Is Charcoal Toothpaste Safe?

Activated charcoal is all the rage these days. You can find it in water filters, used for drug overdose and even in toothpaste. It is usually made from either bone char, coconut shells, peat, petroleum coke, coal, olive pits or sawdust and is thought to absorb dirt and impurities. Therefore toothpaste with activated charcoal in it is thought to absorb and remove stains from the teeth that are caused by foods like red wine, coffee and tea and voila… whiter teeth.

Charcoal is abrasive by nature. If you scrub with it, it will remove stains. However, what else will it remove in the process? Enamel can be worn away from exposure to abrasive agents such as sand or charcoal. Thinner enamel can result in more tooth sensitivity, increased susceptibility to cavities and even darker teeth when more dentin shines through from the inside of the tooth.

Last year the American Dental Association decided to investigate the efficacy of claims of charcoal based toothpastes. The article published stated that there is “insufficient clinical and laboratory data to substantiate the safety and efficacy of the claims” and that further studies are needed in order to prove whether charcoal is really safe to be used for oral care.

According to Dr Chase, a New York-based dentist “When it comes to trying out fads… it’s great that people want to learn about ways to take care of their teeth, but advised that they might not work, or worse, might damage the structure of your teeth.”

Take Home Message:

-       If you feel that your teeth could benefit from being a little brighter ask your dentist about what is the reason that your teeth are darker.

-       If the teeth are darker due to staining from red wine, coffee or tea, I would advise you to get your teeth polished regularly by your dental hygienist.

-       If the teeth are darker due to intrinsic yellowing of the teeth ask about what would be a good whitening solution for your teeth depending on the amount of whitening required and the level of sensitivity of your teeth.


Dr. Lauren Vredenburg

Calgary Fine Dentistry