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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:
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.
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
Learn about the safest ways to 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.
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.
Here are some ways to whiten your teeth with hydrogen peroxide:
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:
To make a hydrogen peroxide rinse at home, follow these steps:
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:
Swallowing a higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide can cause severe stomach irritation and burns that require urgent medical care.
Mixing baking soda and hydrogen peroxide can make a paste to apply to your teeth. Follow these steps to create the paste:
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:
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.
Several over-the-counter methods for whitening your teeth at home are safe and effective. These products include:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
See NewMouth’s top 10 teeth whitening products of 2022.
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:
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.
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.
Hydrogen peroxide has additional benefits for teeth beyond its whitening abilities. Other positive effects hydrogen peroxide can impart on your oral health include:
Always consult your doctor if you want to use hydrogen peroxide to whiten your teeth or treat other oral health issues.
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.
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.
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