There has been a recent trend on social media of people whitening their teeth using activated charcoal. If you have ever wondered if you can really whiten your teeth this way, what the heck the process might entail, or whether or not it really works, then you have come to the right place. Read on to find out everything you need to know about teeth whitening and activated charcoal.

What is activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal is very similar to the regular charcoal you can fire up your barbeque with, however it is specifically used for medical applications. It’s created by heating up charcoal using a gas that creates large pores in the mineral which trap chemicals. Activated charcoal is more traditionally used to treat intestinal gas, cholestasis during pregnancy, and lower cholesterol levels. It is odourless, tasteless, and can be purchased from health food stores and pharmacies in the form of tablets.

How does it work?

The activated charcoal’s pores bind with rough parts on teeth, usually surface stains and plaque, making it easier to remove the yellowing substances. Once the charcoal has been given enough time to stick to your teeth, it can be removed and when it is, the mineral takes the plaque, food particles, and surface stains with it. This is how the activated charcoal succeeds in whitening teeth – by getting rid of surface stains in one fell swoop. However, because it latches onto grittiness found on the teeth, activated charcoal does not change the colour of teeth that are deeply stained or naturally yellowing. For this, more drastic whitening measures need to be taken such as professional bleaching.

Is it safe?

Activated charcoal is safe to ingest, however the abrasiveness of the mineral can damage the enamel of your teeth if it’s scrubbed against them. Be very careful to only lightly graze teeth when applying the activated charcoal to them so not scratching, chipping, or other damage occurs. Do not perform this procedure if you have any open wounds, cuts, or abrasions.

Always consult your dentist before trying a procedure like this as you may not see the results you expect due to your specific situation. If you do not have a dentist, or are looking for a new dental practice, you can find your perfect match using 123Dentist’s database of the best dental practices in the lower mainland.

So, how do you do it?

The first step in whitening your teeth with activated charcoal is to purchase the mineral from your local health food store or pharmacy. Generally, the mineral is sold in tablet form so the next step is to grind up 1-2 tablets, which is about 1-2 teaspoons worth, in a container. Once the charcoal is a fine dust, add just enough water to form a paste. The next step is to apply the paste directly onto your teeth, which do not necessarily have to be clean, making sure to only dab or tap the mixture onto teeth, rather than rubbing it on, to avoid damaging your teeth. Leave the activated charcoal paste on your teeth for three minutes to ensure that it has had enough time to bind with surface stains on your teeth, then thoroughly rinse your mouth out several times before brushing your teeth clean.

Charcoal is the CBD of the oral care industry—it’s suddenly everywhere and in everything. Kendall Jenner is even hawking a charcoal-based tooth brand called Moon on her Instagram. Fans of charcoal-infused toothpaste claim it whitens teeth and freshens breath better than a dollop of any other toothpaste on the drugstore shelves, and nowadays you can find the black stuff (in its activated persona, not the briquettes used for cookouts) in everything from supplement pills to face masks. But new studies have called into question whether charcoal is actually doing more harm than good when it comes to your teeth. Here’s everything you need to know about the charcoal toothpaste trend.

Commonly found in water filters, activated charcoal is essentially a form of carbon that’s been treated to make the surface of its particles porous. All of those little nooks and crannies act like magnets for other particles (like the aforementioned dirt and oil) which it absorbs, allowing all of those unwelcome substances to be swept away when the charcoal is washed off.

“Activated charcoal toothpastes are a rebirth of ancient medicine techniques. In theory, it binds to everything in its path—stains, tartar, bacteria, viruses, and maybe even your tonsils,” explains cosmetic dentist Peter Auster. Charcoal is so powerful that it’s commonly used in hospitals and emergency rooms to treat patients who are suffering from poisoning or a drug overdose.

Is Charcoal Toothpaste Safe?

A review in the British Dental Journal from early 2019 found that charcoal provides little protection against tooth decay, and there is limited scientific evidence to support the other health claims. In fact, adding powdered charcoal to toothpaste can actually make things worse. “When used too often in people with fillings, it can get into them and become difficult to get out,” Dr. Joseph Greenwall-Cohen, co-author of the study from the University of Manchester Dental School, told the BBC. “Charcoal particles can also get caught up in the gums and irritate them.”

At only $4, this natural and charcoal-free toothpaste is so good you’re bound to reorder it again and again until you eventually just subscribe.

There are also concerns about the abrasiveness of charcoal, which some say could damage enamel if used regularly, as well as charcoal’s tendency to absorb all sorts of things it comes into contact with, including good things like medications. Others argue that charcoal isn’t specifically bad for teeth, it simply won’t do much for your smile in the longterm since the active ingredient isn’t in contact with the tooth surface for enough time to have a meaningful whitening effect. Lituchy advises erring on the side of caution if you’re using a charcoal-infused paste and brushing very gently to avoid wearing down the surface enamel, which can make teeth more prone to staining in the long run.

