Is it Safe to Use Activated Charcoal with Braces? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Treatments & Care

Toothbrush with activated charcoal toothpaste on it.

Wanting to eliminate chemicals, some people have gone back to basics using ingredients their ancestors used for personal hygiene, cleaning and cooking. 

We’ve used activated charcoal for medical and cosmetic purposes for many years. In more recent years, it has experienced a surge in popularity as a teeth whitening product. But is it suitable to use if you have braces?
 

What is Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal is a fine powder made by superheating carbon products like wood to make it highly absorbent. Its primary medical purpose is to absorb toxins and chemicals in the stomach and stop the body absorbing them, but it has been used for cosmetic purposes too. 
 

Medical Uses for Activated Charcoal

Some of the earliest uses of activated charcoal was to treat poisonings in the early 1800s. One of its most important roles is to treat medicinal drug overdoses. Activated charcoal isn’t absorbed by the body, so the toxins and charcoal leave the body through faeces.
 

Cosmetic Uses for Activated Charcoal

Charcoal has been used in a variety of products with claims that it is:

  • Antiviral

  • Antibacterial

  • Antifungal

  • A detoxifier

  • A stain remover 

The Journal of the American Dental Association published a review of studies in 2017 on charcoal dentifrices and powders. Despite the advertised benefits, the review concluded that there wasn’t enough clinical data to determine the safety and effectiveness of charcoal for any dental purpose.

The ADA said dentists should advise patients to be cautious about using charcoal products, as the claims of safety and efficacy are unproven.
 

Is Activated Charcoal Safe to Use on Teeth?

Activated charcoal, when used properly, is very safe to use on teeth. Activated charcoal works by wearing the stains off teeth with its abrasive properties. If charcoal toothpaste is used too often or with an excessive brushing action, there’s the risk of wearing away part of the healthy tooth surface. The problem is users often don’t know at what point they risk damaging their teeth with activated charcoal. 
 

Types of Tooth Staining 

Teeth can have extrinsic and intrinsic staining. Intrinsic refers to the natural colour of your enamel. Some people have whiter enamel than others and some have defects of the enamel which may have occurred as a baby when their teeth were forming. No whitening toothpastes or professional cleaning can change the colour of enamel, whitening procedures such as a peroxide gel are needed to change the colour of enamel.

Extrinsic staining is caused by food, drink and poor oral hygiene. Tea, coffee and red wine are some of the main culprits of staining. Charcoal toothpaste can remove old staining and prevent new stains appearing.  
 

Braces Patients Using Activated Charcoal  

Everyone with braces wants their teeth to look as good as possible when they have their braces removed. If your oral hygiene hasn’t always been the best and you’re worried the exposed portion of your teeth are going to be darker than the patches of enamel covered by the brackets, don’t try to ‘fix’ it by whitening your teeth while the braces are in place. It’s best to wait until they are removed and have the entire tooth surface whitened. You’re more likely to see differences in the colour of teeth by using whitening products with braces.

Using charcoal with braces is also very messy. With all the nooks and crannies braces provide, you will need to brush for some time to remove all traces of the black toothpaste or powder from your teeth and braces. No one wants to leave the house with bits of black stuck in their teeth or braces!
 

What’s Not in Charcoal Toothpaste

Charcoal toothpaste isn’t only abrasive, it’s also concerning for the ingredients it doesn’t contain. Charcoal toothpastes don’t contain fluoride which helps keep teeth enamel and gums healthy. Antibacterial ingredients in standard toothpastes may also be missing from charcoal toothpaste.
 

What’s Best for Teeth with Braces? 

Forget about whitening your teeth while you have braces and concentrate on good oral hygiene. Keeping your teeth stain and decay-free is most beneficial while you’re wearing braces. It gives you the best possible base for whitening your teeth later on.
 

Brushing

The most important part of caring for your teeth is brushing after every meal. You can use an electric or manual toothbrush, the choice is yours. But brushing at least twice daily for a minimum of two minutes will keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy. Regular brushing stops stains from appearing on teeth because you’re removing particles of food and drinks that cause staining. Use a fluoride toothpaste to help keep the enamel strong and prevent cavities.  

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Flossing

Brushing alone isn’t enough to clean between teeth and remove the food particles and tartar. Use floss to go up and down the sides of each tooth then move on to the next tooth. Flossing between teeth daily will help keep your smile bright and healthy. Don’t forget to floss your back molars either.
 

Professional Cleaning

The only extra cleaning your teeth need with braces is by visiting your dentist every six months for a checkup, clean and polish. Your dentist will remove any tartar or plaque that has built up around the braces and check for any sign of decay.

If you look after your teeth while you have braces, your teeth will be clean and healthy when it’s time to take them off. They will also be in the best condition to have them professionally whitened if you wish to. 

Remember, if you have any queries about caring for your teeth while you have braces or whitening after treatment, you can always call a therapist at one of our clinics, or contact us online and have your queries answered straight away.