Charcoal is currently one of the biggest trends. It’s become a trendy ingredient in commercial face masks and scrubs, and some people also swear by it for whitening their teeth. 

Activated charcoal — the type used in beauty products and toothpaste — is a fine grain powder made from wood, coconut shells, and other natural substances that are oxidized under extreme heat. 

There are many charcoal toothpaste products available online and in most drugstores. It’s highly absorbent and used medically to absorb and remove toxins. But does it really work for teeth whitening?


Read on to learn about the drawbacks of using charcoal. 

Activated charcoal may help remove surface stains on your teeth. Charcoal is mildly abrasive and is also able to absorb surface stains to some degree.

There is no evidence, though, that it has any effect on stains below a tooth’s enamel, or that it has a whitening effect.

In order to whiten teeth, a product needs to work on stains on the surface, as well as intrinsic stains, which are those below the enamel.

Is charcoal safe? 

More research is needed on the long-term effects of charcoal, including toothpaste. 2017 review Trusted Source warns that dentists should advise their patients to be cautious when using charcoal-based toothpastes due to its unproven claims and safety.

Here’s what we do know about charcoal toothpaste so far:

  • Charcoal toothpaste is too abrasive for everyday use. Using a material that’s too abrasive on your teeth can wear down your enamel. This may make your teeth look more yellow by exposing the dentin, a calcified yellow tissue. It can also make your teeth more sensitive. 

  • It may cause staining on some teeth. Charcoal particles could accumulate in the cracks and crevices of older teeth.

  • Charcoal’s effect on dental restorations isn’t known. It’s not yet known how charcoal affects the materials used to make veneersbridges, crowns, and white fillings. Particles of charcoal could build up between them, leaving a black or gray outline.

What are the cons of charcoal, including toothpaste? 

The cons of using charcoal include:

  • It’s abrasive and may wear down tooth enamel and make teeth appear yellow.

  • It doesn’t remove stains below the enamel.

  • Everyday use could cause tooth sensitivity.

  • It could stain older teeth and dental restorations, like veneers, bridges, crowns, and white fillings.

  • Its long-term effects and safety are still not known.

Last medically reviewed on June 18, 2019

Medically reviewed by Christine Frank, DDS