The aforementioned review also pointed out that many charcoal-infused and natural toothpastes are formulated without fluoride, which dentists strongly recommend for preventing tooth decay. (Some studies have suggested a topical application of fluoride may be ultimately more effective than ingesting it through drinking water.). However, if you live in an area with fluoride in your drinking water and sit in a dentist’s chair once or twice a year, you’d likely be fine brushing with a non-fluoridated natural toothpaste. “Activated charcoal can be used as a supplement to brushing with regular toothpaste for people who are seeking a whiter smile, but it cannot be used in place of it,” says Lituchy. “Regular toothpaste gives us the fluoride we need to fight dental decay so it’s necessary to keep it as part of a daily regimen.”

Shop These Charcoal-Free Toothpastes

Does Charcoal Whiten Teeth?

There’s a difference between removing surface stains and whitening. Surface stains, also known as extrinsic stains, come from the usual suspects: coffee, red wine, tobacco, and dark colored foods and drinks. They live on the enamel layer and can generally be removed with toothpastes or surface whitening treatments. Deeper, intrinsic stains are dark coloring that comes from within the tooth, sometimes as a result of trauma, weak enamel, certain types of medication, and even overuse of fluoride. Think of these as the underlying color of your teeth; no matter how dedicated you are to whitening the surface, a major lightening of tooth color can only come from bleaching treatments that penetrate below the outer surface of teeth.

“I recommend a charcoal toothpaste to remove surface stains but not to whiten teeth,” says cosmetic dentist Gregg Lituchy, adding, “It is difficult to actually whiten a tooth with any toothpaste, but those with charcoal do remove surface stains effectively.” All of which is to say that a brush with activated charcoal can definitely go to town on the signs of your coldbrew habit, but it will never equal what an in-office whitening treatment can do.

What’s The Deal With Detoxing?

As for those claims of “detoxifying” the mouth, while charcoal can lift away plaque and food particles that lead to bad breath, the effect won’t be much more dramatic than what you’d get with any other toothpaste. Unlike your liver and kidneys, the teeth and gums don’t perform a detoxifying function of the body, and since so-called toxins aren’t generally hanging out in your mouth anyway, there’s not much point in using your tooth-cleaning to purge them.

As for those concerned about charcoal absorbing medications, the good news is that charcoal really only performs any significant degree of absorption when it comes into prolonged contact with medications in the digestive tract. Provided you’re rinsing out your charcoal tooth treatment rather than swallowing it, there’s very little chance of the activated charcoal on your teeth effecting your prescriptions.

The bottom line:

Use charcoal toothpaste if you absolutely love having your mouth turn a stunning shade of black, but don’t expect it to magically cure dental issues in the absence of proper oral hygiene.

Charcoal Teeth Whitening Dangers

Even if you don’t spend that much time browsing your social media feeds, you’ve likely heard of or encountered some of the popular “healthy living” trends in recent years. All of a sudden, it seems like everyone is eating quinoa bowls, drinking matcha lattes and brushing their teeth with charcoal.

Charcoal teeth whitening has been a growing trend on social media networks. Images of people brushing their teeth with a black foamy substance are certainly compelling, but might also leave you wondering about potential charcoal teeth whitening dangers.

If you’re interested in using charcoal to try to get a brighter smile, here’s what you need to know first.

What Is Charcoal Teeth Whitening?

One of the most important things to know and understand about charcoal teeth whitening is that it doesn’t involve using barbecue briquettes or charcoal artist’s pencils to scrub and clean your teeth. Instead, the active ingredient in charcoal teeth whitening products and charcoal toothpaste tends to be activated charcoal.

As the U.S. National Library of Medicine points out, activated charcoal is meant specifically for medicinal use. To make it “activated,” regular old charcoal is heated alongside of a gas, which causes the charcoal to develop large pores. The pores make the charcoal absorbent, allowing it to trap compounds like poisons and intestinal gas.

You might find activated charcoal for teeth whitening in several forms. In some cases, it is sold as a powder that you apply to the teeth with a damp toothbrush. Certain types of toothpaste also contain it. When applied to the teeth, activated charcoal supposedly traps and lifts away stains for a whitening effect. However, brushing with charcoal may have a few risks.

  • Enamel erosion. Along with activated charcoal’s ability to absorb stains, many people also credit its abrasiveness as a key to its whitening abilities. But, as the American Dental Association warns, it is likely that non-dentist-approved charcoal powder or toothpaste is too abrasive, which may cause enamel erosion. Along with making your teeth more sensitive, enamel erosion may make your teeth look more yellow. This is because worn enamel may expose the yellowish dentin underneath.
  • Increased risk of tooth decay. Another potential issue with using activated charcoal to whiten your teeth is that doing so might increase the risk of decay and cavities. Many charcoal toothpaste products don’t contain fluoride, a mineral that helps strengthen your teeth and make them more resistant to decay. Although you can get fluoride from other sources, such as tap water, the amount you get from those other sources might not be enough to protect your teeth. In some cases, charcoal teeth whitening may increase the risk of tooth decay because people tend to use it instead of brushing their teeth or flossing. If you are going to give charcoal teeth whitening a try, it’s a good idea to use it alongside your regular brushing and flossing habit and not as a substitute.
  • Unsafe ingredients. When evaluating charcoal teeth whitening products, you have to use your best judgment. A study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association reveals that internet ads for charcoal dental products often made unsubstantiated claims regarding the clinical safety and effectiveness of their products. The study also noted that one-third of the charcoal dentifrices contained bentonite clay. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has occasionally issued warnings to consumers advising them not to use products containing bentonite clay because the clay has been found to contain lead.

