Guest article by Shelia Shah

If you notice some discoloration in your teeth, the likelihood is you’re not alone. Discoloration and staining are extremely common, since many foods and drinks have pigment that can stain our teeth. Our teeth also naturally become discolored over time. Despite it being a natural process, we can’t help but want to have a whiter smile, because having a radiant smile is a booster to self-confidence.

As so many desire a whiter smile, more and more methods emerge claiming to whiten teeth. One that has continued to gain popularity online is charcoal teeth whitening. While it may seem counterintuitive to rub black stuff all over your teeth hoping to get them whiter, there are those who claim charcoal lifts stains and leaves brighter teeth.

How Does Charcoal Whitening Work?

This method is based on using something called “activated charcoal,” which is simply normal charcoal that has been heated up using gas, which adds oxygen to the charcoal and makes it more porous. By “activating” the charcoal and making it more porous, the substance’s ability to soak up chemicals is enhanced. While doctors often use activated charcoal to treat poisons, since it can absorb toxins, people are now applying it to their teeth to absorb the pigments that cause staining and discoloration.

So does this work? While there are certainly many claims on social media of seeing results from charcoal whitening, there are no official studies that have been conducted to endorse it as an approved and effective whitening treatment. The most dental experts can assume is that the charcoal may be able to lift some minor surface stains, but not discoloration buried deep in the enamel. In fact, according to the Oral Health Foundation, charcoal whitening can actually put teeth at risk, being more dangerous than helpful.

Dr. Sheila Shah, DMD of Macon Smiles
Dr. Sheila Shah, DMD

The Dangers Of Charcoal Whitening

Activated charcoal is a very abrasive material. Since whitening by this method requires brushing an abrasive substance over the teeth, in all likelihood it is wearing away at the enamel. In the long run, the tooth enamel will be left with a rougher surface, making it easier for things like bacteria to stick to the tooth. This can accelerate tooth decay and cause even further discoloration.

Shifting focus to dental products containing active charcoal, particularly toothpastes, can also put your teeth at greater risk because they typically do not contain any fluoride. If using these products alone for brushing teeth, without adding fluoride somewhere in the process through something like a mouthwash, teeth can be left unprotected due to the lack of essential minerals normally gotten from the fluoride.

Charcoal Vs. Professional Whitening

If you really want a brighter smile, trying charcoal whitening isn’t worth the risk of damaging your teeth. It simply doesn’t have enough, if any, solid research on it in the professional dental community to confidently back the claims of whitening and its effectiveness. Compare that with a professional, in-office whitening with a local dentist. Not only do you get a treatment method proven to be fast, safe, and effective, but you also get the help of a professional who has trained to perform the procedure and who has already worked with countless patients to help them whiten their smiles. With professional dental whitening, a pearly white smile is possible without destroying your enamel, and without covering your teeth in black gunk.

Dr. Sheila Shah, DMD, LLC, offers Laser, Cosmetic, and General Dentistry at MaconSmiles, located in Macon, GA. She is a 1995 graduate of the Dental College at Augusta University, and is committed to staying on the cutting edge of advancements in the field of dentistry. To schedule a complimentary dental consultation with Dr. Shah, you may contact her via



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