why add charcoal to toothpaste?


connie gregson

by connie gregson , friendly head of r+d at hello products


charcoal is associated with many things: barbecue grilling and chilling, whiskey distilling and swilling, multitasking and facial masking, etc. but as it turns out, charcoal can also be an ingredient in your oral care products. yep you heard us correctly. it’s important to note though that the type of charcoal used in oral care is a bit different, so please don’t put any of those barbecuing briquettes anywhere near your face-grill.

the oral care variety of charcoal is known as activated charcoal. and it’s been designed to safely go where no charcoal has (hopefully) gone before: inside your mouth.

activated charcoal for teeth: a bite of history

the use of charcoal goes way, way back – we’re talking b.c. status. charcoal powder was used by the ancient romans to help keep their teeth clean. charcoal has continued to come in and out of favour throughout the centuries. today, activated charcoal is having another rise to fame – and for good reason. 

what’s the difference between activated charcoal and the regular stuff?

activated charcoal is formed when high pressure gas is forced into charcoal making it much more porous. this porousness makes it extremely adsorptive. and yes, you read that right: we said “adsorptive” – not absorptive. the difference is that activated charcoal literally “adds” to its mass by grabbing other molecules. hence adsorption. think a static-y cloth that cleans by getting stuff to cling, as opposed to a paper towel that’s soaking up a liquid. this structure can help activated charcoal adsorb the odours that cause bad breath and the tannins that can stain teeth surfaces. 

a couple of things to know about activated charcoal for teeth whitening

the first thing you need to know is that pure activated charcoal on its own can be harsh on teeth. it should only be used in a specially formulated toothpaste or mouthwash. the other thing you need to know about activated charcoal and oral care is that it can be messy. toothpaste with charcoal looks just like what you’d expect in your mouth: black. which is – quite frankly – pretty great. yes, your teeth get covered in black coating, but it’s a coating that completely rinses out with water, with the toothpaste formula leaving cleaner, brighter teeth behind when used regularly. if you’re using whitening toothpaste with charcoal, the name of the game is to be a friendly brusher and spit responsibly. trust us, your fellow sink users will thank you. and if you’re the sole master of your sink – the future you will thank you. 

charcoal powder vs. charcoal toothpaste: which brushes better?

sure, we’re biased here, but we’ve gotta say that activated charcoal toothpastes and mouthwashes have an edge over charcoal powder when cleaning teeth. our toothpastes and mouthwash have way less potential for mess. then there’s the issue of taste. when used in powder form charcoal is odourless and flavourless – but it can still leave an unpleasant aftertaste (even if the powder has a spray-on mint flavour). meanwhile, the addition of a powerful natural mint oil in a charcoal toothpaste or mouthwash leaves your mouth feeling fresh as all heck.