The Crazy Beauty Trend; Whitening Your Teeth With Activated Charcoal

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Several weeks ago I received a call from a local TV station to come talk about a crazy new beauty trend that had taken the internet by storm. Apparently beauty bloggers are using activated charcoal to whiten their teeth. I had never heard of it so I decided to do some research and see what my colleagues and had to say about this ridiculous new trend.

This is what I found out about the actual whitening system used.

These beauty bloggers are using activated charcoal that comes in capsule form to whiten their teeth. They are not using the charcoal you would use in your grill. It comes from health food stores and just like everything else there are better brands and cheaper brands.  From the video's I watched they open the capsule and place the messy powder on their tooth brush and then vigorously brush for 2 minutes. At this point their teeth look like something out of a horror movie or severely decayed. After rinsing with water, some of these bloggers claim their teeth look whiter and smoother. They all agree that it's messy and stains your toothbrush, shirt, sink and anything it touches. 

The theory they (the beauty bloggers) are using to prove this is that activated charcoal is used in the medical industry to absorb toxins and poisons. It is actually used by emergency medical services in the cases of drug overdoses to absorb the poison and remove it from the body.

So activated charcoal is safe to ingest. Their theory is that it not only absorbs toxins but it can also absorb stains from teeth, removing the everyday stains that tea, coffee and wine leave behind. It is important to remember that none of this has actually been proven. Some claim that it's absorbent properties do the whitening while others believe it polishes off the stains.


When I posted about it on my social media sites I was actually surprised to find out that some of my own patients were also using this technique to keep their smiles white!

Here are my two cents on the subject. Be wary. I think there are way more effective and proven techniques that have been tested and approved to whiten your smile effectively. Over the counter whitening products as well as more professional in office whitening can whiten your smile several shades quickly and safely. Also, be careful of the abrasive quality of anything you use to brush your teeth. Even whitening toothpastes can be abrasive and cause enamel damage if not used correctly.  If the activated charcoal brushes away the enamel on your teeth, it can cause irreversible damage. Once you've lost or damaged the outer enamel layer of your teeth, the softer (more susceptible to decay) dentin will be exposed. Not only is this layer more prone to decay, it is also more yellow, making your smile look dull and dingy.

Here is what some of my colleagues had to say about using activated charcoal to whiten your smile.

According a post on, Dr. Joseph Banker says, "It actually works. I was super skeptical until I tried it—it's quite messy, but it does strip away stains and plaque to make your teeth appear whiter". 

According to the blog, her dentist, Dr. Jessica Emery says, "[Activated charcoal] is shown to be attracted to a group of found compounds known as tannins...Tannins can be found in common stain inducing items like wine or coffee, for instance. In theory, this is why many people are turning to brushing with activated charcoal." But she warns against expecting anything fast and impressive. 

We all agree that nothing replaces good home care, brushing twice a day for 2 minutes and flossing once a day, and visiting your dentist every 6 months for a check up!

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