What You Can Do If You Want a Whiter Smile

If you have educated yourself about the potential dangers of charcoal teeth whitening but still want to give it a try, ask your dentist for recommendations. Your dentist can help you select from the at-home and in-office teeth whitening treatments that are available. The one that’s best for you depends on your budget, the type of results you want and how quickly you want to see results. If you and your dentist choose a teeth whitening method together, you don’t have to worry about the risk of unsafe ingredients or enamel erosion.

Have you heard about the activated charcoal teeth whitening craze? It is rapidly becoming one of the most popular ways to whiten teeth, but why? It seem counterintuitive, how can rubbing a black powder over your pearly whites actually take away stains instead of leaving them black as coal? People are often shocked when they first see activated charcoal being used in this way, but the truth is it has been a component of dental care for a lot longer than you think. Let’s take a closer look at activated charcoal, how it might whiten your teeth, and everything else you need to know about this huge beauty trend.

What Is Activated Charcoal?

Don’t just run out and get regular charcoal to start brushing with, activated charcoal is special and you need to get this variety to potentially reap the whitening benefits. According to WebMD, activated charcoal is formed after regular charcoal’s surface area is expanded through a combination of increased heat and gas or some other activating agent. These complex chemical changes give you what is popularly known as activated charcoal.

The History Behind Activated Charcoal and Teeth Whitening

Charcoal has been significant for centuries, and has been used for everything from treating water to combating toxic poisonings. In fact, early versions of toothpaste including the one that the Romans used, often called for ground charcoal as one of the ingredients. While these uses were not specific to teeth whitening, they do prove that charcoal has been important to many societies for a very long time. It isn’t surprising that people are still discovering new uses for it.

How Do People Whiten with Activated Charcoal?

Whitening with activated charcoal looks a little strange, which is probably why it has gotten so much attention on the web recently. You’ve probably scrolled through one of your social feeds and noticed a video of someone brushing their teeth with something black. That’s how it looks when you brush with activated charcoal, like you are using a black toothpaste.

How to Brush Your Teeth with Activated Charcoal

  1. First, obtain activated (not regular) charcoal that will be safe for you to brush your teeth with to get them white.
  2. Then, get a special toothbrush that is just for your charcoal brushing.
  3. Mix the powder with some water to make a paste, and put the paste on the brush.
  4. Then, brush the paste on your teeth for a few minutes (typically just two or three).
  5. Now comes a very important part, spit out the charcoal carefully. You don’t want to get it all over your outfit or bathroom.
  6. Then, rinse out your mouth with water and spit it out.

Repeat the rinse and spit steps several times until you do not see any more charcoal powder on your teeth, gums, or anywhere else in your mouth. Otherwise it might migrate back to your teeth making your smile look unappealing and black.

The Dentist Verdict on Activated Charcoal for Whitening

Dentist Joseph Banker told Prevention that it did look like it had improved the whiteness of his teeth, but he also noted it wasn’t the neatest option. Blogger xoJane looked into the reason behind why activated charcoal seems to have a whitening effect, and her doctor Dr. Jessica Emery said it’s because the activated charcoal is attracted to tannins. Tannins are those things that lurk in your favorite dark colored drinks and leave behind ugly stains on your teeth. So if you are seeing lots of tannin stains from drinking red wine or something similar, it stands to reason that activated charcoal brushing might be able to help.

The Non-Abrasive Alternative to Whitening with Activated Charcoal Powder

Not convinced that activated charcoal is right for you? Pearly Whites have developed new whitening strips that contain activated charcoal. Neat, tidy, easy to use and most importantly a gentle and non-abrasive alternative.

These are currently on special offer at $ 29.95 $ 14.97, a discount of $ 14.98.

Specially formulated for people with sensitive teeth, these whitening strips have been infused with both the natural whitening power of activated charcoal and the antibacterial properties of coconut oil. They are not nearly as messy as brushing with charcoal, where the powder can get everywhere, not to mention how dark it is on your teeth while you use it. You have to be really careful and rinse thoroughly when you use activated charcoal to whiten your teeth. Otherwise you risk flashing people a smile that’s covered in black paste, which pretty much defeats the purpose of whitening.

Whitening your teeth with activated charcoal is a natural way to get rid of some of the unsightly surface stains that might be lingering on your teeth. It is a trade-off, because the process can be a bit messy and has varying results depending on the person and how stained their teeth look when they start the process. Talk to your dentist and get their take on using activated charcoal in your whitening routine. It never hurts to ask!

Learn more about what your smile says about you and your health.

Make This DIY Activated Charcoal Whitening Toothpaste For Naturally Pearly Whites

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Name one person who doesn’t want whiter teeth . . . we’ll wait.

Whether your beauty routine is super low key or mega glam, white, pristine teeth is a universally coveted look and one of the simplest things you can do to look fresher and more pulled together.

After all, every time we talk to friends, fam, strangers at the grocery store, our teeth are showing . . . and we’d prefer them to be pearly white – not act as a dead giveaway to our coffee or tea addiction.

