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Myth or reality? Activated charcoal and teeth whitening

Scientists have proven that activated charcoal, a plant-based product, is an absorbent material that helps eliminate impurities and toxins. It is originated from the combustion of wood and the shells of coconut, walnut and bamboo, among others. These properties make it, for example, a good rescue treatment for poisoning and overdose.

Charcoal was first used for oral health in ancient Greece as a way to remove stains from teeth and disguise the unpleasant breath derived from unhealthy gums.

Today, activated charcoal is added to toothpaste creams or sold directly as a fine powder.


In recent years, activated charcoal has been sold as "a phenomenon that is revolutionizing beauty rituals, [...] a key element for skin and teeth health".

Toothpaste companies sell this product as the solution to all oral problems since it, allegedly:

  • Thoroughly cleans plaque and food particles that cause bad breath,

  • whitens teeth and removes stains,

  • absorbs accumulated impurities,

  • reduces the risk of tooth decay, gingivitis, halitosis and gum diseases.


All of the above can be achieved with proper oral hygiene, which includes:
  • A correct teeth-brushing technique 2 to 3 times a day with a regular toothpaste.

  • Regular visits to the dentist.

If you want to whiten your teeth, the right thing to do is to go to a specialist, there are safer options for that result.

Here goes why.

According to several articles published in scientific journals (see references), charcoal-based whitening toothpastes and powders are not effective for teeth whitening and their highly abrasive effects on tooth enamel should not be disregarded: Once tooth enamel is exposed, the risk of tooth cavities and tooth decay increases.

They also state that charcoal-based dentifrices, in the absence of supporting scientific evidence, may be considered to be a fashionable, marketing ‘gimmick’ based on folklore on the use of different forms of charcoal for oral and dental remedies.


Too much brushing with activated charcoal toothpastes can lead tooth enamel to wear away and therefore increase the risk of cavities, sensitivity and tooth decay as they are strong abrasives.

"Do not believe everything you see. Anyone concerned about stained or discolored teeth should see their dentist", recommends Joseph Greenwall-Cohen, one of the authors from a British Dental Journal article, to the BBC.

However, not everything has been negative

The authors of the British Dental Journal article also note that:

“If, however, the marketing of charcoal-based dentifrices has resulted in an increase in the number of people who brush their teeth at least once, if not twice a day, and have come to recognize the need for professional help to improve their oral health, then some good purpose may have been attained by this fashion".

This has been all very interesting but now, the million dollar question:

Should I use activated charcoal toothpaste or not?

Activated charcoal toothpaste should NOT be used daily. If you want to include it in your routine, use it only once every 2 weeks or once a month.

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Your team, TeethTab.

También puedes encontrar este post en: Español.


Our references:

Franco MC, Uehara J, et al. The Effect of a Charcoal-based Powder for Enamel Dental Bleaching. Oper Dent. 2020 Nov 1;45(6):618-623. doi: 10.2341/19-122-L. PMID: 32243248.

Greenwall LH, Greenwall-Cohen J, Wilson NHF. Charcoal-containing dentifrices. Br Dent J. 2019 May;226(9):697-700. doi: 10.1038/s41415-019-0232-8. PMID: 31076703.

Koc Vural U, Bagdatli Z, et al. Effects of charcoal-based whitening toothpastes on human enamel in terms of color, surface roughness, and microhardness: an in vitro study. Clin Oral Investig. 2021 Mar 27. doi: 10.1007/s00784-021-03903-x. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33774715.


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