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Posts for tag: teeth whitening

The internet and social media are buzzing with ads and promotions about the latest miracle ingredient- activated charcoal. This black substance can be used on everything from your hair to your skin to your teeth. With so much hype, we figured it’s time to take a look and give an honest opinion on whether using activated charcoal to whiten your teeth is actually a good idea.

When my wife first asked me if she should try it on her teeth, my gut reaction was that it was way too abrasive. Luckily she listened to me. At the time, I hadn’t researched it much and there hadn’t been too many studies on its effectiveness. Looking at the data now, it seems that activated charcoal may very well be the trendy way to whiten teeth, but it’s certainly not the safest for your teeth.

First, let’s look at what it is and what it does. Activated charcoal is not new. It’s been used for medicinal purposes, such as the emergency treatment of poisoning, for years. Activated charcoal works on your teeth in the same manner it works internally in the body. Activated charcoal’s pores bind with rough parts on teeth, usually surface stains and plaque, making it easier to remove the yellowing substances. The idea is that once it has been given enough time to stick to the rough spots (stains) on your teeth, it can be removed and will take the plaque, food particles and surface stains with it. This is how the activated charcoal succeeds in whitening teeth – by getting rid of surface stains in one brushing.

At first, this sounds great, almost like the miracle product it claims to be. However, because it latches onto grittiness found on the surface of teeth, activated charcoal only works on surface stains and does not change the color of teeth that are deeply stained or naturally yellowing. Furthermore, and most important, the abrasiveness of the charcoal, combined with the brushing against the teeth’s enamel, can cause thinning and erosion of the enamel. Because enamel does not replenish itself, damage is permanent. Once enamel becomes eroded, teeth will actually begin to look more yellow as the darker inner layer, the dentin, begins to show through the tooth. So, the immediate whitening you may achieve could cause your teeth to look more discolored in time. Unfortunately, the discoloration due to eroded enamel cannot be reversed.

The ADA has published multiple articles citing that the effectiveness of activated charcoal has not been substantiated. (See links below) Given the potential long-term damage to your teeth, Anderson Pediatric Dentistry stands by the recommendations of the American Dental Association (ADA) in recommending that our patients steer clear of activated charcoal on their teeth and instead, seek products that have been endorsed with the ADA Seal of Approval, which guarantees that these products have been evaluated by the ADA for safety and effectiveness.

We encourage you to come in and speak with us about your whitening options. We can recommend safe options that suit your goals and needs without compromising the long-term health of your teeth.

As always, we encourage you to make educated choices about your child’s oral health and invite you to read more about activated charcoal and its effects.


My daughter is six years old and has lost all of her front baby teeth. Now that most of her adult teeth are growing in, we are really stressing the importance of flossing every day. This past weekend, while looking in the mirror, she asked me, “Why are my big kid teeth so yellow?”


Don’t get me wrong. Her smile is beautiful. However, compared to her shiny white baby teeth, her permanent teeth do appear darker and a bit more yellow. She’s noticed this, and I bet some more kids around her age have noticed this about their teeth, too.


We get this question all the time from concerned parents. Believe it or not, it is perfectly normal. Adult teeth, because of their composition, do have a different tone than baby teeth and often appear yellow, especially when they erupt right next to brilliant white baby teeth.


Young adult teeth, when they first come in, have a larger proportion of nerve in them, compared to when the child is 17 or 18. The large amount of nerve, and the fact that the tooth is hollower and less dense, gives it a yellow appearance. As the healthy teeth age, the nerve shrinks and the tooth thickens from the inside, giving it a whiter appearance.


Adult teeth also have more dentin in them, which has a dark yellow to brownish hue. When the tooth’s enamel is thin, the yellow color from the dentin shows through more.


So what can you do to whiten your kid’s teeth and should you?


Good oral hygiene is the key. Regular brushing and flossing and good dental habits will usually resolve these issues in time. As the child’s tooth grows and thickens, it will lose some of the yellow hue caused by the nerve and dentin showing through the enamel. However, regular brushing and flossing will keep the plaque at bay and the tooth and gums healthy.


Use a spinbrush at home. Sometimes these brushes can be more efficient for children than simply brushing, as they are able to get into the crevices better. Often, it just makes brushing more appealing to young children and will encourage them to brush more, helping to remove surface stains. You can find inexpensive options in nearly every store.


Encourage a Tooth-Friendly Diet. Avoiding sugary and carbonated drinks, as well as sodas, coffees and teas will help avoid staining. Also, highly acidic foods and sour candies can erode the enamel on teeth. The enamel acts as a protective barrier and helps keep teeth white. Thin or eroded enamel will lead to discolored teeth, as the dentin and nerves will be more visible.


Remember, slightly yellow-appearing permanent teeth are different from very stained or discolored teeth, or those with white or brown spots on them. Dark staining and/or spots can be a sign of a medical problem and needs to be evaluated by your dentist.


At this age, we typically do not recommend whitening treatments or products for most children, as time typically resolves the issue. However, if your child’s teeth are stained, have spots on them, or cause your child stress or embarrassment, please come in to see us, as we can evaluate his or her teeth to rule out any medical reasons for the discoloration and also discuss safe and effective whitening methods.


As always, Anderson Pediatric Dentistry is always available to discuss your questions and concerns regarding your child’s dental health. We want all children to have a smile they can be proud of and to give all our parents and kids Something to Smile About!