Activated Charcoal for Teeth Whitening – Does it work?

Activated Charcoal for Teeth

Activated Charcoal for teeth whitening products are a fairly recent fad in the oral healthcare product market. 

It all started with activated charcoal tooth powder Facebook video ads going viral. 

These ads generally featured pretty young female models brushing with charcoal powder and showing a shocked face as their mouth turned black (wow who would have thought right?).

Wipe to a before and after shot showing the models real teeth.

These ads were often ripped from so-called ‘influencer’ Youtube videos like the one below.

A key factor in sales and marketing is having a point of difference, and these activated charcoal tooth powder ads are fashionable, quirky, and different from those for other toothpaste. 

This marketing and the associated product has enjoyed quite a bit of success, encouraging the introduction of related products, including ‘charcoal toothpaste’ and ‘charcoal toothbrushes’, which have charcoal embedded into the bristles.

Why Did this Fad Start?

There is increasing interest in alternative and natural tooth care and dental products. Charcoal fits the bill perfectly as it has a long history of oral usage, is ‘natural’ and cheap to produce.

The black color also offers plenty of marketing opportunities and a point of difference.

Does Activated Charcoal Really Whiten Teeth?

As of the time of writing, there have been no peer reviewed scientific studies published proving the effectiveness of activated charcoal for teeth whitening, oral hygiene or any of the claimed preventative and bad breath controlling effects. We will go into the research in more detail later.

That is not to say that activated charcoal for tooth whitening doesn’t work – we’ve already established it has a long history as a dentrifice – just that further research is needed to clinically prove its effectiveness.

Why Do People Think Charcoal Whitens Teeth?

Historically, charcoal was one of several natural ingredients used to clean teeth. Unlike materials such as salt, charcoal was not found to be overly abrasive to teeth and had some added advantage in that its absorbent properties that were thought to help control bad breath. 

In many countries, notably in the African subcontinent, charcoal is used to clean teeth because commercial toothpaste is not available in rural communities.

Charcoal VS Activated Charcoal - What’s the Difference?

Activated charcoal just means charcoal that is combined with other agents at a high temperature. This process creates a high absorptive capacity, i.e it’s great at sucking stuff up and binding it.

The World Health Organization (WHO) lists activated charcoal for the treatment of poisoning and overdoses

Activated charcoal has also been promoted for many different medical and healing purposes, including ‘internal cleansing’, as a cure for mild food poisoning and diarrhea, for weight-loss, for reducing flatulence and for lowering cholesterol levels.

Charcoal Tooth Powder VS Charcoal Toothpastes: Know the Difference

We need to make a distinction now between activated charcoal powder and ‘Charcoal’ toothpaste.

Activated charcoal tooth powder is 100% Activated charcoal, it may also be mixed with other ingredients but this will be clearly stated in most cases.

Charcoal toothpaste could be any kind of standard toothpaste with multiple other natural or chemical ingredients.

Now we understand the difference the question remains, can either of these activated charcoal teeth whitening products actually whiten our teeth?

Charcoal Toothpaste

help to remove dental plaque from teeth and increase the resistance of the tooth surface to carious (acid) attack.

The possible downside is that certain agents, mainly fluoride, may not be included in charcoal toothpaste because they will be absorbed by the charcoal, potentially reducing its whitening effect. 

Before purchasing a charcoal toothpaste, investigate the ingredients! The effect of activated charcoal in toothpaste is a combination of relatively mild abrasion and absorption of surface tooth staining.

Does Charcoal toothpaste whiten teeth?

There is currently only circumstantial evidence that the use of charcoal toothpaste has an effect on intrinsic staining of teeth – that means it does not whiten teeth below the surface layer or on the intrinsic whitening of the teeth.

The effect of charcoal in toothpaste on materials forming fillings, crowns, and veneers is unknown.

Charcoal Toothpaste for Preventing Tooth Stains Recurring

Charcoal-containing toothpaste MAY be more effective when used to delay the recurrence of surface tooth staining following professional dental scaling and polishing.

Activated Charcoal Tooth Powder:

Does Activated Charcoal Powder Whiten Teeth?

The first thing most people notice about activated charcoal powder is that it stains everything.

The natural assumption is that it will do the same to your teeth.

In fact, this is not true, research shows that even though it temporarily makes the mouth look very black it has the same effect in the mouth as it does when ingested i.e it pulls toxins and other nasties from the mouth, 

But that being said, there is no evidence that it removes stains.

What activated charcoal can do is leave you with extremely clean and smooth feeling teeth after brushing with it, but this in itself does not evidence that it whitens teeth or has any other provable oral hygiene benefits.

Charcoal Side Effects

Particles of charcoal in charcoal powder or charcoal toothpaste may accumulate in crevices and other tooth defects, including cracks in the teeth of older people. 

In addition, particles of charcoal may build up in the gaps between dental restorations and the teeth, resulting in a greyish or black line around restoration margins, which frankly, looks terrible and is the exact opposite of what you want.

Such negative effects on the perfect smile may also mean you have to spend money on the replacement of the affected fillings, veneers or crowns.

There have been some suggestions that charcoal particles left in the mouth after brushing may have beneficial antimicrobial effects but the evidence for this is weak. 

In fact, because charcoal powder and toothpaste are black in color and having to brush off the color tends to prolong brushing or the use of excessive brushing force, it may lead to the abrasion of teeth, which is another huge fail.


Activated charcoal tooth powder, toothpaste, and related products may help to whiten teeth

There are plenty of amazing natural teeth whitening products you can use at home to whiten your teeth including coconut oil and turmeric.

For a huge breakdown on all your teeth whitening options check out our Ultimate Teeth Whitening Guide: XXL Edition.