You’ve probably seen it: happy people all over the internet brushing their teeth with what looks like dirt. Okay, it’s not technically dirt, but it’s the next closest thing—charcoal. Has the world gone mad? Brushing your teeth with charcoal literally makes them dirtier, not cleaner. Right?
As it turns out, scrubbing your pearly whites with some activated charcoal once in a while can be great for your teeth.
So what is activated charcoal anyways? To make activated charcoal, a material (often bamboo or coconut husk) must be charred at extremely high temperatures in the absence of oxygen, creating a highly porous carbon structure. Charcoal and activated charcoal have been used for centuries to make our lives cleaner and healthier—it can do anything from absorbing serious poisons in the body to reducing odors and bacteria to cleaning and filtering polluted water, and more. And yes, you can even brush your teeth with it.
When it coms to teeth, activated charcoal absorbs anything and everything, meaning it can reduce bad breath bacteria, food stains and anything else lurking around. Its texture is also highly effective at brushing away plaque buildup and keeping teeth squeaky clean.
My first experience with activated charcoal began when I saw a jar of tooth powder discounted at a store and decided to indulge my curiosity. I brought it home, dipped my toothbrush in, and brushed as I did normally. I’m not going to lie, it was weird. I smiled at myself in the mirror and was greeted by a toothless zombie of a reflection. My inner 5 year-old could not have been more pleased to be making such a mess.
After rinsing and spitting, I inspected my teeth. Yep, they were noticeably whiter and felt great. It is pretty incredible. I now use activated charcoal around twice a week to keep my teeth clean and happy. Yes, I still use a fluoride-free toothpaste, mainly because charcoal is a little bit more abrasive and I don’t love the idea of cleaning charcoal-spit out of the sink every night. Of course, there are plenty of natural toothpaste companies who are incorporating small amounts of activated charcoal into their formulations to make a more gentle, less dirty whitening formula.
Now for the cons. There are some people who have concerns about the abrasiveness of charcoal powder on tooth enamel. If this is a concern for you, try using charcoal just as a gentle biweekly treatment (rather than bidaily) to keep surface stains at bay without battering your enamel. If your goal is to get bright white teeth, know that charcoal is not quite as effective as in-office whitening treatments. But you’re also not chemically bleaching your teeth.
If you swallow activated charcoal (which you generally shouldn’t swallow your toothpaste anyways), know that it can interfere with medications, as it is highly absorbent. Consult your doctor if you are concerned about any potential interactions.
Important to note, activated charcoal is not the same charcoal you use to light your grill. Do not use that charcoal on your body. It is loaded with chemical toxins and is not safe for hygienic use.
Natural supplements to oral hygiene like oil pulling and brushing with activated charcoal are cheap and highly effective. When used in conjunction with your regular oral hygiene routine, they can enhance your oral health in an easy, natural way.
Would you ever try brushing with activated charcoal powder? Have you used it before? Share your experiences with the community below.