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 actual real teeth (rather than the fake yellow-stained ones shown at the start of the video) and voila – a Shopify dropshipping craze was well and truly established.
These ads were often ripped from so-called ‘influencer’ Youtube videos like the one below (skip it if you don’t want your intelligence to decrease by 50 IQ points from viewing).
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?
Dollar, dollar bills y’all… Just like any other product, charcoal teeth whitening products are designed to make a profit.
Package it in a tub and slap on a sticker and sell it for $25 and what have you got? The answer is a huge profit margin.
How Much Does Your Charcoal Tooth Powder Actually Cost?
We don’t want to derail this article by going too deep into dropshipping business models and economics but the short story is, 90% of charcoal products you see advertised on Facebook or mentioned in blogs are sourced from AliExpress and drop-shipped to you for a tidy profit.
Recognize this packaging?
The label may be a bit different but it probably looks familiar. And did you know that you, or anyone else can order a single tub of this product direct from AliExpress yourself for less than $1?
In fact, in the US you can buy activated charcoal caps for $5 from most any large pharmacy and guess what? It’s exactly the same charcoal as you’re paying $25 for in tub guaranteed to make a mess of your bathroom sink.
Does Activated Charcoal Really Whiten Teeth?
As of the time of writing, there have been no 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.
Now – we can’t prove a negative – so, many people who advocate or sell activated charcoal tooth powder and related products will focus on the fact that there are no scientific studies DISPROVING these things.
This is pretty dumb when you think about it, but it’s a well-proven marketing trick and most people never question anything.
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?
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 NO 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.
So what’s with all the hype around activated charcoal for teeth whitening if there is no evidence to support it working?
Cutting Through the Hype
Let’s break it down and we will prove to you right now beyond a shadow of a doubt that activated charcoal DOES NOT WHITEN TEETH.
Perform a google search and the No 2 result is this:
Great! We like the Wellness Mama, she has some awesome articles, but here’s the thing, this article i written with the implied tone that it’s medically authoritative, and, sorry Wellness Mama, this is BS.
There is even a note to say that it is medically reviewed by one DR. SCOTT SOERRIES, MD.
While we are in no way calling into question Dr. Soerries medical credentials, what exactly has he medically reviewed? Is he even a dental professional?
Because we searched and there is not a single link in this article to a peer-reviewed medical paper supporting the theory that activated charcoal whitens teeth.
If we were feeling suspicious we would say this was there just to bolster the feeling that this is medically proven information and to provide additional ‘social proof’ – you be the judge.
Next, we would note the Wellness Mama also has an affiliate disclaimer:
Nothing wrong with that at all, but all the links to activated charcoal for teeth whitening products in this article are affiliate links – so, do you really think this is an honest medically-based article? Again, you be the judge.
There are 100’s of similar articles on the web and many appear in the first two Google search pages for activated charcoal for teeth whitening type searches – they all contain affiliate links.
The Actual Evidence that Activated Charcoal Whitens Teeth (Hint: there isn’t any)
After saying all that we had really better have some ACTUAL EVIDENCE to back up our own conclusion right?
To be honest it really wasn’t that hard to find.
In fact, a peer-reviewed, academic research paper on PubMed has already done this for us.
They reviewed and consolidated 100 plus individual studies on the efficacy of activated charcoal for whitening teeth. There are plenty more studies, some of which you may see referenced in other ‘propaganda’ affiliate blog posts trying to sell activated charcoal products, but these difference is the studies included here met the criteria of being controlled studies.
TLDR: These studies aren’t BS marketing tools, they are real medical research.
What the Study Did
“The authors’ literature search identified 118 potentially eligible articles. Thirteen studies reported brushing the teeth with raw charcoal or soot; however, none of these studies met the inclusion criteria. Two studies offered nonspecific caries reductions, 3 studies reported deleterious outcomes (increased caries, enamel abrasion, nonquantified negative impact), and 1 study indicated only that brushing with raw charcoal had no adverse effects on oral hygiene. Seven other studies reported only on the use of charcoal for oral hygiene.”(Pubmed)
What it means: 3 studies reported negative effects of using charcoal for teeth whitening, the rest showed no evidence of any beneficial effects.
Or, in their own words:
“The results of this literature review showed insufficient clinical and laboratory data to substantiate the safety and efficacy claims of charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices.” (Pubmed)
What is even worse is this conclusion:
“Internet advertisements included unsubstantiated therapeutic claims-such as antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and oral detoxification, as well as potentially misleading product assertions. One-third of the charcoal dentifrices contained bentonite clay, and 1 contained betel leaves.” (Pubmed)
We can sum that finding up better in pictures than we can in words:
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.
The conclusion is fairly obvious.
Activated charcoal tooth powder, toothpaste, and related products DO NOT WHITEN TEETH.
In addition, they may stain your dentrifices leaving you with greyish or black looking teeth on the meeting lines.
There is also zero evidence to support any of the other claimed benefits of using activated charcoal for teeth whitening, so, don’t waste your time or money.
For a huge breakdown on all your teeth whitening options check out our Ultimate Teeth Whitening Guide: XXL Edition.