Does Charcoal Teeth Whitening Work?

If you regularly scroll through social media posts, you've probably come across a photo or two of a smiling mouth with teeth that are covered in what looks like a black foam.Charcoal toothpaste is a hot topic, and it might have you wondering if you should trade in your regular old toothpaste for a tube of black paste. But does charcoal teeth whitening work?

What's in Charcoal Toothpaste?

As you might guess, a key ingredient in charcoal toothpaste is charcoal. It's not the same charcoal you'd find in an artist's toolbox or in a bag of briquettes meant for the grill, though. The charcoal used in toothpaste is what's known as activated charcoal.

As the National Institutes of Health points out, activated charcoal is similar in some ways to regular old charcoal. It can come from wood, peat, coconut shell, petroleum or coal. The big difference between the two is that during production, activated charcoal is exposed to a special gas that causes it to develop large pores or spaces. Those large pores make the charcoal more absorbent, allowing it to soak up a variety of substances.

Beyond the activated charcoal, there could be any number of other ingredients in charcoal toothpaste. You might find mint flavoring, coconut oil or baking soda in a toothpaste with charcoal. Some do not contain fluoride, but some do. Others aren't even in toothpaste form, but come as tablets or powder.

Does Charcoal Whiten Teeth?

Activated charcoal's claim to fame is that it can absorb chemicals; however, it's unclear if the toothpaste absorbs stains from the teeth's enamel or if it just scrubs the teeth's surface.

Ultimately, the jury is still out on the effectiveness of charcoal teeth whitening. A study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association explains that more studies need to be conducted on the subject.

Is Charcoal an Option for You?

The type of tooth discoloration you have may influence the type of whitening treatment that will be most effective. For some people, a whitening toothpaste might be all they need to get rid of surface stains and brighten their teeth.

Social media makes it easy for certain ingredients to get crowned the next big thing in oral care. Above all, if you're looking to experiment, make sure that you select a trusted brand before you buy a tube of black toothpaste.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.