The Truth About Whitening Your Teeth with Activated Charcoal

Whether it’s genetics or my addiction to iced tea, my teeth could be whiter. So I’ve been searching for less intense ways to whiten my teeth ever since I had a traumatic experience after getting professional teeth whitening (worse pain ever). I’ve had success using some at home whitening systems, but if there’s something that’s even easier and less time consuming to use then I’m all for it.

Enter: activated charcoal. I’ve heard about people using activated charcoal to whiten their teeth for a while and we even have a video on brushing your teeth with charcoal. There’s even companies out there who are making charcoal based toothpaste like Curaprox Black is White Toothpaste ($30).

But the big question is: does activated charcoal actually whiten your teeth?

First, we should establish that activated charcoal is not the same as the charcoal you barbecue with. (So please don’t grab a brick from your grill and start brushing your teeth with it.) It’s different from regular charcoal because it’s treated to create tons of air pockets that give you high absorption.

“Activated charcoal absorbs impurities in many different instances–such as in treatment for accidental poisoning or drug overdose in a hospital setting,” says Darien, Connecticut dentist and GO SMiLE spokesperson Maryann Lehmann, DDS.

It’s because of this absorption ability that people believe it can also absorb the stains that make your teeth yellow. However, there’s no substantial evidence out there that proves it to be an effective whitener, says Birmingham, Alabama dentist Caitlin Grimes, DDS.

In fact, brushing your teeth with charcoal could do more harm than good. “Dental professionals do not yet know if the abrasiveness of the charcoal erodes tooth enamel,” says Dr. Grimes. “What’s more, once enamel is gone, it cannot be replaced.”

Another thing to consider, says Dr. Lehmann, is that most people only brush their teeth for 30 seconds when they should be brushing their teeth for two minutes twice a day. And 30 seconds isn’t enough time for the charcoal to absorbs any stains from your teeth.

Basically, charcoal isn’t the best option out there if you want to whiten your teeth. Your best bet is to discuss whitening options with a professional, to practice good dental hygiene, and to avoid foods and drinks that stain your teeth as much as possible.