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Charcoal Toothbrushes - Are They Safe & Should You Use One?

Updated on June 16, 2022
Nandita Lilly
Written by Hana Ames
Medically Reviewed by Nandita Lilly

What are Charcoal Toothbrushes?

Charcoal toothbrushes are one of the latest trends in dentistry. They have soft bristles infused with activated charcoal. 

Activated charcoal is made by heating charcoal with gas to activate it and make it porous. This allows it to trap chemicals within those pores. The charcoal’s porous negative-charge draws in the positive-charged toxins. 

Activated charcoal works like a sponge and is commonly used to treat poisonings, hangovers, and even high cholesterol.1 However, its use in dentistry is not new. 

“Charcoal used in dentistry has been in existence since ancient Greece,” says resident expert and licensed dentist Dr. Nandita Lilly. “Charcoal is eco-friendly, herbal, and natural.” 

This may explain why so many people are opting for charcoal in their oral hygiene routines.

Do Dentists Recommend Charcoal Toothbrushes?

Dr. Lilly does not believe dentists should recommend charcoal toothbrushes just yet. “I believe that, although charcoal’s attributes are promising, there is currently insufficient scientific evidence to substantiate the cosmetic and health benefits of charcoal,” she says.  

Dr. Lilly’s viewpoint is typical of the dental industry. They don’t outright oppose the use of charcoal toothbrushes but would prefer to see more scientific evidence to support their use.

What Does Science Say About Charcoal Toothbrushes?

With the popularity of charcoal dental products increasing, researchers have been spending more time investigating their benefits.

One clinical study found that after 6 weeks of use, charcoal toothbrushes remove more plaque than toothbrushes with standard nylon bristles.2 The charcoal-infused bristles also appeared less worn, suggesting that they may last longer compared to nylon bristles.

Another study looked into charcoal in toothpaste. It compared activated charcoal, blue covarine, hydrogen peroxide, and microbeads to see which was more effective at whitening teeth. They found that toothpaste containing charcoal was less effective than toothpaste containing blue covarine or microbeads.3 

There is currently not enough evidence to support the use of charcoal toothbrushes over other kinds of brushes. According to the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), there is no evidence to show that dental products with charcoal are safe or effective.4

People should instead, consider products that have the ADA Seal of Acceptance.5

Pros and Cons of Charcoal Toothbrushes

People thinking about using a charcoal toothbrush should carefully consider the pros and cons.

“Charcoal promotions claim that it is a tooth-whitening, oral-detoxifying, antiseptic, antibacterial, and antifungal,” says Dr. Lilly. 

As well as the many purported benefits, there may be some downsides to using charcoal toothbrushes. 

Benefits of Charcoal Toothbrushes

Here are some of the known benefits of charcoal toothbrushes:

Natural 

Most charcoal toothbrushes are made of all-natural materials. They typically have a wooden handle, often bamboo. 

People who prefer to use all-natural products may choose charcoal toothbrushes over traditional ones for this reason.

Whitening 

Activated charcoal is absorbent and may be able to absorb substances that stain teeth, such as chemicals in coffee or wine. By doing so, charcoal toothbrushes may be able to remove or prevent stains and whiten teeth. However, there are no studies to support the claim that charcoal can do this.6

Antibacterial properties 

A study of 50 participants used a charcoal toothbrush and a standard toothbrush for a week each. They found that the charcoal toothbrushes retained around half the bacteria that regular toothbrushes retained.

These low levels of bacteria mean that charcoal toothbrushes could help freshen breath and aid in plaque removal better than standard toothbrushes.

Downsides to Charcoal Toothbrushes

Here are some downsides of charcoal toothbrushes:

Abrasive

“Charcoal is an abrasive material and can cause cavities by damaging the enamel and making it more prone to decay,” says Dr. Lilly. 

Enamel is not formed of living cells, and so when the surface is worn away, it cannot repair itself.8

Can cause stains

According to Dr. Lilly, “charcoal can also stain existing fillings, thereby necessitating the need for further restorative dental treatment."

Messy 

As with all charcoal products, charcoal toothbrushes may leave a black residue. This can happen when the bristles begin to wear, and the charcoal leaks out. 

This may stain the face, the sink, and any fabrics it comes into contact with. However, toothbrushes are typically less messy than other charcoal products, such as powder, toothpaste, or tabs.

Contraindications 

Certain people should not use any products containing activated charcoal. This includes people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, people who take birth control, and anyone who takes any kind of oral medication. 

This is because people may accidentally swallow some of the charcoal, which can lead to oral medications not working.

Other Charcoal Oral Care Products 

As well as charcoal infused toothbrushes, there are a variety of other activated charcoal products available.

Charcoal Toothpaste

Toothpaste that contains charcoal is becoming very popular, partially because it’s easy and inexpensive to replace regular toothpaste with a charcoal variation. 

Additionally, a lot of charcoal toothpastes lack fluoride, a mineral known for its ability to strengthen teeth and prevent tooth decay.9 A study in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) found that only 8% of products they reviewed contained fluoride.4

Charcoal Powder

With charcoal powder, people have to mix it with water to create a paste, which they then apply to their teeth. It can be messier than other kinds of charcoal dental products, as the powder may spill or spread more easily.

Charcoal Whitening Strips

These are similar to standard whitening strips but are infused with activated charcoal. They work in the same way as normal teeth whitening strips.

Summary 

In conclusion, even though charcoal has been around for centuries, there isn’t enough evidence-based research to conclude its efficacy.

Last updated on June 16, 2022
9 Sources Cited
Last updated on June 16, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Silberman, J. et alActivated Charcoal” StatPearls, 26 Jul. 2021
  2. Kini, V. et alComparison of Plaque Removal and Wear between Charcoal Infused Bristle and Nylon Bristle Toothbrushes: A Randomized Clinical Crossover Study” J Contemp Dent Pract., 1 Mar. 2019
  3. Vaz, V. T. P. et al Whitening toothpaste containing activated charcoal, blue covarine, hydrogen peroxide or microbeads: which one is the most effective?” J. Appl. Oral Sci. 2019
  4. Brooks, J. K. et alCharcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices” The Journal of the American Dental Association, 1 Sep. 2017
  5. ADA Seal of Acceptance” American Dental Association, n.d.
  6. Brooks, J. K. et alCharcoal-based mouthwashes: a literature review” Br Dent J. Feb. 2020
  7. Thamke, M. V. et alComparison of Bacterial Contamination and Antibacterial Efficacy in Bristles of Charcoal Toothbrushes versus Noncharcoal Toothbrushes: A Microbiological Study” Contemp Clin Dent. Jul-Sep. 2018
  8. Lacruz, R. S. et alDental Enamel Formation and Implications for Oral Health and Disease” Physiol Rev., 1 May 2017
  9. About Fluoride” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8 Mar. 2019
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