Black Is the New White – People Are Brushing Their Teeth with Charcoal to Make Them Whiter

According to an increasing number of YouTube videos and social media posts, one of the easiest, most effective way to whiten your teeth is to brush them with pitch-black activated charcoal. It sounds like somewhat of a paradox, but some users claim a single brushing can have amazing results.

Activated charcoal has long been used in medical settings to treat poisonings and drug overdoses. Unlike the charcoal we use for barbecues, this stuff is created when carbon is treated with an oxidizing agent, which results in a fine dust with millions of pores and an immense surface area. It’s these pores that give activated charcoal its sponge-like qualities, reducing the body’s absorption of toxic substances by an estimated 47 percent. It’s not the most specific absorber of substances,though, meaning it will absorb both good and bad substances in your stomach, but as long as you consume lots of water after ingesting it, you should be fine.

But while the toxin-absorbing properties of activated charcoal are well documented, its recent uses as an edible food ingredient and teeth whitening agent are not. No charcoal-based teeth whitening products have been evaluated and accepted by the American Dental Association (ADA) until now, but that hasn’t stopped proponents from recommending it as an excellent all-natural way to get a shinier smile.


Photo: YouTube/HelloHannahCho

Apparently,the natural adhesive qualities of activated charcoal let it bind with surface-staining culprits like coffee, tea, wine, and plaque, removing them from your teeth for good. Simply pop a capsule of the stuff, mix the contents with some water, put the paste on a toothbrush and clean your teeth for a few minutes. It’s a messy job, as the charcoal makes your mouth look like that of a horror movie monster and is known to stain grout and fabrics, but I guess it’s worth it, if it can make your teeth whiter.


Photo: YouTube/Hello Olson

You’re going to find lots of dramatic before-and-after photos of people who promote the use of activated charcoal as an alternative to fluoride, but the jury is still out on whether it actually works. Dental specialists definitely don’t believe it does. “There’s no scientific indication that [activated charcoal] actually works and there are better options out there that do work,” Dr. Kim Harms, a Mineapolis-based dentists and spokesperson for the ADA, told The Daily Beast. “The important part of brushing and flossing is the physical removal of plaque. The toothpaste you’re using, from a dentist’s point of view, delivers fluoride to teeth. We’re concerned about practices where people are using products without fluoride. Fluoride is nature’s cavity fighter and can cut tooth decay by up to 40 percent.”


Photo: Ancikka

“Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” said Dr. Mark Wolff, DDS, Professor and Chair of the Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care at the New York University College of Dentistry. “I still recommend any of the mainstream whitening toothpastes or seeing the dentist. The mainstream whitening toothpastes are going to be safe. There are a number of products on the market that can be too abrasive.”


But with the huge amounts of money being thrown around by companies to have their products promoted, I guess one could argue that such experts are biased. However, experiments done by ordinary people (like this one) have also yielded unimpressive results. On the flipside, there are loads of people who swear by this practice, claiming that as long as your teeth are not naturally darker or yellow, you’re going to see an improvement after just one charcoal brushing session.