Charcoal toothpaste is a popular dental health trend. Many brands claim activated charcoal toothpaste can whiten teeth, freshen breath, and even prevent cavities.
But… is this dental product worth the hype?
Charcoal toothpaste benefits include a whiter smile and fresh breath. Most charcoal toothpastes are safe to use and contain natural ingredients found in many types of fluoride-free toothpaste.
However, these charcoal particles won’t detoxify your body or protect your teeth from tooth decay.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of charcoal toothpaste, known side effects, and how to find the best brand.
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What is activated charcoal?
Activated charcoal is a lightweight hydrocarbon substance made up of materials such as coconut shells or wood pulp.
Also known as activated carbon, activated charcoal is created in a high heat process without oxygen. The end product has millions of tiny pores that trap toxins and chemicals.
This black powder is adsorbent, meaning it binds to other substances in order to safely remove them from the body.
Charcoal has been used as an effective poisoning treatment for nearly 200 years.
Does charcoal toothpaste work?
Charcoal toothpaste works to remove some surface stains from teeth. It may also support better breath and a balanced oral microbiome, especially when formulated with coconut oil.
This black toothpaste does not work as a powerful whitening toothpaste. It also can’t strengthen your tooth enamel or prevent tooth decay.
Although charcoal can adsorb poisons when ingested, there’s no evidence that it detoxifies your mouth or body in any meaningful way.
Is charcoal toothpaste safe to use?
Most charcoal toothpaste is safe to use on a regular basis. It’s not associated with any serious side effects to your oral health.
However, there are a few safety concerns to consider:
- Abrasivity: Gritty, abrasive charcoal toothpaste could potentially erode your enamel. Many brands of charcoal toothpaste are lower on the relative dentin abrasivity scale than popular whitening toothpaste brands, like Crest. However, if you notice your charcoal toothpaste is very gritty, you may want to seek a different brand. This is one reason you should be very careful with charcoal powder as a toothpaste — a gritty powder could potentially scratch or erode enamel.
- Cavity prevention: There is no reliable evidence that charcoal toothpaste can prevent tooth decay/cavities. A hydroxyapatite or fluoride toothpaste will actively strengthen enamel to prevent the formation of cavities. Consider a toothpaste such as Boka or RiseWell for cavity-fighting power.
- Spitting vs. swallowing: Like with any regular toothpaste, you should not swallow charcoal toothpaste. Although the amount of charcoal on your toothbrush is unlikely to cause issues, activated charcoal can adsorb certain medications and should not be swallowed unless directed by a doctor. Always finish brushing your teeth with charcoal by thoroughly rinsing with water.
- Brushing technique: Poor brushing technique can cause damage to enamel, even with high-quality charcoal toothpaste. Always use a soft-bristled toothbrush and gently brush your teeth in a circular motion for 2 minutes (don’t move your toothbrush in a straight line).
- Other ingredients: Charcoal toothpaste does not always contain natural ingredients. Avoid toothpaste with toxic ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), saccharin, or triclosan.
The American Dental Association (ADA) does not recommend using charcoal toothpaste, based on a lack of evidence that it’s effective.
Does charcoal toothpaste damage teeth? Most charcoal toothpaste should not damage teeth. Check the relative dentin abrasivity of any charcoal toothpaste before using it.
Charcoal Toothpaste for Whiter Teeth
Using activated charcoal toothpaste may result in slightly whiter teeth by removing extrinsic (surface) stains. Common causes of extrinsic staining include red wine, coffee, and smoking.
How long does charcoal toothpaste take to whiten teeth? It takes 2-3 weeks to notice whiter teeth while using charcoal toothpaste every day.
A study in 2017 found that charcoal was less effective at whitening teeth than hydrogen peroxide (found in small amounts in most over-the-counter whitening toothpaste) and blue covarine.
However, no toothpaste (charcoal included) can actually whiten your tooth enamel from the inside out. True teeth whitening products use peroxide held against the teeth for 10-60 minutes or more to intrinsically whiten teeth.
Charcoal Toothpaste for Bad Breath
Charcoal toothpaste freshens breath by adsorbing to some acidic compounds in the mouth that may cause halitosis. Many kinds of charcoal toothpaste use a peppermint flavoring for a minty experience.
