When people think charcoal, they don’t necessarily think of white—or whiter teeth, for that matter. In fact, they probably don’t think of health benefits at all. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any. Case in point: Charcoal toothpaste. It sounds gross, but the demand for charcoal toothpaste is growing, and it’s hardly a marketing gimmick. But why is it so popular? What are people using it for? Is it really better than regular toothpaste? The verdict is still out, but there are definitely some compelling arguments out there.

So… What Is Charcoal Toothpaste?

Charcoal toothpaste is exactly what you’re thinking. It comes either as a black goop in a tube, or a powder in a container that you mix with water and then brush on your teeth.  It gets its black color from the activated charcoal manufacturers make it from. It’s important to note it’s activated charcoal, and not really the stuff you light on fire to cook cheeseburgers with.

Activated charcoal is carbon—made from burnt wood or other materials—that undergoes treatment to develop pores that are said to absorb all the bad stuff in our mouths.

And before you freak out about having all your stuff touch burnt wood, understand people have been using charcoal for medicinal and dental purposes for centuries. The Phoenicians first used it to filter their water in 450 BC, and modern water filtration systems still use it to clean up drinking water.  You’ve definitely used it whether or not you’re aware and you’re alive to read this, so it couldn’t have been all bad.


Benefits of Charcoal Toothpaste

Of course, when we say “bad stuff,” we mean several things.

First, brushing with activated charcoal is said to change the pH balance in the mouth, which is a big deal. Our saliva is naturally acidic and supersaturated with various ions and proteins. They’re not innately dangerous to the mouth, but over time, as you can imagine, they do have an effect on our teeth. Charcoal toothpaste is said to alter the pH balance to make the mouth less acidic, and even helps get rid of pre-existing decay.

It’s also a big germ killer, which means it helps eliminate bad breath that more conventional toothpastes leave behind.

And, of course, it’s most popularly known to whiten teeth. Remember those pores we were talking about? Well, they basically eat plaque and all the other stuff that stains teeth.


What You Can Expect

Charcoal toothpaste is actually not all that different from regular toothpaste, save for its unnerving black color. Most of the modern toothpastes and powders on the market come in a refreshing minty flavor, so it won’t be much different from what you’re used to.

People who swear by the stuff say teeth are noticeably whiter after the first use, but how often you should do it all depends on the product you’re using and who you’re talking too—something we’ll discuss more in a bit.

We’ve heard everything from people doing it once a day for a few days in a row, to twice daily for over 20 days—all with varying degrees of success. The one commonality is that people do tend to report a noticeable difference.

Charcoal toothpaste is also particularly messy. Seriously, if you get so much as a drop of this stuff on your floors, counters, or clothes, it’s going to get everywhere. It’s really good at staining things, so if you’re going to use charcoal toothpaste, it’s probably best to take the tube into the shower with you.


The Potential Problems With Charcoal Toothpaste

Charcoal toothpaste sounds like some kind of all-natural miracle drug—you know, the kind that you find on late-night infomercials. And if there’s one thing we know about those products, it’s that they’re usually full of shit.

There’s plenty of expert testimony out there warning about the hazards of using charcoal toothpaste, and while some of it is clearly written by the toothpaste industry spin machine (yeah, that’s a thing), some of it is pretty valid. A lot of critics worry that because the charcoal toothpaste industry pales in size to its fluoride-laden competition, its products are relatively unregulated. There are a lot of “small batch” companies putting out their own products, along with a plethora YouTube tutorials out there encouraging DIYers to give it a try themselves. That means that there’s a lot of stuff out there that might not be safe, hasn’t been tested, and is probably no good.

Critics also claim that because the charcoal damages both tooth enamel and the stuff under the enamel, called the dentin, which, ironically enough, is actually heavily responsible for the coloring of teeth. They claim that because the dentin is damage, it’s left faded and even darker in color.

But there are also people who swear by the toothpaste and say it’s harmless and natural.


Charcoal Toothpaste Recommendations

We think the general takeaway from all this is that if you’re curious and want to check out what charcoal toothpaste is all about, it won’t kill you to try it—so long as you’re looking at reputable products.


Tuxedo Tooth and Gum Powder

This is hands-down the most highly rated and widely purchased charcoal whitener on Amazon, and for good reason. The gentle formula is easy on gums and tooth enamel, which means over a 30-day span, you get all of the benefits without any of the potential hazards. The trick is that it’s in powder form, which means activating it with a moist toothbrush. It’s not difficult, but can be messy, so be sure to the instructions as provided. $20


Twin Lotus Active Charcoal Toothpaste

If you’re looking for more of a traditional toothpaste-type of deal this stuff is excellent and super affordable. It’s applied like a normal toothpaste and is definitely  a lot less messy than its powder counterpart. $7


Bamboo Toothbrush 3 Pack

If you’re not real sure about the whole charcoal toothpaste thing and you want to try something a little less drastic, these bamboo toothbrushes feature charcoal infused nylon bristles which are advertised as naturally antibacterial. If anything, you can supplement them with the real stuff if you decide they aren’t enough! $11