Does Charcoal Toothpaste Work?

Charcoal toothpaste (also called "black toothpaste") is a popular trend marketed as a healthy way to keep teeth clean and white. The toothpaste is made from activated charcoal, which is made by heating charcoal with gas. The heating process opens up the pores of the charcoal, which allows it to trap chemicals.

Proponents of charcoal toothpaste claim that it acts as a magnet, pulling tartar, bacteria, and stains from your teeth. In fact, in the developed world, activated charcoal is the most commonly used poison control treatment. That's because activated charcoal binds to toxins in the gastrointestinal tract, preventing their absorption.

But, does activated charcoal toothpaste work, and is it safe for everyday use? This article explains charcoal toothpaste benefits, risks, and other natural teeth-whiting remedies to consider.

What to Know About Charcoal Toothpaste - Illustration by Theresa Chiechi

Verywell / Theresa Chiechi

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is the main ingredient in black toothpaste. In addition, charcoal toothpastes contain other ingredients. These often include things to stabilize, flavor, and sweeten the toothpaste. For example, Crest’s charcoal toothpaste has:

  • Water
  • Sorbitol
  • Hydrated silica
  • Disodium pyrophosphate
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Flavor
  • Cellulose gum
  • Sodium hydroxide
  • Sodium saccharin
  • Carbomer
  • Charcoal powder
  • Sucralose
  • Polysorbate 80
  • Mica
  • Titanium dioxide

What Is Activated Charcoal?

Charcoal is made from wood, peat, coal, petroleum, or coconut shells. When charcoal is burned with gas, activated charcoal develops. This process allows the charcoal to create pores, which can absorb chemicals.

Is Charcoal Toothpaste Safe?

Research on the safety of charcoal toothpaste is limited and inconclusive. Therefore, more studies are needed to determine the safety of charcoal toothpaste.

However, some safety concerns exist. For example, charcoal may accumulate in cracks and gaps between teeth and stain around dental work. In addition, excessive brushing to remove black charcoal from your teeth may lead to teeth abrasion. Finally, some toothpastes may not contain fluoride, an essential ingredient in preventing tooth decay. Therefore, solely relying on charcoal toothpaste could lead to a greater likelihood of cavities.

Whitening vs. Charcoal Toothpaste

Regular “whitening” toothpaste contains abrasives and bleaching agents intended to whiten teeth. On the other hand, charcoal toothpaste relies on the properties of the activated charcoal to lift and pull stains.

Benefits

Proponents of charcoal toothpaste claim that it has cosmetic and health benefits. However, there is not sufficient evidence to support these claims.

One of the primary reasons people use charcoal toothpaste is because they believe it is a natural way to whiten their teeth. However, studies do not support this claim. For example, a 2021 study that examined the whitening effects of charcoal toothpaste compared to regular fluoride toothpaste found no difference in whitening.

While some claim charcoal toothpaste has antimicrobial effects, the evidence for this assertion is weak. 

An inadvertent potential benefit of charcoal toothpaste is that it may cause people to brush longer in an attempt to remove the black color from their teeth and mouth. The downside is that charcoal’s abrasiveness may harm tooth enamel when used for too long or too aggressively.

Risks

Safety concerns include the potential for charcoal toothpaste to be abrasive, lack fluoride, and lead to decay and enamel damage. In addition, some people should avoid activated charcoal. These include:

While you should not swallow charcoal toothpaste, sometimes it happens accidentally. In addition, charcoal toothpaste may get absorbed through the mucus membranes in your mouth. Ingested activated charcoal can reduce the absorption of drugs and other chemicals, which is why you should be careful about it if you take medications.

Charcoal is messy, so be prepared to clean up afterward.

Natural Teeth Whitening Remedies

In addition to charcoal toothpaste, there are other remedies that people rely on to naturally whiten their teeth at home. 

Oil Pulling

Proponents of oil pulling claim that swishing oil in your mouth for 20 minutes can help pull stains and bacteria from your teeth. There is some evidence that oil pulling may be beneficial for oral hygiene.

For example, a 2017 review concluded that the limited evidence shows promising benefits for oral hygiene. However, the authors caution that oil pulling does not replace standard dental care.

Baking Soda

People sometimes use baking soda as a scrub for teeth whitening. Limited evidence supports the use for this purpose. A 2017 review found that baking soda is safe and effective for stain removal and teeth whitening.

American Dental Association Recommendations

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), healthy dental habits are the best way to keep your teeth white. These include:

  • Brushing twice daily for two minutes
  • Using an ADA approved teeth-whitening toothpaste
  • Flossing daily
  • Limiting tooth-staining foods and drinks
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Regular dental cleanings

Summary

People use charcoal toothpaste to whiten teeth and remove bacteria. However, there is little evidence to support the purported claims. Since activated charcoal can prevent the absorption of some drugs, people taking medication and birth control should be careful when using charcoal toothpaste. In addition, activated charcoal is not recommended if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

A Word From Verywell

If you are considering charcoal toothpaste, be sure to read the ingredients. If possible, choose one with fluoride and consider limiting how frequently you use it to avoid wearing down your enamel.

Other options for natural teeth whitening include oil pulling and baking soda. However, the ADA recommends good dental hygiene habits as the best way to keep your teeth healthy and white.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is teeth whitening safe?

    Whether or not teeth whitening is safe depends on which product you use. The safest way to keep teeth white is to prevent discoloration. After that, look for products that are ADA approved, ask your dentist which products they recommend, and follow the product's instructions.

  • How often should you use charcoal toothpaste?

    There is no standard recommendation for how frequently to use charcoal toothpaste. However, since it can be abrasive, it is best not to use it as a daily toothpaste but rather to scrub stains occasionally. Talk to your dentist about what frequency they recommend for you.

  • How much does professional teeth whitening cost?

    The cost of professional teeth whitening varies based on geographic location and between offices. However, the price is generally between $500-$1,000.

Was this page helpful?
10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Library of Medicine. Activated charcoal.

  2. Juurlink DN. Activated charcoal for acute overdose: a reappraisal: Activated charcoal: a reappraisal. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2016;81(3):482-487. doi: 10.1111/bcp.12793

  3. Crest. Crest 3D white whitening therapy toothpaste - charcoal.

  4. Brooks JK, Bashirelahi N, Reynolds MA. Charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices. The Journal of the American Dental Association. 2017;148(9):661-670. doi:10.1016/j.adaj.2017.05.001

  5. Greenwall L, Wilson N. Charcoal toothpastes: what we know so far. Clinical Pharmacist. 2017;9(8). doi:10.1211/PJ.2017.20203167

  6. American Dental Association. Natural teeth whitening: fact vs. fiction.

  7. Koc Vural U, Bagdatli Z, Yilmaz AE, Yalçın Çakır F, Altundaşar E, Gurgan S. Effects of charcoal-based whitening toothpastes on human enamel in terms of color, surface roughness, and microhardness: an in vitro study. Clin Oral Invest. 2021;25(10):5977-5985. Doi: 10.1007/s00784-021-03903-x

  8. Shanbhag VKL. Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene – a review. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. 2017;7(1):106-109. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcme.2016.05.004

  9. Li Y. Stain removal and whitening by baking soda dentifrice. The Journal of the American Dental Association. 2017;148(11):S20-S26. Doi: 10.1016/j.adaj.2017.09.006

  10. Humana. Teeth whitening at your dentist office.