By this point in time the hype surrounding activated charcoal has died down some, but I still occasionally see Instagram posts showing amazing before and after pictures. So is activated charcoal worth all the hype? Can you get that million-dollar smile just by brushing twice a day with it? Hopefully, I’ll be able to shed some light on that here.
Using activated charcoal as toothpaste has exploded over the last 5 years. Research on the subject actually dates back many years, with some studies being published in the 1940’s. However, there has been much less research on long term effects on the dentition and the majority of the studies conducted do not have an adequate control group (a group not using charcoal toothpaste).
Most activated charcoal products are appealing to people because they are viewed as a more natural way to clean, protect and whiten the teeth – and how crazy does it look to have your whole mouth be black!? But unfortunately, a lot of the claims made by these products are exaggerated.
One of the major studies cited by the American Dental Association is a literature review by Brooks, Bashirelahi and Reynolds that was done in 2017. For their study, they looked at other articles published on activated charcoal use and their ability to whiten teeth, protect against cavities and keep the mouth clean and healthy. They also went on to look at the top 50 charcoal products on Amazon and Google to test some of their claims.
What they found was conflicting evidence among the studies. Some showed benefits to using charcoal, others did not. They also found that of the studies conducted, most were lacking in one way or another. Their conclusion was that more in-depth studies are needed to better understand the safety and effectiveness of charcoal products.
In addition, they found that some of the claims made by the products were unsubstantiated. They found no significant evidence that charcoal could detoxify the oral cavity. It was also found that of the products claiming to be less abrasive, only 1 product showed relatively low abrasiveness. If toothpaste is more abrasive, it can wear away your enamel over time leading to sensitivity and actually a more yellow colour of the teeth. Finally, many products advertise the ability to fortify and remineralize teeth when again only 1 product contains fluoride – something that is well documented in its ability to remineralize damaged teeth. None of the product’s websites provided any scientific backing to these claims.
Takeaway: So what does all of these mean? What it really comes down to is that there is no solid evidence at this time to advocate for the safety and efficacy of charcoal-based toothpaste. Their claims are often overexaggerated and lack scientific evidence. In addition, their abrasiveness can cause wear on the teeth leading to sensitivity over time. In the future, new studies may show that charcoal-based toothpaste is amazing and safe. But, until there are better studies conducted and more evidence, it is recommended that charcoal-based products be avoided.
If you’re looking for a dentist in Calgary, or want to discuss other tooth whitening options, we’re happy to see new patients. Give West Peaks Dental Suite a call at 403-281-4264.
Brooks, J. K., Bashirelahi, N., & Reynolds, M. A. (2017). Charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices. The Journal of the American Dental Association, 148(9), 661–670.
Dillon C. An investigation into the cause and treatment of dental caries. Dent Gazette. 1944;11(3):108-117.
Yaacob HB, Park AW. Dental abrasion pattern in a selected group of Malaysians. J Nihon Univ Sch Dent. 1990;32(3):175-180