Why Is Peroxide Good for Your Teeth and Gums?

Medically Reviewed on 4/29/2022

How does someone benefit from using hydrogen peroxide?

Hydrogen peroxide acts as an antiseptic to stop skin infections from scrapes and cuts. It also can be used for minor mouth irritation and mucous.

During the pandemic, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of vaporized, concentrated hydrogen peroxide to sterilize used n95 masks. You can find hydrogen peroxide in personal care items like hair dyes, toothpaste, and mouthwash in homes. You can also find it in cleaning products like stain removers, bleaches, and bathroom cleaners.

What is hydrogen peroxide?

Hydrogen peroxide is a clear liquid oxidizing agent. Hydrogen peroxide is good for your teeth and gums because it whitens teeth and helps fight inflammation.
Hydrogen peroxide is a clear liquid oxidizing agent. Hydrogen peroxide is good for your teeth and gums because it whitens teeth and helps fight inflammation.

Hydrogen peroxide is a common item found in many homes in the medicine cabinet. It is used for various purposes, from home cleaning to medical. One common medical use for hydrogen peroxide is in dental and oral care. But is hydrogen peroxide safe to put on your teeth

There are several benefits, but if not used correctly, damages can occur.

Hydrogen peroxide is a clear liquid oxidizing agent. It is mostly water with an extra molecule of oxygen. When applied to damaged areas of the body, it encounters iron and an enzyme called catalase. When hydrogen peroxide and iron or catalase combine, they release oxygen in the form of fizzy bubbles. The oxygen bubbles, catalase, and iron all have an antiseptic effect. Together disinfect and clean areas of application. Hydrogen peroxide also breaks down dead cells and many bacteria. But it’s also capable of breaking down exposed healthy tissue. If used without sufficient caution, it can cause irritation, soreness, and scarring.

What causes most dental problems?

Minor toothaches can appear after gum irritation and can be taken care of at home. Larger or more severe toothaches come from dental problems that will not go away and need to be treated by a dentist. Toothaches may be caused by:  

  • Repetitive movement, grinding, clenching teeth, or chewing gum over and over
  • Tooth decay
  • Gum infections
  • Broken teeth
  • A damaged filling
  • A bacterial infection in the tooth (abscess)
  • Eruption of teeth through the gums
  • Removal of wisdom teeth 

What are the symptoms of tooth and mouth problems?

Problems that could indicate something is wrong with your teeth or mouth include:  

Several serious conditions can cause irritation and pain in your mouth. The following are signs that you may have gum or periodontal disease.

  • Bad breath
  • Red, swollen, and tender gums
  • Pus in between the teeth and gums
  • Gums that easily bleed
  • Loose teeth or teeth spreading apart
  • The buildup of brown accumulations along the gum line
  • Dental accessories no longer fit properly 

If any of these symptoms occur with swallowing or breathing issues, contact your dentist ASAP.

How does hydrogen peroxide affect teeth and gums?

Hydrogen peroxide products available for purchase usually contain about 3% percent hydrogen peroxide mixed with sterile water. In small concentrations, hydrogen peroxide can be used to rinse the mouth for irritation or to remove mucous. It works as an oxidizing agent and can offer a whitening and lightening effect. A 3% hydrogen peroxide rinse helps reduce pain and inflammation. When using, dilute the bottled peroxide with equal parts of water. Rinse completely after use. 

The European Commission on Health & Consumer Protection did extensive testing on safe practices for hydrogen peroxide as a tooth whitening product. It determined that the use of whitening products that contain less than .1 to 6% hydrogen peroxide is safe. The FDA also tested the results of hydrogen peroxide used as a food additive and named it a GRAS: Generally Recognized as Safe. It has also approved its use as an oral wound healing agent.


What causes tooth decay? See Answer

What is hydrogen peroxide used for in the dental office?

In the dental office, hydrogen peroxide was first used as a gum disease treatment in 1913. It is still used to treat several conditions of the mouth and gums, including:

Gingivitis: Inflammation of the gums is called gingivitis. It can be a contributing factor to periodontitis. Gingivitis can occur when bacteria builds up from plaque deposits. This leads to gum inflammation and possible bleeding while brushing your teeth. Rinsing with hydrogen peroxide will kill harmful bacteria and stop inflammation from getting worse.

Periodontitis: When gingivitis isn’t treated, the gums and bone can pull away from a tooth. This creates pockets around the tooth and root that may become infected — this is periodontitis. A dentist will use a custom-fit tray to place hydrogen peroxide into the deep layers of the pockets of infection. The tray will hold the peroxide in place for efficient treatment of periodontitis.

Dentists also use hydrogen peroxide as a whitening agent to whiten the teeth. Store-bought hydrogen peroxide is usually bought in a 3% concentration, but dental level peroxide for tooth bleaching can be significantly higher. Some products purchased over the counter, like rinses, toothpaste, and whitening strips, have hydrogen peroxide as their whitening agent. Combining baking soda and hydrogen peroxide can produce a natural whitening toothpaste.

Is there any time hydrogen peroxide shouldn’t be used?

Some dentists do not suggest using hydrogen peroxide routinely as a rinse. Hydrogen peroxide can irritate the gums and may be too harsh on fillings, crowns, and dental implants. Your dentist may suggest its use as an oral rinse if diluted with Listerine or water. Because of its harshness, it should only be used by dental recommendation.

Hydrogen peroxide definitely should only be used short-term. It could damage the cells in the pulp of the gum, which can limit the growth of enamel. Using oral rinses that contain hydrogen peroxide can be less abrasive and more suitable than hydrogen peroxide used alone.

Inhalation of hydrogen peroxide vapors can be harmful. Some concentrated forms like 30% can be very hazardous if not safely handled. These high concentrations would be found in industrial settings. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health limits exposure to hydrogen peroxide at high concentrations to 1 part per million during an 8-hour work shift.  

Most toothaches and dental problems result from tooth decay. Good oral hygiene and awareness of oral changes can prevent recurrent problems and lead to a lifetime of good oral hygiene practices.  

Medically Reviewed on 4/29/2022

ChemicalSafetyFacts.org: "Hydrogen Peroxide."

Cleveland Clinic: "Toothache."

Harvard Health: "Treating gum disease may lessen the burden of heart disease, diabetes, other conditions."

Registered Dental Hygenist Magazine: "Hydrogen peroxide in dentistry."