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When it comes to tooth-whitening ingredients, most people have heard of hydrogen peroxide. This familiar household product is used for everything from disinfecting wounds to bleaching hair.
Carbamide peroxide isn’t as well-known as hydrogen peroxide, but it’s also used to whiten teeth. If you’re considering teeth whitening at home or with an in-office treatment, you may have to choose between hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide bleaching agents.
This article explains how hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide differ so you can decide about teeth-whitening products.
Hydrogen and carbamide peroxide are two ingredients people commonly use to bleach teeth.
The primary difference is that carbamide peroxide takes longer to dissolve. Hydrogen peroxide releases most of its whitening power within 30 to 60 minutes. On the other hand, carbamide peroxide can take 8 hours to break down.
Here’s how the two compare:
Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful whitening agent. It’s an oxidizing agent, which means it causes a chemical reaction that makes the oxygen atoms lose electrons. In tooth whitening procedures, an oxidizing agent works by dissolving teeth stains.
Professional whitening systems often use hydrogen peroxide because it provides instant, white results.
Carbamide peroxide is a combination of hydrogen peroxide and carbamide (urea). It has a slightly different chemical makeup but also works by dissolving teeth stains.
Similar to hydrogen peroxide, carbamide peroxide is an oxidizing agent. It removes stains the same way hydrogen peroxide does but at a slower rate.
Carbamide peroxide is also an effective whitening agent. It contains hydrogen peroxide at a ratio of 1:3. For example, a product with 30% carbamide peroxide contains around 10% hydrogen peroxide.
Hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide share many similarities, including that they are:
Neither hydrogen peroxide nor carbamide peroxide causes rebound. This is when the teeth look lighter immediately after a whitening treatment but lose brilliance quickly. Rebound is usually due to dehydration.
Differences between carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide include:
Learn about the safest ways to whiten your teeth.
Carbamide peroxide can be used safely for at-home treatments. However, we always recommend discussing at-home whitening with your dentist first.
Research shows that a 16 to 35% carbamide peroxide concentration is generally safe and effective for whitening teeth. A 35% concentration provides significantly more whitening effects without additional side effects.1
Carbamide peroxide works by a process called oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that breaks down the molecules that cause discoloration on teeth.
This compound breaks down in contact with water to release hydrogen peroxide.
Carbamide peroxide has an oxidizing power that is released in the first 2 hours. Afterward, it will last up to 6 hours to provide whitening effects.
See NewMouth’s top 10 teeth whitening products of 2022.
Carbamide peroxide side effects are fairly common. For most people, they aren’t noticeable or harsh enough to stop them from using the products. To reduce side effects, whiten with peroxide less frequently or use lower concentrations.
There are several side effects of carbamide peroxide whitening:
Gum irritation can occur from a poorly fitted whitening tray. It can also develop from the carbamide peroxide whitening product.
If the whitening product touches your gums, you may experience irritation. Custom trays prevent this problem. They are scalloped along your unique gumline.
Over-the-counter (OTC) whitening products typically use trays that overlap the gums. Rarely, ill-fitting trays (universal options) can rub against your gums and lead to an infection.
This side effect includes sensitivity to air, thermal sensitivity, and tooth sensitivity:
Some ways to reduce tooth sensitivity include using anti-sensitivity toothpaste or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation.
You can accidentally swallow carbamide peroxide gel while whitening. This is especially true if you use the product overnight.
Throat contact can lead to irritation. However, because the product is usually in contact with the throat briefly, this side effect should pass quickly.
Uneven whitening is more common with high peroxide concentrations. This effect usually diminishes after a few uses.
You must consider a few factors before choosing tooth whitening products with carbamide peroxide. Here are some of them:
The concentration of carbamide peroxide in your teeth whitening product can determine its safety and effectiveness. As mentioned, 16% and 35% can bleach discolored vital teeth.1
Delivery methods vary among carbamide peroxide products. If you choose a teeth whitening product, it’s best to choose the one you can commit to.
For instance, teeth-whitening gels and pens are easier to use than trays. You’re more likely to use these products regularly to achieve your desired results.
People prone to gum or tooth sensitivity should choose desensitizing products. These products can help whiten teeth without increasing sensitivity.
Still, the best way to choose a carbamide peroxide is through a consultation with a dentist. They can provide recommendations based on your needs and preferences. Professionals like dentists can also monitor your results to ensure you are safely whitening your teeth.
A person’s teeth can become yellow or discolored for various reasons. Yellowing teeth is a natural part of aging. As tooth enamel wears down, the yellow layer below (dentin) becomes more visible.
Other types of stains occur on the surface of your tooth enamel. Surface stains are usually the result of tobacco use and staining foods and beverages like red wine and coffee.
You can prevent tooth discoloration by:
Carbamide peroxide and hydrogen peroxide are common ingredients in teeth-whitening products.
Carbamide peroxide is similar to hydrogen peroxide because they’re both oxidizing agents. They produce the same results as whitening treatments. However, hydrogen peroxide breaks down much faster than carbamide peroxide.
Both are safe to use as in-office and at-home whitening treatments. Talk to your dentist before trying tooth whitening at home.
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