Ask Your Hygienist – Charcoal Toothpaste

Activated charcoal toothpaste: What is it? And is it safe?

Charcoal activated products are on the rise. The trend reaches from health and beauty products, and now to toothpaste – pushed forward by many social media influencers with large followings.

But should you use it?

What exactly is activated charcoal?

The popular additive is typically made from either bone char, coconut shells, peat, petroleum coke, coal, olive pits or sawdust and is created by heating wood or other organic materials above 400 degrees in “an oxygen-starved environment” as the Virginia Cooperative Extension states.

Charcoal is used in a variety of applications:

  • The pores trap odors and reduce bad smells in cleaning solutions
  • In emergency situations, it can be used to absorb some poisons in the body (by trained professionals)

In some others, such as beauty products, the evidence is inconclusive so far if it actually helps.

Should you use charcoal toothpaste?

Opinions can vary, but we do not recommend it. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a 2021 study that shows nearly no gains for people who used activated charcoal toothpaste vs. a control group of people using more normal toothpaste.

That’s because it:

Is abrasive.

Long-term use can erode enamel – your very teeth! – which increases your chance of cavities and makes teeth weaker and more sensitive.

Doesn’t truly whiten.

Typical teeth whitening goes beneath the surface of your teeth and handles the inner discoloration. Toothpaste only scrubs the surface, so you’re not getting to the root of yellow teeth.

In fact, as the NIH study showed, “After 12- week brushing, no differences were found among the groups in terms of color change.”

Could hurt pregnant or breastfeeding women.

The charcoal, if accidentally swallowed (easy to do, even with trace amounts) can interfere with other medications you might be taking. And it’s still unknown what other effects this could pose.

In addition, the American Dental Association currently does not approve charcoal toothpaste or toothbrushes for use at all – children included.

Ultimately, we recommend to avoid causing your teeth unnecessary abrasions.

If you’re thinking of whitening your teeth, there are much safer and clinically-proven alternatives – ask us about them!