There seems to be a fair amount of buzz surrounding charcoal toothpaste and it’s ability to whiten teeth. Society tells us that we need to have pearly-white teeth, white teeth are healthy, white teeth are beautiful, white teeth are this, that, and the other. While on the hunt for white teeth it is also important to make sure your teeth are healthy, and stay that way otherwise you may end up with no teeth.. Search for charcoal toothpaste on your web browser, and you might start to see advertisements everywhere from different brands carrying this product. Even Colgate and Crest, some reliable brands, have a charcoal toothpaste in their product line. But what does the science say–can charcoal toothpaste help whiten your teeth, and is it safe?
In the field of Medicine, activated charcoal was originally used in the medical setting to help absorb poisons that made their way into the gastrointestinal tract1. In the dental field, the first documented use of charcoal for cleaning teeth was in Ancient Greece2. Now the popularity of this toothpaste has spread across the globe3.
There are many different brands marketing charcoal toothpaste, with even more claims of benefits to use. Terms such as detoxification, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral have been used by different brands to sell their product. A literature review covering a large portion of all the research completed on charcoal toothpastes demonstrated that these claims are unsupported and misleading4. Other brands touted that they could remineralize teeth but many did not contain Fluoride as an active ingredient, which has been proven to help remineralize teeth5.
The main potential benefit, which is also its potential downfall, is that charcoal toothpastes are abrasive. The abrasive effect of the charcoal does show the ability to remove staining on teeth, which will whiten teeth. Along with these stains being removed, unfortunately enamel may follow suit. If the outer enamel of our teeth is slowly removed by constant use of an abrasive charcoal toothpaste, a whole host of problems may arise: sensitivity to hot/cold liquids or foods, increased susceptibility to cavities3,4.
Summary: Charcoal toothpastes are abrasive enough to remove stains off of teeth, but they are also abrasive enough to wear down your teeth. Many of the other claims made about the benefits of using charcoal toothpastes are unsupported by the research– it is better to use a fluoride-containing toothpaste to fight cavities. If you want to remove stains and have whiter teeth, express this feeling to your dentist and be sure to attend your regular cleanings.
Here is a good option for toothpaste that contains fluoride to help remove stains and remineralize teeth: Crest Toothpaste 3D White Radiant Mint, 3oz
- Chyka, P. A., Seger, D., Krenzelok, E. P., Vale, J. A., American Academy of Clinical Toxicology, & European Association of Poisons Centres and Clinical Toxicologists (2005). Position paper: Single-dose activated charcoal. Clinical toxicology (Philadelphia, Pa.), 43(2), 61–87. https://doi.org/10.1081/clt-200051867
- Newsom S.W.: Hygiene and the ancient Romans. Br J Infect Control 2004; 5: pp. 25-27.
- Greenwall, L., Greenwall-Cohen, J. & Wilson, N. Charcoal-containing dentifrices. Br Dent J 226, 697–700 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41415-019-0232-8
- Brooks, J. K., Bashirelahi, N., & Reynolds, M. A. (2017). Charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices: A literature review. Journal of the American Dental Association (1939), 148(9), 661–670. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adaj.2017.05.001
- Walsh, T., Worthington, H. V., Glenny, A. M., Marinho, V. C., & Jeroncic, A. (2019). Fluoride toothpastes of different concentrations for preventing dental caries. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, 3(3), CD007868. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD007868.pub3
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