Medical professionals are warning against using a DIY whitening trend that involves smearing a charcoal-derived black mixture on teeth. The method, which dentists say may lead to enamel deterioration and tooth erosion, became an online sensation this month after YouTube user Mama Natural posted a video that details its execution began striking fire online. As of Monday morning, it had amassed more than 1.5 million views.
In the video the host Genevieve brushes her teeth with the supplement for three to five minutes before rinsing and proclaiming she then had seemingly whiter teeth. She said the product can be purchased in capsule form in health food stores or online.
“This stuff is highly absorbent— some of the most absorbent material on the planet, ” Genevieve said in the video. “In fact, hospitals have it on hand in case someone comes in with a poisoning because it can absorb that stuff and safely remove it from the body. The same reasoning works for our teeth. It absorbs bacteria, toxins and staining, and makes them whiter as a result.”
But while the cosmetic result of the method may hold true for some users, the long-term internal effect may harm other people’s teeth, dentists say. The American Dental Association has currently not evaluated or approved any charcoal teeth whitening products. A spokesman for the organization previously told Prevention the product is concerning because its abrasiveness isn’t known.
“I worry about the long-term effects of a video like this, ” Maples said. “Teeth are the only part of the ectoderm that does not replenish or heal itself— once it’s gone, it’s gone. You can color your hair, you can pierce your skin, damage your nail, shave an eyebrow— all of that comes back.”
Maples said the difference between using an approved dental tool, whether at home or at the dentist’s office, and a DIY remedy like charcoal lies in their approaches.
For example, approved products seep through the enamel and into the inner layer of the tooth called the dentin, which influences tooth color. Users and dentists don’t know how severe the charcoal supplement may be, so it may leave teeth stained or blotchy. The trendy product may also leave tooth enamel susceptible to deterioration and erosion, which can lead to sensitivity and cavities.
“When you lose enamel, teeth get sensitive and darker in color because you’re close to the part of the tooth that has the depth of the color, ” Maples said. “Since you can’t grow it back, the only thing you can do is cover it up with restoration.”
To avoid these risks, Maples recommended patients who are interested in whitening their teeth opt instead for formally tested dental procedures or at-home whitening trays provided by their dentist.