As we age, our teeth pay the price for years of drinking coffee or tea, smoking, or just decades of use. Dentists offer expensive laser and chemical treatments to whiten teeth. A number of over-the-counter commercial products are also available, but these are often painful to sensitive teeth, and they, too, are pricey. Happily, activated charcoal is a natural treatment that has proven very effective in whitening tooth enamel.
To be clear, we are not talking about the charcoal you might find in your barbeque pit or fireplace. Activated charcoal, sometimes called activated carbon, is charcoal that has been treated with gasses to purify it completely and turn it into a porous material that adsorbs impurities from the surrounding environment.
Unlike absorption, adsorption is a process through which the porous surface of activated charcoal attracts extraneous material and holds it in its pores. To understand how the process works, think of water filtration systems that utilize activated charcoal.
You may also be familiar with the in-hospital use of activated charcoal to treat drug overdoses. In fact, you should not use this teeth whitening method when you ingesting medication, as the charcoal will render it inert.
Activated charcoal works so well on teeth for three reasons. First, it attracts tannins, and the tannins found in many foods are typically what causes discoloration of tooth enamel. Second, activated charcoal does not adsorb the calcium salts that make up tooth enamel. Third, it does not irritate your mouth, and in fact offers the added benefit of removing toxins from your tongue.
To use activated charcoal, you can sprinkle some on your toothpaste, or make some toothpowder and include it as an ingredient. Many people make a small slurry of activated charcoal and water, mixed roughly half and half. Swish it around in your mouth for 30 seconds, then hold it in the front of your mouth, against your front teeth, for approximately five minutes after brushing. Then rinse your mouth thoroughly.
One activated charcoal capsule is just the right size for a single use. You can find them at many drugstores, grocery stories, and health food stores. After the initial usage, twice weekly applications generally keep teeth white.