If you woke up this morning and saw a story in your news feed about using activated charcoal to whiten your teeth, you weren’t imagining things. DIY bloggers have started to get a bit carried away when it comes to self-treating dental problems: including stained teeth. They claim it works fast, is cheap, and allows you to avoid going to the dentist for whitening at all.
Unfortunately, this method and many other types of DIY teeth whitening (such as those using lemons, strawberries, or even hydrogen peroxide) can cause serious, long-term damage to your teeth.
The Story Behind Charcoal Whitening
Activated charcoal powder is available in capsule form at most health food stores. Just about anybody can buy it. It’s also used by physicians and hospitals to treat people who have been poisoned because it easily absorbs toxins and other particles inside the stomach, making some people believe that it will also absorb stains on the surfaces of teeth as well.
Charcoal is also a micro-abrasive. That’s why so many people have decided to start using it to “buff out” and “absorb” tooth stains on their teeth. DIY bloggers say that it makes their teeth look immediately whiter. Is it too good to be true? Like many other surprising dental health fads found online, there may be more to the story than you think.
Dangers of Charcoal Teeth Whitening
What most people don’t know is that charcoal whitening could be doing far more harm than good. Brushing with anything that’s too abrasive (even baking soda) can cause microscopic scratches on the surfaces of your teeth. Imagine brushing your teeth with sand. At first, your teeth would feel nice and smooth. What if you brushed with the sand day after day? Over time, the surface scratches allow stains to build up even thicker than they were before.
Your teeth might even get yellower. The more enamel you scratch away with charcoal paste, the more the underlying layer of tooth will be exposed…which is yellow. Yes, brushing with charcoal one or two times may help to buff away a surface layer of stains, but any more than that could be counterproductive. Instead, it’s best to leave your brighter tooth enamel completely intact. Especially if you’ve invested in dental work like porcelain crowns, fillings, or veneers.
Are Sensitive Teeth an Issue?
Abrasion to your enamel can make your teeth very sensitive. Enamel is extremely strong – even stronger than bone. Scrubbing away bits of enamel at a time can expose the sensitive nerves inside of the microscopic pores that coat your teeth. This can lead to sudden bursts of pain or sensitivity when the nerves are exposed to everyday food or beverages. If not addressed, that sensitivity can last for a very long time.
Teeth Whitening can result in sensitivity if not completed with the help of a dentist. Many over-the-counter products allow the gels to come into contact with your gums, which can cause burning or even pain. Getting your dentist to help with or apply the whitening treatment in his or her office is the best way to avoid sensitivity that can linger for several days. Your dentist can help by adjusting the concentration, performing the application, and applying desensitizing agents.
The Problem With Scrubbing
Overzealous brushing of any type, even with a medium-stiffness toothbrush, can cause your gums to recede. Add powdered charcoal and your gums will be even more susceptible to irritation. The same way we see receding gumlines in people who use smokeless tobacco (which contains tiny glass particles to help you absorb the nicotine), you can expect the irritation of charcoal powder to influence your gums to creep further up the root.
Before you know it, you may be requiring a gum graft to help you prevent unexpected tooth loss. Grafts can be painful and require surgery along with a lengthy recovery time. Screening for gum disease prior to beginning any teeth whitening procedure is extremely important.
Safe, Predictable Teeth Whitening
Instead of taking a risk, you can brighten your teeth safely and faster with a professional teeth whitening treatment. Because a professional whitening treatment is tailored to your specific tooth color, you can get fast results in as little as just one trip to the dentist.
Prior to your whitening treatment, Dr Gomez will also screen for underlying conditions that may jeopardize your health. Problems like gum disease, cavities, or receding gumlines could be aggravated by charcoal teeth whitening or a professional treatment, so they will need to be addressed first. Once everything is in tip-top shape, you can safely brighten your smile without the unnecessary tooth sensitivity or irritation to your gums.
You may also be able to have the option of whitening your teeth at home. The customized bleach trays allow optimal contact of our prescription-grade whitening gel with your teeth. Wear them for less time and get brighter teeth without scrubbing charcoal all over your smile!
How to Keep Your Teeth White
One-time whitening isn’t the answer. Get white teeth for life by making smart choices about your initial whitening treatment and maintenance. Get your teeth professionally whitened, cleaned regularly, and touch them up with your custom whitening kit once or twice throughout the year.
Our Richmond Texas dental office has extended hours and Saturday appointments, so that you can whiten your teeth whenever you feel like it. Find out more about same-day teeth whitening by calling us today!