Charcoal Teeth Whitening—Does It Work?
Does charcoal teeth whitening work, or is it all a marketing ploy? Tiege Hanley dives into the research to uncover the truth about activated charcoal dental products.
Activated charcoal products have been flying off the shelves lately. They’re in our food, our skin care and, most recently, our dental hygiene products. While many companies claim that activated charcoal toothpaste whitens your smile, it has some skeptics wondering: Does it actually work?
Every popular teeth-whitening solution has undergone scrutiny by the scientific community, and for good reason. Anything you put in your mouth—even if you aren’t swallowing it—is worth taking a closer look at.
So, what is the deal with activated charcoal for teeth whitening, and should you start using it? Here is what you need to know about charcoal teeth whitening:
- Activated charcoal is just charcoal that has been heated with gas to increase how porous it is.
- There is no strong evidence that activated charcoal can whiten teeth. In fact, it can do more harm than good by eroding enamel and causing tooth decay.
- Your best bet is to look for teeth-whitening products that have the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval.
How Does Activated Charcoal Whiten Teeth?
If you’ve been using charcoal face masks with moderate success, you may be curious about using activated charcoal for your teeth. Today, activated charcoal can now be found in a number of dental hygiene products including toothpastes, powders and capsules.
Whether you’re dipping your toothbrush into the powder, breaking open a capsule over your toothbrush or using toothpaste to brush your teeth, activated charcoal for teeth whitening generally works the same way by absorbing stains and odors from the teeth.
At least, that’s the theory behind activated charcoal for teeth whitening. While many companies claim that their dental products containing activated charcoal are effective, the science is mixed.
Does Charcoal Teeth Whitening Work?
Some people who use activated charcoal teeth-whitening products are convinced it helps whiten their teeth. However, the scientific community isn’t so sure about that claim.
In a 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, researchers conducted a literature review and found no convincing evidence that charcoal-based dental products provided any benefits to the teeth. On the contrary, they found that some studies reported unwanted side effects from activated charcoal, including enamel erosion and tooth decay (see claim: “…3 studies reported deleterious outcomes–increased caries, enamel abrasion, nonquantified negative impact…”)
A more recent study published in the Journal of Applied Oral Science compared toothpastes containing one the following: Microbeads, hydrogen peroxide, blue covarine and activated charcoal. At the end of the study, researchers found that activated charcoal had little whitening effect and was only slightly better than the toothpaste without added whitening agents (see claim: “…all whitening toothpastes were effective for whitening teeth when compared to a toothpaste without added whitening agents (TA). The best whitening performance was obtained with microbeads (3DW), followed by hydrogen peroxide (LWA) and blue covarine (WAD).”)
Can Charcoal Teeth Whitening Safely Whiten Your Teeth?
While activated charcoal may not be a superior teeth-whitener compared to other dental products, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Powerful teeth bleaching products can produce unwanted side effects such as teeth sensitivity, tooth decay and enamel erosion.
However, activated charcoal is still a teeth whitener and, as such, it should be used with caution. If you want to switch from regular toothpaste to one with activated charcoal, consider scheduling a dentist appointment within a few months so they can check your dental health.
If you want to safely whiten your teeth, stick to products with the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance. These products are held to strict requirements to ensure both their safety and efficacy.
While activated charcoal can potentially brighten your smile, it’s not without its risks. If you start using charcoal toothpaste or capsules for your teeth and begin noticing teeth sensitivity, stop using them immediately.
Talk to your dentist about alternative teeth-whitening solutions that are backed by science. At the very least, continue brushing your teeth twice a day to promote good dental health. To get in the habit of better dental care, consider making it part of your daily skin care routine.