Toothpaste doesn’t usually 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 this popular product stands at the moment.
Does Charcoal Toothpaste Work?
First, let’s be clear that the charcoal in toothpaste isn’t the kind you'll find in an artist's toolbox or a bag of grill briquettes. The charcoal 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. The big difference between the two types is that, during production, activated charcoal is exposed to a special gas that causes it to develop large pores. Those pores make the charcoal more absorbent, allowing it to soak up a variety of substances.
That’s the link between charcoal and teeth: as the pores bind with rough parts on the teeth, it can help remedy issues like surface stains.
Using charcoal as a teeth-cleaning method has a long history. In fact, the ancient Romans brushed their teeth with everything from charcoal to tree bark. Charcoal is included 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 (outer) stains, come from different sources: coffee, red wine, tobacco, and dark-coloured foods and drinks. They live on the enamel layer and can often be removed with toothpaste or surface whitening treatments.
Your type of tooth discolouration 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.
In other words, 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.
Charcoal toothpaste may have many benefits, but if you're prone to tooth cavities, 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 be black, but the charcoal incorporated into the paste is generally closer to baking soda's soft consistency. Many charcoal toothpastes also contain flavouring agents, just like any other whitening toothpaste.
Considering it's been used since Roman times, charcoal toothpaste is unlikely to disappear anytime soon. While research on its properties is still emerging, many people find that charcoal toothpaste is worth a try.
Social media makes it easy for certain ingredients to get 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.