Activated charcoal is a fine-grained black powder made from a variety of natural substances, such as coconut shells, olive pits, slowly burned wood, and peat.
The powder becomes activated when oxidized under extreme heat. Activated charcoal is very porous and highly adsorbent. It also has a wide surface area.
Unlike absorbent substances, activated charcoal’s adsorbent nature allows it to bind to toxins and odors, rather than soaking (absorbing) them up.
Activated charcoal shouldn’t be confused with the charcoal you use for barbecuing.
Although similar, barbecue charcoal is manufactured to be a fuel and emits carbon dioxide when heated. It may have a carcinogenic effect on health. Activated charcoal, on the other hand, doesn’t contain these types of toxins.
Activated charcoal’s adsorbent nature has been referenced in medical literature for centuries. In the early 1800s, activated charcoal started to gain prominence as a treatment for accidental ingestion of poison.
Because it can stop certain types of poison from being absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream, it’s still used for this purpose today. It can also counteract drug overdoses.
There’s some scientific evidence, and lots of anecdotal information, about activated charcoal’s other benefits and uses. These include reducing underarm and flatulence odor.
You can find activated charcoal in facial masks and shampoos. Because of its ability to bind to toxins, some people believe activated charcoal can whiten teeth, too.
Before you start brushing with this grainy black substance, here’s what you should know.
Charcoal teeth whitening
You can find an array of dental products containing activated charcoal on store shelves, from toothpastes to kits. Products containing this ingredient claim to remove coffee stains, wine stains, and plaque.
But despite its popularity, there’s no scientific evidence backing up activated charcoal’s benefits for teeth.
Since there’s no data behind the claims that activated charcoal is safe or effective, products containing this ingredient aren’t eligible for the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.
According to the ADA, activated charcoal’s abrasive texture might even harm rather than whiten teeth by wearing down tooth enamel.
Despite this lack of scientific evidence, some people still swear by activated charcoal’s ability to eliminate tooth stains and whiten teeth.
Charcoal teeth whitening DIY
If you’d like to try activated charcoal to whiten your teeth, you can purchase it as a powder or in capsules that you open. Mix with water to make a paste. You can also try sprinkling the charcoal onto your wet finger or toothbrush.
Keep in mind that this technique may be hard to finesse. Activated charcoal can also stain fabrics and countertops.
Precautions for using activated charcoal on teeth
It’s important to protect your teeth by using products that won’t wear down enamel. Since overuse of activated charcoal products can lead to teeth erosion, use them cautiously.
The ADA recommends choosing toothpastes with a relative dentin abrasivity (RDA) level of 250 or less. Try to choose activated charcoal toothpastes that meet that guideline.
If that isn’t possible, use the product only for a short period of time. You can also alternate it with a fluoride toothpaste.
To reduce abrasiveness, try using your fingers to rub activated charcoal on your teeth rather than applying it with a toothbrush.
Activated charcoal products aren’t approved for teeth whitening by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Moreover, these products may not be appropriate for use in children and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Keep in mind that some activated charcoal products contain other ingredients, like sorbitol.
Sorbitol is an artificial sweetener that can cause allergic reactions in some people. It may also have a laxative effect if too much is swallowed.
Before using activated charcoal, consider checking in with your dentist to determine if it’s the right choice for you.
Alternative at-home teeth whiteners
You can achieve a bright smile in a variety of ways.
Take good care of your teeth by brushing at least twice every day. Make sure to brush after consuming drinks that commonly stain teeth, such as black coffee and red wine.
If you smoke cigarettes, you’ve probably noticed that they stain your teeth. If you need another reason to quit, add getting a brighter smile to your list.
There are many safe, effective methods for naturally whitening teeth at home. Try the following:
- Baking soda is a natural whitening ingredient that can be found in many toothpastes. You can also make a paste at home by combining it with water. Baking soda is also a good breath freshener.
- Diluted hydrogen peroxide can help whiten teeth over time. Try using it as a rinse before or after brushing. Never use hydrogen peroxide at full strength, though, as it can irritate gums.
- There are many brands of over-the-counter whitening strips, gels, and toothpastes. Many have the ADA Seal of Acceptance. These products range in price and effectiveness. Read reviews before buying so you have an idea of what to expect.
Activated charcoal has some proven uses, but teeth whitening isn’t one of them. Instead, look for products that have the ADA Seal of Acceptance.
If you do decide to try activated charcoal to whiten your teeth, use it only in moderation. Activated charcoal is abrasive and shouldn’t be used long term, as it can erode tooth enamel.
Talk to your dentist to see if this treatment is safe for you to try. They can also discuss other alternatives for you.