Whitening Myths

Teeth Whitening Myths: Does Charcoal Whiten Teeth?

Charcoal is commonly used in barbequing, adding flavour and smokiness to your favourite dish, but can charcoal whiten teeth? It seems to be a popular topic on social media with many people incorporating charcoal into their oral care routine. Putting aside how bizarre it may look rubbing a black substance on your pearly white teeth, there are known benefits of using activated charcoal to whiten teeth.

What is activated charcoal?

Although it sounds like something you’d associate with cooking, activated charcoal is a different substance entirely. Activated charcoal is typically made by burning certain materials such as bamboo, wood pulp, coconut shells, coal, ash, rye starch or lignite.

Activated charcoal is made up of a lot of small holes, making it extremely porous. A study by the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that 50g of activated charcoal has 17.5 times more surface area than a football field. This unique absorption quality allows activated charcoal to be a multi-use remedy.

What is activated charcoal used for?

The first research that discovered this absorption property was in the 1700s and activated charcoal has been used in everything from medical procedures to water purification ever since. Activated charcoal has unique toxin-bonding compounds that are commonly used in preventing overdoses and poisoning. Some of the most common modern day uses of activated charcoal include:

  • Poison control
  • Kidney health
  • Anti-ageing
  • Water filtration
  • Intestinal gas relief
  • Skin infections
  • Hangover prevention
  • Bloating relief
  • Teeth whitening and oral health

Why does charcoal teeth whitening work?

Over time, surface stains will begin to naturally appear on your teeth from dark coloured food and drink. The ADA recommends brushing your teeth morning and night for at least 2 minutes. Despite your best efforts, regular brushing may not be able to rid these surface stains completely. You might be left with some yellowing staining.

HiSmile's Night Toothpaste which features activated charcoal for teeth whitening.
A pile of activated charcoal similar to that used in teeth whitening products.

Activated charcoal’s pores attach to the grit and food residue, making it easy for these particles to lift away. This absorption allows the excess bacteria, food and yellowing stains to be removed, making your teeth appear whiter and brighter. It is for this reason that activated charcoal is also known to be antibacterial and detoxifying.

Is charcoal teeth whitening safe?

Many whitening toothpastes such as the HiSmile Night Toothpaste use activated charcoal in their formulas. The Night Toothpaste has been specifically formulated to create a product with a medium-low RDA (Relative Dentin Abrasivity) which ensures safe removal of surface stains without negatively impacting gums and enamel. With the addition of ingredients such as bentonite clay, our charcoal toothpaste shows excellent detoxifying properties as well as stain removal ability.

A recent study also found that thanks to its absorption capability, activated charcoal also helps to reduce halitosis by absorbing and neutralising molecules responsible for bad breath.

How to use charcoal for teeth whitening

There are many oral care products that contain activated charcoal on the market. Some charcoal powder techniques may be too abrasive if the powder is applied directly onto your teeth (and a little bit messy). If you do choose to try a charcoal powder, be gentle with your brushing technique to ensure you’re not scratching the tooth surface.

If a powder option seems too difficult for you, incorporating activated charcoal into your toothpaste is a simpler way to introduce it into your daily routine. Make sure you look for mild-abrasive charcoal toothpaste which has other oral care benefits alongside teeth whitening.

Whitening Toothpastes with activated charcoal next to the more abrasive option of brishing with charcoal poweder.

These days, many people are opting for dual toothpaste systems because during the day, your teeth are exposed to a number of potential stain-causing foods and drinks, while at night your teeth need a break to repair. Your teeth require different things at different times of the day which is why dual toothpaste systems like our Day & Night Toothpastes are growing in popularity.

The evidence is clear - activated charcoal clearly has many oral health benefits, from its ability to absorb micro particles of food and bacteria on your teeth, to its effectiveness as a tooth whitening agent thanks to its mild abrasive and absorption qualities. That is why activated charcoal is one of the few natural teeth whitening trends that we have worked into some of our at-home teeth whitening products.

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