existing literature reviews from a database of 50 charcoal-based toothpastes and found a number of issues, including:

  • Insufficient evidence to substantiate the cosmetic health benefits (antibacterial, antifungal or antiviral, tooth whitening, oral detoxification).
  • A range of ‘possible health risks’ related to the possible inclusion of human carcinogenic polyaromatic carbons in charcoal and the use of bentonite clay in some charcoal-based toothpastes.
  • Only eight per cent of charcoal toothpastes contain fluoride, scientifically proven to prevent or slow the onset of dental caries.
  • Certain forms of charcoal used in oral hygiene products have been found to have relatively high abrasiveness and may result in the loss of tooth surface.

“The ADA recommends against the use of charcoal-powder or charcoal-based toothpastes to clean and/or whiten the teeth,” ADA dentist spokeswoman Dr Mikaela Chinotti said.

“These products can be abrasive and damaging to the teeth and gums and many don’t contain fluoride, a key ingredient in protecting and strengthening the teeth. These products use consumer-attractive terms such as herbal, eco-friendly, natural, organic and pure. However, the health benefits of charcoal-based products remain unproven.

“Should patients wish to whiten their teeth, the ADA recommends they seek treatment by a registered dental practitioner who can advise on the best method and whether the treatment is right for them.”

The theme of DHW is ‘How’s your oral health tracking?’ and asks consumers and dentists to check how well they or their patients are following the fundamental principles of good oral health.

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