You can't walk down a toothpaste aisle or scroll through your social media feed without seeing ads for charcoal toothpaste. It started off in natural oral care product lines as an alternative to traditional whitening products. It quickly became popular and the more mainstream companies jumped on the wagon. So, how do they work and is it worth all of the hype...and the potential mess?
Charcoal toothpastes contain activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is a form of carbon that has been treated to make it's surface rough and porous. The rough surface scrubs stains away while the porous areas attract and grab onto the particles that have been removed from the tooth's surface. Charcoal toothpastes work well on surface level extrinsic stains, but they do not have the ability to change intrinsic stains. Most product comparisons show that charcoal toothpastes are more effective than other popular whitening toothpastes at removing stains. The high efficacy comes from the abrasiveness of the activated charcoal. It is important to use charcoal toothpastes sparingly and not more than 1-2 times per week. If used too often, the abrasiveness of activated charcoal can cause irreversible tooth damage and sensitivity. Bottom Line: Charcoal toothpaste is safe/effective when used sparingly.
There are two types of tooth stain, extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic stains are those that sit on the surface of the tooth. These stains are typically caused by food and drinks such as coffee, tea, wine, and berries. Extrinsic stains are not incorporated into the tooth structure, therefore they can typically be removed by brushing and/or by your hygienist during your professional dental cleaning. Intrinsic stains are those that have become incorporated into the actual tooth structure. These stains can also be caused by food and drinks, as well as medication and some health conditions. Intrinsic stains cannot be removed by brushing or scaling done by your dental hygienist. Intrinsic stains require bleaching procedures to be lightened and removed.