Enter DIY teeth whitening!

There are oodles of store-bought options lining shelves to get your teeth whiter. From whitening strips to daily toothpastes or charcoal polishes – options abound, but many tend to be incredibly pricey (who wants to shell out $40 on a pack of whitening strips?!) and almost all have ingredients you can’t pronounce (and therefore probably don’t want in your mouth, right?).

Luckily, all you need is a few minutes to whip up your own DIY whitening toothpaste, featuring the ingredient of the moment for whitening: activated charcoal.

This activated charcoal toothpaste recipe costs pennies on the dollar and will keep in your bathroom in a jar for months if stored in a cool, dark place (like your medicine cabinet).

In addition to charcoal, baking soda gently polishes away stains plus kills acid to keep the mouth alkaline and healthy. Coconut oil lends a subtle flavor and also acts as a triple threat anti-viral, anti-microbial, anti-decay properties.

Check Out 50 Great Coconut Oil Uses Here

Activated charcoal works its magic by lifting stains and toxins from the teeth and mouth, leaving the mouth squeaky clean and the surface of your teeth visibly whiter within a few uses.

While we’re on the subject, peep our comprehensive guide: 10 Ways to Incorporate Activated Charcoal Into Your Health and Beauty Routine

Finally, add a few drops of your favorite essential oils for some added zing and flavor and bam – you’ve got affordable, easy and effective DIY whitening toothpaste!

Make Your Own Activated Charcoal Toothpaste for DIY Teeth Whitening – Here’s How

What you need:

  • ¼ cup coconut oil (virgin, unrefined, organic is best)
  • 1 tsp. activated charcoal powder
  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • A few drops of essential oils (we recommend peppermint or lemon)

Directions for making your activated charcoal toothpaste:

Start by melting the coconut oil in a double boiler or in the microwave until a liquid. Stir in the baking soda, and then blend in the activated charcoal powder (you can also use charcoal tablets and break open a few capsules to get the amount of powder you need.)

Sprinkle in a few drops of your favorite essential oil (this is optional), and give it one more good stir to blend. Store in a glass container in a cool, dry place.

This Activated Charcoal Toothpaste Recipe is Your Ticket to DIY Teeth Whitening

Give this DIY whitening toothpaste recipe a try and you’ll notice a difference in the color of your teeth over a few weeks of consistent use. It’s recommended you use this charcoal toothpaste at least 1-2 times per week – or more – to buff and polish those pearly whites!

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Should You Brush Your Teeth with Activated Charcoal Toothpaste?

Photo: Getty Images/Rocky89

There are some things that practically scream, Don’t put me in your mouth. Charcoal is one of them. But ever since activated charcoal-coconut shells, wood, or peat processed to become super porous-made its way into beauty products, ice cream, and cleanses, it seems everything is fair game.

And now, the black stuff is popping up in a new form: activated charcoal toothpaste. A simple #charcoaltoothpaste search on Instagram will bring up nearly 12,000 posts from influencers and models touting countless brands (seriously, we lost count). “I tried it” stories are plastered all over the web, and even celebs are singing the toothpaste’s praises.

The general thought with activated charcoal is that because it can bind to toxic substances in the body, it is a detoxifier in and of itself. (Spoiler alert: It’s not.) With toothpaste, the claim is that activated charcoal binds to roughness on the enamel of the teeth, absorbing any stains or dirt-and whitening teeth as a result, explains Valerie Martins, D.M.D., a periodontist at Martins Dental Partners in Beverly, MA.

Problem is, a meta-analysis of research (scientists looked at 118 studies on the topic) published in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) found no conclusive evidence that these products work as they say they do on both the whitening and cleaning fronts. Plus, there’s a big risk in using these pastes regularly, notes Martins: While charcoal may very well bind to the enamel pores, think about it like abrasive sandpaper, she says. “If you use it too frequently, it can strip the enamel off of your teeth, which not only makes your teeth more sensitive, but more susceptible to tooth decay.” A potential loss of enamel could also make you more likely to get a cavity. (Not the result you were hoping for from a trendy new paste.)

If you’ve tried it a few times, you likely have nothing to worry about-but because of the abrasiveness, you can seriously damage your teeth if you’re swearing by this stuff on a day-to-day basis, she notes.

Martins notes that the JADA article also looked into whether or not the activated charcoal toothpaste studied (50 of them, to be exact) contained fluoride, a mineral in toothpaste that helps prevent tooth decay. Only one did. Furthermore, the authors questioned whether the charcoal would actually deactivate fluoride in the toothpaste, making it ineffective anyway.

Not to mention, if you’ve tried activated charcoal toothpaste-or seen photos of anyone who has-you can attest to the fact that it can be downright messy, turning people’s mouths black and sometimes leaving gray residue on the edges of the teeth. (Temporary, but still-kind of defeats the point of a “whitening” toothpaste!)

