Updated on February 7, 2024
8 min read

Hydrogen Peroxide for Teeth Whitening: Is It Safe?

NewMouth is reader supported. We may earn a commission if you purchase something using one of our links. Advertising Disclosure.

What is Hydrogen Peroxide?

Hydrogen peroxide (HP) is the main ingredient in most teeth-whitening products. It’s used in professional in-office treatments and over-the-counter teeth whitening products.

HP is also in:

  • Household cleaning items
  • Antibacterial mouthwashes
  • Natural bleaching products
  • Antiseptic products

Is Hydrogen Peroxide Safe for Teeth?

Yes. According to science, hydrogen peroxide is safe for your teeth when used correctly.1,2,4,6,7  Safe use of hydrogen peroxide involves the concentration of the product and how you apply it.

Hydrogen peroxide is safe for teeth at 2% or less concentration. Studies show that concentrations lower than 2% won’t damage hard or soft oral tissues.11 

You can use it daily in self-administered oral health care products like mouth rinses. Always follow the safety guidelines from your doctor or the product’s instructions.

Is Hydrogen Peroxide Effective for Teeth Whitening?

Yes, hydrogen peroxide is an effective treatment for whitening teeth. 

Studies show that treatments containing HP are more effective at whitening teeth than non-peroxide treatments.12

Get your brightest smile with NewMouth's top teeth whitening picks for 2024.

How Does Hydrogen Peroxide Whiten Your Teeth?

Hydrogen peroxide acts as a bleaching agent that breaks apart stains and lifts them out of your enamel. It oxidizes your teeth without causing significant changes in tooth enamel.2

You’ll typically apply tooth whitening products that contain HP to your teeth for a set amount of time. Letting the treatment sit on your teeth allows hydrogen peroxide to oxidize the stains.

At-home teeth bleaching products typically contain 5 to 10% hydrogen peroxide or 35% carbamide peroxide. You’ll wear them for 10 to 30 minutes over multiple days.

In-office treatments contain 25 to 40% hydrogen peroxide and stay on your teeth for a shorter time.

Hydrogen Peroxide vs. Carbamide Peroxide

The two main ingredients in teeth-whitening products are hydrogen and carbamide peroxide. They are both effective ingredients for teeth whitening.

Carbamide peroxide (CP) is a water-soluble, white crystalline solid compound. It is made of carbamide, also known as urea, and hydrogen peroxide.

Hydrogen peroxide is a natural bleaching agent, antiseptic, and oxidizer. Its purest form is a light blue liquid with the chemical formula H₂O₂.

The main difference is that carbamide peroxide takes longer to work on your teeth. CP also has a longer shelf life than HP. 

How to Use Hydrogen Peroxide for Teeth Whitening

Here are some ways to whiten your teeth with hydrogen peroxide:

1. DIY Treatments

NewMouth doesn’t recommend DIY teeth whitening. These methods can be effective if done correctly. However, there is a much higher risk of adverse effects.

We recommend using over-the-counter treatments or commercial teeth whitening at a dentist’s office.

Two ways people use hydrogen peroxide to whiten their teeth themselves are:

Hydrogen Peroxide Rinse

To make a hydrogen peroxide rinse at home, follow these steps:

  1. Mix hydrogen peroxide with water at a 1:1 ratio
  2. Swish the mixture in your mouth for 30 seconds to 1 minute
  3. Spit out the solution (do not swallow)

You can rinse with hydrogen peroxide a few times weekly to see results. 

Take care not to swallow the rinse. Accidentally swallowing household hydrogen peroxide might cause:

  • Stomach upset
  • Vomiting
  • Throat irritation


Swallowing a higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide can cause severe stomach irritation and burns that require urgent medical care.

Hydrogen Peroxide Paste

Mixing baking soda and hydrogen peroxide can make a paste to apply to your teeth. Follow these steps to create the paste:

  1. Put two or three teaspoons of baking soda in a bowl with a splash of hydrogen peroxide
  2. Mix the substances with a clean spoon until you get a smooth, thick paste
  3. Use a toothbrush to rub the paste directly on your teeth in small circles before leaving it on for two minutes
  4. Rinse off the paste by swishing water in your mouth several times

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), using hydrogen peroxide mouthwash with a concentration higher than 3% is unsafe. It can be irritating to the soft tissues in the mouth.

