Updated on February 1, 2024
5 min read

Charcoal Toothbrushes: What Are They & Do They Work?

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Charcoal toothbrushes have soft bristles infused with activated charcoal. 

Proponents of charcoal toothbrushes claim they whiten teeth, give you fresher breath, and even reduce bacteria. However, many dental professionals still hesitate to recommend them.

Do Charcoal Toothbrushes Work?

Preliminary studies show that charcoal toothbrushes may do better than regular toothbrushes at plaque removal and reducing bacteria count.1, 2 However, the claims that they can whiten your teeth and freshen your breath remain unsubstantiated. 

Activated charcoal has been used for dental purposes for centuries. It’s a porous version of charcoal that works like a sponge and is commonly used to treat poisonings, hangovers, and even high cholesterol.3

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

This may explain why many people use charcoal in their oral hygiene routines.

charcoal and charcoal toothbrush with white background scaled

Do Dentists Recommend Charcoal Toothbrushes?

Despite the long-term use of activated charcoal in dentistry, Dr. Lilly does not believe dentists should recommend charcoal toothbrushes.

“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 using charcoal toothbrushes but would prefer to see more scientific evidence to support their use.

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What Does Science Say About Charcoal Toothbrushes?

Early research shows that charcoal may have antimicrobial and plaque-controlling properties, but it hasn’t been proven whether or not it’s safe to use regularly.

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

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

Pros and Cons of Charcoal Toothbrushes

If you’re considering using a charcoal toothbrush, you should understand the pros and cons. It can help you identify which purported benefits may be real and which may be marketing tactics.

Benefits of Charcoal Toothbrushes

Here are some of the possible benefits of charcoal toothbrushes:


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

People who prefer all-natural products may choose charcoal toothbrushes over traditional ones.

May Whiten Teeth

Activated charcoal may 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 whiten teeth.6

Antibacterial Properties 

Research has proven that charcoal has antibacterial properties, which extends to charcoal toothbrushes.

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 of Charcoal Toothbrushes

Here are some downsides of charcoal toothbrushes:


“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, so it cannot repair itself when the surface is worn away.6 Using a charcoal toothbrush may make your teeth vulnerable to decay.


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

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


Certain people should not use any products containing activated charcoal, including people who: 

  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Take birth control or any other kind of oral medication 

Charcoal can counteract the effects of oral medication. If you accidentally swallow it, your birth control or other medications may stop working.

Other Charcoal Oral Care Products 

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

  • Charcoal toothpaste — Some people use charcoal-infused toothpaste instead of a toothbrush for the same benefits. However, research shows charcoal toothpastes are less effective at preventing cavities.7 Many lack fluoride, a mineral known to strengthen teeth and prevent tooth decay.8 In addition, they may be overly abrasive. 
  • Charcoal powder — You can mix charcoal powder with water to create homemade toothpaste. It’s usually messier than other charcoal dental products, as the powder can spill or spread 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.


Charcoal toothbrushes have bristles infused with activated charcoal. Some claim they offer benefits like whiter teeth, fresher breath, and reduced bacterial growth.

Scientific research has shown that charcoal can reduce the number of oral bacteria and control plaque. However, there’s no evidence to prove that it offers other purported benefits. It’s also unclear whether it is safe or more effective than other dental products.

Most dentists don’t recommend using charcoal toothbrushes at this time. More evidence is needed to determine whether it’s a healthy choice for your oral hygiene.

Last updated on February 1, 2024
8 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 1, 2024
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. Kini, V., et al “Comparison of Plaque Removal and Wear between Charcoal Infused Bristle and Nylon Bristle Toothbrushes: A Randomized Clinical Crossover Study” J Contemporary Dental Practice, National Library of Medicine, 2019.
  2. Thamke, M., et al. “Comparison of Bacterial Contamination and Antibacterial Efficacy in Bristles of Charcoal Toothbrushes versus Noncharcoal Toothbrushes: A Microbiological Study.” Contemporary Clinical Dentistry, National Library of Medicine, 2018.
  3. Silberman, J., et al. “Activated Charcoal.” StatPearls, National Library of Medicine, 2021.
  4. Brooks, J., et al. “Charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices.” The Journal of the American Dental Association, American Dental Association, 2017.
  5. ADA Seal of Acceptance.” American Dental Association, 2023.
  6. Lacruz, R., et al. “Dental Enamel Formation and Implications for Oral Health and Disease.” Physiological Reviews, National Library of Medicine, 2017.
  7. Vaz, V., et al. Whitening toothpaste containing activated charcoal, blue covarine, hydrogen peroxide or microbeads: which one is the most effective?” Journal of Applied Oral Scence, SciELO, 2019.
  8. About Fluoride.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2019.
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