Charcoal toothbrushes are one of the latest trends in dental care.

No, not the kind of charcoal you grill with — we’re talking about activated charcoal.

Charcoal toothbrushes are intended to whiten teeth, freshen breath, and remove bacteria in ways that standard toothbrushes can’t. But many dentists are hesitant to endorse them for multiple reasons.

Recent studies show charcoal toothbrushes may be slightly more effective than normal toothbrushes. Read on to learn about the science behind charcoal toothbrushes, as well as their benefits and drawbacks.

The bristles of charcoal toothbrushes are infused with activated charcoal. When you brush your teeth with a charcoal toothbrush, you’re applying the charcoal directly to your teeth.

Dr. Pradeep Adatrow, DDS, MSD, board certified periodontist and prosthodontist, says this charcoal is a fine grain power obtained by oxidizing coal, olive pits, coconut shells, and other materials.

This powder is then activated by heating it to a high temperature, which makes it more porous and increases its surface area, according to orthodontist Dr. Ingrid Murra.

The benefits of using a charcoal toothbrush have gotten more scientific attention in recent years.

Some of these benefits include:

Whiter teeth

Charcoal toothbrushes remove stains on the teeth, leaving your smile looking brighter.

This is thanks to its highly absorbent properties. Adatrow says the activated charcoal binds to acidic components from things like coffee, tea, and wine in order to remove the stains they can leave behind.

This absorbency also increases your mouth’s pH level.

Bacteria removal

Charcoal toothbrushes have been found to have antibacterial properties.

In one 2018 study involving 50 patients, individuals were instructed to brush their teeth with both charcoal and standard brushes for 1 week each.

Researchers found that the charcoal toothbrushes had fewer bacteria on them than the regular toothbrushes did after 1 week of use, and that the non-charcoal toothbrush retained almost twice the amount of bacteria than the charcoal toothbrushes did.

Fresher breath

If you want fresh breath, you’ll need a toothbrush that removes plaque.

One recent study found that charcoal toothbrushes accomplished just that. Twenty-five people were instructed to brush their teeth twice daily after meals with both a nylon brush and a charcoal brush.

The charcoal bristles were found to remove more plaque than a regular toothbrush after 6 weeks of use. The charcoal bristles were also less worn than the regular toothbrush at the end of the study.

There are pros and cons to using a charcoal toothbrush. Because the popularity of these products is relatively new, there hasn’t been a lot of research on the long-term effects they might have.

In addition to being less readily available, the downsides of charcoal toothbrushes include:

Abrasive nature

Activated charcoal can aggravate the teeth by eroding their enamel. This abrasiveness has made charcoal toothbrushes ineligible for the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance.

When the enamel on the teeth wears away, it’s gone forever. This can lead to sensitive teeth and discoloring. Because of this, Adatrow says that activated charcoal shouldn’t be used on a long-term basis.

Additionally, Dr. Rhonda Kalasho, a double board certified dentist, advises that those with veneers, bonding, or crowns should not use activated charcoal.

“You will cause irreversible damage,” she said.

Charcoal toothbrushes should also be avoided if you’re prone to tooth decay.

Messy to use

The black hue of activated charcoal makes it an enemy to your bathroom sink.

“If you have porcelain sinks or countertops, charcoal can really start to darken them,” said Kalasho.

While you’ll experience less of a mess with a charcoal toothbrush compared with other charcoal products, the bristles can still wear out.

If they do, the activated charcoal may spill out, causing a mess that’s hard to reverse.

Not recommended by dentists

Most dentists have yet to give activated charcoal products their stamp of approval.

“I wouldn’t recommend using any charcoal-based dental products since there isn’t sufficient literature to support [them],” Murra said.

Additionally, both Dr. Ryan Naylor, DDS, and Dr. Mark Alexandrunas, DMD, of Premier Dental Ohio, say that if activated charcoal is ingested, it can bind with medications you may be taking and make them ineffective.

Other charcoal dental products

Besides toothbrushes, there are many trendy charcoal-based products on the market right now, including:

  • Charcoal toothpaste. This toothpaste made with activated charcoal is black in color.
  • Charcoal teeth-whitening strips. These are teeth whitening strips that are infused with activated charcoal. You leave them on your teeth for a recommended amount of time.
  • Charcoal whitening powder. This product is ideal for those who want to skip the whitening strips. Although you brush it onto your teeth, it begins in powder form.
Healthline

Research shows that charcoal toothbrushes may have some beneficial uses. They may be able to whiten teeth, reduce bad breath, and remove bacteria better than most traditional toothbrushes.

As a new product, though, its long-term drawbacks are not yet known. Additionally, most dentists have yet to recommend activated charcoal to their patients out of concern for possible side effects and lack of high-quality research.

More studies will need to be done to prove the effectiveness of charcoal toothbrushes.