Charcoal is one of the biggest trends in the world of wellness and cosmetics. It’s become a trendy ingredient in commercial face masks and scrubs, and some people also swear by it for whitening their teeth.
Activated charcoal — the type used in beauty products and toothpaste — is a fine grain powder made from wood, coconut shells, and other natural substances that are oxidized under extreme heat.
There are many charcoal toothpaste products available online and in most drugstores today. It’s highly absorbent, and it’s used medically to absorb and remove toxins. But does it really work for teeth whitening?
Read on to learn about the benefits and drawbacks of using charcoal toothpaste.
More research is needed on the long-term effects of charcoal toothpaste. A 2017 review warns that dentists should advise their patients to be cautious when using charcoal-based toothpaste due to unproven claims and safety concerns.
Here’s what we do know about charcoal toothpaste so far:
- Charcoal toothpaste is too abrasive for everyday use. Using a material that’s too abrasive on your teeth can wear down your enamel. This may make your teeth look more yellow by exposing the dentin, a calcified yellow tissue. It can also make your teeth more sensitive.
- Most charcoal toothpaste brands do not contain fluoride. Fluoride helps keep your tooth enamel strong, which helps to protect your teeth against cavities and decay. There is some evidence linking charcoal toothpaste to increased tooth decay.
- It may cause staining on some teeth. Charcoal particles could accumulate in the cracks and crevices of older teeth.
- Charcoal’s effect on dental restorations is not known. It’s not yet known how charcoal affects the materials used to make veneers, bridges, crowns, and white fillings. Particles of charcoal could build up between them, leaving a black or gray outline.
Activated charcoal in toothpaste may help remove surface stains on your teeth. Charcoal is mildly abrasive and is also able to absorb surface stains to some degree.
There is no evidence, though, that it has any effect on stains below a tooth’s enamel, or that it has a natural whitening effect.
In order to whiten teeth, a product needs to work on stains on the surface, as well as intrinsic stains, which are those below the enamel. Intrinsic stains are caused by things like certain medications, overexposure to fluoride, or underlying medical conditions.
While activated charcoal does have some proven benefits, there is not enough scientific evidence to include teeth whitening as one of them.
To date, the only known benefits of charcoal toothpaste are the following:
- It may help remove surface stains on your teeth.
- It may improve bad breath.
- It may help prevent staining when used occasionally after a professional cleaning.
The cons of using charcoal toothpaste include the following:
- It’s abrasive and may wear down tooth enamel, making teeth appear yellow.
- It does not remove stains below the enamel.
- Everyday use could cause tooth sensitivity.
- Most brands do not contain fluoride, which helps prevent cavities and tooth decay.
- It could stain older teeth and dental restorations, like veneers, bridges, crowns, and white fillings.
- Its long-term effects and safety are still not known.
You have plenty of safe and effective options if you’re looking to whiten your teeth. Many options are over-the-counter whitening products endorsed by the American Dental Association (ADA).
Professional whitening products are also available through dentists.
Your options include:
- whitening toothpastes
- whitening strips
- in-office whitening
- dentist-supervised, at-home whitening
When looking for teeth whitening products, look for ones that have the ADA seal of acceptance and ones that contain blue covarine and hydrogen peroxide.
These whitening technologies are the most effective, according to a 2019 study that compared whitening toothpaste and technologies, including activated charcoal.
Natural home remedies
Although these options may not be as effective as some commercial teeth whitening products, they’re more natural and are easy to use. Talk with a dentist first to find out if these options are right for you:
Regular brushing, including brushing after meals and drinking beverages known to stain teeth (like coffee, tea, and red wine), can help you maintain a whiter smile.
Although charcoal toothpaste is getting a lot of attention and press, it’s not more effective than other toothpastes or at-home whitening products on the market.
It may help remove surface stains, but the long-term use of this product is still unknown due to limited studies. Speak with a dentist about the best whitening option for you.