The Dangers of Charcoal Toothpaste & DIY Teeth Whiteners

Dr Aran Moorthy

Dr Aran Moorthy

This article was written by Australian dental surgeon Dr Aran Moorthy, BDS. Dr Moorthy has a Bachelor of Dental Surgery from the University of Adelaide. You can read more about Dr Moorthy here >

PUBLISHED: 30/6/2020

Dangers of charcoal toothpaste

Australian dentists are becoming increasingly concerned over the negative repercussions of DIY teeth whitening products and charcoal toothpaste sold through Instagram, beauty salons and shopping centres.


  • Dentists are witnessing an increasing number of damaged teeth caused by DIY tooth whitening products
  • The Australian Dental Association encourage all patients to only consult with their dentist regarding teeth whitening – and not purchase products elsewhere.
  • Children as young as 11 are damaging their teeth through inappropriate whitening products.
  • Patients under the age of 18 should not be whitening their teeth or even using tooth whitening toothpaste.
  • Many DIY formulas can cause severe burns, while most are also ineffective, yet highly abrasive, permanently damaging tooth enamel and setting the patient up for a lifetime of dental problems.
  • Natural does not equal better. ‘All-natural’ charcoal and lemon juice can be extremely abrasive to teeth enamel, causing permanent damage.

Patients of all ages are presenting with chemical burns, ulcers, inflammation, worn tooth enamel and ironically, dark stains after purchasing too-good-to-be-true products spruiked by celebrities on Instagram. While it may be no surprise to some, Instagram icons such as Kim Kardashian and members of the Jenner family hold no dental degree and are not a recommended source for cosmetic dentistry advice.

11-year-old children have permanently damaged teeth

Dental industry experts are now urging parents to monitor their children carefully, with reports of children as young as 11 purchasing DIY teeth-whitening kits and seeking ill-informed online tooth whitening advice, potentially damaging the natural development of the child’s tooth enamel.

Melbourne dentist Dr Toni Surace says these kits should come with a warning stating that they are unsuitable for children under the age of 18 as they are too abrasive for young teeth. Further, she claims that should be warnings on social media about tooth abrasiveness for people of all ages.

Australian Dental Association deputy CEO, and general manager of policy and regulation, Eithne Irving, said these off-the-shelf whitening kits were not only “ineffective” but potentially damaging to maturing teeth as it takes several years for your lighter coloured enamel to develop. Further, young teeth have weaker tooth enamel, which is why dentists seldom provide tooth whitening treatment for patients younger than 18 years.

One size does not fit all

Ultra-white-teethOne of several problems with off-the-shelf tooth whitening is that often they are a “one size fits all” approach and can be very dangerous.

Says Dr Surace: “In the dental chair, we’re able to use hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide in certain levels that are safe, as well as be able to see if the chemicals will cause any problems.

“But many of the DIY products don’t have a concentration that is active enough to really work, and on the flip side, some products (are) extremely abrasive and will set them up for a lot of dental problems in the future by eroding the tooth enamel, (potentially causing) ulcerations and burning their gums as well.

“If you scrub and scrub using these products, like anything, the outside becomes thinner, and dentine, the yellow inner layer of our teeth start to show more.”

While many of these over-the-counter products are ineffective, some are capable of producing damaging burns. Dentist Dr Norah Ayad said, “The worst case was seen in our practice is very severe gum burn, and it is a chemical burn. This patient had severe ulceration all over their mouth because this bleach had come into contact with everywhere around their mouth, their cheeks, their lips, their tongue and all the way around the gumline.

“It took several weeks to resolve, and the patient was in a lot of pain.”

And there are a plethora of these products available. A quick search Instagram will reveal whitening strips,  powders, oils, gels, LED lights, charcoal toothpaste – including ‘natural’ formulas of lemon juice and charcoal, all heavily spruiked by celebrities without dental degrees.

The Australian Dental Association advises that everyone avoids shopping centres, beauticians, and hairdressers were not qualified to whiten teeth – and recommend you only see your dentist when considering tooth whitening.


This image, right, is of a 22-year-old woman who recently visited our clinic.

The patient had used a DIY teeth-whitening product in the hopes of whitening her teeth.

Frustrated she couldn’t achieve the results she wanted – as the formula, although abrasive – was not effective enough, she then used an “all-natural” (but abrasive) charcoal toothpaste, further damaging her tooth enamel, and leaving deep stains.


Talk to your dentist about teeth-whitening options

If you’re interested in having your teeth white, there are safe and far more effective options than over-the-counter products available. Book an appointment with one of our dentists to discuss your teeth today.

Talk to our dentists about tooth whitening today.

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