ADVICE: Is charcoal toothpaste worth the hype?

For those of you looking to rid your teeth of unsightly stains, charcoal is not the best option.

Maja Begovic September 25, 2020
Charcoal toothpaste

Charcoal is all the rage, but can it really brighten up your teeth? Getty

Dear Asking For a Friend,

I’ve been a smoker most of my life, but a few months ago, I finally quit. I use a whitening toothpaste and floss every day, but I can’t seem to get rid of the stubborn yellow and brown stains left behind by tobacco. What’s the deal with charcoal toothpaste? Is it safe to use for teeth whitening and does it actually work?

Signed, Stained Teeth


Dear Stained Teeth,

Charcoal is a hot trend in the beauty and wellness game right now. The black powder is promoted as a safe and natural alternative to peroxide — a bleaching agent used to whiten teeth. While charcoal toothpaste may help remove some discolouration, it’s just not powerful enough to lift tougher stains below the surface. Inspired by this latest trend, a team of dental researchers simulated the extended use of charcoal toothpaste and the results show that it can actually do more harm than good in the long run.

Typically used in hospitals to treat patients for a variety of conditions, including poisoning and drug overdose, charcoal-based oral products usually include health claims that its antibacterial properties can help detox your mouth and brighten your smile. According to product labels, charcoal’s power lies in its ability to stick to — and sweep away — dirt, tartar, bacteria and viruses lurking in the mouth. But according to the Journal of the American Dental Association, there is “insufficient clinical and laboratory data to substantiate the safety and efficacy claims of charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices.”

While charcoal toothpaste may help remove some discolouration, it’s just not powerful enough to lift tougher stains below the surface

Dr. Lesli Hapak, president of the Ontario Dental Association advises erring on the side of caution and says that “activated charcoal can be too harsh and abrasive and actually wear away at your enamel.” The problem with weakened enamel is that it can make teeth appear more yellow and more prone to staining. There are also concerns that charcoal particles can get stuck in the crevices of fillings and veneers and cause damage to restorative dental work and result in permanent staining. In spite of the inherent risks, charcoal is widely endorsed as a powerful, natural teeth whitening solution, and lots of folks claim that it makes their teeth pearly white. It’s worth noting that the Canadian Dental Association has not given its seal of approval on charcoal-infused toothpaste or any other charcoal-based oral products.

Hapak urges people to consider the risks that come with using charcoal-infused toothpaste and at the same time, manage expectations in terms of the individual results that can be achieved. “There is no scientific evidence that activated charcoal actually works and is safe,” she says. “If you have dark or heavily stained teeth, [stains] that penetrate the enamel into the deeper portion of your teeth, it will be very difficult to whiten your teeth with any toothpaste.”

For best results, leave the charcoal hype behind and consult with your dentist about which professional teeth whitening solution is right for you.


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