A recent (and growing) trend is the use of activated charcoal in health products— everything from shampoo to cleansers, even toothpaste! In today’s post you’ll learn more about activated charcoal, what it is, how it’s used, and whether it should be part of your dental health regimen.
What is activated charcoal? It’s not what you’re thinking…
First thing’s first. Activated charcoal is nothing like the charcoal you’d use in your barbecue grill. In scientific terms it’s the same: both are forms of carbon, but their properties are very different. Remember a diamond is also a form of carbon, too. But you’d never confuse a diamond with a charcoal briquette would you?
Activated charcoal is processed at extremely high temperatures. This process produces charcoal that is very porous and has a very large surface area. This added surface area creates particles with a microscopic electrical charge that attracts other particles. It’s a bit like static electricity. When you rub a balloon on your head, the charge “pulls” your hair towards the balloon.
Do doctors use activated charcoal?
Yes! Activated charcoal has very valuable medical uses. Activated charcoal is not absorbed by the body — it passes right through. Because of this, activated charcoal is often used in cases of accidental ingestion of poison or toxins.
After consuming activated charcoal, the toxins bind with the charcoal, preventing them from damaging the body. Then the activated charcoal and toxins can be safely expelled from the body. Studies show that activated charcoal can reduce absorption of poison or toxins by nearly 75%.
Can activated charcoal help my kidneys?
Your kidneys are like a filter for the waste and toxins in your body. But just like any filter, exposure to too much “junk” can reduce their effectiveness. Think about a dirty air filter in your car. The dirtier it gets, the worse it filters the air.
Some people who suffer from kidney disease or decreased kidney function may benefit from using activated charcoal to boost their kidney function. The charcoal binds with toxins in the body and reduces the load on the kidneys allowing them to function more effectively.
Does activated charcoal lower cholesterol?
The research into activated charcoal and cholesterol is encouraging! A recent study found that one month of activated charcoal supplements lowered “bad” (LDL) cholesterol by nearly 25%. More research is needed.
Cleaner water with activated charcoal
In 2017, the EPA announced that tap water in the San Francisco Bay Area contained 13 contaminants above the recommended limit. These contaminants included arsenic, bromodichloromethane, bromate, bromoform, chlorate, and chloroform, among several other heavy metals. The source of contamination isn’t fully understood and the dangers represented by the contaminants is also unclear.
But there is essentially no downside to investing in a reverse osmosis and activated charcoal water filter. Charcoal filters are relatively inexpensive and require little maintenance. The result will be even cleaner, safer, and tastier drinking water for you and your family.
Fighting mercury toxicity with activated charcoal
Mercury toxicity is serious. Did you know the Mad Hatter character in Alice in Wonderland was driven ”mad” by the mercury used by milliners (hatmakers)? Today we realize that mercury is incredibly dangerous. But did you know that most people keep mercury in their mouth 24/7/365?
That’s right: mercury amalgam (a.k.a. “silver”) fillings contain mercury. Over time this mercury can leach out into the body. As a SMART-certified dentist, I am able to help patients safely remove toxic mercury from their mouths and replace fillings with healthy biocompatible composite fillings.
You should understand that mercury toxicity is cumulative. That means mercury builds up in the body over time. People who eat diets rich in fish like tuna or swordfish may have high levels of mercury due to the accumulated toxins. Activated charcoal can bind to the mercury in your body and eliminate it from your system.
Keep reading to learn more
I talk more about the dangers of mercury and other toxins in my Forbes and Amazon bestselling book, Age With Style: Your Guide To A Youthful Smile & Healthy Living. You’ll also learn:
- The truth about mercury fillings
- Your body’s inflammatory response
- Tricks to overcome dental anxiety
- How you can maintain health for life
Tooth whitening with activated charcoal
The best and safest way to whiten teeth is at your dentist’s office. In-office whitening treatments like those at Green Dentistry are more effective and last longer than at-home or DIY whitening systems.
That being said, activated charcoal can help you whiten your teeth and maintain the whiteness of professional cosmetic whitening treatments. You can buy activated charcoal at a health food store, often in tablet form. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the charcoal into a paste with a bit of water. Use your finger and gently rub the paste on your teeth. Then rinse your mouth and swish water around in it before spitting out the charcoal paste. About once a week is all it takes!
- Use a brush or rub too hard
- Rub the charcoal on your gum
Charcoal is abrasive and a little bit goes a long way!
Should you use an activated charcoal toothpaste?
Probably not. While occasional teeth whitening with activated charcoal is fine, it’s not ideal for everyday use. You can take over-the-counter charcoal supplements to help eliminate toxins from the body. However, most people will see the greatest improvement in their dental health from use of a fluoride toothpaste. I know fluoride isn’t perfect but it does reduce cavities. Overall the benefits of fluoride generally outweigh the drawbacks.
EXCEPTION: I DO NOT recommend fluoridated toothpastes for kids and women with thyroid problems. Did you know that 10% of women are estimated to have thyroid issues? Get checked out!
Let’s keep talking about your health!
If you’re interested in learning more about how activated charcoal can improve your health or are looking for other ways to live a long, healthy, and happy life, schedule an appointment at Green Dentistry today. My goal is to help you improve your health and love your life!
A graduate of the University of Southern California and the University of California’s School of Dentistry, Dr. Patel is a leader in the movement to bring environmental sanity and well-being into the dental world. As a trusted dentist, Dr. Patel provides her patients with more than just world-class dental care — she helps them recognize the vital connection between dental health and whole body health. She is also a ForbesBooks and Amazon best-selling author.