Can You Get Stains From Using Charcoal Toothpaste?

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Medically reviewed by Danielle Romatz, RDH

Diehard fans of charcoal toothpaste claim it has amazing teeth-whitening and breath-freshening effects. However, new studies have challenged whether charcoal toothpaste actually does good than harm. So, can you get stains from using charcoal toothpaste?

Charcoal toothpaste can be used to whiten teeth, but only when used in moderation. Using too much charcoal toothpaste will actually wear down tooth enamel, exposing the yellow dentin tissue and making teeth appear more stained. The dark charcoal can also stain some white fillings.

Even though charcoal toothpaste is a trendy option in the oral health industry, long-term use can take a significant toll on your overall dental health. So, before you start or continue brushing with charcoal toothpaste, let’s take a closer look at how it works and whether it causes stains.

Does Charcoal Toothpaste Whiten Teeth?

Toothbrush with black charcoal toothpaste

Charcoal toothpaste (on Amazon) doesn’t really whiten teeth; it only removes surface stains on the enamel — the hard outer surface of the teeth. It doesn’t create the blue-shift effect, which makes teeth appear brighter.

Most people don’t realize the subtle difference between whitening and simply removing stains from teeth. In that sense, they mischaracterize charcoal toothpaste and other popular products that claim to have teeth-whitening benefits but which actually only remove surface stains and plaque.

Surface stains on the teeth are also known as extrinsic stains, and they’re caused by dark-colored fruits and beverages like cola, coffee and red wine. Drugs like tobacco also stain the teeth.

Since extrinsic stains live on the enamel layer, you can generally remove them with most approved toothpastes and surface whitening treatments.

On the other hand, intrinsic stains are deeper stains that come from within the tooth layer called dentin. The dark inner coloring can be due to thin enamel, trauma, certain types of medication, and fluorosis.

A significant whitening of the teeth can only come from safe bleaching treatments that penetrate beyond the tooth enamel.

Many in the dental field only recommend charcoal toothpaste for removing surface stains, but not for whitening teeth. Interestingly, dental professionals have affirmed that it’s really difficult to whiten teeth with any dollop of toothpaste, not just charcoal toothpaste. 

That said, products with activated charcoal can remove surface stains effectively. However, it can’t rival what an in-office whitening procedure can do.

Can Charcoal Toothpaste Cause Stains or Make Them Worse?

Scientific studies have shown that charcoal toothpaste can cause stains and expose the yellow coloring beneath the enamel, making stains look worse.

The activated charcoal in toothpaste has mild abrasive properties. It’s also porous and can attract and absorb some colored particles to a considerable degree.

However, daily use of charcoal toothpaste quickly wears down the tooth enamel. This exposes the dentin layer, which has a natural yellow color that makes the teeth appear discolored.

Charcoal particles can also get stuck in the small cracks and chinks of older teeth, leaving an unpleasant grey or black outline. This could produce the opposite of what you’re looking for!

Moreover, particles of charcoal could build up between dental restorations like bridges, crowns, veneers, and white fillings, leaving dark stains that damage their aesthetics.

How Can I Get Rid of Stains on My Teeth?

You can still get rid of stains on your teeth using various safe and effective teeth-whitening options. The best way to get rid of stains usually involves going for in-office dental treatments where the effect is immediate.

Dentists use light-assisted products like Glo and Zoom for these procedures. Custom whitening trays are also an option your dentist might recommend.

There are plenty of safe over-the-counter teeth whitening products that the American Dental Association (ADA) endorses. You can also find professional whitening kits at your dentist’s office. 

In general, your options include specialized toothpastes and dentist-supervised whitening strips. You might also be given professional-grade whitening gels like carbamide peroxide.

If you need to buy teeth whitening products anywhere else, dentists recommend you go for ones with the ADA seal of acceptance. Products that have blue covarine and hydrogen peroxide are usually the most effective options.

A comparative study of various whitening toothpastes and technologies showed that blue covarine and hydrogen peroxide performed better than anything else, including activated charcoal.

Please note that you should always consult your dentist before pursuing any teeth whitening alternatives.

And for what it’s worth, regular brushing, including after meals that are known to stain teeth, can help you maintain a brighter smile.

How Can I Prevent Stains on My Teeth From Happening?

Active charcoal tooth paste

To prevent stains from forming on your teeth, maintain a good oral hygiene routine and avoid foods and beverages that discolor teeth.

Remember, poor oral hygiene is the leading cause of stains on teeth. If you don’t brush and floss regularly, dental plaque quickly accumulates on your teeth, staining them. 

Bacteria on the plaque also release acids that eat away at your enamel, exposing the dentin layer.

It’s been shown that certain medications like antihistamines also lead to teeth discoloration, and people who undergo treatments like chemotherapy may have discolored teeth.

Lastly, too much fluoride can lead to white spots on the teeth, a condition called fluorosis. This mainly occurs in children whose teeth are still forming.

Now that you understand what causes stains, here are some practical ways to prevent them from forming in the first place:

  • Brush your teeth for 2 minutes twice a day.
  • Floss daily.
  • Cut down on foods and drinks that leave stains on your teeth. If you must drink beverages like cola and coffee, use a straw.
  • Drink plenty of water and rinse your mouth thoroughly when you consume drinks that could stain your teeth.
  • Consult with your dentist before you use any teeth-whitening product.
  • Avoid smoking as much as possible.
  • Chew sugarless gum after having acidic food and drinks. This helps neutralize the acids in your mouth. Foods rich in fiber like spinach and other leafy greens also help create more saliva to neutralize the acids.

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