Activated Charcoal: Can Swishing Jet-Black Goop Around In My Mouth Give Me Super-White Teeth?

The teenage goth in me got a grand kick out of having black liquid oozing out of my mouth.
Publish date:
August 11, 2014
teeth whitening, activated charcoal, beauty experiments

While magazines and commercials and Big Brother try to make us all feel like our teeth should be whiter than God’s beard, and no one will ever love you if they aren’t, I’ve managed to remain relatively zen about the subject. Having white teeth has just, I guess, never been that important to me. Growing up, my mom always emphasized the importance of oral health over how perfect they looked, her own set having been stained by tetracycline when she was a tiny tot.

When it comes to all the (scary, artificial, potentially harmful) products out on the market for teeth whitening, I’m kinda like, meh, no thanks. Twenty whole minutes of my life spent with creepy cold gel in my mouth that makes my teeth so sensitive and in pain that I can’t think? I’ll pass.

So when Marci suggested I try out activated charcoal as a totally safe, natural teeth-whitening experiment, I was definitely intrigued. A natural way to remove some of my coffee/red wine/past-life-as-a-smoker stains?! Why not!

Now before you get too excited and run for, like, your hookah coal or your barbeque, keep in mind that regular-ass charcoal has no place in your mouth, ever. (You knew that! I’m just reminding you.) Activated charcoal is what we’re after, like the stuff that is also super effective for treating drug and alcohol overdoses by reducing the amount of poison absorbed by your body. (That being said, do not take activated charcoal when you’re taking medication that you actually need. Because it will absorb that shizz.)

The way it works is that the activated charcoal loves to eat up the tannins (fancy word alert), a compound found in certain food and drinks that increase a stain’s ability to hang on the surface of your teeth. Tannins are present in all the great things that make life worth living, like my aforementioned coffee and wine, as well as tea, sodas, and colored spices like curry. Tannins are kind of like makeup primer for your teeth in a bad way, in that they make it more possible for the strong colors in food and drink stick to your enamel.

When the activated charcoal is in your mouth, it absorbs the toxins in your mouth causing the stains, without permanently staining you grayish-black. (I promise. Although you will find dried charcoal all over your body and apartment if you are as messy about it as I was.)

OK, onto my au naturale, non-scary teeth whitening experiment. My before picture:

So, my experiment was: two capsules of activated charcoal emptied into an espresso cup with a splash of water. (Espresso cup not necessary, unless you want to be really effing classy.) Swirl around the charcoal in the water so you have a sort of paste, and rub it around your mouth with a toothbrush. Then rinse. Rinse a lot.

While the internet told me to just swish the activated charcoal-water mixture around my mouth like a mouthwash, I didn’t do that. I thought I should be honest. I brushed with the charcoal, OK? Forgive me?

The experience of the activated charcoal wash was actually quite fun. The teenage goth in me got a grand kick out of having jet-black liquid oozing out of my mouth. Spitting jet-black liquid into my sink was equally satisfying. (And I took way more selfies of the whole situation than is OK to admit here.)

The after photo:

I feel like my teeth look legitimately whiter after the activated charcoal, but that could also be because they were black and gray with charcoal just prior. But I will say that my mouth felt extraordinarily clean, and the symptoms of the cold I’ve had all week felt significantly less bothersome after I rinsed.

Have you ever tried using activated charcoal to whiten your teeth? Do you have any other natural remedies? Do you even care if your teeth are white?