Hydrogen peroxide for teeth – how does it work, and is it a good idea for teeth whitening?
Teeth whitening is a popular dental treatment these days. Everybody wants to have that bright white smile that celebrities flash on the red carpet.
There are different teeth whitening treatments that you can use. Some can be very pricey. So it is not surprising that a lot of people are choosing the DIY alternative, which is hydrogen peroxide teeth whitening.
But are these DIY hydrogen peroxide teeth whitening solutions effective? And most of all – is hydrogen peroxide safe?
In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about using hydrogen peroxide for teeth whitening solutions to help you make an informed decision about whether this is right for you.
What is hydrogen peroxide?
Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical compound used as an antiseptic, oxidizer, and bleaching agent. You may already be familiar with it. It usually comes in a brown bottle and your mother probably used it to disinfect your scrapes and cuts.
The bleaching properties of hydrogen peroxide allow it to be used as an effective cleaning product and is is also effective for bleaching hair. As a teeth whitener, studies show that it can whiten your teeth up to 20 shades lighter.
Aside from whitening your teeth, it also has other benefits to your oral health. It has antimicrobial properties that can help get rid of gingivitis and plaque. It can also eliminate odor-causing bacteria that cause bad breath.
The one being sold over the counter is a diluted solution in water. Meanwhile, higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide are only used for industrial use.
The over-the-counter hydrogen peroxide is used for a lot of things aside from disinfecting your wounds. It is usually used for washing vegetables, whitening laundry, and for house cleaning.
And now, thanks to a TikTok trend, hydrogen peroxide is being used to whiten teeth too. Actually, people have been using hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash long before the trend. The truth is hydrogen peroxide can be useful for oral care as long as you use it safely. In fact, it is a common and effective ingredient in a lot of whitening products.
Is hydrogen peroxide a safe teeth whitening treatment?
Using hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth is generally safe as long as you do it correctly. If you become careless with it, it can cause damage to your enamel and tooth sensitivity. It can also burn and cause more serious damage if you use it in high concentrations and long exposure.
But take note that this is not a whitening treatment solution for everybody. People with dental issues should think twice before using hydrogen peroxide as a teeth whitening treatment or check with their dentist first.
This is the case for people who have thin tooth enamel, leaking or failing dental restorations, gum sensitivity, inflamed gums, or cavities. A hydrogen peroxide can make things worse for you.
If you have cracks on your teeth, hydrogen peroxide will not be a recommended whitening treatment for you. This is because the cracks will let the hydrogen peroxide penetrate further than it should. If it gets in contact with the delicate dentin underneath, it will cause irritation or sensitivity.
If you have sensitive teeth, you should check in first with your dentist before you start using hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth.
If you notice any pain, gum irritation, or tooth sensitivity while you are using hydrogen peroxide as a DIY whitening treatment, you should stop using it immediately and have your teeth checked by a dental professional.
Side effects of using hydrogen peroxide for teeth whitening
Take note that these side effects are bound to happen only if you use hydrogen peroxide incorrectly like using the wrong concentration or doing prolonged exposure to whiten teeth.
Increased tooth sensitivity
You may feel discomfort or a slight pain every time you eat hot or cold foods. This is a common side effect of bleaching your teeth although it usually goes away the next day. For those who already have sensitive teeth, increased sensitivity can also happen to you.
Chemical burns and tissue death
This is usually the risk if you prolong the exposure of your teeth to hydrogen peroxide. The limit of exposure should just be within two minutes. Any longer than that and your gums, tongue, and tissue under the tongue will be affected. Tissue death or necrosis is the worst-case scenario.
To avoid the above risks from happening, it is important that you follow product instructions, choose teeth whitening products that have the ADA seal, and make sure that you clean up within 2 minutes.
How does hydrogen peroxide whiten teeth?
Hydrogen peroxide is a natural bleaching agent. The peroxide can penetrate the layers of your teeth partially and has the potential to remove the compounds that cause tooth discoloration.
Hydrogen peroxide whitens teeth when it breaks down into smaller molecules and releases free radicals. These free radicals lift stains from your teeth. As a result, your teeth will look whiter.
