Activated charcoal for teeth whitening: does it work and should you use it?

On this page you will learn:

Summary –use activated charcoal if:

  • have tried other whitening products and they don’t suit you
  • want a treatment that only involves brushing
  • don’t mind having to do a bit of cleaning up afterwards

Activated charcoal products – overview

Price: €1.10–€1.80 per 10ml

How to use: Brush onto teeth as a toothpaste or use as mouthwash

How often: Once daily for 3–5 consecutive days, every 3–4 months

What is activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal is normal charcoal that has had oxygen added to it to make it more porous. This is said to make it more effective at binding with chemicals and toxins, and therefore suitable to use for filtration and purification.

Activated charcoal can come as a powder, toothpaste, mouthwash or part of a teeth whitening kit. Most of the time it comes as a powder.

Powders don’t come with any accessories to apply them since you only need a toothbrush. Your powder will come in a pot or a jar.

A toothpaste or mouthwash will be just that—like a regular toothpaste or mouthwash.

How does activated charcoal whiten your teeth?

As activated charcoal is really porous, the theory is that it’s very effective at binding with other chemicals. So when you use it on your teeth, the charcoal absorbs the toxins and plaque that have stained the enamel.

How to use – how often:

Once daily for three days in a row.

For deep stains, try brushing once daily for five days in a row.

Repeat usage once every three or four months. Don’t use activated charcoal too frequently or as part of your daily brushing routine.

How to use – process:

Charcoal can stain your sink, so make sure you have a good cloth on hand to clear up the mess afterwards. You may also want to use a separate toothbrush from your regular toothbrush.

  1. Wet a clean toothbrush and dip it into your powder.
  2. Start brushing in small gentle circles to apply the charcoal. Work around your mouth as you would when brushing normally to make sure all areas are covered. Leave for two minutes.
  3. Spit and rinse until you have cleared all the charcoal from your mouth. Then give your teeth a light brush with your regular toothbrush.
  4. Wipe the sink immediately to avoid staining it.


  • A lack of clinical evidence to say it’s effective.
  • A lack of clinical evidence to say it’s safe.
  • Some dentists suggest that because charcoal is abrasive, it could wear away the enamel on your teeth. Don’t overuse.
  • Some people don’t like their teeth turning black as they brush them.
  • The charcoal can stain your sink so you may need to wipe it up afterwards.


Normally between €1.10 and 1.80 per 10ml.

Activated charcoal powder is one of the cheapest teeth whitening options.

Is it effective?

There is no scientific evidence to say that charcoal whitens teeth, although anecdotes and reviews from around the internet claim that it works. The FDA—which governs American regulations of food and drugs—has approved activated charcoal for use on teeth. However, some dentists argue that charcoal powders could wear away enamel and erode the teeth, especially if used too frequently. Dr Adam Thorne told,

"I'd be concerned about the potential damage that the grainy, gritty substance can do to your teeth and gums. We simply don't know about the safety and effectiveness of it. If you want a gleaming white smile, I'd always recommend talking to your dentist first about using traditional whitening toothpaste for surface stains or specific whitening treatments for deeper stains or discolouration."

A study undertaken by the American Dental Association investigating and comparing current academic research on activated charcoal concluded that there isn’t enough scientific evidence to prove that charcoal is safe to use and effective.

Use activated charcoal if you:

  • have tried other whitening products and they don’t suit you
  • want a treatment that only involves brushing
  • don’t mind having to do a bit of cleaning up afterwards
  • want a treatment that is quicker and sometimes cheaper than strips/kits

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