Please tell me you’re not brushing with what one dentist calls “sandpaper in a tube”…


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Real talk: Who doesn’t love the feeling of having a squeaky-clean mouth filled with glistening, alabaster teeth? Aside from the fact that it’s good for your oral health and makes your breath smell minty fresh, it’s just nice to rub your tongue over a set of pearly whites that have been given a literal spit shine. But, according to dentists, there are two types of toothpastes that—though they promise these types of results—could be doing your mouth more harm than good.

Charcoal and whitening toothpastes are highly abrasive and can cause permanent destruction to your tooth structure,” says celebrity dentist Dr. Dustin Cohen of The Practice of Beverly Hills. “They’re basically sandpaper in a tube.” He explains that the abrasive properties in these types of toothpastes “scrub away the gums and white enamel of your teeth,” which ultimately leaves behind a darker layer of your tooth. So though you may be using these products to try and make your teeth look whiter, in the long term you’re actually doing the opposite.

“Those toothpastes are so abrasive that they actually scrub away the gums and pretty white enamel of your teeth,” says Dr. Cohen. “These areas become irreversibly thinner and more see-through, exposing the more yellow-colored inner layer of tooth.” And that’s not the only reason why you should consider tossing your whitening and charcoal toothpastes, stat: According to him, because they strip your gums and enamel away, your teeth also end up becoming more sensitive to hot and cold foods. Woof. 

While other dentists agree that charcoal is on the definite “not now, not ever” list, there’s some disagreement about how bad the whitening stuff really is. “I think whitening toothpastes are fine and definitely less abrasive than charcoal,” says celebrity cosmetic dentist, Dr. Victoria Veytsman. “Charcoal is a definite no in my book because it’s very abrasive on teeth and can cause little micro scratches on the surface of enamel. I’m okay with whitening toothpastes that are ADA approved.”

So instead of filling your cabinet with the oral aisle’s trendiest ingredient—because charcoal toothpaste has been having such a major moment lately, even Drake has started using it—swap it for a less abrasive option. Dr. Cohen recommends products from Sensodyne, Pronamel, or Tom’s Of Maine (as long as they don’t say “whitening” on the label).  And if you do want whiter teeth, your best bet is to turn to bleaching products instead of whitening toothpaste because it “does not permanently destroy the layers of your teeth,” says Dr. Cohen.

Welp, looks like I’ve got some cabinet clearing out to do.

Another complicated ingredient on the toothpaste market? Fluoride. So here’s what the deal is with that. And if your jaw’s been hurting, stress might be behind a TMJ situation. 

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