It can be difficult for patients to adjust to wearing braces, especially if they want to whiten their teeth. Products containing activated charcoal, like toothpaste and mouthwash, are proposed as a simple, effective solution. But can you use activated charcoal while wearing braces?
Using activated charcoal dental products while you have braces is not advised. Doing so carries risks, including weakened teeth and tooth discoloration.
In this piece, we’ll cast a closer eye on activated charcoal to see what it does for teeth and the specifics of why it’s harmful to use with braces. Let’s get started!
What Is Activated Charcoal?
According to WebMD, activated charcoal is charcoal treated with high temperatures and special binding agents. As a result, its surface expands, becoming more porous as it does so. The treated charcoal is then ground into a fine powder and used in many health products.
Only specially treated charcoal is safe to use as activated charcoal. Since most charcoal sold to consumers is manufactured for specific purposes, like barbequing, you can’t use it to make activated charcoal. Instead, consumers should buy charcoal in its activated form rather than try to make their own.
Healthline points out that medical professionals and emergency responders use activated charcoal to treat drug overdoses and poisonings quickly. When ingested, the powder can adsorb various harmful toxins before they hit your bloodstream. The powder can be taken dry or with water.
This powder is tasteless, odorless, and is not known to have any side effects. Many home remedies also use activated charcoal for different treatments, though these have little evidence to support them.
How Does Activated Charcoal Help Teeth?
People have sought to use activated charcoal’s properties in various products, from dietary supplements to water filters, for many years. However, one of its more popular cosmetic uses is as a teeth whitening agent. To this end, people sometimes use it as an additive in toothpaste and mouthwash.
Activated charcoal dental products lift some stains off of your teeth and absorb them. However, the effect is short-lived, and the whitening is minimal.
So while activated charcoal is an option when it comes to whitening teeth, it’s far from the best. For some users, it may not be noticeable at all.
Can Activated Charcoal Work With Braces?
Patients with braces often look for a whitening solution they can use while they still have their braces on. In addition, they seek a treatment they can use simultaneously to save time. Hopeful patients view activated charcoal toothpaste as a viable option because it doesn’t require applying anything directly to the teeth.
Activated charcoal is not ideal for use with braces. Charcoal toothpaste is not viable for those with braces because it cannot make complete contact with the teeth surface. It will result in dark spots where your braces were, once they come off and your enamel will have an uneven, spotty appearance.
Other Risks Associated With Activated Charcoal
Activated charcoal has an abrasive texture, even when used in products like toothpaste and mouthwash. Also, the surface of each grain of powder is incredibly porous. Unfortunately, this can pose a severe risk to your teeth.
As Myobrace explains, traditional braces are bonded directly to your teeth. To ensure a good fit, your orthodontist will carefully etch into the enamel, where studs are placed and held secure. A study by the National Library of Medicine suggests that the etching process leaves the affected enamel at risk for more significant damage in the future.
The American Dental Association warns against using activated charcoal to whiten teeth because its abrasive texture can wear away your enamel. Besides leaving your teeth more sensitive, it can make them appear more yellow by revealing the dentin layer beneath.
Moreover, the powder can easily get stuck between the teeth, in your gum line, or trapped by the braces. When this happens, the activated charcoal poses an even greater risk of wearing down your enamel. Such damage gives bacteria more places to take root and grow.
Additionally, most charcoal toothpaste does not contain fluoride. In those that do, the charcoal deactivates the fluoride. Fluoride is a critical ingredient in toothpaste that helps protect your enamel.
While it’s an absolute necessity regardless of what type of dental treatments you receive, fluoride is especially important when you are wearing braces. Ivanov Orthodontics explains that enamel absorbs fluoride to strengthen itself and repair damage. This includes damage done by the etching process.
These risks extend beyond charcoal toothpaste. Mouthwash and toothbrushes using activated charcoal pose the same problems. So when it comes to oral hygiene, it’s best to avoid using activated charcoal products entirely.
Are There Any Health Benefits in Activated Charcoal?
Many activated charcoal products (including those used for oral hygiene) boast a list of benefits common with homeopathic remedies. Some of these include antiviral, antifungal, and detoxifying properties.
Despite these claims, the results of the previously-referenced American Dental Association study found insufficient evidence to prove the effectiveness of activated charcoal for oral health.
This includes advertised benefits of the brands studied, such as antiviral properties.
However, until larger, more thorough studies are conducted, we have to assume that activated charcoal simply doesn’t work the way these products are purported to.
The Best Way To Care for Your Teeth With Braces
With activated charcoal products thoroughly ruled out, let’s take a closer look at how to take care of your teeth while you have braces. Besides brushing and flossing regularly, take the following considerations to mind.
Use Special Toothbrushes
When you brush your teeth, you want to try and reach as many areas between and behind them as you can. However, with braces, you need to pay extra care to the wires that make up your braces. This is because food can get trapped behind them, promoting decay.
Your regular toothbrush should be fine, but you’ll want to use an interdental brush. As outlined by Dentaly, these are smaller brushes designed to go between teeth, much like floss. They’re also excellent at cleaning between brackets.
Avoid Whitening Toothpastes
Avoiding activated charcoal is a significant step, but that doesn’t mean you should substitute it for a whitening toothpaste expecting different results. Your braces will still prevent it from covering the entirety of your teeth and leave you with spotty enamel.
If you want to brighten your smile while still having your braces, your best bet is a toothpaste that fights and removes plaque. However, if you are experiencing sensitivity (as many patients with braces tend to), you should consider switching to Sensodyne or another brand formulated to fight tooth sensitivity.
Watch What You Eat
Braces realign your teeth by applying constant pressure on them. How they are placed and tightened determines how your teeth will move. As a result, your orthodontist will adjust your braces several times before your treatment is over.
Because the braces are already pulling them, it’s essential to avoid putting even more pressure on your teeth. You can do this by adjusting your diet to remove foods that are too tough or chewy. It would be impossible to list all such foods here, so it’s best to get recommendations from your dentist.
Dental products containing activated charcoal may seem like they have incredible benefits, but the truth says otherwise. Activated charcoal can be harmful to your teeth, especially if you have braces. So it’s best to avoid it entirely.
Talk to your orthodontist about why you want to use activated charcoal products. They can refer you to safer, more effective products that won’t harm your teeth or interfere with your braces. In a worst-case scenario, you may have to wait until after the braces come off before moving on to the subsequent treatment.