If you’re looking for a way to brighten up your smile, you may have heard that hydrogen peroxide is the way to go – but what is it? How do you use it? And is it safe?
To give you all the info you need to make up your mind whether this is an option you want to try, in this post, we go into detail about how to whiten teeth with hydrogen peroxide.
If you want a preview of some of the things we’re going to be talking about – as well as some alternative views on the subject – you can also check out this video before reading on.
What is hydrogen peroxide?
Before we look at whitening teeth with hydrogen peroxide, let’s take a step back and talk about what hydrogen peroxide is to see if it’s something you want to be using on your teeth.
Hydrogen peroxide is the chemical H2O2 that’s often used to sterilize surfaces or medical instruments as well as for bleaching – including bleaching hair.
In addition, due to these bleaching properties, it’s also used for whitening teeth – it’s used by dentists for professional teeth whitening treatments, and it’s also found in many over-the-counter teeth whitening products.
It can also be bought for general use in bottles as a highly diluted solution.
Is it safe to use for whitening teeth?
Hydrogen peroxide is generally considered safe to use for teeth whitening, although this comes with a couple of caveats.
When dentists use hydrogen peroxide for professional whitening, they can use concentrations of up to almost 40% hydrogen peroxide.
In this setting, this is considered safe because dentists are trained to use it – but for somebody to use such a high concentration at home would not be safe at all.
In comparison, over-the-counter treatments such as dental strips or trays use a mixture that contains about 10% hydrogen peroxide, and this is also considered safe as long as you follow the instructions that come with the product you buy.
Permanent damage when not used correctly
The problem is that although hydrogen peroxide is good at removing stains by essentially bleaching your teeth, if you don’t use it correctly, you can end up removing the protective enamel layer from your teeth, causing permanent damage.
However, if you buy a bottle of hydrogen peroxide from your local drugstore, since the concentration is much lower at only around 3-6%, this is much safer for your teeth.
As a result, although you might need more treatments to whiten your teeth, you are far less likely to damage your teeth by using hydrogen peroxide in this way.
This is backed by the science too. One study investigating the damage done to teeth by hydrogen peroxide concluded that the damage to enamel increased with the concentration of hydrogen peroxide used and the amount of time it was in contact with the teeth.
Furthermore, another study showed that even concentrations of hydrogen peroxide as low as 5% could be as effective as concentrations as high as 25%.
This suggests that by using low concentrations of hydrogen peroxide, you can successfully whiten teeth while avoiding any damage to the enamel.
Different ways to use hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth
So how can you use hydrogen peroxide to whiten your teeth? Let’s have a look at some of your options now.
Make a mouthwash
Perhaps the simplest way to whiten your teeth with hydrogen peroxide is to make a mouthwash to swill around your mouth.
Just mix up one part hydrogen peroxide and one part water in a cup to give you an even safer and more diluted solution and swill it around your mouth for up to a minute.
After that, spit it out and rinse your mouth with water. If you feel discomfort or pain before you reach a minute, spit it out before.
You can repeat this process every day for up to two weeks until you achieve the desired effect.
Make a paste with baking soda
An alternative to making mouthwash is to make a kind of paste using hydrogen peroxide and baking soda.
Start by mixing a little baking soda with a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in a cup and keep adding more hydrogen peroxide until you achieve the correct consistency – the paste should be thick enough to use like toothpaste but not gritty so that it scratches your teeth.
Next, dip your toothbrush into the paste and use the toothbrush to apply it gently to your teeth. Brush for up to two minutes – or less if you feel discomfort – and then rinse well with water.
As with the mouthwash method, you can use this paste to treat your teeth for up to about two weeks.
Use hydrogen peroxide toothpaste
If you don’t want to make your own homemade remedy, you can also consider using hydrogen peroxide toothpaste bought from a store.
Usually, whitening toothpaste contains tiny abrasive particles that remove stains mechanically by scraping and scratching your teeth, but hydrogen peroxide toothpaste isn’t abrasive and so it’s gentler on your teeth.
You can pick this kind of toothpaste up from your local drugstore – and all you need to do is follow the instructions on the box.
Buy whitening strips
Whitening strips are strips containing hydrogen peroxide at a concentration of about 10% that you cut up and stick to your teeth.
Different products vary, but in general, you need to leave them in place, after which, you remove them and rinse your mouth. You then repeat the treatment twice a day for up to a month until you achieve the desired results.
Use a whitening tray
Whitening trays are similar to strips in that you apply them to your teeth, but instead of strips, they consist of a disposable mold that you fit over your teeth and then go about your day.
The tray contains hydrogen peroxide, and you usually use one per day. Since they are clear, they are hardly visible, and some even allow you to continue to eat and drink with the tray in your mouth.
Another option is to wear the tray at night while you sleep if you don’t want anybody to see it.
Like strips, the hydrogen peroxide concentration is around 10%.
Visit a dentist for professional whitening
The best option for the quickest, most noticeable results is to visit a dentist for a professional whitening treatment.
The procedure usually takes around 90 minutes, and since the dentist is trained to use much higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide, the results are comparable to, if not better than, a month-long treatment with strips or trays.
The downside to this is that the procedure is far more expensive, but if you don’t mind the price and just want whiter teeth and a dazzling smile, this is the choice to go for.
When shouldn’t you use hydrogen peroxide?
Hydrogen peroxide treatments are not for everyone.
For example, if you suffer from certain dental conditions, it’s better to avoid using hydrogen peroxide for whitening teeth – or you should at least consult with your dentist before commencing a treatment. Such conditions include:
- Damaged or thin tooth enamel
- Failing restorations
- Inflamed gums or gum disease
At the same time, if you start a whitening treatment and it causes you pain or discomfort, you should discontinue the treatment and speak to your dentist.
Hydrogen peroxide treatments can also make teeth more sensitive to hot and cold foods, although this will normally resolve itself a week or two after the treatment ends.
As a result, you can either avoid hot and cold foods until after your treatment is over – or you can discontinue the treatment if the pain becomes too much.
Home remedy alternatives
Although hydrogen peroxide is a relatively gentle treatment, especially when used in lower concentrations, you may prefer to use something other than a chemical treatment to whiten your teeth. Here are some suggestions.
Lemon juice contains acetic acid, and some studies suggest that this is an effective stain remover that is nevertheless a less harsh option than hydrogen peroxide.
To use it, you can either make a paste for brushing with baking soda or mix a solution of one part lemon juice and one part water to make a mouthwash that can help whiten your teeth.
If you try either of these, remember to wash your mouth with water after because otherwise, the acetic acid can begin to dissolve your tooth enamel.
Another option is to use lemon peel to rub on your teeth. The acetic acid will help remove stains just like with lemon juice – but again, remember to wash your teeth after.
Finally, banana peel is said to work in a similar way to lemon peel due to its acid content, making it another option that might be worth a go.
An effective option if you do it right
As we’ve seen, hydrogen peroxide is generally considered safe, and depending on which kind of treatment you choose, it can be an affordable yet effective way to whiten teeth.
However, it’s always best to talk to your dentist before starting any kind of treatment – so ask your dentist for advice before you decide on which treatment is best for you.