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“Black toothpaste makes your teeth shiny” - these advertising slogans and the like attract customers to drugstores, because white teeth and a Hollywood smile are exactly what everyone would like to have these days. But what is it that makes black toothpaste so special? The key word here is activated charcoal, which makes up the ingredient and color of the toothpaste. Activated carbon is a carbon compound that has been used in naturopathy for thousands of years.

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What is activated carbon?

Activated carbon consists of carbon and has a porous structure. Due to the special structure, the activated carbon has a strong binding capacity and a large surface. A few grams of activated carbon have a surface that is roughly the same as that of a soccer field. The surface has a size of 1,500 m2 / g, which is why the activated carbon has such a strong binding character. It works like a sponge, which is why the activated carbon is used specifically to trap substances. Activated carbon is used in medicine, chemistry, wastewater treatment and air conditioning to filter pollutants and poisons.

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Activated charcoal is used particularly in medicine to bind toxins from the body and excrete them. As a result, users often speak of detoxification. Activated charcoal is becoming more and more important in naturopathy. Activated charcoal is also said to be a useful raw material in dentistry. Activated charcoal in toothpaste is supposed to whiten teeth and remove discoloration. Activated charcoal cannot be overdosed when used in the human body, which is why it is particularly popular in naturopathy.

How does activated carbon work?

Due to the special structure of the activated carbon, it acts like a sponge. It is porous and at the same time has a comparatively large surface, which enables it to trap pollutants. Pollutants and toxins can thus be locked in and eliminated from the body. As a result, the activated charcoal acts like a detox. The mode of action of activated charcoal in toothpaste is also said to help whiten teeth.

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Why does the toothpaste contain activated charcoal?

In essence, activated charcoal is the modern form of ash that was used for dental care before toothpaste. Even today, in poor regions of Africa and Asia, the ashes from burning wood are used to clean teeth. The toothpaste with activated charcoal is a return to the past, as carbon compounds have proven themselves as dentifrices. What is noticeable, however, when one sees the skull bones or the dentures of the patients who have used charcoal, that the teeth are abraded. After a long period of use, the cusps are usually completely ground down, which is how the activated carbon works.

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The abrasive particles of the activated carbon cause plaque to be removed and thus possibly a lightening effect at the beginning, but in the long run it causes the hard tooth substance to be gradually removed. The coarse particles of activated carbon rub off the tooth enamel like sandpaper, which cannot regenerate. With toothpaste, the user should always make sure that the RAD value is low. This value describes the particle size within the toothpaste and thus the abrasive effect. Due to the particle size of the activated carbon, it exceeds the reasonable RAD value by far, which is why it should not be used as a daily toothpaste.

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Side effects / risks

A major problem with activated carbon is its abrasive effect. The coarse particles of the carbon compound are so large that they reduce the tooth structure with every application. The teeth gradually become flatter and the cusps of the teeth disappear. One consequence of the flatter teeth is that the entire bite subsides as the teeth are ground down. By lowering the bite, all bones and tissues have to adapt to new circumstances - the temporomandibular joint and muscles have to adapt.

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However, this adaptation is only possible to a very small extent before symptoms, tension and stiffening of the temporomandibular joint arise. These complaints can be expressed in severe pain and can also radiate into anatomically close regions. Headaches, neck pain and also ear pain can arise because the temporomandibular joint cannot adapt. The loss of hard tooth substances, especially the enamel, can make the teeth more sensitive to thermal stimuli such as heat and cold, so that overly sensitive symptoms can develop.

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Is charcoal toothpaste harmful?

In general, daily use of a toothpaste with activated charcoal is harmful because the teeth rub off and the hard tooth substance is gradually lost. Since the tooth enamel is not reproducible, the affected person loses the protective coating of the teeth, which can make them sensitive and the bite can sink. In addition, there are no scientific studies or toppings that could justify the use of activated charcoal in toothpaste. Therefore, any use is at your own risk.

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Can toothpaste with activated charcoal be carcinogenic?

The carbon black used in most activated charcoal toothpastes is suspected of causing cancer. To what extent the amounts of the so-called “carbon black” within the toothpaste have an effect is, however, questionable. In this case, too, no scientific knowledge is available. Furthermore, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon compounds, which are carcinogenic, can arise in the industrial production process of activated carbon. It is unclear whether these were cleaned from the activated carbon before they were incorporated into the toothpaste.

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