Does Charcoal Whiten Teeth?

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Does charcoal whiten teeth? And besides, is activated toothpaste really the most effective teeth whitening product, or are there better alternatives out there?

Activated charcoal is undeniably a bit of a wonder ingredient. It is both highly absorbent and has a long and distinguished track record of being used in medical settings to absorb damaging toxins. To give you an example, charcoal is used in hospitals to treat patients who are suffering from drug overdoses and poisoning.

All in all, it is easy to see why manufacturers might want to capitalize on the cleansing and purifying qualities that activated charcoal has to offer. This also neatly explains why you can now find this charcoal in everything health and beauty products, including whitening toothpaste.

Our aim with this article is to uncover the truth about activated charcoal, and not least its efficacy and safety when it comes to whitening teeth. Read on if you want to learn all about both the benefits and drawbacks of using charcoal toothpaste to achieve whiter teeth.

A note on whether activated charcoal actually whitens teeth

Activated charcoal is a fine grain powder that is often used in health and beauty products – including toothpaste.

Activated charcoal is made from carbon. Carbon is created by oxidising natural materials like coconut shells and wood under intense heat. As a substance, activated charcoal is highly porous, which is what makes it so suitable for absorbing oil, dirt, bacteria and toxins. 

But when it comes to whitening teeth, how safe and effective is activated charcoal, really? Do its wonderful qualities of purifying and absorbing translate into whitening toothpaste and a healthier smile?

One thing is certain: Carcoal toothpaste products are abundantly available both online and in most drugstores. Sadly, though, activated charcoal products might not be very suitable for teeth whitening.

According to The American Dental Association there is ”insufficient clinical and laboratory data to substantiate the safety and efficacy claims of charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices.” What this means in practical terms is that the promises that activated charcoal toothpaste brands make might not be proven to be true. 

This is important to keep in mind when you consider the fact that 96% of charcoal toothpaste brands claim that their product has whitening benefits. 

Risks of using charcoal to whiten teeth

But, we hear you ask, is charcoal toothpaste safe to use, at the very least?

Again, the answer may not be what you’d want to hear. Because not only does activated charcoal toothpaste not have any proven whitening effect – there are also a number of different risks involved in using charcoal teeth whitening. 

Here is a rundown of the proven risks of using charcoal-based whitening toothpastes on a day-to-day basis.

Enamel erosion

Alas, charcoal toothpaste and powder can be rather abrasive on the teeth, meaning these charcoal-based dental products may wear down your tooth enamel over time. And as you probably know, your teeth become more vulnerable to dental decay and infections the less enamel they have.

Tooth sensitivity and cavities

Enamel erosion leads to all sorts of dental problems.

The first problem you will run into is tooth sensitivity. You’ll first notice it as sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures. Your teeth will also start becoming sensitive to sour or spicy foods, and even sharp intakes of breath if cool air hits the tooth.

Sensitivity is only the beginning, though. Not having enough enamel seriously compromises our dental health and if your enamel is not restored, you will start developing cavities.

Discolored teeth

The whole point of using activated charcoal toothpaste is to whiten your teeth by stains and discolouration from the surface enamel. Ironically though, scrubbing your teeth with activated charcoal toothpaste or powder can do more harm than good. As a matter of fact, activated charcoal products might leave your teeth looking even more discoloured than before.

The simple explanation for this is that, as you erode the protective white tooth enamel, the softer and darker denim layer underneath starts showing. Trust us, it’s not a good look.

Lacking fluoride

Most toothpastes contain fluoride because it helps to cleanse and strengthen the teeth’s enamel, but most activated charcoal toothpastes don’t include it as part of the recipe. 

In other words, dtching your regular toothpaste for one of the activated charcoal variety could quickly become a disaster for your oral health.

Better teeth whitening alternatives

Charcoal toothpaste is neither the safest or the most effective teeth whitening product out there. 

Quite the contrary, there are so many other much more safe and effective options out there if you want to achieve a whiter smile.

Whitening toothpaste

There are many excellent whitening toothpaste products available – and none of them contain charcoal!

Whitening toothpaste can be used in exactly the same way as regular toothpaste, with the crucial difference being that it contains mild bleaching agents, developed specifically to gently whiten and remove surface stains from the teeth without damaging the enamel.

Whitening strips

Whitening strips are a fast, safe and effective method for whitening teeth. 

As the name implies, whitening strips are applied directly to the teeth and are then removed. They are know for being effective at removing surfaced stains from coffee, red wine and so on, without eroding the enamel.

Whitening systems

If you are in the market for truly transformative whitening results, a complete whitening system is the way to go.

A few reputable whitening systems include Snow Teeth, DrDent and SMILE:NOW.

And if you prefer getting your teeth professionally whitened by a dentist, that is of course also an option.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does charcoal powder whiten teeth?

Unfortunately, there is no evidence to suggest that it does.

Is it OK to brush your teeth with charcoal?

Scrubbing your teeth with activated charcoal now and then won’t hurt, but it is best not to do it too often as the charcoal particles can be very abrasive and might damage your teeth’s enamel.

It is very important that you do not swap out your regular toothpaste for a non-fluoridated charcoal toothpaste, as this can lead to yellow teeth, worn enamel, tooth sensitivity and tooth decay.

How does charcoal get rid of yellow teeth?

Charcoal does not, in fact, get rid of yellow teeth.

If anything, using activate charcoal toothpaste or powder can make your teeth appear more yellow as the charcoal wears away the outer layer of protective white enamel and exposes the softer and darker dentin layer underneath.

What is the best way to whiten teeth?

The best ways to whiten teeth are with whitening toothpaste, whitening strips, or an entire whitening system from a reputable provider.

There is also the option of getting your teeth professionally whitened by a dentist.


Disappointingly, activated charcoal neither protects nor whitens your teeth.

In fact, using charcoal toothpaste or powder on a regular basis may have the opposite effect to the one you’d both hoped and paid hoped for.

There is no doubt that activated charcoal is a marvellous ingredient and useful for many things, but oral hygiene is just not one of them. 

Dr Febin Mary George - Editor

With more than 10 years as a dental surgeon, Dr Febin Mary George is passionate about educating consumers around the world to help look after their teeth.

She completed her Bachelor of Surgery at the Century Institute of Dental Science and Research Centre in 2010.

Alongside editing the International Journal of Dental Clinics she has also written for major publications including Thrive Global.