Toothpaste usually doesn’t make the headlines. However, it’s likely you’ve been hearing a lot in recent years about charcoal toothpaste, the black toothpaste that promises a whiter smile. But what’s the real story behind the buzz? Here’s a primer on where things are now for this popular product.
Charcoal Toothpaste - Does It Work?
Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications
First, let’s be clear that the charcoal in toothpaste isn’t the same charcoal you'll find in an artist's toolbox or bag of grill briquettes. The type used in toothpaste is known as activated charcoal.
Activated charcoal is like regular charcoal in that it can come from wood, peat, coconut shell, petroleum, or coal. However, the big difference is that during production, activated charcoal is exposed to a special gas causing it to develop large pores. Those pores make the charcoal more absorbent, enabling it to soak up a variety of substances.
And that’s the link between charcoal and teeth. It can help with issues like surface stains.
Using charcoal as a teeth-cleaning method has a long history. The ancient Romans brushed with everything from charcoal to tree bark. Charcoal is also in a toothpaste recipe from a 19th-century English homemaker's guide! But does charcoal toothpaste work?
There's a difference between removing surface stains and whitening. Surface stains, also known as extrinsic stains, come from different sources: coffee, red wine, tobacco, and dark-colored foods and drinks. They live on the enamel layer and can often be removed with toothpaste or surface whitening treatments.
Your type of tooth discoloration may influence the kind 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.
That means toothpaste with activated charcoal and other ingredients can likely remove the evidence of your coldbrew habit, but it probably won’t match the results of a professional whitening treatment.
There may be many benefits to charcoal toothpaste, but if you're prone to tooth decay, be aware that not all brands of charcoal toothpaste contain fluoride. Most dentists want their patients to use fluoride in some form, so if you do want to use charcoal toothpaste without fluoride, your dentist may recommend a supplemental fluoride rinse to help strengthen your enamel.
If you’re considering using charcoal toothpaste, don't worry about the texture. It may have charcoal, but the charcoal incorporated into the paste is likely to be closer to baking soda's soft consistency. Many charcoal toothpastes also contain flavoring agents, just like any other whitening toothpaste.
Considering it's been used since Roman times, it's unlikely to disappear anytime soon. While the research on its properties is still emerging, many find charcoal toothpaste is worth a try.
Remember, social media makes it easy for certain ingredients to be crowned the next big thing in oral care. If you're looking to experiment with a charcoal toothpaste, make sure to select a trusted brand.
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.