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Charcoal: Does it Work as a DIY Teeth Whitening Remedy?

6 months ago

Healthy Smiles by Rita Tempel, DDS – This column is published in the May 16, 2019 Gettysburg Times

DIY projects can be a lot of fun when it comes to home improvement projects or paint nights. But when it comes to your dental health and teeth whitening, the DIY trend is leading to dangerous and harmful results. In today’s Healthy Smiles column, I’m going to address some of the latest fads people are trying, in attempts to whiten their teeth, and I’ll explain the best proven methods for teeth whitening today.

Activated charcoal is popping up in numerous beauty products lately, with some health and beauty “experts” recommending using the black powder as a DIY teeth whitening remedy. In reality, charcoal is so abrasive and staining that it can actually remove the white enamel of your teeth—revealing the yellowish layer of dentin underneath—and/or darken your gums. The American Dental Association (ADA) studied this practice and determined that there is no evidence that charcoal is safe or effective.

Another DIY myth to dispel involves fruit. While fruit is a healthy food to keep in your home for snacking, it shouldn’t be used for home whitening remedies. Lemons, oranges, and apple cider vinegar all contain high acid content, while pineapple and mango contain digestive enzymes. Scrubbing your teeth with  acidic fruit-based concoctions can wear away your enamel, according to the ADA. The enamel is precious because it is a thin outer coating that protects your teeth, and once it’s gone it does not come back.

Coconut oil is another health trend that has leaped from the kitchen into DIY home whitening fads. While coconut oil can be healthful in your cooking, the ADA does not endorse swishing with it (also called oil pulling) as an effective whitening remedy. In fact, the ADA notes that people can end up with lipoid pneumonia, upset stomachs, and/or diarrhea as a result.

Many people describe the perfect smiles as having white teeth and healthy, pink gums, so how do we achieve this perfect picture of health? The problem with all of the above DIY trends is that they are capitalizing on healthy buzzwords that are incorrectly applied.

So here are five tips for maintaining your pearly whites—all endorsed by the ADA:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes at a time, and floss between your teeth once a day.
  • Maintain regular checkups at your dentist.
  • Limit foods that can stain your teeth—coffee, tea, red wine.
  • Refraining from using tobacco or smoking.
  • And the biggest one: If you are concerned about the color of your teeth, consult with your dentist. There are safe, effective options for whitening available through your dentist. He or she is a health professional who can guide you to the best options for your specific need. Whitening is not a “one size fits all” type of service; not all patients are good candidates for whitening, and some methods may work better for your teeth than others.

The truth of the matter is that good healthy habits are the best remedy to keeping your teeth as white as possible. There is no “quick fix” or DIY remedy that can be substituted for healthy, consistent, dental habits.

Dr. Rita Tempel is the owner and founder of Gettysburg Smiles, a cosmetic and family dental practice located at 2018 York Road (Route 30 East), Gettysburg. She is an Accreditation Candidate of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and an American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine Qualified Dentist. For more information, see GettysburgSmiles.com, follow Gettysburg Smiles on Facebook, or call 717-339-0033.

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