Charcoal is one of the biggest current trends in wellness and cosmetics. 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. It’s become a trendy ingredient in commercial face masks and scrubs, and some people also swear by it for whitening their teeth. But is charcoal an effective teeth whitening agent? And is it safe? At Affinity Dental, we work closely with our clients, and are always available to answer questions about teeth whitening and oral care practices. Read on to learn more about using activated charcoal for teeth whitening, and how the Affinity Dental team can help you decide which whitening strategies are best for you. 

Today there are many charcoal toothpaste products available online and in drugstores. Many advertisements for charcoal toothpaste claim users will see a noticeably whiter smile after just one use. Manufacturers also have claimed anecdotal evidence that charcoal toothpaste prevents cavities or otherwise promotes better oral health (CNET News). However, most dental professionals warn that evidence is limited, and there is still no proof that charcoal toothpaste actually does the things that some advocates claim it does. Here we examine the claims for charcoal toothpaste, and whether there is evidence to support them. 

Charcoal Toothpaste Whitens Teeth…

Charcoal is mildly abrasive and is also able to absorb surface stains to some degree. This has led advocates to claim that activated charcoal in toothpaste helps remove surface stains on teeth. 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. There is currently no evidence that charcoal has any effect on stains below a tooth’s enamel, or that it has a natural whitening effect. We do know, however, that charcoal may cause staining on some teeth, as charcoal particles could accumulate in the cracks and crevices of older teeth. Dental professionals have concluded that while activated charcoal may be successful in removing some surface stains, there is not enough scientific evidence to support the claim of teeth whitening.

Charcoal Toothpaste is Safe for Daily Use…

Claims that charcoal toothpaste is safe for daily use are controversial. Most dentists believe that charcoal toothpaste is too abrasive for everyday use. Using a material that’s too abrasive on teeth will wear down enamel, making teeth more sensitive and possibly causing teeth to appear more yellow by exposing the dentin, a calcified yellow tissue. In addition, the effect of charcoal on dental restorations is not thoroughly understood. It is not yet known how charcoal affects the materials used to make veneers, bridges, crowns, and white fillings. At a minimum, particles of charcoal could build up between them, leaving a black or gray outline. There is also some evidence linking charcoal toothpaste to increased tooth decay, possibly because most charcoal toothpaste brands don’t contain fluoride, which helps keep tooth enamel strong, protecting teeth against cavities and decay. Most dental professionals agree that more research is needed on the long-term effects of charcoal toothpaste before it’s safety can be determined. A 2017 review advises that dentists should warn their patients to be cautious when using charcoal-based toothpastes due to its unproven claims and safety.

The 2017 study by the Journal of the American Dental Association (jada.ada.org) included a detailed literature review of charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices. The study, led by ADA dental professionals, concluded there is insufficient clinical and laboratory data to substantiate the safety and efficacy claims of charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices. The study’s authors recommended larger-scale and well-designed studies would be needed to establish conclusive evidence. Notably, JADA advised that dental clinicians should advise their patients to be cautious of using charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices.

If you are considering charcoal toothpaste for teeth whitening, consider the following:

  • It’s abrasive and may wear down tooth enamel and make teeth appear yellow.
  • It doesn’t remove stains below the enamel.
  • Everyday use could cause tooth sensitivity.
  • Most brands don’t 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.

If you are interested in effective teeth whitening, speak to the Affinity Dental team about proven, safe whitening strategies. At Affinity Dental, we can help you choose a method that is both safe and right for your specific needs. Our professional staff are experts at cosmetic teeth whitening; to learn more about the teeth whitening services at Affinity Dental, visit our teeth whitening page.  

Affinity Dental is a family dental practice located in La Mesa, California. At Affinity Dental, patients value the gentle manner and professional approach of their doctors and hygienists, and the office’s clean, comfortable, peaceful environment. Call (619) 697-2800 or visit https://affinitydentaloflamesa.com to learn more about the general and cosmetic dentistry services offered. Ready to show off a whiter smile? Book an appointment today!