Can Charcoal Whiten Your Teeth Safely?

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Heard the claim that charcoal can light up your grill? No, not that grill, this one. Some companies sell toothpastes, tablets, and other products made with activated charcoal-- an ingredient they tout as a tooth whitener.

It's charcoal that's been heated with a gas to make it porous. Some doctors use it in the ER to absorb drugs that were taken in overdoses and poisonings. But dental products with charcoal are a different story. They may give you a whiter grin at first.

But over time, they can wear down your teeth's hard outer shell-- enamel. That can make your teeth more sensitive to hot or cold food and drinks. It could also expose the yellowish layer underneath your enamel called dentin.

Your safer bet is to use a whitening toothpaste that has the American Dental Association seal of approval. You can also ask your dentist about procedures that brighten your smile.