Is Charcoal Toothpaste Safe?

Recently we received an email from a customer who was alarmed that we were promoting charcoal toothpaste for young children. No doubt that concern was fueled by information circulating on the Internet. Below we have included the complaint, our initial response, plus some further information.

 

Hello,

I was concerned when I saw your website promoting activated charcoal as a toothpaste, especially for use on children.  Although charcoal may have some very limited benefits, it is abrasive and chronic use can cause extreme damage to tooth enamel which is impossible to repair. 

A health-conscious classmate of my wife demonstrated this sad impact.  My wife saw this woman at a health retreat and she was using charcoal to brush her teeth and praising its use.  Several years later, my wife saw her again, and her teeth were ruined,

Please review these articles:

https://www.healthline.com/health/dental-and-oral-health/charcoal-toothpaste

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28599961/

If people want to purchase charcoal and misuse it as a toothbrushing agent, they are free to do so, but to promote this practice on dependent children, I view as unconscionable.  This is not an experiment that should be performed on a vulnerable child.

I recommend that you consider removing all elements from your website that promote the use of charcoal as a tooth-brushing agent, especially for children.

Thank you.

Richard

 

Editor’s response:

Hello Mr …

Thank you for your letter of concern.

May I begin by asking, have you written similar letters to Colgate, Crest, Tom's, Hello,... concerning their charcoal toothpastes?

But to the point.

The common abrasives (50%) found in many non-charcoal toothpastes include aluminum hydroxide, calcium hydrogen phosphates, calcium carbonate, silicates and hydroxyapatite.

Yes, children are more at risk of damage to teeth due to abrasive toothpastes and powders. Yes, activated charcoal can be abrasive, but not to the same degree that silica or hydroxyapatite can be. 

Silicates have a much higher hardness factor of 7 compared to charcoal with only 1-2. Dental enamel hardness is 5. So silica can definitely scratch dental enamel. To demonstrate, take silica sandpaper and rub your teeth. Then rub your teeth with a burnt piece of firewood. Which one is abrasive?

But, when silica is ground fine enough its abrasive nature changes to very fine polishing. The same is true for charcoal, only more so.

The activated charcoal used in Charcoal House dental powder and toothpaste [for adults and children] is finer than talc baby powder. Our charcoal has a Mean Particle Diameter of 7 microns. Talc baby powder has a MPD of 20 microns - 3 times larger.

So you can see that not only is charcoal considerably less abrasive [1-2] than silicates [7] used in most toothpastes, our charcoal powder [7 microns] is considerably finer and smoother than talc baby powder [20 microns].

I am not sure where you are getting your information, but there is no research showing charcoal causes "extreme damage" to teeth any more than very finely ground silicates cause "extreme damage" to teeth.

The first article you reference says charcoal is “mildly” abrasive. As I have pointed out it is less abrasive than silica that is common in most toothpastes. The article repeats there is not enough "scientific evidence" to make any conclusion, but then it makes an unscientific conclusion of its own...

"Here’s what we do know about charcoal toothpaste so far... Charcoal toothpaste is too abrasive for everyday use"

According to its own statement that is not true. There is no research that demonstrates that.

Why do experts not focus their concerns on the far more abrasive nature of silica? Because it is not an issue when ground fine enough. Neither is it an issue for charcoal - at least not for the charcoal powder Charcoal House uses.

The second article is even less assertive. "Conclusions: ...well-designed studies are needed to establish conclusive evidence," for or against charcoal.

I can see you believe passionately that charcoal is not good for teeth, and that means we somehow lack a conscience for promoting charcoal toothpaste for children. Aware of the facts and knowing charcoal has been used in different cultures around the world for thousands of years as a simple natural dentifrice, I want to assure you our conscience is intact.

Further, our conscience has survived leaving out Fluoride and avoiding its well-known risks.

In 2017, a REPORT was published suggesting that exposure to fluoride before birth could lead to poorer cognitive outcomes in the future for the child.

The researchers measured fluoride levels in 299 women during pregnancy and in their children between the ages of 6 and 12 years. They tested cognitive ability at the ages of 4 years and between 6 and 12 years. Higher levels of fluoride were associated with lower scores on IQ tests.

In 2014, fluoride was DOCUMENTED as a neurotoxin that could be hazardous to child development, along with 10 other industrial chemicals, including lead, arsenic, toluene, and methylmercury.

Would you class that as 'unconscionable experimentation on a vulnerable unborn child'?

There are no health concerns with swallowing our toothpaste. Plus, charcoal adsorbs neurotoxins! That's why the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology [IOAMT] recommends rinsing the mouth with activated charcoal after removing mercury-based dental amalgam. 

Thank you for your recommendation, but we have no plans for "removing all elements from our website that promote the use of charcoal as a tooth-brushing agent, especially for children." In fact, I think this exchange would be helpful for other readers who have similarly been misguided by false information.

Thank you again for taking the time to voice your concerns. I hope this response will assure you we take seriously any potential risks with any of our products, and we do place the well-being of our customers on the highest level.

Sincerely

John Dinsley

 

Further Information:

The public interest in charcoal as a dentifrice has sparked several recent research studies. Some are positive or neutral, while the un-positive studies could not bite down hard on any unmistakable negative effects. Why?

Relative Dentin Abrasivity (RDA) is a guide to measure abrasiveness for all FDA approved dental products. The FDA states all toothpastes with an RDA of 250 or less, are “Considered safe and effective.” In fact, clinical evidence supports that lifetime use of proper brushing technique with a toothbrush and toothpaste at an RDA of 250 or less produces limited wear to dentin and virtually no wear to enamel.

The RDA testing method and the upper limit of 250 has been adopted by the American National Standards Institute/American Dental Association (ANSI/ADA) and is included in the manufacturing standards outlined in ANSI/ADA Standard No. 130:2013 on toothpastes.

All dentifrices with the American Dental Association [ADA] Seal of Acceptance must have an RDA of 250 or less.

All ADA-approved national name brand whitening toothpastes score between 100 to 200 RDA

So what about activated charcoal powder? Activated charcoal powder scores on average 70 to 90 on the RDA scale.

To make this abundantly clear, and to sweep away all the false negative claims by so-called experts, charcoal is rated by the FDA to have a significantly LOWER Relative Dentin Abrasivity than ADA-approved national name brand whitening toothpastes with RDAs of 100 to 200.

What can we conclude  – Charcoal toothpastes are LESS abrasive than non-charcoal toothpastes!

So, when choosing a toothpaste for abrasiveness don’t forget to check the national brands against the AC brands.

Remember most toothpastes contain silica [as in sand/sandpaper] which has a hardness of 7, while charcoal has a hardness of 1-2. While something with a higher hardness can scratch something with a lower hardness, the opposite is not true. So, silica [7] can scratch tooth enamel [5], but charcoal [1-2] cannot scratch tooth enamel [5].

This explains why there is NO scientific proof that “conclusively” demonstrates that charcoal is abrasive to teeth. Simply put, charcoal cannot scratch dental enamel, because dental enamel is harder than charcoal.

This also explains, no doubt, why all the national name brand toothpastes have also jumped on the charcoal toothpaste bandwagon. We can be sure they have all done their own testing and

know abrasivity is not a concern.

 

__________________

*To be clear, some old tooth remedies used soot. Soot is in no way similar to charcoal. In fact soot is discoloring and staining. It has no bleaching properties. Soot is definitely an unhealthy product to ingest. Soot from diesel exhaust accounts for over 25% of the total pollution in air. Warning, soot is NOT charcoal, and should not be put in the mouth since it is proven to be a carcinogen.