The Power of Charcoal

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  Posted by: Dental Design      11th May 2022

Activated charcoal is a fine black powder that is used in a range of industries and in communities around the world. The black powder can remove impurities, extract poisons, and whiten teeth. In recent years, the use of activated charcoal in commercial products has significantly increased as the world has started to take some steps towards sustainability.

Ancient Origins

The use of charcoal to support health has actually occurred for thousands of years. Around 1500 BC, The Ancient Egyptian papyri recorded the use of charcoal to get rid of smells from wounds – the first mention of a medical application of charcoal. By 400 BC, the Phoenicians learned to use charcoal to store water in trading ships to improve the taste. It wasn’t until the late 18th Century that activated charcoal was used more widely; Europeans realised it was great for extracting impurities out of raw sugar and from there the use of charcoal continued to grow.

How is Charcoal Activated?

Activated charcoal is not the same substance found in bricks and burned food, it’s a little more complex than that. Coconut shells, peat, wood chips, and sawdust are popular carbon sources that produce good quality charcoal. The process of creating activated charcoal includes superheating natural materials high in carbon.[i] The organic material is then heated at 673-973 Kelvin (K – a unit of thermodynamic temperature measurement) which removes volatile components and results in a solid with high carbon content in the range of 25-50%.i Another effective method for creating activated charcoal is to use gases such as steam or carbon dioxide. There is another process which adds activating agents to the carbon material before it’s heated; this can include phosphoric acid, sodium, potassium hydroxide, and zinc chloride.i Overall, there are two types of activation – the two-stage process and the one-stage process. Mostly, people choose which process they use based on personal preference and what they have available. 

Quenching the World’s Thirst

Activated charcoal can be used to filter toxins from water to make it safe to use and drink. On a commercial level, carbon filters are used at waste-management centres, for instance. There are dozens of water filtration products designed for every-day use such as bottles with sticks of activated carbon in them that filters the water as it’s drunk.

Carbon filtration of water has also been advocated in improving the health of nations across the globe. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found pesticides and their breakdown products in 100% of their test subjects with the highest concentrations appearing in women of childbearing age, children, and Mexican Americans.[ii] The World Health Organization has identified granular active carbon as the optimal technology for the control of agrichemicals and synthetic organic chemicals in drinking water.[iii] Another way in which activated charcoal can benefit the world is in the agricultural industry where the demand for water makes it a scarce resource. A study showed that using charcoal-based wetland to treat wastewater was incredibly successful – the water could be reused and also caused less harm to the environment as it no longer contained harmful elements.[iv]

Charcoal in Healthcare and Dentistry

Activated charcoal has been used in healthcare and dentistry for some time. Ailments that have been treated with charcoal include high cholesterol, hangovers, and upset stomachs but the evidence for this is sparse and the literature is debated.[v] Commonly, it’s been used to treat poisoning. While it needs to be administered quickly and is not effective for all types of poisoning it is still listed as a must-have for paramedics to carry with them.[vi]

In dentistry, activated charcoal has been used to whiten teeth and improve oral health. Research has shown that charcoal-infused toothbrush bristles leave the mouth with less bacteria than their entirely synthetic counterparts.[vii] However, more research is needed to fully support claims in this area. In contrast, it’s widely known that activated charcoal can remove stains and the Charcoal White Baking Soda Toothpaste from Arm & Hammer™ can provide your patients with just that. The formula works to gently remove impurities from the tooth’s enamel that cause stains. What’s more, the Active Calcium™ helps to rebuild and restore the enamel surface so your patients can enjoy enamel twice the strength of what their regular toothpaste provides. Typically, your patients can expect to see their teeth looking whiter after 3 days of regular use. For added protection against caries, the product also contains 1450 ppm sodium fluoride.

In summary, the use of charcoal to support the health of communities has been used for centuries but it hasn’t always been popular for every-day use. Natural and sustainable materials have become more popular due to rising concerns for the environment in recent years. Generally, consumers have raved about the all-round benefits of using products that include activated charcoal; implying that activated charcoal is here to stay.


For more information about the carefully formulated Arm & Hammer toothpaste range, please visit or email:

Arm & Hammer oral healthcare products are available at Boots, Superdrug, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda and Morrisons throughout the UK.


[i] Bergna, D., Varila, T., Romar, H. and Lassi, U. (2018). Comparison of the Properties of Activated Carbons Produced in a One-stage and a Two-Stage Process., [online] 1. Available at: [Accessed 28 Jan. 2022].

[ii] Schafer, K., Reeves, M., Spitzer, S. and Kegley, S. (2004). Chemical Trespass Pesticides in Our Bodies and Corporate Accountability Pesticide Action Network North America.

[iii] Flanagan, J., Kearns, J. and Mai, C. (n.d.). Self-reliance in water treatment: Providing safe drinking water to communities using charcoal filtration to remove pesticides. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Jan. 2022].

[iv] Omotade, I.F., Alatise, M.O. and Olanrewaju, O.O. (2019). Recycling of Aquaculture Wastewater Using Charcoal Based Constructed Wetlands. International Journal of Phytoremediation, 21(5), pp.399–404.

[v] (2019). Activated Charcoal: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Jan. 2022].

[vi] Zellner, T., Prasa, D., Färber, E., Hoffmann-Walbeck, P., Genser, D. and Eyer, F. (2019). The Use of Activated Charcoal to Treat Intoxications. Deutsches Aerzteblatt Online.

[vii] Thakur, A., Ganeshpurkar, A. and Jaiswal, A. (2020). Charcoal in Dentistry. Natural Oral Care in Dental Therapy, pp.197–209.

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