Charcoal Toothpaste to Prevent Cavities
According to the best available science, charcoal toothpaste cannot prevent cavities. There is anecdotal evidence that it may remove some plaque during toothbrushing, but it’s unlikely to remove more plaque than any other kind of toothpaste.
Can you use charcoal toothpaste every day?
You can use most kinds of charcoal toothpaste every day. But I tell my patients to limit their use of any whitening toothpaste to no more than 2-3 days per week to prevent enamel erosion and tooth sensitivity.
If you’re looking for a toothpaste for everyday use, choose a hydroxyapatite toothpaste instead. Not only will the active ingredient strengthen your teeth and prevent tooth decay, hydroxyapatite is scientifically proven to whiten teeth.
How to Find High-Quality Charcoal Toothpaste
To find high-quality charcoal toothpaste, look for these criteria:
- Made in the USA: In 2007, The NY Times ran an article about the FDA confiscating toxic toothpaste made in a foreign country. Verifying the source will help you avoid any unsavory ingredients in your toothpaste. I typically recommend dental products manufactured in the USA.
- Coconuts: Many forms of reputable charcoal toothpaste brands are made with coconut shells. Look for a brand made from coconut charcoal products rather than wood ash.
- Paste or charcoal powder, not straight charcoal: Use a carefully chosen charcoal toothpaste or powder as opposed to straight charcoal. Used improperly, the abrasive property of charcoal can quickly cause enamel erosion.
- Vegan: The best charcoal toothpastes are made with 100% vegan ingredients.
The Best Charcoal Toothpaste
I’ve reviewed many charcoal toothpastes to find my favorite brand. After extensive testing, I found the best charcoal toothpaste on the market is Hyperbiotics Charcoal Toothpaste.
Hyperbiotics’ toothpaste features:
- Active probiotics to support fresh breath and a healthy oral microbiome
- Very low abrasivity
- Xylitol to support tooth remineralization
- Baking soda for supporting a healthy pH in the mouth
Q: Will activated charcoal stain crowns/fillings/veneers?
Q: Is charcoal toothpaste safe for pregnant women or for children?
Q: Should I use charcoal mouthwash?
Charcoal toothpaste can be a great addition to your oral hygiene routine. However, it does not work in the same way as toothpastes designed to prevent cavities.
There is no evidence that charcoal toothpaste has a detoxifying effect or will improve overall health. However, it may support a healthy oral microbiome.You should use charcoal toothpaste no more than 2-3 times per week.
- Thakur, A., Ganeshpurkar, A., & Jaiswal, A. (2020). Charcoal in Dentistry. Natural Oral Care in Dental Therapy, 197-209. Abstract: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/9781119618973.ch13
- Derlet, R. W., & Albertson, T. E. (1986). Activated charcoal—Past, present and future. Western Journal of Medicine, 145(4), 493. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1306980/
- Brooks, J. K., Bashirelahi, N., & Reynolds, M. A. (2017). Charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices: a literature review. The Journal of the American Dental Association, 148(9), 661-670. Abstract: https://jada.ada.org/article/S0002-8177(17)30412-9/abstract
- Vaz, V. T. P., Jubilato, D. P., Oliveira, M. R. M. D., Bortolatto, J. F., Floros, M. C., Dantas, A. A. R., & Oliveira Junior, O. B. D. (2019). Whitening toothpaste containing activated charcoal, blue covarine, hydrogen peroxide or microbeads: which one is the most effective?. Journal of Applied Oral Science, 27. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6438662/
- Panariello, B. H., Azabi, A. A., Mokeem, L. S., AlMady, F. A., Lippert, F., Hara, A. T., & Duarte, S. (2020). The effects of charcoal dentifrices on Streptococcus mutans biofilm development and enamel demineralization. American journal of dentistry, 33(1), 12-16. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32056409/
- Niwa, M., Sato, T., Li, W., Aoki, H., Aoki, H., & Daisaku, T. (2001). Polishing and whitening properties of toothpaste containing hydroxyapatite. Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine, 12(3), 277-281. Abstract: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15348313/