Hydrogen peroxide rinses and pastes can be too strong, potentially causing adverse reactions like:

  • Enamel erosion
  • Gum pain
  • Tooth sensitivity

Gas embolism can also occur if you ingest a high volume of hydrogen peroxide. The resultant air bubbles block the blood vessels.


Though very rare, this condition can be life-threatening. Seek emergency medical attention if you suspect you have a gas embolism.

2. Over-the-Counter Treatments

Several over-the-counter methods for whitening your teeth at home are safe and effective. These products include:

Teeth Whitening Kits

Teeth whitening kits typically involve using a whitening gel and a tray you insert into your mouth. You’ll hold the tray in your mouth for some time so the gel can affect your teeth.

The gels in teeth whitening kits usually contain hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. They are safe and effective for at-home use.

LED whitening kits may be a better option if you have sensitive teeth. You’ll apply a gel or paste to your teeth, then shine a light on them to speed up the process. They typically stay on your teeth for less time.

Teeth Whitening Strips

Tooth whitening strips are typically a piece of plastic coated in whitening gel that you apply to your teeth. The gel coating contains hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. Depending on the product, you’ll wear the strips for a certain amount of time per day, several days in a row.

Popular oral healthcare brands like Oral-B and Crest sell teeth whitening strips at pharmacies and retail stores.

Whitening Toothpaste

Over the counter, you can also purchase toothpaste with whitening ingredients such as hydrogen peroxide. You use whitening toothpaste the same way you would any other toothpaste.

Whitening toothpaste has limited effectiveness and typically only impacts external stains. They are also more abrasive than other options, so consult a dentist before use.

Hydrogen Peroxide Mouthwash

When using a hydrogen peroxide mouthwash, ensure it contains a 3 percent or less concentration to avoid adverse effects like burning or pain.

With any of these OTC treatments, consult your dentist before use and follow the instructions for each product carefully.

3. In-Office Treatments

Most local dentists offer in-office teeth whitening treatment. Professional teeth whitening costs more than DIY or OTC treatments but will have more dramatic results.

The main difference between in-office treatment and over-the-counter products is that your dentist will use a much higher hydrogen or carbamide peroxide concentration. 

You’ll need fewer treatments thanks to the higher concentration of active ingredients. You’ll also benefit from professional supervision in case of sensitivities or allergic reactions. However, it will be more expensive than an at-home option.

Are There Any Side Effects of Hydrogen Peroxide?

Tooth sensitivity is the most common side effect of hydrogen peroxide whitening solutions. If your teeth are sensitive, you may feel pain after exposure to hot or cold temperatures.

Other potential side effects include damage to the enamel surface and gum irritation. But these two side effects are rare.3, 9, 10 

The risk of adverse effects increases if:

  • You leave the whitening treatment on your teeth longer than recommended (the recommended time varies by product)
  • You use the bleaching agent more frequently than recommended (usually once a day)
  • The whitening treatment has extra high concentrations of the active ingredient (over 10% hydrogen peroxide or over 35% carbamide peroxide for at-home treatments)

Any tooth sensitivity resulting from hydrogen peroxide application typically resolves within a few days. Contact your doctor if it doesn’t go away within that time frame.

Can You Put Hydrogen Peroxide Directly On Teeth?

While you can put hydrogen peroxide directly on your teeth at low enough concentrations, Newmouth doesn’t recommend it. 

With experts’ supervision, you avoid using the wrong product, misapplying it, or incurring adverse side effects. You should only use an oral peroxide rinse rather than a food-grade hydrogen peroxide with a higher concentration.

You should always consult your dentist before you apply any homemade or store-bought products to your teeth.

Other Benefits of Hydrogen Peroxide for Teeth

Hydrogen peroxide has additional benefits for teeth beyond its whitening abilities. Other positive effects hydrogen peroxide can impart on your oral health include:

  • Treat gum disease – Thanks to its antibacterial properties, hydrogen peroxide may help heal mild cases of gum disease. It can also help reduce inflammation.13
  • Soothe a sore throat – Hydrogen peroxide rinses can ease discomfort from sore throats and drain mucus. 
  • Disinfect your mouth – Hydrogen peroxide is a disinfectant that may help prevent sores from forming in your mouth and assist in wound healing.

