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Dean George is the Marketing Specialist and Content Creator for Dental Insurance
Store and its social media channels. He is a regular contributor to Agent Straight Talk, the
only consumer blog explaining the ins, outs and in-betweens of dental insurance and
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Don't Use Charcoal on Your “Grill” Like This

Aug 22, 2016

By Dean George

Americans are clever people who often find many uses for common household items. 

For example, did you know that dryer sheets used in the laundry room can be used as shoe deodorizers and that aluminum foil can be used as dryer sheets? Have you ever used hydrogen peroxide as a stain remover? What about baby wipes to clean your cell phone screen or tablet?

Every consider using toothpaste as an all-purpose cleaner to clean sink and shower fixtures? Have you ever shined your silverware with a banana peel or relieved itching by grinding up aspirin and mixing it with water?

It’s as if we’re all trying to get in touch with our inner-MacGyver.

Charcoal is another item commonly found in households with multiple uses. Kids have used charcoal for years to draw on sidewalks and to help Frosty the Snowman see the dangers of global warming.

Men that haven’t surrendered to the siren call of propane for grilling use charcoal for barbecuing. Other handyman types place a few lumps in toolboxes to keep the rust off tools or use it as mulch.

Moms-in-the-know use charcoal to preserve the life of cut flowers or to temporarily hide scratches on dark wood floors and furniture.

The wonders of the Internet have revealed yet another use for charcoal: teeth whitening. Online personality “Mama Natural” is just one advocate extolling the benefits of brushing your teeth with activated charcoal, a charcoal supplement that is highly absorbent.

As previously reported in Dental Wire, despite warnings from groups like the American Dental Association (ADA) and dentists themselves, do-it-yourself dentistry has been trending in popularity for the past couple of years. American manufacturers like DenTek sell kits that help temporarily repair lost fillings, caps and crowns, but the problem is many customers use such kits as a permanent solution.

Now thanks to natural health enthusiasts like Mama Natural, Dr. Oz and Dr. Josh Axe, Internet users are being promised whiter teeth by brushing their teeth with activated charcoal two-three times a week.

Practitioners carefully open up a capsule of activated charcoal, sprinkle it on a toothbrush, and brush for three to five minutes.  SPOILER ALERT:  If you don’t like seeing how sausage is made, you’ve been warned.

Proponents of this unusual whitening technique say that the charcoal absorbs oral bacteria, toxins and stains on teeth, thus making them whiter.  Some even claim it improves the pH balance in the mouth, helps prevent cavities, bad breath and gum disease.

Groups like the ADA and dentists are dubious of the process. A spokesman for the ADA says that using a charcoal supplement as a teeth whitener is a concern because the abrasiveness factor is unknown.  Also, the ADA has not even evaluated any charcoal-based tooth whitening products, let alone approved them.

Others are more specific in their warnings. Dr. Susan Maples, a Michigan-based dentist named as one of the Top 25 Women in Dentistry and one of dentistry’s Top 8 Innovators, told that she worries that the charcoal trend may damage tooth enamel and lead to sensitivity and cavities.

“Teeth are the only part of the ectoderm that does not replenish or heal itself- once it’s gone, it’s gone,” she said. “You can color your hair, you can pierce your skin, damage your nail, shave an eyebrow – all of that comes back.”

We made that same point in “Let’s Get Enamored with Tooth Enamel” but it bears repeating: Enamel is a tooth’s first line of defense. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Dr. Kim Harms, a Minneapolis-based dentist and spokesperson for the ADA, also worries that the abrasiveness of activated charcoal may damage the teeth and gums. “We don’t know about the safety and effectiveness of it,” she said, adding that there’s no scientific proof that using activated charcoal actually works.

What doesn’t work is brushing your teeth with any product that is too abrasive. As we wrote in “Founding Father and Dental Poster Child, before today’s modern toothpastes people used toothpowders made from pumice, borax, and tobacco – even burnt bread!

Knowing what we know now, is it any wonder that many people in the 18th and early 19th century were often toothless by their early to mid-50’s?

In our opinion, not knowing the long-term consequences of this trendy method of teeth whitening should give everyone pause. There are plenty of recommended tooth whitening toothpastes and thousands of dentists who can whiten your teeth during your next dental visit.

Why bet the enamel meant to last you a lifetime for the temporary prize of white teeth now?

For those who can’t resist blackening their teeth with the goal of whitening them, Dr. Harms reminds you not to substitute that trend for brushing with regular toothpaste or skipping regular dental visits. Sounds like good advice to us!

And here’s some more free advice: for plans that can help with the expense of regular dental visits, click here.  Thanks for reading Agent Straight-Talk, and if you’re not following us on Facebook, TwitterPinterestGoogle+, or LinkedIn, we promise not to tell your dentist if you follow us now.

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Copyright 2016, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC

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