This is something I'm asked a lot, most recently by not one but two family members. They'd heard something about charcoal being bad for the enamel of your teeth and they were worried that the Organically Epic brand would be tainted by our association with charcoal. Our very heavy association with Charcoal I might add.... seeing as we have a dental range that is more or less built around the Activated Charcoal ingredient.
For me to answer this question I need to delve a little bit into the history of how Activated Charcoal started being used as a whitener and cleanser for our teeth.
Historical sources suggest that Activated Charcoal l has been used for thousands of years to treat various ailments with everyone from the Native Americans to the Egyptians to the Ancient Greeks getting in on the Activated Charcoal healing party.
With physician's in the early 1800's officially using Activated Charcoal in medicinal practices such as a treatment for the ingestion of poisons (accidental I'm assuming). Charcoal can stop the ingestion of some types of poison and is still used today for this treatment as well as for sickness and other illnesses.
At the end of the 20th century, a clever bod used it on their teeth and given the results, it has gained in popularity since then.
Activated Charcoal isn't just the lump of coal that is mined (erm wind and solar power please. Renewable's all the way....) and used on the fire. Activated Charcoal is very finely milled black powder made from coconut shells, bone char, olive pits, coal, sawdust and/or other materials. This is then processed on a high heat which then activates the charcoal. This entire process changes the internal structure making it more porous than regular charcoal.
Coincidentally, from an ingredient list point of reference this process also means that it can only have the natural title and cannot be organic.
The Activated Charcoal is processed in a very clever way to get rid of any chemicals or substances that are harmful to humans, making it very useful for a variety of different uses, such as healing and teeth whitening. Although I like to say it's brightening as whitening is really only possible with the bleaches and home bleaching kits of the dental world.
Are you still with me??? perfect, I'm getting there... nearly to the point of the blog! only a little bit left about the chemistry of Activated Charcoal....
Activated Charcoal also has a negative electrical charge, this means that it attracts charged molecules such as toxins and gases, which have a positive charge. This causes the Activated Charcoal to absorb said toxins and gases. Pretty damn cool right? Activated Charcoal is amazing!
It's also been said that Activated Charcoal traps free radicals as well, which kind of blows my mind a little. It's no wonder that Activated Charcoal is also super effective in skincare products!
Because of it's porous texture, it is super efficient at trapping unwanted substances. But here's the nifty part. Activated Charcoal cannot be absorbed by the human body so it can even more effectively get rid of toxins from the human body!!! Mind, officially, blown.
Now onto the dental explanation.
Because of all of the above, Activated Charcoal makes a wonderful mouth freshener and tooth brightener because of it's ability to absorb toxins, tannins and stains. It can also absorb plaque and other substances that stain the teeth. But it doesn't whiten. It brightens, naturally lifting stains and taking your teeth back to a brighter, more natural colour. I'm very careful with what I say about what Activated Charcoal can do because there are indeed a lot of, shall I say, misinformation out there to do with Activated Charcoal. It is most definitely a natural brightener but I would say from my research and experience that the claims of whitening is best left to the expensive dental procedures and home bleaching kits.
Which I'm sure you'll agree, isn't natural, organic, safe for your teeth or overall oral health.
Because Activated Charcoal is naturally abrasive there is evidence to suggest that it can break down the enamel on your teeth but this is only when used in a pure form such as charcoal powders. These are often formulated incorrectly by inexperienced or inferior businesses and brands. There are many charcoal powders on the market that are made cheaply and quickly without the technical knowledge or formulation experience needed to make them 100% effective and safe on the teeth.
These pure forms of Activated Charcoal can indeed be unsafe on the teeth. I can't argue with the facts there.
When used and formulated correctly powders and toothpastes with Charcoal as an ingredient, at the correct percentages, can be extremely effective and safer than any synthetic tooth whitening bleach product or procedure.
Our toothbrushes and floss have 2% to 5% Activated Charcoal in their bristles just the right amount for brightening, lifting stains and freshening breath. The natural way.
There is also no denying that for the past 3+ years I have used charcoal in my dental routine and the evidence is that my teeth are brighter, stronger and healthier. I have fresher breath and even my dentist has exclaimed that after having two children, one of which is only 22 months old, you would not know from my oral health. They ravish your teeth and gums apparently. Unfortunately the same could not be said for my body or overall stress levels but hey ho, one win is good enough!
So no, Activate Charcoal is not bad for your teeth, it is the percentage of the ingredient used in the product that could easily sway it from good to bad.... a bit like too much, too little or just enough wine on a night out eh???
All in moderation.
Thanks for reading!