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Charcoal Teeth Whitening: Advice from the Specialists

Haleigh Pouliot Kandice Swarthout

Written by Haleigh Pouliot

Medically reviewed by Kandice Swarthout

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Are you thinking of trying charcoal teeth whitening to get rid of your yellow teeth?

Whitening with activated charcoal is part of a long running natural health and beauty trend. For you, charcoal teeth whitening could mean getting a whiter smile without all the chemicals typically associated with teeth bleaching.

It is natural to want whiter teeth; after all, they are a sign of health, youth, and beauty. And many people choose to achieve this goal through natural processes.

But is charcoal the answer? Does activated charcoal whiten teeth or is it an ineffective?

And more importantly, could charcoal teeth whitening actually be bad for your teeth?

What is Charcoal Teeth Whitening?

Charcoal teeth whitening is the practice of brushing with a charcoal powder or soaking your teeth in a paste made from charcoal. Some who have tried this method of DIY teeth whitening claim that it has given them dramatic and even instant results.

Just to be clear, the “charcoal” isn’t the same thing one would use in a backyard barbeque. In oral hygiene, this active ingredient is a medical-grade activated charcoal. Charcoal is activated through a high temperature heating method. This alters its structure and makes it more porous, or sponge-like. The spongy texture of the microscopic charcoal particles is what allows to absorb other substances.

How Does Charcoal Teeth Whitener Work?

There are a few ways that people use activated charcoal to lighten their tooth color:

When used as a toothpaste or scrub, activated charcoal works by scrubbing off the pigments and plaque that stick to the outside of tooth enamel. It is a very effective abrasive agent and can make your teeth feel smoother and look brighter after just one use.

The other method for using activated charcoal relies on that absorbent property of the particles. There is a belief that activated charcoal can absorb and pull the stains and toxins out of your tooth enamel, resulting in whiter teeth. This concept is based on the belief that activated charcoal can help pull poisonous substances out of the body when someone ingests toxins or overdoses on drugs.

How to REALLY Whiten Your Teeth

The issue with activated charcoal is that even if it could absorb the stains right out of your teeth, you would have to leave it on for some seconds for it to have any effect. Just brushing for a few seconds and then rinsing your mouth will not cut it.

Though it is hyped that toxins create tooth staining; this is not necessarily true. Deeply imbedded color pigments reflect light to make teeth appear a certain color. These pigments are too deeply imbedded for charcoal particles to reach to be an effective whitener. Charcoal cannot dissolve those stains any more than a vacuum cleaner can suck dried paint from a wall.

how to whiten your teeth with charcoal
Charcoal Teeth Whitening: Advice from the Specialists 1

If you want to whiten your teeth with charcoal, then the best method is to simply brush with a powder or paste made from ground up charcoal. This will scrub away surface stains for a brighter smile.

If you want to lighten your tooth color a bleach specially formulated for teeth will be necessary. Check out these teeth whitening kits to find out which type of bleach is right for you.

Tooth bleach uses peroxides that can permeate the pores in your tooth enamel and lift out stains and pigmentation. This is because peroxide undergoes a chemical reaction called oxidation that releases microscopic oxygen bubbles and the foaming action dissolves the pigments.

Is Charcoal Good for Your Teeth?

You might be surprised to find out that charcoal can actually be harmful to your teeth. That is because it is an abrasive substance. While your tooth enamel is the hardest material in your body, it can be worn down or damaged by frequent brushing with an abrasive powder like charcoal.

Why is enamel damage so bad?

For one thing, it is your teeth’s primary defense against decay and once that enamel is gone, it does not grow back. Brushing with abrasive charcoal powder can irreversibly scratch up your tooth enamel. Those microscopic etch marks become a hiding place for bacteria that cause decay and they can also, ironically enough, trap even more stain pigments. Worn enamel will also likely make your teeth feel much more sensitive.

To ensure that enamel stays in-tact, be very careful about using charcoal in your oral hygiene routine. The grittiness can also potentially irritate gums. The small particles of charcoal may get embedded into the gum tissue, creating an opportunity for the tissue to swell or become red. 

As if all this is not bad enough, the other downside of activated charcoal powder is the risk of aspiration. It is possible to accidentally inhale and choke on the fine and gritty powder so you have to be very careful to not breathe it in when you use it.

Benefits of Charcoal Toothpaste

Besides scrubbing away fresh dental plaque and surface stains, charcoal does not offer many benefits. At best, charcoal is a natural toothpaste that may serve as an alternative for those that prefer to avoid ingredients in commercially produced products. In toothpaste form, activated charcoal is less abrasive than powder alone. If you are in search of a whitening toothpaste and believe a charcoal option is not for you, check out this list of best toothpastes.

How to Use Activated Charcoal for Teeth

Are you still determined to see whether or not charcoal could actually whiten your teeth?

Just make sure to follow the right technique.

How to Use Charcoal Toothpaste

charcoal teeth whitening soak

Option #1: Apply a charcoal paste to your teeth and let them soak.

Again, there is no proof that this method works, but simply applying a charcoal paste to your teeth and leaving it there is probably the least abrasive way you can use charcoal to whiten your teeth. Simply mix a little activated charcoal powder (it usually comes in small capsules that you break open) with a few drops of water to form a paste. Spread this gently over all your teeth with a toothbrush and leave it on for a few minutes before swishing with water and spitting to remove the charcoal. Do this after you brush your teeth normally with regular toothpaste.

Be careful! Working with activated charcoal powder can get quite messy and stain your clothes or sink counter, so don’t do this if you’re in a hurry to run out the door.

brush teeth with charcoal teeth whitening

Option #2: Brush your teeth with charcoal toothpaste.

You can either buy an activated charcoal toothpaste or make a homemade toothpaste with charcoal powder and coconut oil. Coconut oil teeth whitening is another natural teeth whitening trend that incorporates the use of charcoal. Brushing your teeth with charcoal creates an abrasive friction that rubs stubborn stains and slimy plaque off your teeth. Your mouth will feel squeaky clean and your teeth will have an extra sparkle after this step.

Charcoal toothpaste may or may not have fluoride, an ingredient that is vital to preventing tooth decay. So if you decide to use a natural charcoal toothpaste, ask your dentist how else you can protect your tooth enamel from cavities.

Remember too that brushing with charcoal too often can damage your tooth enamel, so try to only do this once or twice a week, at the most.

Does Charcoal Whiten Teeth? A Summary

So does activated charcoal work?

'When it comes to truly bleaching tooth color, no, charcoal does not work.'

Charcoal can buff away surface stains left behind by things you recently ate or drank, should be used sparingly to avoid scratching emamel and can remove stain pigments from inside enamel and lighten tooth color, however, choose a safe tooth whitening bleach. 

There are many possible causes of stained and yellow teeth and not all of them respond to whitening techniques like charcoal. You should visit your dentist to find out which teeth bleaching method will work best on your teeth. We also invite you to check out our reviews of whitening kits that you can order online to see if there’s one that suits you.

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