What is hydrogen peroxide?

Hydrogen peroxide is a colorless liquid (when undiluted) that has a slightly pungent smell. Yes, you can put hydrogen peroxide straight on your teeth — but only in low concentrations.
Hydrogen peroxide is a colorless liquid (when undiluted) that has a slightly pungent smell. Yes, you can put hydrogen peroxide straight on your teeth — but only in low concentrations.

Yes, you can put hydrogen peroxide straight on your teeth — but only in low concentrations. That’s because hydrogen peroxide is very reactive. Using it in high concentrations or for a long period of time may damage your gums and teeth. If you're considering using hydrogen peroxide regularly, only use it in low concentrations. That way, you'll avoid harming your oral tissues (soft and hard).

Hydrogen peroxide is a colorless liquid (when undiluted) that has a slightly pungent smell. It’s widely used in industries and in self-administered medicinal use. You can also use it at home to bleach hair or clothes and clean surfaces. Due to its reactive nature, hydrogen peroxide can cause irritation when it comes into contact with your skin, eyes, and throat or by inhalation through your nose.

Hydrogen peroxide has a bitter taste. It's nonflammable, meaning it doesn’t catch fire easily. The hydrogen peroxide used in households usually has a concentration of about 3% to 9%. This chemical is known to be a powerful oxidizing agent with antiviral and antibacterial properties. That makes it a good disinfectant solution.

Industries use hydrogen peroxide to make rocket fuel, organic chemicals, bleached textiles and paper, and foam rubber. People who work in such industries are at a higher risk of inhaling or coming into contact with high concentrations of the chemical.

How to use hydrogen peroxide on your teeth

You can use hydrogen peroxide to whiten your teeth since it has natural bleaching properties. But using it on your teeth carries the risk of getting tooth sensitivity and gum inflammation. Some kinds of toothpaste and mouth washing products contain small concentrations of hydrogen peroxide. Avoid using pure hydrogen peroxide on your teeth or for other uses at home. Consider using safer options like gel or whitening strips. They are more effective at whitening teeth than toothpaste or mouthwash.

Before whitening your teeth at home, make sure you get a dental checkup from your dentist first. This will make sure that any issues, like tooth cracks or cavities, get fixed. Trying to whiten your teeth while you have issues like this may cause irritation during whitening.

To whiten your teeth at home using hydrogen peroxide, use a low-concentration hydrogen peroxide gel in a mouthguard that’s custom-made for you by your dentist. Whitening your teeth at home may take up to two weeks, while at your dentist, it can take only one and half hours. But doing it at home might be a better option for you. That's because it’s less expensive, and you can continue whitening your teeth until you get the results you want.

Adverse effects of hydrogen peroxide

Sometimes hydrogen peroxide can cause more harm than just irritation. Some of the adverse effects of ingesting, inhaling, or coming into contact with hydrogen peroxide include:

  • Respiratory issues. Inhaling hydrogen peroxide may cause issues ranging from coughs and difficulty breathing to more serious conditions like bronchitis and pulmonary edema. These respiratory conditions can be fatal.
  • Gastrointestinal tract issues. Ingesting hydrogen peroxide may cause severe digestive system irritation, gas embolism (gas bubbles getting into your blood circulation), or even death. If you have gastrointestinal irritation, you may get symptoms like foaming from the mouth, stomach pain, vomiting, distended stomach, fever, shock, lethargy, unconsciousness, hematemesis (vomiting blood), or respiratory failure.
  • Skin issues. Diluted hydrogen peroxide may cause bleaching or whitening of the skin. If the solution contains 35% hydrogen peroxide, you may get mild skin irritation. Solutions with over 50% hydrogen peroxide may cause severe burns, ulcers, blisters, permanent scarring, or severe skin irritation and corrosion.
  • Eye problems. If a solution of over 35% hydrogen peroxide gets into your eye, it may cause corneal burns, conjunctivitis, corrosion, photophobia, lacrimation, or even permanent blindness.

Alternatives to hydrogen peroxide

If you want to whiten your teeth without using hydrogen peroxide, consider teeth whitening products that contain phthalimidoperoxycaproic acid (PAP), a chemical that functions just as well. This chemical can be used in place of hydrogen peroxide since it’s effective and safer. Phthalimidoperoxycaproic acid does not cause damage to the hard or soft tissues of the mouth.

Baking soda is also effective in teeth whitening. Toothpaste products containing baking soda work better in cleaning teeth stains than regular toothpaste. It's also less abrasive and has no adverse effects compared to hydrogen peroxide.

Another option for teeth whitening is the traditional method of oil pulling. The only downside to using this method is that it takes more time to apply and may not give you the results you may be looking for. Also, there is no conclusive research that shows that it actually whitens teeth. Oil pulling involves using oils like coconut, sesame, or sunflower oil.

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Tips to help you avoid teeth stains

While hydrogen peroxide may help to remove teeth stains, there are ways you can use it to prevent the stains from forming in the first place. Consider doing the following to avoid staining:

  • Stop smoking
  • Brush and floss at least twice daily
  • Avoid foods or drinks that cause teeth staining (like tea, wine, and coffee)
  • Visit your dentist regularly for cleanings to remove any stains starting to form

Other uses of hydrogen peroxide

Besides teeth whitening, hydrogen peroxide can also work as a mouth rinse to get rid of mucus and mild mouth irritations. In your household, hydrogen peroxide can be effective for getting rid of mildew and mold in dishwashers, washing some vegetables, and cleaning countertops, mirrors, or cutting boards.

Hydrogen peroxide is one of the best solutions you can use to disinfect surfaces. It’s also effective for removing stubborn stains from carpets, clothing, tiles, and ceramic utensils.

Conclusion

If you accidentally ingest, inhale, or come into contact with hydrogen peroxide when cleaning your teeth, make sure to talk to your doctor for advice on what to do next.

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Medically Reviewed on 7/5/2022
References
SOURCES:

Australian Dental Journal: "Safety issues relating to the use of hydrogen peroxide in dentistry."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Hydrogen Peroxide."

Cleveland Clinic: "How to Whiten Your Teeth: 4 Home Remedies," "What Is Hydrogen Peroxide Good For?"

Dentistry Journal: "A Radical-Free Approach to Teeth Whitening."

National Center for Biotechnology Information: "Hydrogen peroxide."

PHE Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards: "Hydrogen Peroxide."

University of Rochester Medical Center Rochester: "DIY Teeth Whitening: Too Good to Be True?"