There are other (safer, more effective, and less messy) DIY ways to whiten. Martins suggests brushing with a baking soda and hydrogen peroxide mixture once or twice a week. Combine about 2 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide with 1 tablespoon of baking soda. The mildly abrasive nature of baking soda (emphasis on mild) can remove stains, naturally whitening the teeth, she notes. Just remember: This isn’t a replacement for your go-to paste-just an add-on to your routine if you’re looking for a natural whitener. (The main thing to avoid in a regular whitening toothpaste is anything that’s highly abrasive, particularly if you have thin enamel or receding gums, as a rough paste could “cause more damage than good,” she notes.)

As for other homeopathic options such as apple cider vinegar? “These are absolutely not research-based, but since they are relatively safe, people can use them at their own discretion,” she says.

When it comes to other trendy products that claim to whiten teeth, proceed with caution, Martins says. For example, those whitening gels and mini LED lights you’ve seen everyone from the Kardashians to Bachelor stars posting about on Instagram? Martins points out that these products contain just 12 percent hydrogen peroxide, which she notes is “very low” (professional whitening products range from 20 to 35 percent)-so you can’t expect professional-level results. Not to mention the fact that many celebs posting about them may have veneers-which these products can’t help anyway since “porcelain is nonporous and cannot stain, ever.”

And with some products, you may be exposing yourself to ingredients that haven’t been proven to be safe in humans, or that research suggests can be “super dangerous when ingested,” she says. Yikes. The takeaway? If you’re unsure, check with your dentist before putting the latest miracle whitening product in your mouth-and don’t believe everything you hear about through an Instagram ad. (Surprise!)

She also notes: “There are no such things as whitening toothbrushes-this is total marketing.” The more you know….

Activated charcoal has interesting properties that may make it effective for teeth whitening. However, there is more to the story than you may realize.

Activated charcoal is a popular topic these days. It’s hard to be on social media and not see someone using it for teeth whitening purposes.

You can smear it on your face, wash your hair with it, and even brush your teeth with the black powder.

I have to admit, I was quite shocked when I first saw activated charcoal being used for teeth whitening. My first reaction was there was no way this could be safe!

It turns out there’s a bit more to the story behind activated charcoal and teeth whitening.

Even though it’s relatively new to the health and wellness space, activated charcoal has actually been used for quite some time.

But what we really want to know is – does it make yellow teeth turn white?

Let’s get to the bottom of what we know about activated charcoal and teeth whitening.

What is Activated Charcoal Teeth Whitening?

Activated charcoal is an age-old material with various uses. However, it gained recognition at the end of the 20th century and has only grown in popularity since then for teeth whitening.

In 1834, an American physician used activated charcoal to save the life of a patient who accidentally ingested mercury chloride. Since then, many safe and effective uses of the substance have been discovered, including using it to brush your teeth.

But I’m not talking about the charcoal that’s commonly used on the barbeque—although they are both made from the same base materials.

Activated charcoal is a finely milled black powder made from coconut shells, bone char, olive pits, coal, sawdust, or other materials. The charcoal is processed with high heat, which “activates” it. This changes its internal structure, making it more porous than regular charcoal.

It’s also processed in this way to rid it of any additional substances that are harmful to humans. It has a chemical composition that makes it a useful substance in a variety of situations.

Here’s a basic chemistry lesson on activated charcoal.

Activated charcoal has a negative electrical charge, which attracts positively charged molecules. Toxins and gases have a positive charge, causing them to be absorbed by the charcoal.

You’ve probably heard of nasty free radicals and the damage they can cause in your body. Yep. Charcoal traps those too.

Since it also has a porous texture, this adds to its efficiency in trapping unwanted substances. The best part is that activated charcoal cannot be absorbed by the human body; allowing it to carry toxins out of the body through excretions.

Medical Use of Activated Charcoal

Due to its unique properties, activated charcoal has many medicinal uses and healing properties.

One of the most valuable ways this material has benefited modern medicine is by preventing overdoses. Because activated charcoal has toxin-binding properties, it’s often used as an emergency poison treatment.

It can bind to a variety of over the counter and prescription drugs in order to reduce their effect. Studies show that activated charcoal can reduce drug absorption by up to 74 percent in adults.

Activated charcoal does have its limits though—in medical situations it is only used on a case-by-case basis.

Activated charcoal and other health benefits

Some medical professionals claim that activated charcoal may improve kidney function.

This is due to its toxin-binding qualities, and through reducing the number of waste products that the kidneys have to filter. This is especially beneficial for those suffering from kidney disease, a disease in which the kidneys can no longer properly filter waste products.

Also, if you are one of many people struggling with high cholesterol, activated charcoal has been shown to lower cholesterol. It’s able to bind cholesterol acids in the gut, limiting the amount that the body absorbs. One study conducted showed that cholesterol was lowered by 25 percent by taking activated charcoal each day for four weeks. Other studies also proved that activated charcoal prevents the absorption of “bad” cholesterol.

Activated charcoal has uses that span from medicine to natural beauty. It has become very popular to use activated charcoal in skin treatment. Applying it to the skin is said to purify the pores and treat acne.

Is Activated Charcoal OK for Teeth Whitening?

In the past decade teeth whitening has become a global industry. From dental office bleaching treatments to DIY home remedies, the perfect white smile is well sought after.

Can activated charcoal safely whiten teeth? There’s no formal evidence that activated charcoal whitens teeth.

