Pinterest is both a blessing and a curse. Having all those recipes, home decor ideas, and "life hacks" at your fingertips? Awesome. But beware of the under-researched Pinteresthacks that infiltrate the website like the plague. A huge part of the phenomenon is natural beauty and health tips and many pregnant women look to Pinterest to find this kind of information. (If you don't want to feel your best during pregnancy, when do you?) One of these hacks is the use of activated charcoal being used for teeth whitening. But can you use activated charcoal to whiten your teeth while pregnant? Out of all the hacks you may find on Pinterest relating to pregnancy, including baby food making and pregnancy survival kits, you may want to take pause before partaking in the charcoal teeth whitening hack, according to experts.
Dr. David Klein, assistant dental director of the Health Partners Dental Plan says to Romper in an email, "The use of activated charcoal has not been studied by the American Dental Association and is not recommended for use due to its potential for being abrasive to enamel. Tooth color is derived from the layer of tooth structure found below enamel called dentin, and it is this layer that is whitened by office-delivered or over-the-counter tooth whitening products."
In other words, activated charcoal will not be effective on the inner layer of your teeth. Dr. Gregory McGee, board-certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon at Rio Grande Oral Surgery & Dental Implant Center agrees wholeheartedly.
"The correct answer is we just don't know if it is safe," he says to Romper in an email. "The FDA has classified it as Category C because it has not been tested … there are no apparent risks involved, but getting a mother and a baby to agree to a study is difficult." McGee goes on to say that even though there's nothing stopping you from trying it, it's best to err on the side of caution. "As a father of a child with a birth defect, I would not want my wife to take anything that I didn't know is safe. To sum it up, we don't know for certain, but I wouldn't use it. Your teeth can always be whitened later."
As far as whether it’s safe to use while you’re pregnant, the risks are unknown due to its lack of clinical study, and dental experts are more concerned about the abrasiveness of the product, according to Klein. "It’s difficult to see why an expectant mother would put either herself or her growing baby at risk should research prove a known risk in the future," he says about the effects on an unborn baby from using activated charcoal while pregnant.
Klein did, however, have some tips for awesome dental health while pregnant. Especially since pregnant women are at a higher risk for gingivitis and tooth decay, he says.
He suggests rinsing your mouth with water frequently, especially if you have morning sickness or eat sugary snacks during the day, brushing and flossing daily to prevent gingivitis and to keep your mouth healthy and clean, and eating healthy foods, because what you eat during pregnancy affects your baby’s teeth, which begin to develop in the second trimester.
But why are some pregnant women more prone to gingivitis and tooth decay? Klein says it has to do with morning sickness (acid from vomiting) and snacking more frequently. "Studies have shown that women who get their teeth cleaned regularly before they’re pregnant don’t always visit their dentist for a cleaning during pregnancy, but pregnant women should continue to visit their dentist regularly during their pregnancy … so a dentist has an opportunity to look for signs of tooth decay."
Be warned — teeth-whitening benefits from using charcoal haven’t been scientifically proven yet, and the risks are unknown as far as using it while pregnant. The permanent damage to your teeth is the most pressing matter about this natural beauty regimen. And making sure your mouth is as healthy as possible during pregnancy — and in general — is important, as oral health, since it’s directly related to having a healthy body all around. It might be best to skip this one Pinterest hack and talk to your doctor if you seriously want to consider a teeth whitening treatment.