The store-bought hydrogen peroxide that comes in bottles usually only has a 3% concentration. Store-bought teeth whitening kits with hydrogen peroxide usually contain as high as 10% concentration. And professional teeth whitening treatments that you can only get in dental clinics usually use hydrogen peroxide concentrations as high as 40%.
The amount of concentration to whiten teeth is very important. Studies have shown that higher concentration solutions caused more damage to the teeth when used for a longer amount of time.
The least damage happens when you use low-concentration treatments for a shorter period. However, this also means that you will have to do the treatments more to achieve whiteness.
How long does it take for hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth?
Whitening teeth is not an instant process. The result varies because this will depend on how discolored or stained your teeth are and the method you choose to use hydrogen peroxide for your teeth.
Those with minimal staining or discoloration can notice results after a few days. Some people will have to wait a few weeks to notice a change in their teeth. Even professional whitening teeth treatments have to go through several sessions before you can get a bright white smile.
How to use hydrogen peroxide for DIY teeth whitening treatment
For homemade or DIY hydrogen peroxide solutions, make sure to use 3% hydrogen peroxide concentration to be on the safe side. The same rules apply – do not leave on your teeth for more than 2 minutes and do not use it frequently.
Hydrogen peroxide direct application
You may recognize this as the TikTok trend. This application makes use of the cleaning properties of hydrogen peroxide on the enamel surface of your teeth. However, this method is found to be not as effective as gargling with hydrogen peroxide.
- Dip a cotton swab in 3% concentrated hydrogen peroxide and gently rub it against your teeth. Make sure not to hit your gums.
- Let the solution rest for a minute.
- Rinse your mouth with water. Make sure you do not swallow the rinse.
It is advised that you do this two to three times a week.
Hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash
Among the DIY hydrogen peroxide solutions, this is found to be more effective. Gargling with hydrogen peroxide mouthwash is found to be effective for those that have yellow stains on their teeth. This hydrogen peroxide rinse helps get rid of harmful bacteria in your mouth.
- Mix 1 tablespoon of water with 1 tablespoon of 3% concentrated hydrogen peroxide.
- Swish around your mouth for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Spit out the mixture and rinse your mouth again with water. Make sure you do not swallow any of the mixture or the rinse.
It is advised that you do this two to three times a week.
Hydrogen peroxide as paste
You can create a hydrogen peroxide paste by mixing hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. The coarseness of baking soda can help break down yellowish stains on your teeth by acting as an abrasive agent.
- Place 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a container. Add drops of 3% concentrated hydrogen peroxide until you can make a paste with a smooth consistency.
- Place the paste on your toothbrush and brush your teeth.
- Rinse thoroughly with water. Make sure you do not swallow any of the rinses.
It is advised that you do this two times a week.
Hydrogen peroxide and Listerine
Listerine is a popular mouthwash brand that helps clean your teeth and mouth by killing the harmful bacteria that could be contaminating your oral cavity. You can give it a whitening boost by adding hydrogen peroxide.
- Mix 1 tablespoon of Listerine with 1 tablespoon of 3% concentrated hydrogen peroxide.
- Use the hydrogen peroxide solution as a mouthwash. Swish around the mouth for a minute before spitting it out. Make sure you do not swallow.
- Do a final rinse with clean water.
It is advised that you should do this three times a week.
Hydrogen peroxide and lemon juice
Studies have shown that lemon extract contains citric acid that acts as a natural bleaching agent. Lemon juice can help lift up the stains on the tooth enamel.
- In a container, mix one teaspoon of baking soda, two tablespoons of 3% concentrated hydrogen peroxide and a few drops of lemon juice.
- Mix everything well until you create a thick paste with a smooth consistency.
- Apply the paste onto your teeth and leave it there for a maximum of two minutes.
- Rinse thoroughly with clean water. Make sure you do not swallow the mixture.
It is advised that you do this one to two times a week.
Hydrogen peroxide and salt
The coarseness of salt can help boost the efficacy of hydrogen peroxide as a whitening agent by dislodging the stains on your teeth.
- In a container, mix two tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide and one tablespoon of salt to create a paste.
- Rub the paste into your teeth using your fingertip, a cotton swab, or a toothbrush. Do this for one to two minutes.
