Charcoal teeth whitening – it’s all over Instagram. A thick, black activated charcoal paste that’s brushed all over your teeth. When the residue is wiped away – ta da! A brilliant white smile.
But does it actually work? “We’ve recently seen the rise of charcoal in facial products but in my opinion this ingredient doesn’t belong anywhere near your teeth,” says Dr Luke Cronin, a Philips Zoom Ambassador and Cosmetic Dentist at Quality Dental, North Sydney. “Despite numerous claims by bloggers and vloggers there’s actually no clinical evidence that activated charcoal does any good for your teeth.”
Regardless of if it actually works, we drink charcoal in our smoothies, so it can’t be harmful though, right? “It’s quite unclear if activated charcoal is safe as there are concerns that it may be too abrasive to use on your teeth and gums,” says Cronin. “My advice is to consult your dentist if you’re looking to whiten your teeth, they will advise you on the most appropriate product for you to use, especially if you have concerns about sensitivity.” This could be at-home prods or an in-chair whitening treatment.
So if charcoal is a no-go, then what about fruit peels? This one has been kicking about for years – pop a banana skin on the surface of your teeth for two mins to rid yourself of stains. Unfortunately, there’s little evidence for these, too.
“Fruit peels are not a clinically proven way to whiten your teeth. While banana peels are harmless, orange and lemon peels contain acids that can be damaging to the tooth’s enamel,” says Cronin. “Brushing afterwards exacerbates the damage to the enamel as the enamel tubules are already weakened by the acid. The Australian Government’s Standards regulate whitening products to ensure they are both safe to use and they deliver the results they claim to make. Enjoy fruit as part of a healthy diet but don’t expect them to remove stains from your teeth.”
So what can you do to get rid of stains popping up in the first place? “Investing in an electric toothbrush is really key as it’s proven to remove more yellow coloured plaque than a manual toothbrush can,” says Cronin.
And, like many things – it all starts with your diet. “In addition to getting regular checkups and cleans with your dentist, it’s also really important to review your diet, ensuring you have enough balance. Consuming foods and beverages that are low in acid, with a higher pH level is a good start, including whole grains, nuts, eggs, cheese, bananas, fresh vegetables, fish and lean meat – and of course water. These foods can also help protect the tooth’s enamel by neutralizing the natural acids in saliva and returning calcium and phosphorus needed to restore the minerals in the enamel.”
Plus, a bit of chewy works, too. “Sugar-free chewing gum also gets a thumbs up from me. The primary benefit of chewing sugar-free gum is that it helps remove the build-up of food particles from the surfaces of your teeth after eating.”