Should I Use Peroxide for Teeth Whitening?

Medically Reviewed by a
Byte Licensed DDS

Table of Contents

  1. Whitening Rinses to Kits
  2. Peroxide Whitening Safety Issues
  3. Combination of Oral Hygiene & Whitening
  4. References

As you start looking at whitening kits, strips, and related products, you may have come across hydrogen peroxide as an ingredient. There is a lot of debate about the health benefits or detriments of hydrogen peroxide, but the very small amount in many at-home whitening treatments is typically safe for use in your mouth.

Dentists have used hydrogen peroxide as a treatment to improve overall oral hygiene for a long time. A small amount can kill harmful bacteria and slow the progression of plaque, so you can have a healthier, whiter smile for longer.

But hydrogen peroxide is also a strong chemical. Hydrogen peroxide can kill bad germs and slow down plaque, but it can also wear away enamel, which can cause serious problems for your teeth.

Whitening Products: From Rinses to Kits

Whitening toothpastes tend to contain abrasives like baking soda to wear off a thin layer of staining food or drink. Whitening strips, mouth rinses, and at-home kits tend to contain hydrogen peroxide as the main whitening agent instead. These often contain between 0.1 percent and 3 percent hydrogen peroxide.

Hydrogen peroxide has been used by dentists to manage overall oral health since 1913. The chemical breaks the biofilm on bacteria, killing even the most stubborn pockets that can cause severe periodontal disease. Whether you are getting a routine cleaning from your dentist, dealing with eliminating periodontal issues, or getting your teeth whitened in office, your dentist can oversee how well your teeth respond to hydrogen peroxide, and use a different amount of the solution depending on how sensitive your teeth are.

Sensitive teeth and gums are associated with naturally thin enamel and unhealthy teeth. If you are going through special dental cleanings to manage disease, you should not whiten your teeth at the same time unless your dentist says it is safe. If you have naturally sensitive teeth or gums, you may have thin enamel that can be damaged by too much hydrogen peroxide.

More than 3 percent in a solution is unsafe for your mouth, at least for regular use.

What Are the Safety Issues With Hydrogen Peroxide Whitening?

Still, many modern whitening kits advertise that they do not hurt sensitive teeth and gums by stripping away the enamel. This is because the low amount of hydrogen peroxide used in their whitening products is activated by a special blue LED light, which allows the chemical to sink further into your teeth without requiring a lot of time sitting on the surface of your enamel. This is safer than previous treatments, like whitening strips, which needed to sit on top of your teeth for several minutes, increasing the risk of damage.

Unfortunately, if you have thin enamel already or do not use the kits as directed, then you can cause further harm to your teeth. Using a whitening treatment beyond the recommended amount of time means that your teeth can become off-colored since dentin, the layer under your enamel, begins to show through. You may thin your teeth, so they crack, making them more susceptible to cavities and gum disease. You may damage your gums too, causing infections and recession that lead to worse outcomes.

Get Your Best Smile With a Combination of Oral Hygiene & Whitening

Ultimately, many modern whitening kits have high safety standards, and if you follow the directions, you can get a brighter smile without sacrificing your oral health.

It is important to ensure you have good oral health. Have regular visits with your dentist for checkups and cleaning, and maintain a strong oral hygiene routine that includes flossing and avoiding high-sugar foods as much as possible.

You can always ask your dentist if you are a good candidate for a whitening kit, and if so, which one they recommend. They can tell you more about whether your enamel is thick enough and which kit might be safest for you.

If you have tough-to-lift stains, an in-office whitening can get you started. Then, occasional applications of whitening kits or gels at home can help to keep your smile at its most beautiful.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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