Humans have been harnessing the power of activated charcoal, also known as activated carbon, for millennia.
Ancient Egyptians used carbon to smelt ore and create bronze. The Phoenicians would char the inside of barrels used to store water, leveraging carbon’s antiseptic properties. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, used carbon to treat a variety of ailments and diseases. In 1794, the British began using carbon to make sugar white (raw sugar is actually brown). In 1883, a French chemist proved charcoal was great for absorbing ingested poisons. During World War I, activated charcoal was used to create gas masks. Today, it’s found in nearly every hospital and social influencers are raving about its teeth whitening properties.
But, does activated charcoal really whiten teeth?
Conduct a quick YouTube search for “activated charcoal teeth whitening” and you’ll be overwhelmed by the results. Hundreds of beauty bloggers have posted videos of them testing the teeth whitening properties of activated charcoal.
The idea: Simply brush your teeth with activated charcoal three times a week to get a Hollywood-ready smile.
We wanted to explore this concept a little bit. And here’s what we found.
Social Influencers Say, “Brush Away.”
Activated charcoal does have some great benefits, like water filtration (it traps impurities and harmful substances) and detoxing the digestive system (it can absorb toxins and poisons). That’s why it’s found in the water purifier you bring backpacking and why hospitals keep it on hand.
Its activated charcoal’s purification and absorbent qualities that has people exploring its homeopathic properties—even when it comes to teeth whitening.
Many over-the-counter teeth whiteners contain harsh chemicals. So, the idea of a natural tooth whitener is very appealing.
Head to your local natural foods store and you can get a bottle of teeth whitening activated charcoal. The packaging will tell you that activated charcoal can absorb harmful mouth bacteria, toxins, and remove stains from your teeth. The kind of stuff that gets there from drinking coffee, tea, and red wine. The idea is that once you use it, you’ll have lovely white teeth.
Dentists Say, “Pump the Breaks.”
Dentists warn against the abrasive properties of activated charcoal. Brushing with activated charcoal may lead to enamel deterioration and tooth erosion.
When enamel is lost, it can’t be replaced. Enamel erosion leads to tooth sensitivity. It also makes your teeth appear even yellower in color because it exposes the dentin of your teeth. This, in turn, makes you more likely to get cavities.
Activated charcoal is a short-term solution to get whiter teeth that may lead to serious long-term damage.
Always talk to your dentist before trying a whitening product on your teeth.
The American Dental Association Says, “This Needs Study. Lots and Lots of Study.”
The ADA hasn’t given activated charcoal its Seal of Acceptance. In 2017, an article in the Journal of the American Dental Association said that there isn’t sufficient clinical and lab data to substantiate the claims of charcoal’s ability to whiten teeth (as well as to not damage them). It concluded that more studies need to be done to prove whether or not it is effective and safe.
If you’re looking for something that is going to safely whiten your teeth, dentists recommend keeping it simple. Find the simplest ingredient that does what you want it to do, and use that. Sometimes all you need is to brush with fluoridated toothpaste for 2 minutes, twice a day. And floss daily.
Want to learn more?
Talk to your dentist. If you’re looking to whiten your teeth, the best thing to do is to talk to your dentist about what the best method is for you. Your dentist is a medical professional in the field of oral care and a great resource when you’re looking for any product to take care of your mouth at home.
Don’t have a dentist? Create or sign in to your MySmile® account to search for an in-network dentist near you. You can even filter your results by patient endorsements!