Can You Actually Whiten Teeth With Drugstore Hydrogen Peroxide?

Can You Actually Whiten Teeth With Drugstore Hydrogen Peroxide?

 Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH
Medical Reviewed on Dec 1, 2022
byDr. Matthew Hannan DDS
🔬 Evidence Based
Can You Actually Whiten Teeth With Drugstore Hydrogen Peroxide?

Can you whiten teeth with store-bought hydrogen peroxide? After all, most whitening strips, pens, and gels have peroxide as an active ingredient. Is it possible to rinse or brush with hydrogen peroxide instead of paying 40 or 50 bucks for a teeth whitening kit at the store? No. And trust me, there’s a good reason why.

Whiten Teeth With Hydrogen Peroxide

First off, the type of peroxide ingredients in teeth whitening systems aren’t the same as the brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide you have in your medicine cabinet. These bleaching agents have specific levels of carbamide or hydrogen peroxide. Depending on which one, the concentration and application time will vary. If you’re just swishing (or rubbing) it around for a couple of minutes, it isn’t going to penetrate your teeth and make them whiter.

The gel that your dentist uses may have concentrations of hydrogen peroxide between 10-40%, depending on the brand, ingredients, and what your specific teeth need. But your bottle of hydrogen peroxide is somewhere around 3%. Even if you did brush or rinse with straight drugstore hydrogen peroxide, it would likely make little to no difference in the color of your teeth. Whereas a thicker gel that’s in place for several minutes (like in a strip or tray) will.

Can You Gargle Hydrogen Peroxide to Whiten Teeth?

Using something that’s “fast” like mouthwash or toothpaste offers very little contact time with your teeth. And for effective stain removal and whitening, hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide really needs to set against your teeth for  30-60 minutes at a time, several days in a row.

Gargling with hydrogen peroxide will only allow the liquid to spend more time against your soft tissues and the back of your throat. It won’t provide the constant stain oxidation in your tooth enamel like an actual whitening treatment. And if you think it will, just consider all of the damage it’s going to do to your mucosa (oral skin) while you’re rinsing and gargling with it every day.

Hydrogen peroxide needs contact time to whiten your teeth. But not only that, it needs to be the right concentration. Rinsing with straight-up hydrogen peroxide liquid doesn’t offer either. 

Remember, commercial products like teeth whitening mouthwash and toothpaste are best for preventing new stains on your smile, rather than whitening away the ones that are already there.

Somebody rinsing with hydrogen peroxide could, potentially, notice a shade or two of difference on their teeth after an extended period of time. But by the point you reach that goal, you’ll be dealing with a host of other side effects…

Side Effects Of Hydrogen Peroxide 

Three words: black hairy tongue.

It looks exactly like it sounds it would. Rinsing with hydrogen peroxide or any type of mouthwash that contains peroxide on a regular basis can completely throw off the oral flora inside your mouth. As a result, the tiny little papilla (finger-like extensions on the surface of your tongue) can grow and become elongated, making them look like hair is growing on your tongue.

But that’s not all. The elongated papilla also tend to pick up stain and turn black from all of the hydrogen peroxide exposure. So not only does your tongue look hairy, but it also looks like black hair.

I know. It’s gross. And it’s a telltale sign that someone has been rinsing with hydrogen peroxide.

Some people also find that rinsing and gargling with hydrogen peroxide causes soft tissue irritation on their gums. Redness and itchiness are common. That’s one reason why you have to be so careful with applying professional-grade whitening products.

And if you accidentally swallow some of the hydrogen peroxide, you can get nauseous or even throw up. There have even been cases where people rinsing with peroxide developed chemical gastrointestinal problems and colitis.

Also if you have sensitive teeth, rinsing with hydrogen peroxide will make your teeth more sensitive so keep that in mind.

Should You Use Hydrogen Peroxide Teeth Whitening?

Yes, you can use hydrogen peroxide to whiten your teeth. But only if it comes in a concentrated gel that is specifically made to wear on your teeth. Like whitening strips, pens, or a custom set of teeth whitening trays with gel from your dentist’s office.

No, don’t use drugstore hydrogen peroxide to try to whiten your teeth. Stick with products that are made for teeth whitening. You’ll save yourself time, money, and energy. Trying to save a few bucks and swishing with a weaker solution every day for two months won’t give you anywhere near the same results as wearing whitening strips for two weeks will. But it will irritate your mouth!

Depending on how strong your stain is and issues like tooth sensitivity, your dentist may recommend different types of whitening gels. Such as carbamide peroxide instead of hydrogen peroxide. Carbamide peroxide takes longer to break down, so it works longer than hydrogen peroxide does, meaning you can sleep in your whitening trays if you want to. When your dentist can adjust the strength of your gel, you have better control over whitening power and managing issues like tooth sensitivity.

Tooth Stains & Discoloration

No matter how great of a whitening agent you’re using, you could still be staining your teeth between teeth whitening sessions. It all boils down to your lifestyle and the types of foods or drinks you’re putting into your mouth.

Teeth are porous. And if they’re exposed to stain particles during the duration of a whitening process, they can soak up even more stains than normal. That’s why it’s super important to avoid anything that could stain your teeth if you’re in the process of whitening your smile.

Things like smoking, dip tobacco, coffee, red wine, tea, soda, and dark tomato sauces, berries, or curries can quickly lead to tooth stain. If it can stain a white blouse, it can stain your teeth. There are even some cases where certain vitamins, supplements, or swimming in a chlorinated pool are known to cause tooth stains.

Don’t forget, it’s easier to whiten teeth that have been professionally cleaned since there isn’t any tartar buildup or extrinsic stain for the hydrogen peroxide to power through. It’s best to bleach your teeth right after a dental cleaning when your teeth are naturally their brightest.

Safe Ways To Whiten (OTC Teeth Whitening Products) 

If you’re not ready to whiten your teeth at the dentist’s office, one of the best things to do is use an over-the-counter teeth whitening system that’s produced by a reputable oral health brand. Here is a list of the best teeth-whitening products.

Always follow the product directions to the T. If you don’t, you can irritate your gums, cause unnecessary sensitivity, and reduce the effectiveness of your investment. With whitening strips, that means shaping them around your gums and making sure you have good contact on all of the curved surfaces of each tooth.

If you’re still unhappy with how white your teeth are, you can get even brighter results with a concentrated, professional-grade product bought directly from your dentist’s office.

Talk With A Dentist

Is hydrogen peroxide safe for teeth whitening? Never attempt a DIY teeth whitening hack without talking to your dentist. Unfortunately, a lot of these trends—rinsing with hydrogen peroxide being one of them—only cause more harm than good without the results to show for it. Whitening teeth with hydrogen peroxide can work, but only when the peroxide is concentrated properly and spends enough time directly against your teeth. Rinsing just won’t cut it!

 Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH"Teeth Talk Girl," is a registered dental hygienist. She started her dental health journey on YouTube, educating the public through videos.
Dr. Matthew  Hannan DDS
Medical Reviewed byDr. Matthew Hannan DDSDr. Matthew Hannan is a board-certified dentist and graduate of UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry.
Last updated onDecember 1, 2022Here is our process

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