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The Use Of Hydrogen Peroxide As A Mouthwash

Updated on January 4, 2015

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a chemical compound that was first isolated in 1818 by Louis Jacque Thenard. Since its discovery, H2O2 has been used in nearly every professional field, from agriculture to hair care to dentistry to rocket propulsion. Everyday use in households for cleaning cuts or scrapes, toothpaste, and as a mouthwash is common. Though frequent use of diluted hydrogen peroxide or use of the chemical in highly concentrated amounts can cause irritation to tissue and teeth, hydrogen peroxide is highly effective at cleansing the mouth, teeth, and gums.

Many people once believed that hydrogen peroxide works as an antiseptic, though recent research suggests that the compound has only a mildly bactericidal effect. Hydrogen peroxide’s effectiveness comes from oxidization. One of the most highly reactive chemical compounds, hydrogen peroxide is rapidly broken down by catalase within biological cells. This breakdown causes the well-known fizzing or foaming effect that occurs when hydrogen peroxide is applied to wounds or used in the mouth. While this process may not be inherently antiseptic in nature, it does help hydrogen peroxide effectively remove dirt, plaque, or foreign objects from the surface onto which it is placed. The oxidization properties of hydrogen peroxide make the chemical an excellent mouthwash to remove dirt and plaque from between the teeth and from the gums.

Using H2O2 as a mouthwash may help clean teeth and gums, but it also may be useful in preventing periodontal disease. In 1979, J Wennstrom and J Lindhe published an article in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology after researching hydrogen peroxide’s effect on oral hygiene when used as a mouthwash. This groundbreaking study proved that using the chemical compound as a mouthwash could stall and even prevent the growth of anaerobic bacteria. This type of bacteria is often the cause of plaque that results in periodontal disease, such as gingivitis. A more recent review of H2O2 research literature published in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene shows that while using hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash in addition to tooth brushing may reduce gingival redness, using hydrogen peroxide as a short-term therapy is ineffective at preventing or halting the progression of periodontal disease.

To promote oral hygiene and prevent gingivitis, hydrogen peroxide can be used in low concentrations as a mouthwash administered once or twice daily. Most pharmacies sell hydrogen peroxide in concentrations of three percent. Higher concentrations will need to be diluted to three percent or lower before it is used as a mouthwash.

To maximize the effectiveness of the oxidation process, swish hydrogen peroxide in the mouth for up to a minute before spitting. There have been some reports of oral tissue damage or tooth sensitivity with the use of hydrogen peroxide in the mouth. So, persons choosing to use hydrogen peroxide orally should discuss this with a dentist or dental hygienist to ensure proper use of the chemical and to prevent side effects.

While it is perhaps most commonly known as the bubbly stuff used to clean scrapes and other open wounds, hydrogen peroxide has also found much success in the daily cleansing other areas of the body. When used orally in appropriate concentrations, the chemical’s oxidizing properties have been widely employed to promote dental and gingival health.


The information provided in this hub is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician or health care provider before taking any home remedies or supplements.


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