Charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices: A literature review

J Am Dent Assoc. 2017 Sep;148(9):661-670. doi: 10.1016/j.adaj.2017.05.001. Epub 2017 Jun 7.


Background: Sales of charcoal dentifrices and powders have rapidly emerged into the Internet marketplace. The authors conducted a literature review to examine the efficacy and safety of charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices.

Methods: The authors searched the MEDLINE and Scopus databases for clinical studies on the use of charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices and laboratory investigations on the bioactivity or toxicity of charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices, published through February 2017. The authors used a defined search strategy to identify randomized, controlled clinical trials with a follow-up duration of 3 months or longer. In addition, the authors selected the first 50 consecutive charcoal dentifrices from and for ascertainment of product assortment and advertising promotions.

Results: The authors' literature search identified 118 potentially eligible articles. Thirteen studies reported brushing the teeth with raw charcoal or soot; however, none of these studies met the inclusion criteria. Two studies offered nonspecific caries reductions, 3 studies reported deleterious outcomes (increased caries, enamel abrasion, nonquantified negative impact), and 1 study indicated only that brushing with raw charcoal had no adverse effects on oral hygiene. Seven other studies reported only on the use of charcoal for oral hygiene. Internet advertisements included unsubstantiated therapeutic claims-such as antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and oral detoxification, as well as potentially misleading product assertions. One-third of the charcoal dentifrices contained bentonite clay, and 1 contained betel leaves.

Conclusions: The results of this literature review showed insufficient clinical and laboratory data to substantiate the safety and efficacy claims of charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices. Larger-scale and well-designed studies are needed to establish conclusive evidence.

Practical implications: Dental clinicians should advise their patients to be cautious when using charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices with unproven claims of efficacy and safety.

Keywords: Consumer product safety; dentifrices; oral hygiene; product labeling; safety; toothpaste.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Charcoal / adverse effects
  • Charcoal / therapeutic use*
  • Dentifrices / adverse effects
  • Dentifrices / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Dentifrices
  • Charcoal