While you may not automatically think to reach for activated charcoal when it’s time to brush your teeth, this powerful agent is actually one of the best mouth cleaners out there. Rubbing this black mixture on your teeth may seem counterintuitive, but the mighty cleansing action of activated charcoal can’t be denied for both bacteria elimination (handling cavities and bad breath like a boss) and for whitening ability.
It’s time to throw out your over-the-counter, laboratory-created, chemical-filled toothpaste and get back to the basics!
What is Activated Charcoal?
Activated charcoal is a powerful detoxifier and drawing agent. It is totally different than the charcoal bits left over in your fire pit though, so forget about trying to brush your teeth with one of those!
To make activated charcoal, hardwoods or nut shells like coconut, are carbonized (partially burned with little air) at temperatures between 400 and 700 °C. The kiln or oven is sealed until the burning stops and the heat slowly dissipates. In general, the slower the burn and the less air/oxygen allowed into the burning material, the better quality the charcoal is.
“Activated” refers to the expanded surface area of the charcoal that develops within the conditions of the kiln/oven. When we put negatively-charged activated charcoal in our body, it attracts positively-charged items (like toxins) to itself. Absorptive like a sponge, the charcoal carries toxins out of the body through the digestive tract. Because our body can’t absorb charcoal, it’s the perfect carrier to escort the nasty stuff right out of us.
Charcoal has a multitude of uses and has been used for centuries in many different ways, including:
1 – Removal of Harmful Toxins
Since ancient times, animals and humans have relied on charcoal’s ability to counteract the harmful effects of ingested toxic materials. We know our prehistoric ancestors ate charcoal, as we’ve found traces of it in their fossilized feces. This makes sense since ancient peoples had to depend upon limited food resources during certain seasons, and undoubtedly ate foods of questionable freshness.
Today, if someone walks into an emergency room with a suspected drug overdose or food poisoning, they are likely to be handed charcoal as one of the countermeasures. In one interesting study, scientists found that after goats consumed activated charcoal, they could eat more juniper (a plant containing a toxic terpenoid) without getting sick!
2 – Wound Healing
The first recorded record of charcoal usage dates back as far as 1500 BC4 when Egyptian papyri revealed charcoal was used to treat decaying wounds and intestinal disorders. Aborigines of Australia have long used charcoal powder to heal their wounds, and records from Hippocrates and Pliny mention charcoal for wound healing in addition to other disease conditions. In our modern world, charcoal is added into many wound dressings to absorb bacteria and control odors.
3 – Water Purification
Water purifiers today almost always use charcoal, which was inspired by ancient sea mariners who scorched the inside of wooden water barrels to preserve drinking water during long voyages. The US Calvary and American settlers used plain lump charcoal in the last compartment of a 3-compartment filtration box (Box 1 = gravel, Box 2 = washed sand, Box 3 = charcoal) to filter river water and turn it into drinking water.
4 – Pigmentation
Charcoal has been traditionally used as an eye-liner, cosmetic base darkener, and for pigment in tattoo ink for some cultures, including Native Hawaiians. Charcoal (and calcium chalk) scrawled on large rocks and caves in prehistoric times gave rise to numerous forms of writing and art.
Benefits of Activated Charcoal in the Mouth
While there isn’t a long recorded history of use, over the last few years charcoal has become somewhat of an unsung hero in the mouth cleaning arena, just waiting for its chance to take center stage. It does basically everything your current chemical-filled toothpaste does…but without creating toxicity in your body.
1 – Bacteria Buster
Just as charcoal helps to remove pathogens from our internal terrain, it does the same for our mouth. When we rub activated charcoal around our teeth and gums, it acts like a highly absorbent sponge pulling toxins, surface stains, and bacteria to itself. It also positively affects the pH in our mouth to aid in the fight against tooth decay, gingivitis, and bad breath (halitosis). All things detrimental to our body enjoy an acidic environment. By using activated charcoal we keep the pH of our mouth in a more neutral or alkaline range, stop harmful bacteria right in its tracks, and eliminate halitosis.
2 – Whitening Wonder
The many Americans who religiously use chemical-based toothpastes, gels, and strips to whiten their teeth can feel even better about the switch to charcoal. Without stripping off layers of enamel, charcoal gently cleans the teeth to reveal their natural shine. Because it acts like a sponge, it soaks up surface stains to reveal your natural tooth pigmentation without stripping off enamel or bleaching your teeth.
3 – Saliva Safe
The warnings on regular toothpastes that say “harmful if swallowed” do not apply here. If you swallow activated charcoal, it will just pass through your digestive system trapping more toxins as it goes before being eliminated.
Wait. Why do toothpaste labels warn against swallowing them, anyway?
The average American uses 20 gallons of toothpaste over their lifetime. Think about that for a moment – that’s a LOT of toothpaste! When you’re rubbing that minty helper around your teeth and gums, with the intention of deep cleaning, unfortunately you’re getting a lot more than you bargained for.
The surfaces of your mouth are incredibly absorbent. This is why some medications and tinctures require you to squirt them into the mouth and then “hold them before swallowing”. While this can be helpful when you’re trying to absorb good nutrients, it works against you when you’re pressing chemical-ladden toothpaste into your gums.
Activated charcoal by itself can be slightly abrasive, so it’s best when used in combination with other ingredients as a toothpaste. Lucky for us, nature provides an assortments of oils that work perfectly with charcoal to create an optimal mouth cleaning experience.
Our pick? Longevity Warehouse® Activated Charcoal Toothpaste – Wintergreen + Clean, of course. Give it a try and let us know what you think in the comments below!