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5 Things to Consider When Talking to Patients About Activated Charcoal

Patients who are trying to achieve a bright white smile may have already asked you whether oil pulling or activated charcoal is worth a try.

Patients who are trying to achieve a bright white smile may have already asked you whether oil pulling or activated charcoal is worth a try. Clinicians are in a position to educate patients on the benefits of in-office treatments and the downside of do-it-yourself trends. Here are 5 things to consider when talking to patients who are considering using activated charcoal for at-home bleaching.


Take some time to explain “whitening” and “bleaching” as patients may not understand the difference between these terms. Clarify that whitening means removal of surface stains, whereas bleaching will cause whitening of the tooth as it removes surface stains and changes the genetic color of the tooth. Patients asking about charcoal toothpaste ultimately want whiter teeth, and you can detail the benefits of traditional in-office or tray bleaching.


Brushing with charcoal toothpaste too often or too harshly may affect gingiva and enamel due to the product’s abrasiveness. This can lead to the patient experiencing hypersensitivity and more staining later on. Delivering these potential side effects to patients may help them consider a different treatment option.


Over-the-counter products such as whitening toothpastes, mouthrinses, and now charcoal-containing products, may remove extrinsic surface stains but that bright white look will not last long. If a quick fix is an ultimate goal, whitening strips with the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance can be suggested.


Using fluoride-free charcoal toothpaste as a supplement to brushing with regular toothpaste is fine on a monthly basis but it cannot replace a traditional dentifrice. If a patient expresses plans to try the oral health trend, you must remind him or her to continue using toothpaste with fluoride as part of a daily at-home regimen.


Determine more about a patient’s lifestyle, brushing habits, desired outcomes, and amount of money he or she plans to spend on whitening and bleaching products can help the dental team suggest appropriate treatment options. If a patient decides to try charcoal despite recent evidence that charcoal-based dentifrices cause more harm than good, the dental team can tailor instructions on duration, frequency, and brushing.

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