Check! Or not . . .

Merriam-Webster offers me three meanings for charcoal as a noun (I paraphrase, but only slightly):

  • a dark or black porous carbon prepared from vegetable or animal substances crisped in a kiln
  • a piece or pencil of said carbon used in drawing, or the drawing prepared therewith
  • a dark grey (a lovely dark grey, not black at all, really, which you wouldn’t necessarily expect after the lead-off definition although they do cover themselves with that “or”)

To these I now add a fourth:

  • a completely unsuitable additive for toothpaste

This needs just a smidgen of backstory.

About 10 years ago my then-standard toothpaste started burning my mouth. Not, like, literally burning it, but nonetheless producing a burning sensation nasty enough that continuing it was contraindicated.

The details of my research into possible culprit-ingredients are lost in the mists of time. Suffice it to say that I ended up with a new and slightly niche toothpaste that did not burn my mouth literally or sensationally, yet not so niche that it was a nuisance to buy. Indeed, my local drugstore carried it, albeit on the highest shelf, which, if I’m honest, is better than the lowest shelf.

So far, so OK, but products come and go on whichever shelf. Recently I had to buy a differently formulated toothpaste from the same company. I checked the label to see that it had the key features.

Fluoride? Anti-cavity? Check! I think this is actually one thing, but hey.

Gently whitens teeth? Safe for enamel? Again, I suspect these are saying the same thing in different ways, but never mind: I was just looking for any suggestion that this would not burn my mouth. Check!

Wintergreen? As long as it isn’t some icky fruity taste, I don’t much care. Meh.

With charcoal? Well, I wasn’t looking for that, but I know charcoal can be a filter for water, so that seems . . . OK?

This past week I opened the tube, and I can now say with confidence that “with charcoal” is not OK. We’re done here.








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13 Responses to Check! Or not . . .

  1. Good grief! Wintergreen is one of my favourite minty flavours. I was falling for your sales pitch and contemplating a change of toothpaste until I saw the image. Is that a photographic metaphor for your experience or the actual stuff in the tube?

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      That’s the actual stuff. I almost fainted when I first saw it.

      • Some kind of warning on the label should be required. I did look it up and there has not been sufficient testing of the product to know if it accomplishes its claims. Charcoal can be ingested medicinally, but toothpaste’s other ingredients should not be. The article I was reading also warned users to be prepared for a messy clean-up after brushing. I’m sorry you had to go through this little nightmare to warn the rest of us!

        • Isabel Gibson says:

          Laurna – I was surprised there wasn’t a “Don’t be a-scared, it’s black” warning on the label. To me, it shows a certain obliviousness to the norms of toothpaste! I tried it once, and it *was* a mess cleaning up, as your research noted. On the other hand, it didn’t burn . . . 🙂

  2. Tom Watson says:

    Really? Charcoal?
    Who’d a thunk it?

  3. Judith Umbach says:


    My niche toothpaste has begun to burn my throat. I am returning to plain old Colgate – if one can find plain old.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – Good hunting! My dental hygienist said that she thinks women are more susceptible than men to burning toothpaste, but maybe it’s just that she hears about it more from women.

  4. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – maybe black turns white with usage.
    The disgusting black is just an indicator of some kind ???

  5. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – maybe it’s a usage indicator. Black turns white with usage..

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      John – I like that idea, but the one time I used it, all I got was a bunch of grey/gray foam. Maybe I didn’t brush long enough . . .

  6. Eric James Hrycyk says:

    Perhaps you should consider brush and water only…..removes the most common cause of tooth decay….plaque just fine.

    American Dental Association says patients who brushed their teeth only using a toothbrush without paste saw a 63 per cent reduction in plaque buildup and a 55 per cent drop in bleeding.

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