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Charcoal as teeth whitener — we put it to the test

Based out of Dallas, Texas, Mary McCoy is a writer and social worker for disenfranchised women and children. She's a single mom, lover of Texas barbecue, and a die-hard fan of yoga

Can charcoal really whiten your teeth?

When I first heard that activated charcoal is great for teeth whitening, I was intrigued but skeptical.

In case you haven't seen it, activated charcoal powder is black as night, so applying it to tooth enamel for a whitening treatment seems counterproductive. I'm willing to admit, though, that I didn't go to dental school and I might not know everything, so I submitted my skepticism to Dr. Joseph Banker of Creative Dental Care so he could set me straight.

The activated charcoal method

"The tiny granules of activated charcoal are extremely porous and very effective in binding certain materials to their surface," Banker explained. Apparently, charcoal granules can pull the tannins found in coffee, tea and red wine from teeth, thereby reducing the appearance of stains in just one use. Unlike peroxide whitening products, however, charcoal only removes surface stains, so it's not helpful if your enamel is discolored.

If you want to give activated charcoal a try, Banker says the process is simple. First, head to your local pharmacy to pick out activated charcoal capsules. Break one open, and mix with a few drops of water. Apply the mixture to your teeth with a toothbrush, and let it sit for two minutes before rinsing. "Just don't brush with the charcoal, as the abrasiveness can damage your teeth or gums," Banker cautioned. He also added that you shouldn't try the treatment if you've taken medication within the last few hours.

Results are in, and they're mixed

Charcoal teeth cleaning

Of course, I simply had to try Banker's treatment for myself. So, how'd it go?

It took a while to rinse the charcoal out of my mouth to view my results, and I wasn't exactly blown away. My teeth looked about the same — which is to say, "yellowing and lackluster" — both before and after treatment. However, I noticed that the spaces between my teeth looked cleaner and brighter than before. In other words, the charcoal treatment was good for a minor adjustment but certainly didn't produce a whitening overhaul.

On another note, guys, keep your paper towels handy if you use activated charcoal. This was one of the messiest home beauty treatments I've ever tried, and I'm sure it didn't help that I was trying to snap selfies while drooling black powder. It also didn't help that my daughter found one on the floor and thought it was a skittle. Whatever, don't judge me.

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