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Activated charcoal isn't anything new, but the substance has been popping up lately in all kinds of wellness and beauty products ranging from supplements to shampoo to toothpaste. We're here to talk about the latter. Some people swear the pitch-black paste whitens their teeth, while others simply prefer plant-based formulas.
According to Sanda Moldovan, DDS, one of the main draws of charcoal is that it's detoxifying. "It attracts plaque due to its negative charge," she tells Byrdie. "Plaque is 99 percent bacteria, which has a positive charge, so the interaction is just what is needed for maintaining a healthy oral cavity." Bear in mind the American Dental Association (ADA) only gives its stamp of approval for fluoride toothpaste, but lots of options contain both fluoride and charcoal.
Meet the Expert
Sanda Moldovan, MS, DDS, is an award-winning dentist, board-certified periodontist, nutritionist, author, television personality, and internationally recognized speaker. Her Beverly Hills practice is dedicated to improving patients' overall well-being through exceptional oral care.
Dental hygienist Shannon Nanne says charcoal formulas might be a solid alternative for those sensitive to hydrogen peroxide bleaching products, but so far, research on charcoal's teeth-whitening effects hasn't been conclusive. "Patients need to be careful when choosing a toothpaste with charcoal," she adds, explaining that some powders can be abrasive against the teeth.
Meet the Expert
- Shannon Nanne, RDH, is a dental hygienist and the Manager of Professional Relations and Education, Curaden US. She studied at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine and has over 25 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry.
- Dr. Brigitte White is a Restorative Dentist and oral care expert. She is also a published author with a collection of Oral Care Children’s Books.
We rounded up the best charcoal toothpastes below.
Best Overall: hello Oral Care Activated Charcoal Fluoride Whitening Toothpaste
Our first choice is Hello, a pitch-black toothpaste that promises noticeably whiter teeth with regular use. Unlike some others in its category, it's formulated to be safe for your enamel.
"Many patients with sensitive teeth and gums cannot tolerate the bleaches in whitening toothpaste. Others with dry mouth cannot use products with bleach," says Nanne.
In addition to activated charcoal powder, it contains hydrated silica to boost the brightening effects, coconut to soothe and protect the gums, and fluoride to fend off cavities. (There's also a fluoride-free version.) We're big fans of the slightly sweet, minty flavor too.
Active Ingredients: Fluoride, hydrated silica, charcoal powder | Flavor: Mint | Size: 4 oz.
Best Budget: Active Wow Activated Charcoal Toothpaste Teeth Whitening Formula
Made with organic ingredients
Doesn't fight cavities
Active Wow makes one of the budget-friendliest charcoal toothpaste on the market. The natural formula combines the black powder hero ingredient with baking soda and organic coconut oil to gently remove stains while freshening your breath with real mint extract.
Active Ingredients: Baking soda, charcoal powder, coconut oil | Flavor: Mint | Size: 4 oz.
Best Drugstore: Colgate Essential Charcoal Whitening Toothpaste
Results aren't dramatic
Even Colgate has hopped on the activated charcoal bandwagon. This gray-toned, enamel-safe paste contains ultra-fine "micro-cleaning crystals" to tackle surface stains and gradually brighten your teeth, while fluoride prevents tooth decay.
Active Ingredients: Fluoride, charcoal powder | Flavor: Mint | Size: 4.6 oz.
Best Luxury: Estrella Blanco Activated Charcoal Toothpaste
Anything upwards of $10 is a lot to spend on a single tube of toothpaste, but like all personal hygiene products, it's fun to splurge once in a while. The Blanco formula contains super-fine charcoal powder, along with aloe vera to combat sensitivity, and green tea, a natural source of fluoride to help fend off gum disease. The peppermint-vanilla flavor is a nice touch too.
Active Ingredients: Coconut oil, bamboo charcoal powder, green tea | Flavor: Peppermint, vanilla | Size: 3.4 oz.