Always consult your doctor if you want to use hydrogen peroxide to whiten your teeth or treat other oral health issues.

What is the Best Way to Whiten Your Teeth?

NewMouth recommends over-the-counter products for whitening teeth. They are effective and affordable.

Professional whitening treatments are also highly effective. You’ll see results almost instantly.

However, professional whitening is more expensive than self-administered products.

These two methods produce identical results, according to multiple scientific studies.1,4,7,8 But at-home options need to be used more often to achieve the same results.

Summary

Hydrogen peroxide is an effective ingredient in many tooth-whitening products. It oxidizes your teeth and lifts the stains out of them. 

Professional in-office treatments and over-the-counter whitening products are safe and effective to use. You can purchase teeth whitening kits, strips, and more at your local drugstore.

Newmouth recommends avoiding do-it-yourself whitening treatments using hydrogen peroxide. It’s always best to talk to your dentist before using any treatment or product you’ve never tried.

Last updated on February 7, 2024
14 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 7, 2024
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Heymann, H. “Tooth Whitening: Facts and Fallacies.” British Dental Journal, National Library of Medicine, 2005. 
  2. Eimar et al. “Hydrogen Peroxide Whitens Teeth by Oxidizing the Organic Structure.” Journal of Dentistry, Elsevier, 2012. 
  3. Cvikl et al. “Enamel Surface Changes After Exposure to Bleaching Gels Containing Carbamide Peroxide or Hydrogen Peroxide.” Operative Dentistry, Allen Press, 2016. 
  4. Basting et al. “Clinical Comparative Study of the Effectiveness of and Tooth Sensitivity to 10% and 20% Carbamide Peroxide Home-Use and 35% and 38% Hydrogen Peroxide In-Office Bleaching Materials Containing Desensitizing Agents.” Operative Dentistry, Allen Press, 2012. 
  5. Abouassi et al. “Effect of Carbamide Peroxide and Hydrogen Peroxide on Enamel Surface: an in Vitro Study.” Clinical Oral Investigations, Springer-Verlag, 2010.
  6. Mokhlis et al. “A Clinical Evaluation of Carbamide Peroxide and Hydrogen Peroxide Whitening Agents during Daytime Use.” Journal of the American Dental Association, National Library of Medicine, 2000.
  7. Zekonis et al. “Clinical Evaluation of in-Office and at-Home Bleaching Treatments.” Operative Dentistry, National Library of Medicine, 2003. 
  8. Gerlach et al. “A Randomized Clinical Trial Comparing a Novel 5.3% Hydrogen Peroxide Whitening Strip to 10%, 15%, and 20% Carbamide Peroxide Tray-Based Bleaching Systems.” Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry, Europe PMC, 2000. 
  9. Tredwin et al. “Hydrogen Peroxide Tooth-Whitening (Bleaching) Products: Review of Adverse Effects and Safety Issues.” British Dental Journal, Nature Publishing Group, 2006.
  10. Bistey et al. “In Vitro FT-IR Study of the Effects of Hydrogen Peroxide on Superficial Tooth Enamel.” Journal of Dentistry, Elsevier, 2006.
  11. Walsh, L. “Safety issues relating to the use of hydrogen peroxide in dentistry.” Australian Dental Journal, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2008.
  12. Cua et al. “Tooth Color Change and Erosion: Hydrogen Peroxide Versus Non-peroxide Whitening Strips.” Operative Dentistry, National Library of Medicine, 2022.
  13. Hossainian et al. “The effects of hydrogen peroxide mouthwashes on the prevention of plaque and gingival inflammation: a systematic review.” International Journal of Dental Hygiene, Wiley Online Library, 2011.
  14. Lizarelli et al. “Antimicrobial Photodynamic Therapy with Mouth Rinse for General Oral Disinfection.” Journal of Oral Medicine, iMedPub Journals, 2017.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram