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Hydrogen peroxide is a common antiseptic in most homes and first aid kits. It is a versatile liquid with a range of different uses.

Hydrogen peroxide is also an active ingredient in many teeth whitening treatments, which leads many people to wonder whether store-bought hydrogen peroxide makes a good tooth whitener as well.

While hydrogen peroxide may help whiten the teeth in certain situations, there are some important safety issues to consider. Hydrogen peroxide can cause damage to the enamel of the teeth if a person uses the solution incorrectly.

Learn more about hydrogen peroxide for teeth whitening in this article.

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A person can make a hydrogen peroxide paste or mouthwash at home.

Hydrogen peroxide is a common and effective active ingredient in many commercial teeth whitening solutions.

Products containing peroxides, such as hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide, act as bleaching agents to change the color of the teeth. Peroxide can partially penetrate the layers of the teeth, removing compounds that cause discoloration.

The concentration of hydrogen peroxide in store-bought teeth whitening kits can be as high as 10%. Dentists may also offer whitening treatments with hydrogen peroxide concentrations of up to 40%.

On the other hand, most store-bought hydrogen peroxide has a 3% concentration.

Many people worry that higher concentrations of peroxide may lead to more side effects, such as enamel breakdown and tooth sensitivity, but this is not always the case. However, it does appear that the length of time that these products spend on the teeth is important.

In fact, the authors of a 2016 study found that lower concentration gels had more negative effects on tooth enamel when they remained on the teeth for longer periods.

Higher concentration gels often require less time on the teeth to be effective, which can reduce the risk of enamel damage.

However, another study in the American Journal of Dentistry found that a commercial mouthwash containing only 1.5% hydrogen peroxide caused a noticeable lightening in human tooth enamel after 4 weeks.

People who have sensitive teeth may want to check in with their dentist before using hydrogen peroxide to whiten the teeth.

To make a peroxide mouthwash, add 2 ounces (oz) of 3% hydrogen peroxide and 2 oz of water to a small cup.

Swish this mixture in the mouth daily for 2–4 minutes before spitting it out. Do not swallow the liquid.

Alternatively, a homemade paste may help some people remove minor stains. To create this paste, add a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide to enough baking soda to create a smooth, thick paste.

Apply the paste directly to the teeth using a toothbrush. Allow the paste to sit on the teeth for a few minutes and then rinse it away with water. Do not swallow the paste.

Many over-the-counter tooth whitening products contain either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, which breaks down to hydrogen peroxide.

The American Dental Association (ADA) note that products that have the ADA Seal of Acceptance are safe and effective whitening treatments. People should follow the instructions on these products carefully for the best results.

In cases where the tooth discoloration is minor, a simple mouthwash containing hydrogen peroxide may be sufficient.

Anyone who notices pain or tenderness while using hydrogen peroxide products on their teeth should stop using them and contact a dentist.

Safety and risks

There are some risks to consider before using hydrogen peroxide to whiten the teeth.

Common side effects of teeth whitening methods include tooth and gum sensitivity, as well as irritated or inflamed gums.

Anyone who experiences these symptoms during their treatment should stop using the product and contact their dentist to discuss other options.

Some people may prefer to undergo hydrogen peroxide teeth whitening in a clinic. The dentist might ask the person to come in for a cleaning first. Cleaning the surface of the teeth will allow the hydrogen peroxide to penetrate the teeth uniformly.

During this appointment, the dentist will also want to check for cracks, as cracks in the teeth can allow the peroxide to penetrate further into the tooth. This can become a problem if the peroxide comes into contact with the delicate dentin underneath as it is likely to cause irritation or sensitivity.

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There is little evidence that home remedies, such as lemon juice, are effective at whitening teeth.

There are many other teeth whitening solutions that people can use at home.

However, while some anecdotal evidence may suggest that they are effective, many of the common home remedies for tooth whitening have very little scientific evidence to support their use.

Most of these home remedies for tooth whitening should be relatively safe to try, though. They include:

The ADA do not recommend any of these methods and point out that there is research to show that some of these methods are not effective and may actually harm the teeth or cause other adverse effects.

No matter which whitening solution a person uses, they should consider talking with their dentist first.

Hydrogen peroxide is a common home remedy for whitening teeth. It is an ingredient in many teeth whitening solutions for use both at home and in the dentist's office.

A simple hydrogen peroxide mouthwash may help remove mild stains. However, a person should avoid leaving hydrogen peroxide solutions on their teeth for extended periods.

For people who have darker stains, stronger whitening options are available both over the counter and from a dentist.

Hydrogen peroxide and products that contain it are available in many drugstores and online.