Unless you’re unplugged from the internet, you’ve probably seen hoards of influencers scrubbing their teeth with a black, gritty substance (even Kendall Jenner approves of the stuff). That, my dear friends, is activated charcoal: a natural ingredient that people claim as a wonder for brightening your pearly (or not-so-pearly) whites. The “natural” label makes it seem as if it’s a “no harm, no foul” option for a whiter smile, but spoiler alert: it could actually make matters worse.
According to Dr. Dustin Cohen of The Practice Beverly Hills, charcoal-infused toothpastes could cause more harm than good to your precious enamel. “Charcoal toothpaste overtime will actually make your smile darker,” he says. “Those toothpastes are so abrasive, they scrub away the gums and the pretty white enamel of your teeth.”
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Due to this, Dr. Cohen says that these areas become irreversibly thinner and more see-through, thus exposing the more yellow colored inner layer of the tooth. Plus, he notes that due to your enamel and gums being worn down to little-to-nothing, your teeth could become more sensitive to hot and cold foods.
So, the short story: toss away your charcoal-infused dental products, stat. Instead, Dr. Cohen recommends using gentler toothpastes like Sensodyne Pronamel or Boka Ela Mint nano-Hyrdroxyapatite. If you’re a fan of teeth whitening products, then Dr. Cohen notes that bleaching is the safest bet for whiter teeth, since it doesn’t permanently destroy the layers of your teeth. “When you use at home bleaching trays, do two 30-minute rounds back to back instead of a longer round,” he says. “This will produce better results!”
Whatever you may choose, just make sure it doesn’t have charcoal in it—seriously, your teeth will thank you for it.