However, activated charcoal has been FDA approved for many health uses. The American Dental Association has not currently approved any activated charcoal products for dentistry.

Though, observations suggest that using activated charcoal on your teeth is effective in absorbing plaque and other compounds that stain teeth. Meaning, the chemical properties of activated charcoal is a natural teeth whitener. It doesn’t neutralize the toxins—it binds to them, resulting in whiter teeth.

A Word of Caution: Is Activated Charcoal Too Abrasive?

I want to warn against using charcoal toothpaste that is too abrasive.

Since teeth do not regrow or replenish, using a substance that could potentially wear down the enamel may be detrimental. So it’s important to find a good charcoal toothpaste that isn’t too abrasive.

The whitening ability of charcoal exists in its porosity, while the trouble resides in its abrasiveness.

Relative Dentin Abrasivity (RDA) is a guide to measure abrasiveness for all FDA approved dental products and the FDA recommends a score of 200 or below.

Activated charcoal powder scores about a 70 to 90 on the RDA scale while most whitening toothpastes score between 100 to 200 RDA.

Always check the abrasiveness of activated charcoal toothpaste.

Use In Charcoal Toothpaste Moderation

Always consult with your dental professional before going ahead with any kind of teeth whitening procedure.

Abrasion of the teeth is when the enamel and dentin wear away over time due to abnormal process. When performing oral hygiene at home, avoid abrasion from applying too much force when brushing, using hard bristled toothbrushes and foreign substances.

Once the soften dentin in your teeth is exposed, abrasion happens at a faster rate and your oral health is more readily compromised. Protecting the tooth enamel helps maintain a healthy smile and lowers your risk for disease.

When it comes to activated charcoal for teeth whitening, discretion is advised. I have seen patients whose teeth suffered erosion due to the overuse of charcoal.

I also suggest you consider smearing the product on your teeth instead of brushing it on. This allows the product to effectively whiten the teeth without harming your enamel.

The Bottom Line

There is rational for using activated charcoal for teeth whitening – it may help absorb discolorations in your tooth enamel. Activated charcoal has been anecdotally seen to whiten teeth, but use extreme care when brushing the substance onto your teeth.

WARNING: Although anyone can purchase activated charcoal powder, you should consult a dental professional before using it. The best way to keep your mouth happy and healthy is to continue regular dental appointments.

Natural dental remedies can be beneficial when used wisely. Share this article with a friend who would be interested to know that activated charcoal can whiten teeth!

Now we want to hear from you. Please leave your questions in the comments below.

For more information on Dr. Lin’s clinical protocol that highlights the steps parents can take to prevent dental problems in their children:

Want to know more? Dr Steven Lin’s book, The Dental Diet, is available to order today. An exploration of ancestral medicine, the human microbiome and epigenetics it’s a complete guide to the mouth-body connection. Take the journey and the 40-day delicious food program for life-changing oral and whole health.

Click below to order your copy now:

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Dr. Steven Lin is currently the Principal Dentist at Luminous Dentistry, a dental practice on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia, that strives to give individuals of all ages the best possible smile.


How Does a

If you’re like me, you’re wondering why putting charcoal in any close proximity to your mouth would be a good idea. Charcoal toothpaste might seem like an unfounded fad at first, but it turns out that charcoal has been used for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years in medicine because of its adsorption and decolorizing properties.

Can a toothpaste containing charcoal whiten teeth? As counterintuitive as it may sound, it can!

Activated Charcoal

If you browse Instagram, you’ll find pictures of foods that seem impossibly black: black ice cream, black coffee, black breads, and even black juices. These foods have been dyed with activated charcoal.

To clarify, activated charcoal—the ingredient most commonly found in oral care products containing charcoal—is not the same sort of charcoal you burn on your grill for portobello steaks. However, it’s made from the same organic materials, namely wood, coconut shells, olive pits, coal, sawdust, and peat.

Activated charcoal is finely ground into a powder and then processed with very high heat, changing its internal structure. This makes it more porous and gives it a higher surface area than cooking charcoal. These unique properties have made charcoal useful for a variety of purposes throughout history, with oral care emerging as one of the latest applications.

Adsorption Properties

Activated charcoal has been used to combat poisons for nearly two hundred years. In the 1700s, scientists knew that activated charcoal had superior adsorption properties, but didn’t know how to apply that knowledge. In the 1800s, cases emerged where doctors saved patients’ lives by administering charcoal to adsorb poisonous substances they’d ingested, according to a report in The Western Journal of Medicine.

Now, you can find activated charcoal at the pharmacy in case of accidental poisoning, reports the Mayo Clinic. It’s used in emergency rooms to treat drug overdoses because it binds to the poisonous substances in the stomach and carries them safely through the digestive system.

Whitening Properties

The food industry uses activated charcoal to decolor (or whiten) products, including sugar, explains a study in the International Journal of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. Additionally, the study notes that activated charcoal is used extensively in industrial air filters, as well as in drinking water treatment.

The unique chemical structure of activated charcoal gives it powerful adsorption, bleaching, and purification abilities. It has proven to be effective in processes throughout history, and incorporating a safe product containing charcoal in your oral care routine could encourage you to experience charcoal toothpaste for yourself.

