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What is Hydrogen Peroxide Mouthwash?

Hydrogen peroxide (HP) is a colorless, odorless liquid usually sold over the counter in a brown bottle. It is a chemical compound that is a combination of hydrogen and oxygen. 

HP is a common household item that you can find in most drug stores. It has many uses, including as an antiseptic, sanitizer, and cleaning agent.

Because of its antiseptic properties, dental professionals often use hydrogen peroxide mouthwash during a dental procedure or medical treatment to help kill bacteria and reduce the risk of a bacterial infection.

In addition, hydrogen peroxide is often used at home as a common ingredient in mouthwash for people seeking a brighter smile and fresher breath.

Hydrogen peroxide mouthwash contains a safe amount of the chemical, typically a concentration of 1.5 to 2 percent. Rinsing or gargling hydrogen peroxide at this safe concentration offers many oral health benefits because of its antibacterial properties.

What are the Benefits of Hydrogen Peroxide Mouthwash?

Hydrogen peroxide mouthwash offers many oral health benefits, including:

  • Reduces inflammation A 2012 study found that hydrogen peroxide can help to reduce gum inflammation when combined with regular brushing and flossing.1
  • Reduces plaque — Hydrogen peroxide releases oxygen that helps destroy the bacteria that causes plaque to form on the teeth.
  • Treats gum disease — Because of its antibacterial properties, hydrogen peroxide can treat and prevent gum disease.2
  • Soothes a sore throat — Hydrogen peroxide not only kills harmful bacteria that cause sore throats, but it also breaks down mucus which eases irritation and pain in the throat.
  • Whiten teeth — Hydrogen peroxide is a mild bleach that can lift stains from the teeth, making them appear whiter.
  • Relieves irritation — Hydrogen peroxide rinse can alleviate irritation caused by mouth sores and canker sores by cleaning the affected areas and reducing inflammation.3

How Does Hydrogen Peroxide Mouth Rinse Work?

Hydrogen peroxide mouth rinse works by releasing oxygen when it comes into contact with the affected area. When the oxygen is released, it causes a foaming reaction, which helps to remove mucus and clean the area.

The HP oxidation process breaks down the stains from polymers into monomers. This, in turn, brightens and whitens teeth while preserving tooth health.4

Is Hydrogen Peroxide Mouthwash Safe on Teeth and Gums?

Studies show that hydrogen peroxide is safe on teeth and gums when used in low concentrations. It can be used daily (over extended periods) in self-administered oral health care products like mouth rinses. 

At a low concentration of 2 percent or less, hydrogen peroxide does not damage oral hard or soft tissues. It also doesn’t pose any risks for adverse, long-term effects.5

However, when using hydrogen peroxide at a higher concentration, users should exercise caution. Hydrogen peroxide at a concentration above 3 percent should only be administered by a professional to avoid gum or teeth irritation.

How Often Should You Use Hydrogen Peroxide Mouthwash?

When using a mouthwash made by a reputable brand, it is safe to use hydrogen peroxide mouthwash twice daily. Make sure that the hydrogen peroxide mouthwash you use contains a concentration of 3 percent or less to avoid adverse effects like burning or pain. 

If you experience any sensitivity or discomfort while using HP mouthwash, you should stop using it immediately. Instead, look for a mouthwash with the ADA Seal of Acceptance to ensure its efficacy and safety. 

Also, if you are unsure if you should use hydrogen peroxide mouthwash in the first place, ask your dentist for advice.

Potential Side Effects of HP Mouthwash

Hydrogen peroxide mouthwash offers many practical benefits. However, some side effects are associated with its use:

  • Poor taste — Many users find the taste of hydrogen peroxide unpleasant, especially when compared with other mouthwashes.
  • Drying out the mouth — Hydrogen peroxide can also dry out the mouth, which is counterproductive for your oral health. Saliva is essential for washing away oral bacteria and remineralizing tooth enamel.
  • Poisonous when swallowed — If you happen to swallow your hydrogen peroxide oral rinse, you may experience nausea or stomach irritation.6

Is it Safe to Use Just Hydrogen Peroxide as Mouthwash? 

It is not safe to use undiluted hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash or a gargle. Hydrogen peroxide should only be used as a mouthwash in a concentration of 2 percent or less

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), hydrogen peroxide with a concentration higher than 3 percent can be irritating to the soft tissues in the mouth. We recommend these mouthwashes instead.

In addition, accidentally swallowing household hydrogen peroxide might cause stomach upset, an episode of vomiting, or throat irritation. 

Suppose the hydrogen peroxide is a high-concentration product. In that case, side effects can be much more severe and result in severe stomach irritation and even burns that require a trip to the emergency room and possible hospital admission.

Another complication that can occur with hydrogen peroxide ingestion is a gas embolism, which occurs when air bubbles travel to the blood or circulatory system and cause blockage of a blood vessel. Though very rare, this condition can be life-threatening, and emergency medical attention is required.

If you swallow hydrogen peroxide, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.

Alternative At-Home Teeth Whitening Options 

For many, the main reason for using a mouthwash with hydrogen peroxide is achieving a whiter smile. However, there are other whitening treatments available besides mouthwash. 

Alternative at-home teeth whitening options include:

Teeth whitening products that contain hydrogen peroxide usually contain concentrations that range from 3 to 20 percent. These products contain even higher concentrations in a dentist’s office. 

Higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide can increase your risk of developing gum irritation and other adverse side effects. Before using an at-home teeth whitening product containing hydrogen peroxide, consult with your dentist to make sure that it is safe for you.

Last updated on April 27, 2022
7 Sources Cited
Last updated on April 27, 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).
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