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why add charcoal to toothpaste?

hello team member
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’s also a powerful teeth whitener. yep you heard us correctly. it’s important to note though that the type of charcoal used for teeth whitening is a bit different, so please don’t put any of those barbecuing briquettes anywhere near your face-grill.

the tooth-whitening 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 favor 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 helps activated charcoal adsorb the odors that cause bad breath and the tannins that can stain teeth. when used in toothpaste form, the charcoal can get into nooks and crannies really well.

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 teeth whitening is that it can be messy. charcoal toothpaste 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, leaving cleaner, brighter teeth behind. if you’re using charcoal for teeth whitening, 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 mouthwashes offer the same whitening benefits as charcoal powder, but with way less potential for mess. they’re also designed to make sure that the charcoal coats the entirety of your mouth, leaving no bicuspid behind. then there’s the issue of taste. when used in powder form charcoal is odorless and flavorless – but it can still leave an unpleasant aftertaste (even if the powder has a spray-on mint flavor; that’s like a spray tan – it washes off easy). meanwhile, the addition of a powerful natural mint oil in a charcoal toothpaste or mouthwash leaves your mouth feeling fresh as all heck.