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Hydrogen Peroxide Teeth Whitening

Michael Bayba Headshot
Written by
Michael Bayba
Medically Reviewed by 
Dr. Erica Anand
10 Sources Cited

What is Hydrogen Peroxide?

Hydrogen peroxide is the main ingredient in most tooth whitening products. It's used in professional in-office treatment, over-the-counter teeth whitening products, and DIY home whitening.

Hydrogen peroxide is a common household item (you can find it in most first aid kits). It's a natural bleaching agent, antiseptic, and oxidizer. In its purest form, it's a light blue liquid with the chemical formula H2O2

Hydrogen peroxide is commonly used to prevent infections in minor cuts, scrapes, and burns. It can also be used as a mouth rinse to remove mucus and relieve irritation due to gingivitis or canker sores.

Does Hydrogen Peroxide Actually Whiten Your Teeth?

Yes. Hydrogen peroxide is an effective tooth whitener.1

It has been used for decades and is backed by a significant amount of scientific evidence. 

Hydrogen peroxide solutions whiten your teeth by oxidizing them. Most treatments do not cause significant changes in tooth enamel.2

However, some treatments can cause tooth sensitivity and enamel changes. This risk is increased if you have to leave the serum on your teeth for a long time or there is a very high concentration of hydrogen peroxide in the teeth whitening product.3, 4

Hydrogen Peroxide vs Carbamide Peroxide

The two main ingredients you will see in teeth whitening products are hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide.

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

For every 10 percent of carbamide peroxide, there is 3 percent hydrogen peroxide. 

Both hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide are effective teeth whitening treatments. The two ingredients produce nearly identical results.4, 6, 7 

Is Hydrogen Peroxide Safe For Teeth? (According to Science)

Yes, both hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide are safe for your teeth, according to science.1, 2, 4, 6, 7 

At-home teeth bleaching products typically contain 5 to 10 percent hydrogen peroxide or 35 percent carbamide peroxide. They are applied for 10 to 30 minutes for multiple days in a row.

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

Are There Any Side Effects of Hydrogen Peroxide?

Tooth sensitivity is the most common side effect of hydrogen peroxide whitening solutions.

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 is increased 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 percent hydrogen peroxide or over 35 percent carbamide peroxide for at-home treatments)

3 Ways to Whiten Your Teeth With Hydrogen Peroxide

Here's 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.

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

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

Hydrogen Peroxide Rinse

To make this, 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)
Hydrogen Peroxide Paste

To make this, follow these steps:

  1. Put two or three teaspoons of baking soda in a bowl with a splash of hydrogen peroxide
  2. Mix the substances together with a clean spoon
  3. Keep adding more peroxide or baking soda until you get a thick paste that isn’t gritty
  4. Use a toothbrush to rub the paste directly on your teeth in small circles for two minutes
  5. Let the paste rest on your teeth for a few minutes 
  6. Rinse off the paste by swishing water in your mouth several times

Although cost-effective, hydrogen peroxide rinses and pastes can be too strong, potentially causing adverse reactions like enamel erosion, gum pain, and tooth sensitivity.

2. Over-the-Counter Treatments

There are several methods for whitening your teeth at home that are safe and effective. Always follow the instructions for each product carefully.

These products include:

Teeth whitening strips and teeth whitening kits are safe and effective ways to whiten teeth at home.

If you have sensitive teeth, LED whitening kits may be a better option. They typically stay on your teeth for less time.

3. In-Office Treatments

Your local dentist probably offers teeth whitening treatment.

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

This means you will need fewer treatments. However, it will likely cost you more money. 

If you’re considering in-office teeth whitening, call your dentist for professional advice.

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 extremely effective. You'll see results almost instantly.

But keep in mind that 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.

What Causes Teeth Staining (and How to Prevent It)

There are many causes of tooth discoloration. Teeth stains can be yellow, brown, white, green, or purple.

Teeth stains are caused by various factors, including:

  • Certain foods and drinks (coffee, tea, high sugar foods, tomato sauce, curry, berries, carrots, etc.)
  • Poor oral health
  • Smoking
  • Genetics
  • Age (from enamel wear over time exposing dentin)
  • Tetracycline and other antibiotics
  • Trauma
  • Ingesting high levels of fluoride
  • Developmental disorders
  • Chemotherapy
  • Medical conditions, such as pulpal necrosis

How to Prevent Teeth Staining

The best way to prevent stained teeth is to practice a good oral health routine. Brush your teeth twice daily and floss once a day.

Also, brush your teeth after eating foods that cause discoloration.

Other tips for keeping your teeth white include:

  • Don’t smoke or use other tobacco products
  • Minimize consumption of staining substances (coffee, tea, red wine, berries, curry, beets, etc.)
  • Avoid sugary foods and drinks
  • Eat coarse and leafy vegetables that help scrub away surface stains 
Last updated on April 26, 2022
10 Sources Cited
Last updated on April 26, 2022
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 O. “Tooth Whitening: Facts and Fallacies.” Nature News, British Dental Journal, 23 Apr. 2005. 
  2. Eimar, Hazem, et al. “Hydrogen Peroxide Whitens Teeth by Oxidizing the Organic Structure.” Journal of Dentistry, Elsevier, 24 Aug. 2012. 
  3. Cvikl, B, et al. “Enamel Surface Changes After Exposure to Bleaching Gels Containing Carbamide Peroxide or Hydrogen Peroxide.” Operative Dentistry, Allen Press, 1 Jan. 2016. 
  4. Basting, RT, 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, 1 Sept. 2012. 
  5. Abouassi, Thaer, et al. “Effect of Carbamide Peroxide and Hydrogen Peroxide on Enamel Surface: an in Vitro Study.” Clinical Oral Investigations, Springer-Verlag, 10 July 2010.
  6. Mokhlis, G R, et al. “A Clinical Evaluation of Carbamide Peroxide and Hydrogen Peroxide Whitening Agents during Daytime Use.” Journal of the American Dental Association, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2000.
  7. Zekonis, Ruta, et al. “Clinical Evaluation of in-Office and at-Home Bleaching Treatments.” Operative Dentistry, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2003. 
  8. Gerlach, RW, 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. 
  9. Tredwin, C J, et al. “Hydrogen Peroxide Tooth-Whitening (Bleaching) Products: Review of Adverse Effects and Safety Issues.” British Dental Journal, Nature Publishing Group.
  10. Bistey, Tamas, et al. “In Vitro FT-IR Study of the Effects of Hydrogen Peroxide on Superficial Tooth Enamel.” Journal of Dentistry, Elsevier, 20 Nov. 2006.
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