You’ve seen all the social media hype. People using hydrogen peroxide to whiten their teeth. They claim that all you need is the standard hydrogen peroxide in a brown bottle that many of us have on our bathroom shelf right now. Hold up! As a dental hygienist, I need to answer a question for you. The question being: Can you use hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth? Yes or no? The answer is yes AND no. Let me explain.
Please note that information related to the COVID-19 Pandemic does bring up questions whether or not hydrogen peroxide is effective in the treating and preventing of this virus. Please refer to up-to-date information about COVID-19 from these resources: CDC, WHO, and your own local public health department.
What Is Hydrogen Peroxide?
According to Wikipedia, hydrogen peroxide is a liquid chemical compound used as an antiseptic, bleaching agent and oxidizer. It has the formula H2O2. Although it seems like an innocent product, it has some harmful qualities and should be used with caution.
Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical that is known for killing mold spores, fungi, bacteria, yeasts and viruses according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that for humans at low doses, hydrogen peroxide is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). However, the FDA carries warnings that it may cause irritation to your eyes if it comes in contact with them and may cause burning and irritation to skin if applied to it.
Hydrogen peroxide should never be swallowed and swallowing large amounts can cause organ damage, inflammation and vomiting. It can be a source of irritation to your lungs if breathed in at higher concentrations.
As you can see, this product should not be used irresponsibly and should be treated as the powerful oxidizing chemical that it is. In fact, contrary to old beliefs, it is not recommended as a first aid rinse for cuts and scrapes of the skin. Using it in this fashion can actually cause further damage to the skin and delay healing.
Protect Your Microbiome
First, let’s clear a few things up. Hydrogen peroxide will lighten the enamel on your teeth. Just like it can lighten your hair. But should you use it? No, not in the way it has recently been suggested on social media sites such as TikTok.
If hydrogen peroxide is ever used in the mouth, it is recommended to dilute it half-and-half with water. The standard brown bottle contains a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide. By diluting it half-and-half with water, it will become a 1.5% solution.
This is the rinse being used in dental offices currently as a pre-procedural rinse. It is theorized but not proven that a 1.5% solution of hydrogen peroxide can be beneficial in reducing the spread of COVID-19 in the dental office. By having patients swish with this solution, the ADA and CDC are hoping to reduce the pathogens in the aerosols created by dental procedures. Learn more about safety measures at the dental office during COVID-19.
Using a pre-procedural rinse at the dentist is one thing. Rinsing with hydrogen peroxide on a daily basis is another thing. Our mouths have a delicate balance of good and bad bacteria in them. This is called the microbiome. By swishing or otherwise using hydrogen peroxide undiluted on a regular basis, beneficial bacteria will be destroyed along with harmful bacteria.
This can set you up for other negative outcomes when it comes to your oral health. Learn more about the purpose of the oral microbiome and how you can help preserve it with the use of oral probiotics.
Unlike probiotics for your gut, these contain different strains of bacteria beneficial to your mouth. By supplementing with oral probiotics, you can improve bad breath, reduce cavities and improve the health of your gums.
Safer Hydrogen Peroxide Products for Whitening Teeth
There are a number of safer products that are an option for obtaining whiter teeth. These are products specifically designed to be applied and used directly on the teeth without contact with the delicate tissues.
Crest has developed a product called Crest 3D Luxe Glamorous White Whitestrips that can be applied directly to your teeth. Crest has a long history of safe and effective whitestrips. This one in particular, is often recommended by dental professionals as it carries the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of acceptance.
For a product to carry the ADA seal of acceptance, it must go through extensive testing to be sure it meets strict guidelines for safety and effectiveness. By choosing a product with this seal, it takes the guesswork out of whether a product will work and if it is safe.
Try Opalescense Products
Another hydrogen peroxide product recommended by dental professionals is Opalescense PF 35% whitening gel. The “PF” stands for potassium nitrate and fluoride. Potassium nitrate is an added ingredient to prevent sensitivity which can be common for people undergoing teeth whitening. Fluoride helps to desensitize teeth and also strengthens the enamel.
Opalescense PF is sold through your dental office but can now also be purchased through Amazon. It is available in pre-filled syringes that can be used with your current bleach trays from your dental office. If you do not already have bleach trays, you can also purchase trays from Opalescense on Amazon.
This company also provides a to-go option with trays that have bleach built in to them. This version is called Opalesence GO 15%. It has a lower concentration of the active ingredient carbamide peroxide (a form of hydrogen peroxide).
Opalescense products are designed to be applied to the enamel of the teeth. When used as directed, they can be a safe hydrogen peroxide product for achieving your teeth whitening needs.
So, Can You Use Hydrogen Peroxide to Whiten Teeth?
In conclusion, you need to consider how the hydrogen peroxide is applied. Rinsing with hydrogen peroxide is not recommended due to its disruption to the oral microbiome. It also can be detrimental to your oral tissues.
You can however, use a hydrogen peroxide product specifically formulated to be safe and effective for whitening your teeth. Please stay away from products promoted on social media sites. Use products that have been tested and those that are recommended by dental professionals. Read a related article: The best teeth whitening products (dental hygienist’s top 3) if you have any questions or concerns.
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