When we ask our patients if there is anything they would like to change about their smile, the #1 answer we get is that they would like them whiter! There are many claims online and in social media about whitening your teeth naturally with activated charcoal. It’s no surprise that people are interested in this option, as anything “natural” sounds like it should be healthier.

So how is activated charcoal supposed to work? The claim is that it binds surface stains and plaque so that it can be removed (similar to brushing with an abrasive toothpaste or toothbrush). There is no evidence that charcoal whitening is safe or effective, according to a study in the Journal of the American Dental Association in 2017.

Our main concern with activated charcoal is the abrasivity. It can wear enamel away over time, exposing the underlying dentin which will actually make your teeth look more yellow. Patients with any sort of wear on their teeth from acid erosion, grinding, or with recession should definitely not use this method of whitening.

The most effective method to whiten your teeth without wearing tooth structure away is having professional custom trays made, and using take home bleach gel from your dentist. It is also important to have a complete exam of your teeth to make sure that whitening will not cause any harm to existing fillings, crowns, or exposed dentin.