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The Use Of Hydrogen Peroxide For Teeth Whitening

Updated on January 4, 2015

First discovered in 1818 and implemented by dentists in 1913, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a highly reactive chemical that can be used for many purposes. While it is widely distributed in drug stores as a simple disinfectant for minor cuts and scrapes, hydrogen peroxide has several other uses as well. In the cosmetics, mining, textiles, paper, and electronic industries, it is employed as a popular bleaching agent. It is also commonly used in commercially available teeth whitening products and can even protect against periodontal disease.

Many of the teeth whitening products that contain hydrogen peroxide are available over the counter. Toothpaste, whitening creams, and white strips all contain a small percentage of the chemical, capitalizing on its oxidizing properties. Pre-made toothpastes often contain up to 10 percent hydrogen peroxide. Though, because they are quickly removed from the teeth, they are only effective at removing surface stains. Products that remain on the teeth for at least ten minutes are much more effective at reaching deeper stains within the enamel.

Dentists may use whitening agents that contain even higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth as well as to treat gingivitis or periodontal disease. Leaving hydrogen peroxide on the teeth for a period of time can help the chemical penetrate deep within the teeth and gums to release oxygen. When oxygen is released, anaerobic bacteria have a more difficult environment in which to thrive, exterminating or dramatically decreasing gingivitis-causing bacteria. This process can also serve to deter other unwelcome mouth-dwellers such as bacteria which can cause bad breath.

Not all oral applications of H2O2 need to be administered by a dental professional. There are several ways to use the chemical at home. A homemade cream of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda can be made and used to whiten and strengthen teeth. Most people will combine the two to make a paste and apply it to the teeth as one would use toothpaste. According to Discovery Health, these homemade creams should be used in moderation to prevent damage to the teeth or gums from overuse. Pastes should not be used more than once daily and used for only three to four weeks at a time. People interested in homemade pastes should discuss the benefits and drawbacks of this method with a dentist or other dental professional.

Though the FDA approves the use of hydrogen peroxide and deems it safe, some side effects may be observed while using the chemical to whiten teeth. Hydrogen peroxide is known as a cytotoxic chemical, which means that it is toxic to cells. Especially when using higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide, gum irritation and sensitivity may occur. Tooth enamel and mouth tissue could be affected by overuse of hydrogen peroxide or if the product is left in the mouth for an extended period of time.

One must only watch hydrogen peroxide in action to observe its dynamic nature. In all its effervescent glory, this readily available little powerhouse has been used by professionals and lay people alike to whiten and protect our teeth for nearly a century.


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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