Don’t Try This Dangerous DIY Trend at Home

A pile of charcoal that should not be used for brushing teethWhen it comes to beauty, trends come and go. What’s on trend today may be long forgotten by tomorrow (hello, oil pulling!). But a recent trend in cosmetic oral health care is still going strong, and it could be causing a lot more harm than good. It’s the charcoal toothpaste trend, with the black mineral more commonly associated with summer grilling taking center stage in a number of new pastes and all-natural oral health products. But how safe is charcoal toothpaste, and why are dentists warning people to definitely not try the “do-it-yourself” version at home?

Dr. Allison Lesko is a dentist in Fort Collins, Colorado. She says the charcoal toothpaste trend is bad news for teeth.

“Charcoal toothpaste can scratch the tooth enamel, which is permanent damage to the teeth,” Lesko says.

According to Lesko, charcoal toothpaste grew in popularity when many users discovered their teeth appeared whiter after using the paste.

“Part of it is, I think there is a placebo effect of seeing your teeth black and then rinsing away the paste, seeing how white they look in comparison,” she says. “But charcoal toothpaste, to its credit,.does remove some surface staining.”

That being said, Lesko says that same stain-lifting effect is one you can get from any toothpaste and, yes, even that old standby, oil pulling.

“Almost anything can remove surface stains if you do it long enough,” she says.

So, what’s the problem with using charcoal toothpaste if it is doing what it claims? Not so fast, says Lesko.

“There is a difference between whitening and removing surface stains. The charcoal paste isn’t whitening the teeth, it’s cleaning them like any other, safer toothpaste would do,” she says.

The dangers of store-bought charcoal toothpaste aside, Lesko says there is an even scarier trend making its way around the country: homemade charcoal toothpaste.

“Usually homemade gets the reputation of being somehow safer, but people are using charcoal briquettes like you would use for your grill and making toothpaste with that,” she says.”It’s extremely dangerous.”

Why? For starters, charcoal briquettes contain flammable additives and chemicals that are not meant to be consumed.

“You are essentially brushing your teeth with lighter fluid,” says Lesko.

So, what can you do if you want a natural way to fight cavities and get a whiter smile? Lesko recommends looking for a natural toothpaste with the American Dental Association seal of approval, or to watch what you eat so that food-based staining is less prevalent.

“Avoid smoking and heavy consumption of dark soda, red wine and coffee, and always brush twice a day for at least two minutes at a time,” Lesko says. “That will do more to keep your teeth stain free than brushing with an abrasive or dangerous ingredient like charcoal.”

Contact The Fort Collins Dentist Family & Implant Dentistry:


Location (Tap to open in Google Maps):

2001 S Shields St Bldg L
Fort Collins, Colorado

Skip or Try: Toothpaste Alternatives

Brushing your teeth twice a day for a minimum of two minutes is a necessity of life – but what you choose to brush with is becoming more and more open ended. With so many options flooding the marketplace, it can be difficult to know if the paste you’re considering is a good option. Here’s what you should know about some popular and up-and-coming toothpastes.

Toothpaste Tablets

Designed to solve the problem of toothpaste tubes sitting in landfills, one of the newest oral health inventions to hit store shelves are toothpaste tablets. These tiny tablets activate with saliva and require no water. Simply crunch on the tablet and it dissolves into a foam that you use to brush your teeth. Brush for two minutes as usual, spit and voila! Clean teeth.

As for how the toothpaste tablets help the planet, they come in small, recyclable jars that, unlike traditional toothpaste tubes, reduce the carbon footprint of brushing your teeth.

Charcoal Toothpaste

Charcoal toothpaste is toothpaste made with activated charcoal that claims to whiten teeth and work as well as regular toothpaste. The only problem is, the American Dental Association says there’s not enough data to tell if charcoal toothpaste is safe or effective. What’s more, it carries with it a high risk of damaging both the gums and the tooth enamel. And, it doesn’t really whiten the teeth – it just reduces surface staining, something that any ADA-approved whitening toothpaste can do, without the risk of enamel and gum damage.

Baking Soda

Homemade baking soda toothpaste isn’t exactly a new invention, but it does work in a pinch if you’re out of paste or averse to strong flavors. The problem with using this type of paste regularly is that it’s missing one vital ingredient: fluoride. That being said, if you do need to make a makeshift baking soda paste, just mix 2/3 cup of baking soda with water until you reach the texture of paste you want. Then just brush as usual! If you decide you’d like to use baking soda toothpaste all the time, speak with Dr. Lesko about supplementing your fluoride.

All-Natural Toothpaste

There are many new designer “all-natural” toothpastes on the market these days, and most of them are perfectly safe. If you are interested in trying one of these pastes, just make sure it carries the ADA seal of approval – and happy brushing!

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Lesko, please call 970-221-5115.

Contact The Fort Collins Dentist Family & Implant Dentistry:


Location (Tap to open in Google Maps):

2001 S Shields St Bldg L
Fort Collins, Colorado