Activated Charcoal to Whiten Teeth

Written by Heather Siler

A DIY trend has emerged recommending the use of activated charcoal to whiten the teeth. At first, users would have to go to their local health food store to purchase activated charcoal capsules, open the capsule, and make a “paste” with the charcoal powder and water. Shortly after that, smart marketers started manufacturing ready-made pastes and powders. Is this whitening method safe and effective?

What exactly is activated charcoal? Charcoal is derived from wood, coal, or other materials. It becomes activated when “high temperatures are combined with a gas or activating agent to expand its surface area.” The process transforms the charcoal into a porous material that draws out and attracts impurities like a magnet thus leaving the area clean.

Should activated charcoal be used as a tooth whitening agent? This process most likely began in someone’s bathroom and not in a controlled dental laboratory. More traditional and legitimate testing needs to be performed to determine if the process is effective and safe. The American Dental Association has released the following statement: “Dental clinicians should advise their patients to be cautious when using charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices with unproven claims of efficacy and safety.”

The biggest safety concern with using activated charcoal is the potential for dentin abrasion and erosion, and where the product falls on the Relative Dentin Abrasion (RDA) scale. Using these agents long term can cause harmful abrasion, erosion, sensitivity, and the need for restorative treatment.

If you’re looking to whiten your smile, it’s best to seek the advice of dental professionals. Always consult with your dentist and while shopping over the counter, search for products with the ADA seal of acceptance.