Activated Charcoal (or Coal Tar) is a naturally occurring substance found in coal tar or lignite. It is used as a fuel, industrial solvent, paint stripper, and other purposes. The chemical composition of activated charcoal varies from one type of coal to another. However, it generally consists of approximately 30% carbon, 40% nitrogen and 2% oxygen. The amount of activated charcoal depends on the type of coal used to make the toothpaste.
The most common form of activated charcoal is called hydrocarbon based. These types are commonly known as “petroleum based” or “coal tar based.” These toothpastes are made from a by-product of the oil and gas industry and are completely safe.
They are insoluble in water but soluble in most oils, including vegetable oils. These toothpastes slowly absorb into the mouth as it begins to adsorb onto plaque and other toxins.
Another common activated charcoal is made from the bark of the tree, and is called “pyrocarbon based.” These types of toothpastes have not been studied as much, but are believed to work in a similar manner to the hydrocarbon based charcoal pastes.
The insolubility of the activated charcoals make them useful in dentistry. They are used as a decalcifying agent for teeth.
Unlike other decalcifying agents, such as sodium chloride or potassium nitrate, activated charcoal has no well known detrimental effects on human health. It is a safe alternative to many chemicals used in dentistry.
In dentistry, activated charcoal is used to absorb liquid residuals from teeth. This is particularly useful in situations where the liquid needs to be absorbed slowly, for example after a root canal.
It is also used to absorb the viscosity of dental drilling and other agent used during procedures, specifically to keep the liquid flowing.
When used topically on teeth, the toothpaste adheres to plaque and food debris remaining between teeth and gums. It also can be used to absorb liquid build-up in the mouth after brushing, especially after dental procedures.
As it slowly absorbs liquid in the mouth, the activated charcoal helps to keep the mouth extra clean by absorbing bacteria, toxins, and other possibly toxic substances. It can be useful for people with compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients or elderly patients.
It can also be used to absorb the taste of some medicines, especially those with a bitter or salty taste. These toothpastes usually come in small applications, often in disposable tubes, to keep the medicine moist and fresh until its time to be thrown away.
Toothpastes with activated charcoal have been approved by the FDA as safe and effective for daily use.
Activated charcoal toothpastes can be used by people with sensitive teeth who are at risk of developing cavities or those who are undergoing root canal therapy. It can also be used as a temporary measure while undergoing treatment to debride the gums, such as when the mouth is sore or decalcified following surgery.
Some people use it daily as a preventative measure to cleanse the teeth and keep them healthy. Since there is no scientific proof that this works, it is not advised by dentists.
It also can be used cautiously by people with compromised immune systems, such as people with weakened lungs being treated for tuberculosis or those with AIDS.
Some animals appear to be allergic to it. When used topically, it can cause severe irritation to the mouth and throat, making it difficult or impossible to swallow.
When used in food, it causes an increase in the amount of stridor – a condition that causes the dog or cat to make a high-pitched screaming noise when breathing.
Activated charcoal poisoning occurs when a substantial amount of activated charcoal is ingested and causes signs such as diarrhea, excessive vomiting, weakness, dehydration, and bradycardia.
Activated charcoal should not be confused with activated magnesium carbonate, or ACMg.
While both have the word “magnesium” in their name, they are NOT the same thing.
ACMg (magnesium carbonate) is a laxative that is used for its” cathartic effect” on the intestines.
It does not adsorb toxins in the way that activated charcoal does.
If you or a loved one is experiencing an allergic reaction after using a product that contains activated charcoal, please seek immediate medical attention.
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