How Does Activated Charcoal Toothpaste Whiten Teeth?

Some people are concerned about charcoal’s potential abrasive effects on enamel. The American Dental Association rates the abrasiveness of toothpastes against a standardized scale called relative dental abrasivity (RDA). Toothpastes will an RDA of 250 or less are considered safe and effective.

Don’t be afraid of the dark! Tom’s of Maine’s Peppermint Activated Charcoal Toothpaste’s formula is the gentlest charcoal toothpaste among leading natural brands based on RDA testing. It is also safe for enamel and everyday use. Tom’s of Maine’s natural charcoal toothpaste gently whitens teeth by removing surface stains.

If using products with naturally derived ingredients is something you are trying to do more of, choose a brand you trust to ensure your personal care products are safe for you and your family and give you the results you want.

Image Sources: Pexels | Unsplash | Tom’s of Maine

The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Tom’s of Maine.

Whitening your teeth with activated charcoal has become really popular lately. There are lots of products on Amazon from charcoal infused toothpaste to jars of pure charcoal powder (complete with a toothbrush) to brush onto your teeth. Even the big toothpaste brands like Colgate and Crest now have charcoal toothpaste versions for sale. But does it really work?

Judging by mostly 4+ star reviews of thousands of people on Amazon, it’s either a mass deception or it must be whitening something. I’ve personally talked to people (including dentists) who have used charcoal toothpaste and swear their teeth are getting whiter after just a few weeks of using it. People who use charcoal for whitening want a more natural solution for whiter teeth and want to avoid the alternative: bleaching chemicals that dehydrate the teeth and cause tooth sensitivity. On the other hand, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has labelled activated charcoal as totally safe and harmless and it’s approved to treat poison and drug overdoses by internally ingesting it.

Is Charcoal Abrasive?

So charcoal might work but the concern is that charcoal toothpaste is abrasive and can actually damage the enamel on your teeth. A 2017 study showed that charcoal toothpaste will wear out the enamel in teeth. In the study, a mechanical toothbrush brushed a dental specimen for 14 minutes (equivalent to 3 months of brushing) with a popular charcoal toothpaste brand and sure enough, enamel wore off more than brushing with a plain toothbrush with just distilled water or compared to a very mild toothpaste (Strongs™ brand).

Is Charcoal Toothpaste Being Unfairly Criticized?

But is the charcoal toothpaste really more abrasive than other toothpastes? Toothpaste manufacturers rate the abrasiveness of their products in order to get FDA approval and use a measure known as an RDA (relative dentin abrasivity) rating. The higher the value, the more abrasive it is. An RDA of 100 or above is considered “highly abrasive.” Anything over 150 is considered “harmful” to your teeth. When you look at the RDA values of charcoal toothpaste, it doesn’t line up with the idea that charcoal toothpaste is more abrasive than regular toothpaste. In other words, charcoal toothpaste may be abrasive, but is it any more abrasive than common non-charcoal brands that dentists recommend all the time?

Let’s look at the RDA values. Charcoal toothpastes typically have an RDA value between 70-90—in the safe range. How does this compare to other popular brands of non-charcoal toothpaste? Plain toothpaste like Colgate Regular is 68 along with brands like Close Up at 80 and Crest Regular at 110, which is pretty high for a plain toothpaste. But when you get into fancy toothpastes that promise whitening or tartar control, abrasiveness goes up dramatically. Here’s a sampling of some RDA scores of common toothpaste brands you’ll find at the local store: Sensodyne Extra Whitening – 104, Colgate Whitening – 124, Crest Extra Whitening – 130, and Colgate Tartar Control – 165. Crest White Vivid, an over-the-counter toothpaste that boasts excellent whitening ability comes in at a whopping 200! So why are chemical whitening toothpastes given a pass (ie. no blogs or studies criticizing them) when their RDA’s are all in the “harmful” range? It would have been interesting to see the 2017 study compare the charcoal toothpaste to Crest White Vivid or some other “harmfully” abrasive whitening toothpaste instead of a very mild brand.

As an adult who brushed regularly my whole life, I’ve been told by my dentist that my enamel has worn down a lot—not because I used charcoal toothpaste, but because I brushed too hard for most of my life combined with the fact that I used a medium bristle brush for most of those years—something I’ve since learned is not good. Since I had bad brushing habits (and a stiff brush), it probably wouldn’t have mattered whether I used charcoal toothpaste or the regular Colgate I’ve used my whole life.

The Charcoal Whitening Secret

But the good news about whitening with charcoal is that you can get the whitening effects of charcoal without any abrasive brushing! Sure, the brushing action together with charcoal on your teeth will also remove stains but you’re at risk of removing enamel as well. The amazing fact that no one seems to know is that charcoal toothpaste will remove the yellow from your teeth without brushing because the whitening really works through the power of adsorption. Let me explain.

How Charcoal Works

As counter-intuitive as it is to think that something black could whiten your teeth, there is a science behind activated charcoal that explains how it could whiten teeth.