- Rinse with clean water. Make sure you do not swallow.
It is advised that you do this twice a week.
Remember it is important never to swallow hydrogen peroxide solution no matter how diluted. It can interact with your stomach acids and cause gastrointestinal issues. It may also damage your esophagus when ingested.
Other ways to use hydrogen peroxide for teeth whitening
Over-the-counter hydrogen peroxide products
You can make your life easier by purchasing tooth whitening products that have hydrogen peroxide as their active ingredient. Just make sure that you follow the instructions on how to use these products carefully to get a safe and effective result.
You will know that the products are safe to use and are considered to be effective whitening treatments when it comes with a seal of acceptance from the American Dental Association (ADA).
Here are some of the most common over-the-counter products that use hydrogen peroxide as an active ingredient:
- Whitening strips
- Whitening gels
Toothpaste and mouthwash are products that usually use a lower concentration of hydrogen peroxide. Because they are weaker, they are safer for daily and long-term use.
Whitening strips and gels have a higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide so you should be using them less frequently. It is advised that you use them every other day so that your teeth and gums can get a day’s rest between sessions.
Go to a dental clinic
If you do not want to worry about messing up the dosage or having to deal with specific instructions, you can just get it professionally done in your dentist’s office. But of course, this could be the most expensive option for you – especially if you have other dental issues.
Before your dentist would whiten your teeth with hydrogen peroxide, they would most likely ask you to get a professional cleaning at first. If the tooth surface is totally clean, the hydrogen peroxide will be able to penetrate your teeth better and in an even manner.
The hydrogen peroxide teeth whitening treatments that you can use from a dental office vary too. Here are some of the most common options you can choose from:
A hydrogen peroxide solution will be placed on the surface of your teeth. Then, your teeth will be exposed to a special light to help speed up and improve the process of bleaching your teeth white.
Take-home whitening kit
The dentist can also provide take-home hydrogen peroxide teeth whitening kits. The kit usually comes with custom-made trays and a whitening gel. The trays help protect your gums from the whitening gel so that everything is just contacting your teeth.
Some whitening kits will even come with a special light tray for your teeth. The dentist will give you specific instructions on how to use them.
Are there alternative whitening teeth ingredients aside from hydrogen peroxide?
Hydrogen peroxide is not the only teeth whitening ingredient that you can use. Check out the following alternatives:
This is a combination of carbamide and hydrogen peroxide. Carbamide peroxide is a very common active ingredient in over-the-counter teeth whitening products.
It works similarly to hydrogen peroxide but slower. Carbamide peroxide also has a longer shelf life compared to hydrogen peroxide.
Pthalimidoperoxycaproic acid (PAP)
If you are looking for something less harsh than peroxides, PAP is the solution. Other teeth whitening brands are starting to use it to create a less harsh formula.
PAP is less harsh on gum tissues and the tooth enamel so you can expect this active ingredient to be replacing hydrogen peroxide in the future.
This is a common teeth whitening ingredient. The Journal of American Dental Association (JADA) has research that proves its efficacy and safety as a whitening agent.
However most dentists advise against using actual charcoal on human teeth since the material can be too abrasive and that could ruin your enamel. Although a good tooth whitener, it is best to use products that have charcoal as its active ingredient.
Click here to learn more about charcoal for teeth whitening.
Although baking soda is not really a bleaching agent, it helps lift minor stains from your teeth. So, if you only have a minor issue, you can use baking soda. It can give your teeth a nice shine too.
Remember, no matter what whitening agent you choose, it is always best to consult your dentist first to make sure that your teeth can handle it.
Hydrogen peroxide is a common active ingredient in a lot of teeth whitening products and treatments. So it is not a surprise that people use it as a home remedy to whiten teeth.
Using hydrogen peroxide to whiten your teeth is a cost-effective whitening solution considering how expensive tooth whitening treatments can be. And it works as good as effective teeth whitening products that you can buy over the counter as long as you do it correctly.
No matter what solution you go for to get whiter teeth, it is always best to consult a dental professional first. Your teeth may have issues that could worsen if you use a concentrated hydrogen peroxide solution.
In most cases, choosing a whitening solution that has been specificially formulated for sensitive teeth is the best way to go.