Charcoal is the CBD of the oral care industry—it’s suddenly everywhere and in everything. Kendall Jenner is even hawking a charcoal-based tooth brand called Moon on her Instagram. Fans of charcoal-infused toothpaste claim it whitens teeth and freshens breath better than a dollop of any other toothpaste on the drugstore shelves, and nowadays you can find the black stuff (in its activated persona, not the briquettes used for cookouts) in everything from supplement pills to face masks. But new studies have called into question whether charcoal is actually doing more harm than good when it comes to your teeth. Here’s everything you need to know about the charcoal toothpaste trend.
Commonly found in water filters, activated charcoal is essentially a form of carbon that’s been treated to make the surface of its particles porous. All of those little nooks and crannies act like magnets for other particles (like the aforementioned dirt and oil) which it absorbs, allowing all of those unwelcome substances to be swept away when the charcoal is washed off.
“Activated charcoal toothpastes are a rebirth of ancient medicine techniques. In theory, it binds to everything in its path—stains, tartar, bacteria, viruses, and maybe even your tonsils,” explains cosmetic dentist Peter Auster. Charcoal is so powerful that it’s commonly used in hospitals and emergency rooms to treat patients who are suffering from poisoning or a drug overdose.