Best Formula: Curaprox Black Is White Charcoal Toothpaste and Toothbrush Set
Optical brightening effect
"Curaprox Black Is White has a micronized version of activated charcoal, so the toothpaste has a low abrasivity," says Nanne, explaining that the ultra-fine particles are less likely to scrape your enamel or irritate your gums. This toothpaste also contains Prestige Sparkling Blue, a special pigment that makes your teeth look instantly whiter and shinier. "It's a good option to remove stains and get the brightest, whitest teeth possible without the harsh bleaching chemicals."
Active Ingredients: Fluoride, charcoal powder, natural blue pigment | Flavor: Lime, mint | Size: 4.6 oz.
Best Taste: Moon Activated Charcoal Whitening Toothpaste
Results aren't dramatic
If the taste is high up on your toothpaste priorities list, you'll appreciate Moon's charcoal-infused formula. The peppermint flavor is refreshing but not too strong and balances out with green tea extract, a hint of cranberry, sea salt, and a touch of sweetness from natural stevia. This formula leans on fluoride to fight cavities, but it also comes in a fluoride-free version.
Active Ingredients: Fluoride, coconut oil, activated charcoal, green tea | Flavor: Peppermint, cranberry, sea salt | Size: 4.3 oz.
Best Texture: Native Detoxifying Charcoal Fluoride Anticavity Toothpaste
Flavor might be too strong for some
Native's take on charcoal toothpaste is this smooth, non-abrasive formula that lathers into a brilliantly rich foam and leaves your breath extra fresh from real peppermint oil, plus a whisper of cinnamon and clove. It supplements the whitening effects of charcoal powder with brightening hydrated silica, plus cavity-preventing fluoride to cover all the bases.
Active Ingredients: Fluoride, charcoal powder, hydrated silica | Flavor: Peppermint, cinnamon, clove | Size: 4.1 oz.
Best for Quick Results: Unpa Cha Cha Toothpaste
If you want fast, noticeable results, this Korean toothpaste might be your best bet. The jet-black formula uses an ultra-fine carbon powder to minimize abrasion and draw out impurities, while silica enhances its whitening power and leaves you with a bright, shiny, sparkly-clean smile.
Active Ingredients: Activated charcoal, silicon dioxide, fluoride | Flavor: Mint | Size: 3.5 oz.
Best for Sensitive Teeth: Burst Charcoal Whitening Anticavity Toothpaste
Sensitive teeth? Go with Burst. This charcoal toothpaste has a lower-than-average relative dentin abrasivity (RDA) score, meaning it's unlikely to erode your enamel or cause irritation. What's more, coconut oil battles bacteria and helps soothe your gums, while tried-and-true fluoride prevents tooth decay.
Active Ingredients: Fluoride, coconut oil, charcoal powder, hydrated silica | Flavor: Coconut, salt | Size: 4.7 oz.
Best Breath-Freshening: Dental Expert Activated Charcoal & Coconut Whitening Toothpaste
Minimizes mouth bacteria
Toothbrush and tongue-scraper included
Doesn't fight cavities
If the goal is fresher breath, this three-piece kit won't let you down. You'll get a tube of charcoal toothpaste blended with coconut oil to tackle odor-causing bacteria and a dose of cooling peppermint oil to refresh your entire mouth, plus a manual toothbrush and a tongue scraper for good measure.
Active Ingredients: Activated charcoal, hydrated silica, coconut oil, peppermint oil | Flavor: Mint | Size: 4 oz.
Best Anticavity: Gleem Whitening Charcoal Powder Anticavity Fluoride Toothpaste
Prevents gum disease
Results aren't dramatic
Gleem combines charcoal powder with hydrated silica to gradually whiten your teeth and help you maintain an all-around brighter smile. It also contains a slightly higher-than-average concentration of fluoride to boost its cavity-preventing power and keep gum disease at bay.
Active Ingredients: Fluoride, charcoal powder, hydrated silica | Flavor: Mint | Size: 4.1 oz.
Best Fluoride-Free: Tom's of Maine Natural Fluoride-Free Activated Charcoal Toothpaste
Doesn't fight cavities
If you prefer fluoride-free formulas, Tom's is where it's at. This low-RDA toothpaste gently eliminates surface stains with charcoal powder and hydrated silica without compromising your enamel. There's also a fluoride version for those who want to get ahead of tooth decay while still keeping it natural.
