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.
Hydrogen peroxide mouthwash offers many oral health benefits, including:
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
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.
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.
Hydrogen peroxide mouthwash offers many practical benefits. However, some side effects are associated with its use:
Here are the five best hydrogen peroxide mouthwashes:
This ADA approved mouthwash contains 2 percent hydrogen peroxide. It promises fresher breath and a whiter smile. Because it has no alcohol or fluoride, this is a suitable option for people with fluoride sensitivity or those avoiding a “mouth burn” from alcohol. It is also safe for enamel and does not cause any wear or thinning.
This mouthwash uses hydrogen peroxide and fluoride to whiten teeth, prevent cavities, fight bad breath, and promises a brighter smile in as little as five days.
This vegan and gluten-free mouthwash uses hydrogen peroxide, aloe, and organic essential oils to whiten teeth, freshen breath, and remove harmful bacteria. This mouthwash is free of alcohol, fluoride, glycerin, sugars, sodium lauryl sulfate, or chlorine bleach.
This mouthwash is specifically formulated to cleanse and promote the healing of minor oral wounds, including oral sores, irritations, and mouth burns. The hydrogen peroxide’s oxygenating action helps to remove oral debris to facilitate healing. It also soothes minor gum inflammation from dental procedures, dentures, and orthodontic appliances.
This cruelty-free mouthwash uses clean, botanical ingredients like cinnamon, menthol, and clove oil, in addition to grain alcohol and hydrogen peroxide. Both HP and essential oils contain antiseptic properties to reduce bacteria in the mouth and freshen breath.
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.
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.
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.
"Flossing for the management of periodontal diseases and dental caries in adults" U.S. National Library of Medicine
"The effects of hydrogen peroxide mouthwashes on the prevention of plaque and gingival inflammation: a systematic review" International Journal of Dental Hygiene
" Safety issues relating to the use of hydrogen peroxide in dentistry" National Library of Medicine
"Hazardous Substance Fact Sheet" NJ Department of Public Health