Activated Charcoal Tooth Whitening Remedies: Do They Really Work?

Written By Dr. Kyle Griffith

I don’t mean to make things confusing, but yes and no. It depends on what kind of stain you are trying to remove.

Your teeth, over time, can develop two different types of discolorations; surface stain and internal stain.

Surface stain is easy to remove and activated charcoal will remove surface stain. There is nothing magical about how activated charcoal removes stain. Activated charcoal functions as an abrasive to scrub the stain off the surface of the tooth. This is the same effect that the abrasive in your normal toothpaste creates. Normal toothpaste contains silica, i.e. sand, that functions as the primary abrasive to remove stain. My concern here is that toothpaste has been formulated to be gentle to the teeth and gums. Who knows how abrasive activated charcoal formulations are? You risk damaging your teeth and gums if you use activated charcoal for any significant period of time.

Internal stain is the more difficult stain to remove from the teeth. Most people recognize internal staining as the overall color of their teeth. Teeth can range in colors from yellow, orange, brown, to even grey. You can use all the activated charcoal in the world, and it will have no effect on internal staining. Activated charcoal does not penetrate the tooth which is where the internal staining is located. Because it does not penetrate the tooth, activated charcoal will not affect the staining people are primarily concerned with, i.e., the overall color of their teeth. Sorry folks, activated charcoal isn’t the whitening miracle that you see advertised on YouTube.

So, if activated charcoal does not work, what does? Here is a very simple list that is ordered from easiest to more complex while still effective. Another way to look at this list is if your teeth are already light in color, start with some of the initial steps. If you look in the mirror and think, “Boy, my teeth are dark,” the most effective treatments will be further down the list.

  • Use an electric toothbrush, e.g. Sonicare or Oral B
  • Have your teeth professionally cleaned
  • Use white strips purchased at a retail store
  • Ask your dentist to create custom whitening trays for use at home
  • Have your teeth professionally whitened at the dental office
  • Have your teeth permanently whitened with dental veneers

Final thoughts: Put your money towards a quality electric toothbrush and try some whitening strips. If you don’t get the results you are looking for, talk with your dentist. They certainly will know how to help you get the bright, beautiful smile you deserve.

If you have questions about whitening, speak with one of the 58 Dental team members today. Decide how you want your smile to look and we’ll create a customized plan to help you reach your goal.

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Tony F
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