Why charcoal toothpastes are not the best teeth whitening method

The following opinions are solely of Pinnacle Dental - we were not paid for any reviews

Testing Charcoal Whitening Toothpaste

This month we are talking about charcoal toothpaste. On the market for several years, the idea of whitening teeth with a black polish seems contradictory, so does charcoal toothpaste work? To prove out their results, we picked a few of the best sellers from Amazon and did some in-office testing with our Grove City dental team.

Criteria used for the paste selection:

1. Must contain fluoride. A naturally occurring substance in rocks that leaches into ground water, when applied to teeth re-mineralizes and hardens tooth enamel to protect against decay.

2. Must provide tarter control. As we will discuss in more detail in our next blog 2 Minutes 2 Times, when not removed, plaque hardens into tarter and then creates a condo for bacteria that wreaks havoc in your entire mouth - everything from bad breath to gum disease to tooth decay.

3. Must have 4 star rating on Amazon with at least 1000 reviews.

4. Must be a national brand available in most stores and online.

Charcoal Whitening Toothpaste Brands We Tested

1. Colgate Total Charcoal Teeth Whitening Toothpaste
Why we picked it: 53k reviews, 84% 5 star rating. Our most affordable option,  roughly $8 for a 2 pack

2. Crest Charcoal 3D White Toothpaste
Why we picked it: One of our most trusted brands of paste. Added benefit of deep cleaning therapy

3. Tom’s Of Maine Luminous White, with Natural Fluoride
Why we picked it: Clean product, msde of only sustainable products. Claims to be a “gentle” option

4. Hello Activate Charcoal Epic Teeth with Fluoride
Why we picked it: SLS, Peroxide and Gluten Free. Never tested on animals and USA made

How Does Charcoal Toothpaste Work?

It is advertised that activated charcoal toothpaste can whiten teeth naturally by binding to particles such as food, plaque and stains and then pulling or lifting of the impurities to leave a whiter and healthier looking smile. Unfortunately, none of these claims have been scientifically proven. Each of the products we chose to evaluate did not list activated charcoal as an active ingredient but instead we found it listed at the bottom of the ingredient list with other abrasive agents appearing at the top of the list.

Instead of the advertising claims made, charcoal toothpaste is actually whitening with abrasives similar to other whitening pastes, by scratching the tooth's surface to remove stains. Unlike other teeth whitening products, toothpaste cannot penetrate the surface of the tooth to remove deep stains. The American Dental Association established the RDA, or Relative Dentine Abrasivity scale, to measure the abrasiveness of toothpastes. All toothpastes are required to have an RDA of 250 or less because according to the ADA, clinical evidence shows lifelong use of toothpaste with an RDA of 250 or less will cause virtually no wear to enamel. Unfortunately, many individuals have exposed root surfaces, which are much softer than enamel and can be damaged by lower levels of abrasiveness. We reached out to each of the manufacturers of the pastes tested and performed extensive research online, but unfortunately none of the listed companies will release the RDA values of their pastes.

Our Testing Results

Now the fun part! Each team member in our office tested all 4 toothpastes and rated each on six criteria: Taste, Texture, Foaminess, Clean Feeling, Whitening and Staining. Drum roll please....the results are:

Best Tasting: Crest
Had a nice mint flavor that was not too overpowering

Best Texture: Crest
Not too gritty or slimey

Appropriate Level of Foaminess: Hello
Proper amount of foam, not too much or too little, even though it contained no SLS, a common foaming chemical compound

Most Clean Feeling: Crest
Others seemed to give that "fresh from the dentist clean feel", but would wear off throughout the day quicker than usual

Most Teeth Whitening Effects: NONE!
This should be the biggest take away - no one in the office saw any difference in whitening. It was actually noted by a staff member that one paste had reverse whitening effect. Her teeth picked up an extreme amount of stain after normal eating and drinking, leaving a purple hue to the tooth.

Left Stain on Teeth: Hello
This isn't a positive category. Hello was the darkest colored product and it seemed to cause the most post-brushing stain, requiring rinsing or brushing with water after to remove the particles from the tooth.

So, Crest was our winner since it most resembled "normal" toothpaste. It had a refreshing mint flavor, pleasant texture and kept our teeth feeling clean throughout the day. We had a lot of fun testing these products and hope you learned something about how whitening toothpastes work.

Should I use a Teeth Whitening Toothpaste?

Regardless of the RDA rating, we do not recommend long-term use of ANY whitening toothpastes. It is known that toothpaste with abrasion limits close to 250 can in fact cause long term tooth damage, especially to exposed root structure. Any negative of the charcoal paste is the charcoal itself. The tiny black particles can get trapped along edges of fillings or in cracks of teeth, making the teeth appear darker or dirtier than before using the paste. If you feel like you are someone who builds stain quickly, it is ok to use a charcoal paste for a short period of time, but regular dental cleanings and other methods of teeth whitening are much safer and more effective, in our opinion.

Our Teeth Whitening service is an effective way to reduce deep stains on your teeth. We offer OpalescenceGo, Philips Zoom, as well as laser teeth whitening in our office. If you would like whiter, brighter teeth, schedule an appointment at our Grove City dental office today. Our teeth whitening won’t leave a bad taste in your mouth!