Is Charcoal Toothpaste Bad for Your Teeth? (Science-Backed)

Is Charcoal Toothpaste Bad for Your Teeth? (Science-Backed)

Shopping around for a new toothpaste? If you’re looking for a toothpaste option that prioritizes natural, effective ingredients and has whitening properties, it’s likely that you’ve come across charcoal toothpaste before! 

Charcoal toothpaste is a dental hygiene product that utilizes activated charcoal, also known as activated carbon, which is a type of charcoal that has undergone intense heat treatment to increase its porosity. 

Activated charcoal can be made from wood and other organic materials, such as bamboo and coconut shells. It is frequently utilized in water filtration systems and for treating various chemicals in an emergency setting. It is a helpful odor remover and a natural detoxifier that draws and holds a variety of pollutants.

It’s been a trendy ingredient in cosmetic and hygiene products for a while now, due to its natural origin and striking deep black color. 

But is charcoal toothpaste actually good for your teeth? 

We’ll give you an unbiased answer to that question in this article by giving you all the facts and letting you choose whether this toothpaste suits your needs. We’ll cover: 

  • Benefits of using charcoal toothpaste
  • Potential risks of using charcoal toothpaste
  • Expert opinions on charcoal toothpaste
  • Is charcoal right for you?

Let’s dive in! 

Benefits of Using Charcoal Toothpaste

There’s obviously a reason this toothpaste is so popular! Many people love activated charcoal for dental hygiene. Here are some of the main benefits: 

Teeth Whitening

Many people are drawn to charcoal toothpaste due to its whitening properties! 

Activated charcoal is abrasive, meaning it works to wear down surface staining. The charcoal itself is also said to help absorb stain-causing substances. 

To many, the more “natural” whitening properties of charcoal-based toothpaste are attractive, especially in comparison to standard whitening options that generally rely upon bleaching agents including silica, pyrophosphates, hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. 

These ingredients may be harsher on the teeth than activated charcoal, as well as more dangerous to ingest.  

Removal of Surface Stains

Activated charcoal-based toothpastes are particularly adept at removing surface stains!

Surface stains, also called extrinsic stains, are those that are on the surface of the teeth, above the enamel. 

These stains are almost always caused by external factors, including food such as dark berries or brightly dyed items, liquids like red wine, tea, coffee, and soy sauce, and other factors including oral tobacco use (smoking or chewing tobacco.) 

The abrasive nature of the charcoal found in the toothpaste gently but effectively scrubs on these stains, causing them to fade over time and the tooth to appear lighter in color. 

While the use of activated charcoal toothpaste over a significant time period can reduce the overall staining of teeth and have a whitening effect, it’s also useful as a short-term fix. 

Brushing your teeth with charcoal toothpaste after consuming something that causes surface staining can make your teeth look better right then and there, as well as minimize the chances of long-term discoloration. 

This is also due to the abrasiveness of the charcoal, as well as its absorbent nature. 

Fresh Breath

This power of absorption is also what makes charcoal-based toothpaste so great at combating bad breath! 

Bad breath, also called halitosis, is an unpleasant odor that comes from the mouth when a person is exhaling or speaking. 

Most people have bad breath at least some of the time, most frequently in the morning. 

This is because you have minimal saliva production, and usually do not drink any water, overnight, leading to increased bacterial activity that does not get flushed away!

Poor dental hygiene such as infrequent brushing, certain foods such as garlic or onions, smoking, and certain medications and conditions are also common causes of bad breath. 

Activated charcoal has been linked to minimizing bad breath due to its antibacterial and odor-absorbing properties. 

However, simply the action of brushing your teeth (and don’t forget your tongue) does minimize bad breath, and it is also masked by the minty flavor components found in many toothpastes (including charcoal toothpastes). 

Prevention of Cavities and Gingivitis

As with any type of toothpaste, it is the action of regularly and thoroughly brushing your teeth that does the most to remove plaque and debris, which then leads to the prevention of cavities, gingivitis (gum disease), and other poor oral health outcomes!

Charcoal is not any worse performing than other more standard toothpastes in this area. 

Additionally, many link the absorptive feature of the high porosity activated charcoal to the more efficient removal of food matter, bacterial build-up, and other detrimental matter in the mouth – which may lead to a higher rate of cavity and disease prevention! 

Potential Risks of Using Charcoal Toothpaste

Like with any product, there are some downsides to charcoal. While everyone’s experience using this product is different, it’s important to note a few of the potential risks of using charcoal toothpaste, such as: 

The Abrasive Nature of Charcoal

It’s important to remember that the majority of charcoal toothpastes are not recommended for daily use, just like the majority of whitening toothpastes. 

