At my last dentist appointment, I thought my teeth were looking a little more yellow than I liked, and decided to get some whitening gel. I thought about the chemicals and other nasties in there, but my vain side took over.
After whitening for several of days, my teeth started to feel really sore. I also looked in the mirror and noticed the very bottoms of my top incisors were becoming translucent! Eeeeek!
Having sensitive and opaque teeth is a common side effect of conventional teeth whitening products. Whitening gel causes sensitivity in 2 ways:
- Bleaching molecules penetrate your teeth, increasing blood flow and pressure in the tooth pulp, causing mild pulpitis.
- Bleaching increases tooth porosity, and removes the protective protein layer on the surface of your teeth. (source)
I’m not a fan of that. Here’s what Dr. Norman Huefner has to say about translucent teeth:
The enamel surface of the tooth is somewhat translucent and is completely normal. In as much as most bleaching regresses over time, it is likely that you will lose some of the whitening over time and the translucent enamel will be much less obvious. (source)
I don’t believe that translucent teeth are normal, and I’ve never had that issue before when I bleached my teeth. My see-through teeth is probably from losing enamel which can be rebuilt, unlike what most dentists believe. But that’s a topic for another post!
So how am I going to whiten my teeth naturally? I decided to give this weird activated charcoal stuff a try since I’ve been seeing it pop up all over Pinterest.
First, what the heck is activated charcoal?
My best experience with activated charcoal comes from my vet tech days. We had to shove massive amounts of liquid activated charcoal down a dog’s throat (he was a Border Collie :()after he ate a whole case of rat poison. Let me tell ya, that was the messiest thing I have ever done. Don’t worry though, he lived.
Activated charcoal is also in one of our supplements we use during a juice cleanse.
Activated charcoal is made from many different sources, but it’s best to use charcoal from natural sources, like coconut husks, when using it as a treatment.
Make sure that you use activated charcoal and not just regular charcoal out of your bbq in the backyard. Activated charcoal is raw charcoal that has been heated to very high temperatures and treated with oxidizing gases or steam. This process creates holes in the charcoal which makes it so effective. (source)
How does activated charcoal work?
I’ll let Dr. Axe explain this one:
Activated charcoal works by trapping toxins and chemicals in its millions of tiny pores. It doesn’t absorb the toxins, however. Instead it works through the chemical process of adsorption. In the body, absorption is the reaction of elements, including nutrients, chemicals and toxins, soaked up and assimilated into the blood stream. Adsorption is the chemical reaction where elements bind to a surface.
The porous surface of activated charcoal has a negative electric charge that causes positive charged toxins and gas to bond with it. (source)
Is this really a good way to whiten your teeth?
That’s a little bit of a controversy. It all depends on what is causing your teeth to be discolored. Yellow teeth can come from drugs, genetics, age, disease, and stains from drinks and food. That’s why it’s a good idea to get an oral exam done and see what the dentist says. Some dentists are also concerned that the activated charcoal is too abrasive. We’ll assuage that concern later, don’t worry.
Activated charcoal works best if your teeth are just stained since the charcoal is able to bind to the stains through contact. The charcoal doesn’t penetrate into your teeth like the bleaching gel.
Cameron and I both did this activated charcoal experiment. My teeth were already pretty white since I did some bleaching, so I honestly didn’t see much of a difference. Cameron (who’s not as religious about his oral hygiene… as you can see) had a pretty significant difference? Clearly he came out the other side with whiter teeth – and no I didn’t doctor it up with Photoshop and we used the exact same lighting and camera settings. I think teeth pics are gross, but you have to agree the results were pretty awesome.
Warnings for using activated charcoal:
- Get a good sourced activated charcoal like this one.
- Don’t use the charcoal within 2 hours of taking medications or eating.
- It will stain certain things, like clothes and grout, so try to keep it contained and clean up any spills right away.
- If you have fake teeth, do this at your own risk of staining. Cameron’s front left tooth is a crown, and he had no problems.
- Has not been tested by the FDA and such (and I really don’t care).
- Work up some spit (or take a sip of water), tilt your head back, carefully open a capsule over your open mouth, dump it under your tongue. DON’T BREATHE WHILE DOING THIS! Wrap capsule in some tp when you throw it away. It will be a little dry at first, but soon you can swish it around your mouth. Try and hold your spit against your front teeth while you wait. No scrubbing involved so the dentists can’t complain about abrasiveness, and there’s no sacrificing your toothbrush to the charcoal dieties.
- Leave it in your mouth for 5 minutes, spit as close to the drain as possible with running water, and clean your sink so it doesn’t stain. Rinse well until your spit is clear and brush/floss like normal.
- Even EASIER: Dump the charcoal in your mouth right before a shower!
- Do this once a day until all stains are removed. We did it for 10 days. Then every 6 months or so for maintainence.
- Make sure you show your toddler because he’ll be hilariously concerned that your teeth are black. Parenting win.
- Try taking before and after pictures to really see your results.
What do you think about using activated charcoal for whitening your teeth? What have been your results?