Most people know that activated charcoal is used in water and air filtration, but a lot of people don’t know that it’s also used to remove color from sugar cane to make white sugar. Sugar (from sugar cane) is normally a brown color but since the 18th century (when the process was first discovered), pure white sugar is made by filtering liquified sugar cane through activated charcoal during processing which then produces pure white sugar. No scrubbing required.

You can do a simple experiment at home to see the amazing color removing power of charcoal by literally removing the purple color from pure grape juice. Simply mix 2 tablespoons of activated charcoal powder in an 8 oz glass of Welch’s grape juice, wait 5 minutes, and then pour the charcoal grape juice mix through 2 or 3 stacked coffee filters (to catch the charcoal). You’ll end up with clear-as-water liquid that tastes like grape juice. The purple color is chemically bonded to the activated charcoal and remains with the charcoal in the coffee filter. You can whiten purple grape juice using activated charcoal in a matter of minutes.

Activated charcoal is able to do this through the power of adsorption (with a “d”). This is not to be confused with absorption (with a “b”), which is when water is drawn into a sponge, for example. A(d)sorption happens when, at a microscopic level, a particle attaches itself to the pores of an activated charcoal particle using an electrical charge known as a Van der Waal force. It bonds physically at a molecular level which is why toxins in a water filter don’t leak back into the water as you push water through it over and over again.

So if activated charcoal can remove the brown from sugar, and the purple from grape juice (in literally minutes), it should be able to remove the yellow stains from your teeth (although depending on the type of stain, it could take many applications).

Use Charcoal To Whiten Teeth The Right Way

But this is what everyone’s been doing wrong: You don’t need to scrub the stains off. Meaning, you can simply let the charcoal cover your teeth for a few minutes and the stains will begin to adsorb onto the charcoal particles. It won’t happen after one application—more like a month of doing this daily. But you will see whiter teeth. Remember, it’s simply the charcoal coming in contact with the stains on your teeth that whitens. Not abrasive scrubbing.

So the best product to whiten teeth is not the charcoal infused toothpaste but the straight powder you put on your teeth with a toothbrush. Just don’t brush once applied and leave for a few minutes every night. As a bonus, swishing the charcoal in your mouth when rinsing will also detoxify and remove harmful bacteria from your mouth. In fact, for thousands of years, it was a natural remedy for halitosis (bad breath).

Charcoal toothpaste may not be for you. Bleaching kits or whitening at the dentist office works faster and arguably works better so most people prefer to go that route. But if you want to try charcoal toothpaste, don’t believe the blogs that say that charcoal is harmful. It’s not. By using all-natural charcoal without scrubbing, you can get whiter teeth naturally, instead of from bleaching chemicals found in whitening toothpaste and kits. Give it a try. You might become one of the thousands of people posting a 5 star review on Amazon.

You may have heard that baking soda is the best thing for removing bad odors from a refrigerator. It is certainly a traditional method that many have relied on in the past. However Activated Charcoal is a much more effective material when it comes to combating odors and keeping homes, cars and many other places smelling fresh. Historically, Activated Charcoal products have not been easily available to consumers, but that is now changing. To understand the difference between these two materials, let’s dig deeper and understand why this is the case.

What is Baking soda?
Baking soda (in some countries known as bicarbonate of soda) is actually sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) and contains atoms of sodium, hydrogen, carbon and oxygen. It is an alkaline substance that, when combined with an acidic ingredient, releases carbon dioxide. This is how it works in baking as a leavening or raising agent, it can also be used in cooking to tenderise meat. We have listed some of baking soda’s non-culinary uses below:

• Baking soda makes a non- fluoride toothpaste if mixed with hydrogen peroxide.
• You can use a baking soda and water paste as a body scrub.
• For ultra-clean hair, mix baking soda with your shampoo.
• A very dilute solution of baking soda and water makes an effective garden fungicide.
• Baking soda can be used in dry chemical fire extinguishers.
• Baking soda is used in the leather industry to neutralize acidic tanning agents.
• Woollen and silk fabrics are treated with baking soda and it is used for fabric dyes.
• Baking soda can be used to biological treat waste water.
• Baking soda can be a very effective swimming pool cleaning agent.

Wikipedia goes into more detail and uses for Baking Soda here

Does baking soda absorb smells?
Baking soda does react with some odor-causing compounds in a way that reduces odors. However, it doesn’t react with all odor-causing compounds and has such a small surface area that its effectiveness is limited.

Why is activated charcoal better for odor-elimination?
Activated charcoal (or activated carbon) is one of the most effective odor absorbing materials – actually it adsorbs. This is because of its huge surface area, which allows for millions of micro pockets and pores. These micro pockets and pores catch smells and lock them in like a vacuum cleaner catches dust.

Despite its many interesting uses, baking soda has been proven to be a less effective odor eliminator than activated charcoal. This Food Network segment from ‘The Food Detective’ confirms this finding. Note the product shown at the end of the segment, it is Innofresh’s very popular FRIDGE IT activated carbon absorber.

We know that eliminating bad odors is better than covering them up. We know that both baking soda and activated charcoal (or activated carbon) can react with odor-causing compounds in a way that reduces odors. But activated charcoal (or activated carbon) has been proven to be far more efficient and effective at odor elimination than baking soda.

Charcoal and baking soda toothpaste

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