Active Ingredients: Hydrated silica, activated charcoal | Flavor: Peppermint | Size: 4.7 oz.
Best Powder: Dirt Don't Hurt Tooth Powder with Activated Charcoal
Removes surface stains
Prevents plaque buildup
This oral-cleaning powder is a natural alternative to traditional toothpaste. In addition to activated charcoal, it combines baking soda, kaolin, and bentonite clay to remove surface stains, prevent plaque buildup, and clean your entire mouth. All you do is wet your toothbrush, dip it into the powder, brush for two minutes, and rinse as usual. Just bear in mind the powder formula could be abrasive, so check with your dentist before using it.
Active Ingredients: Activated coconut charcoal, baking soda, kaolin, bentonite clay | Flavor: Mint | Size: 1.6 oz.
Best Charcoal Toothbrush: Orasana Bamboo Toothbrush with Charcoal Bristles
Minimizes mouth bacteria
"I prefer charcoal in the toothbrush bristles because charcoal toothpaste can be quite messy and stain the sink," says Dr. Moldovan, explaining how charcoal-infused bristles have shown to do a better job of eliminating bacteria than regular bristles. "I love the Orasana Bamboo Toothbrush."
Active Ingredients: Bamboo charcoal
Our top choice is hello Oral Care Activated Charcoal Fluoride Whitening Toothpaste, a pitch-black toothpaste that flaunts natural brightening power without damaging your enamel. But if you're open to spending a little more, Curaprox Black Is White Charcoal Toothpaste and Toothbrush Set is an excellent non-abrasive formula that makes your teeth look instantly whiter.
What to Look For in a Charcoal Toothpaste
If your teeth are sensitive or have enamel damage, you should speak to your doctor before using charcoal toothpaste. The abrasive nature of some charcoal toothpaste could potentially wear down the enamel, leading to increased sensitivity and enamel damage that is irreparable.
Fluoride vs. Fluoride-Free
The concept of charcoal toothpaste is often synonymous with fluoride-free products. This is not necessarily a negative thing, but we recommend chatting to your dentist to decide if fluoride is an important ingredient for you.
Charcoal toothpaste often uses essential oils for flavor, while others rely on artificial flavors. Check the flavor and ingredients list to see if it is compatible with your preferred tastes. Essential oils can be strong and some might find them too intense.
What is charcoal?
According to oral care expert Dr. Brigitte White, activated charcoal is a fine black powder derived from certain natural resources (like wood or coconut) and heated to an extremely high temperature. This process makes the powder porous, enabling it to absorb certain toxins and contaminants from the body, like mouth odor and surface stains (think coffee, berries, and red wine).
Does charcoal toothpaste work?
Dr. White explains that there are no long-term studies to determine whether activated charcoal products are safe or effective regarding dental hygiene. Her advice is to be cautious when using them for a prolonged period and seek the advice of a dentist if you’re unsure.
Is charcoal toothpaste safe?
Overall, yes, charcoal toothpaste is safe, but speak to your dentist about specific products if you’re confused or concerned. Some research suggests the claims made by charcoal toothpaste brands can be misleading and the products ineffective.
Does charcoal toothpaste whiten teeth?
There's no concrete scientific evidence to prove that charcoal toothpaste will whiten teeth, but there are a lot of positive testimonials from users. Charcoal is often combined with other whitening ingredients as well for added benefit.
Why Trust Byrdie
Theresa Holland is a commerce writer and oral hygiene nerd with a dedicated brushing and flossing routine who loves going to the dentist. For this article, she spoke with a dentist and a dental hygienist for insight into the potential whitening power, abrasiveness, and mouth-cleaning benefits of charcoal toothpaste. She compiled their recommendations and combed through peer-reviewed journals to cross-reference ingredients before landing on the final picks. Theresa covers wellness products, lifestyle gadgets, skincare, and makeup at Byrdie.
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