Years ago, a reader from India told me about a natural way to whiten teeth and it is the only method I’ve used since that time. Her suggestion? Use charcoal to whiten teeth with!
Whiten Teeth With Charcoal?
I was very skeptical that charcoal could actually help whiten teeth. I already kept activated charcoal around the house since we have kids and this highly absorbent substance is often used in hospitals for food poisoning. Because I kept it around the house, I’d also seen firsthand what happens when it spills on a kitchen floor (grout = permanently ruined) so I was afraid it would stain my teeth and not whiten them.
There are whitening toothpastes out there that have activated charcoal in them, but I decided a daily brush with charcoal toothpaste sounded like too much mess. I prefer to use the straight black powder version for a deep treatment.
How Charcoal Works
Activated charcoal is a highly absorbent substance. It removes toxins when they adhere to the surface of the charcoal. It is not absorbed by the body, but passes through the GI system, so chemicals and toxins bind to it, which then pass through the body and are expelled by the digestive system.
In the 1800s, two men took lethal doses of poisons (including arsenic) and survived without harm… their secret: they mixed the poisons with activated charcoal powder. (Stating the obvious: do not try to repeat these experiments!)
Activated charcoal is extremely effective at binding to toxins from household chemicals, ingested medicines, and other chemicals from the body, especially when taken within 30 minutes of ingestion. For this reason, it is a great first treatment for any kind of poisoning, but should not be taken within several hours of medications (or even vitamins) that DO need to be absorbed.
I had used activated charcoal when I had an awful bout of food poisoning, and it worked wonders! I mixed about a tablespoon of activated charcoal with water and drank quickly. The food poisoning symptoms went away within a couple of hours. This one dose was enough to remedy my food poisoning, but others report having to take this dose several times within a day before finding relief.
Charcoal is not a substance I would take regularly, as it can cause constipation and block mineral absorption if it is taken when it is not needed. Also, it can’t be mixed with dairy products or many foods, as they lower its effectiveness. Charcoal can also cause dehydration in large doses so it is important to consume enough water when consuming charcoal.
How Does Activated Charcoal Whiten Your Teeth?
So, it’s all well and good that activated charcoal is an effective poison remedy… but does it really work to whiten teeth?
As I said, since the powder stains everything, I had always worried that it would do the same to my teeth. (One of my kids dumped it in the kitchen one time and it does stain tile, grout, clothes and shoes… just so you know!).
I did some research and found out that even though it temporarily makes the mouth look extremely black (picture for emphasis!) it has the same effect as it does when ingested: it pulls toxins from the mouth and removes stains. (Fair warning: when you open your mouth, it is completely black and rather scary looking! Right after I did this the first time I was intensely worried that it would stain my teeth.)
To my surprise, all of the black washes away and it makes your teeth feel extremely clean and smooth. After a few uses, my teeth were noticeably whiter too.
Further research I’ve done on this showed that activated charcoal can actually be helpful in changing the pH and health of the mouth, and as such is effective in preventing cavities and killing the bad bacteria present in tooth decay and gingivitis. For this reason, I now use it as part of my remineralizing protocol for teeth, along with my remineralizing toothpaste.
Of course, it is important to check with your own doctor and dentist before using this or any substance internally or orally.
How to Use Charcoal to Whiten Teeth
I’m sure everyone does it a little differently, but here’s the routine I’ve worked out over the years. Once you have it down, the whole process takes about 5 minutes. You can also see the whole thing in action in the video below.
I recommend having two toothbrushes, one for applying the charcoal and one for brushing your mouth out after. A cup for rinsing is also helpful. (Tip I learned the hard way: Have a microfiber cloth on hand to wipe out the sink when you’re done, also.)
Dip a clean, wet toothbrush into the powdered charcoal (or dump a capsule of charcoal on the toothbrush).
Lean over the container of charcoal and quickly put the charcoal-covered toothbrush in the mouth (this is to protect your sink).
Brush in small, very gentle circles to apply charcoal all over your teeth. Let sit for 2 minutes.
Spit and rinse until your mouth is clear of charcoal. (Again, be careful of surrounding surfaces.)
To any remaining charcoal out of your mouth, wet the the second clean toothbrush, brush lightly, and rinse.
Wipe out the sink with the microfiber before it dries for easiest clean-up.