This is because the abrasive nature of charcoal that makes it effective at removing surface staining can eventually wear at your teeth and mouth! 

This means if you have dental conditions or other sensitivities, you should consult with your dentist before using charcoal toothpaste. 

However, this is true for almost all whitening toothpastes and even some standard toothpastes. 

A study on the “effects of charcoal-based whitening toothpastes on human enamel in terms of color, surface roughness, and microhardness” found the same increase in surface roughness (a measure of the mild damage to enamel caused by abrasive agents) across all types of toothpaste studied, and similarly found an equal lack of impact of the microhardness of the teeth themselves. 

Another study on the “abrasiveness and whitening effect of charcoal-containing whitening toothpastes in permanent teeth” had similar results: changes in the surface texture of the teeth caused by all of the types of toothpaste were comparable and all were within a safe level, with no significant difference in the abrasive nature of charcoal compared to other whitening toothpastes. 

Damage to Tooth Enamel

Despite the fact that charcoal toothpastes are similarly abrasive to other whitening options, there may still be a risk to the enamel of teeth if charcoal toothpaste is overused, used over a long period of time, or used by someone with sensitive or damage-prone teeth. 

Dental formation and differences are often genetic and variable, meaning that everyone has slight differences in what works best for them, their hygiene choices,  and their oral health. 

Long-term usage of charcoal-based toothpaste could lead to the enamel wearing down over time, leading to weaker, more sensitive teeth that counterintuitively can lead to the teeth appearing more yellow in color!

Tooth enamel may gradually erode when exposed to charcoal regularly from using long-term charcoal toothpaste. The next layer, known as dentin, is visible when dental enamel has worn away. 

Once the dentin is exposed, the tooth's structure may deteriorate, and it becomes more susceptible to decay, infection, and hypersensitivity. Teeth that have lost enamel may also appear discolored because dentin has a yellow or brown tint.

Irritation of Gums

Similarly, abrasive toothpastes can irritate the gums, leading to sensitivity, bleeding, and inflammation. 

It’s very important to take care of your gums – so if charcoal toothpaste is causing discomfort to them, it may not be the right choice for you!

Additionally, because of the variability of ingredients and the use of more botanical compounds in many toothpastes containing activated charcoal, there may be a slightly higher risk for sensitivities and allergies. 

If your gums feel sore after using oral hygiene products that contain activated charcoal, this could be an indication that you react badly to it. 

Other signs include a burning or prickling sensation on the tongue, swollen lips, and/or redness around the mouth.

If you notice any of these symptoms, stop using the product immediately and contact a dental health professional if they do not subside quickly.

Ineffectiveness in Removing Deep Stains

Charcoal toothpaste (and the majority of other at-home whitening options) are not effective at removing or masking deep stains called intrinsic stains.

These stains come from the inside of the tooth, and may eventually become visible from the outside. 

Common causes include dental trauma, infection, and certain medical conditions or medications. 

If you’re struggling with intrinsic staining, you will likely have to consult a dentist, or other oral health professional, as they are harder (but not impossible!) to treat.

Expert Opinions on Charcoal Toothpaste

Many dentists are hesitant to recommend charcoal-based toothpastes, mainly because it’s a relatively new product whose long-term effects remain unknown. 

The American Dentistry Association has stated that there is no known whitening effect of charcoal toothpaste and that it may be overly abrasive to teeth and gums.

However, looking at the research itself, charcoal-based toothpaste does not seem to be overly abrasive, though results have varied. 

Studies published in the Dental Research Journal and Clinical Oral Investigations compared charcoal-based toothpastes against other, more traditional whitening toothpastes. 

They both found no significant difference in the abrasiveness of charcoal toothpastes in comparison with alternatives, as most whitening toothpastes contain similar abrasive ingredients! 

In regards to whitening, charcoal toothpaste performed the same as competitors in both studies, with all toothpastes significantly whitening teeth in one and having little to no change in the other. 

Is Charcoal Right for You?

So, what do these findings mean for you? 

Basically: charcoal toothpaste is likely to perform similarly to other whitening toothpastes in regards to effectiveness and abrasiveness. 

So if you prefer charcoal toothpaste – go for it! 

It’s important to remember that many of these toothpastes are not meant for long-term, daily use.

Join Boka Tribe

If you’re looking for a science-backed, good-tasting, and highly effective charcoal-based toothpaste, we’d recommend Boka’s charcoal yuzu mint

It’s the perfect introduction to charcoal, so you can see if it’s right for you. If you prefer clean, natural toothpastes that are charcoal-free, there are plenty of other options as well. Happy brushing! 

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