Hydrogen peroxide teeth whitening has become quite the trend thanks to the popular app, TikTok. But, is it safe to use on your teeth, and what do dentists have to say about it?
Hydrogen peroxide is a common household item with many uses, from cleaning to bleaching hair. But, is it really safe to put something in your mouth that can also be used as a cleaning agent?
We investigate this teeth whitening hack and answer the following questions and more:
- Can you use hydrogen peroxide on your teeth?
- Is hydrogen peroxide safe for teeth?
- How do you use hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth?
- Where can you buy hydrogen peroxide for teeth?
- How long does it take for hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth?
To begin with, let’s find out what hydrogen peroxide is, so you know exactly what people are putting in their mouths to whiten their teeth.
Table of contents
- 1 What is hydrogen peroxide?
- 2 Does hydrogen peroxide whiten teeth?
- 3 Is hydrogen peroxide safe for teeth?
- 4 Hydrogen peroxide teeth whitening side effects
- 5 What do dentists have to say about using hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth?
- 6 How to whiten teeth with hydrogen peroxide
- 7 How to use hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth safely
- 8 How long does it take for hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth?
- 9 Where to buy hydrogen peroxide for teeth
- 10 Alternatives to hydrogen peroxide
- 11 Conclusion
- 12 FAQS
What is hydrogen peroxide?
Hydrogen peroxide (H202) is a highly reactive chemical that contains both hydrogen and oxygen. In its undiluted state H202 is a colourless liquid that when exposed to oxygen becomes very reactive. This oxidisation is what makes it very effective at killing bacteria, however undiluted it can be a very aggressive chemical.
Hydrogen peroxide has many uses such as bleaching hair, disinfecting cuts, and as a cleaning agent. Some people have even used it to remove the yellow staining from their toenails.
So, if it works to remove stains on toenails, does it also remove stains and whiten teeth?
Does hydrogen peroxide whiten teeth?
If used safely hydrogen peroxide can whiten teeth over time. However, it must be used correctly as it can cause sensitivity to teeth and damage enamel. Hydrogen peroxide can also burn if used undiluted or for too long and too frequently.
A study on the effect of hydrogen peroxide concentration showed that hydrogen peroxide does indeed whiten teeth but the concentration did not alter the result. Teeth were just as white no matter the concentration used.
It did however find that using lower concentrations of hydrogen peroxide needed more treatments and higher concentrations needed fewer treatments to whiten teeth.
However, when it comes to whitening dentures, hydrogen peroxide may be a good option. Read more in our guide here.
Is hydrogen peroxide safe for teeth?
The dilution of hydrogen peroxide considered safe to use is 3%. Any higher, and you could risk damaging your enamel for good. Even then, using it for prolonged periods of time can still cause damage. Your enamel is not something you can grow back once it is gone, so be careful not to damage it!
This study found that using both higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide and using it for longer periods of time can damage teeth. It also concludes that using lower concentrations for shorter periods of time are less likely to damage enamel.
According to UK regulations, it is illegal to sell any dental product with more than 0.1% hydrogen peroxide, over the counter. Dentists can use slightly higher concentrations as they are professionals using it in a controlled environment. But, with that percentage in mind, it isn’t generally recommended to use hydrogen peroxide with a higher concentration at home.
Hydrogen peroxide teeth whitening side effects
Now that we know that using hydrogen peroxide on teeth has its risks, let’s look at the side effects:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Gum irritation
- Enamel and tooth damage
- Upset stomach and vomiting from ingestion
- Chemical colitis and gastritis
Although some of these hydrogen peroxide teeth whitening side effects are from using too high a concentration or swallowing some it is worth being careful. It is also important that children do not use it, to guarantee they don’t ingest any. If you do ingest any seek medical attention immediately.
Tooth sensitivity, enamel damage, and gum irritation can happen with any concentration of hydrogen peroxide. This is also true with both over the counter products and homemade.
If you have any of these symptoms we recommend stopping using the product and speaking with your dentist.
What do dentists have to say about using hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth?
Not all dentists agree on whether or not using hydrogen peroxide is safe, or if it actually works. Let's take a look at some of the differing opinions and see if there are any common agreements between dentists.
We reached out to a few dentists to get their professional opinion on whitening teeth with hydrogen peroxide.
Is hydrogen peroxide worth the risk?
“It’s extremely unlikely that applying 3% hydrogen peroxide or stronger would be effective at whitening teeth. Even if hydrogen peroxide would whiten teeth, it would be nearly impossible to have the hydrogen peroxide be in contact with the teeth long enough for it to soak in and do it’s work.
It’s most likely not the safest thing, but regardless it’s not worth the risk as it’s not going to be effective. A much better way to whiten teeth would be to see the dentist for whitening trays or in office Zoom whitening.”Adrienne Hedrick DDS
What concentration of hydrogen peroxide is safe to use at home?
“Over the years (and before social media trends), hydrogen peroxide has been a safe way to whiten teeth at home. 3% concentration, in particular, is a safe, easy, and cheap option for home use and can provide results when used over time.
As a kid, my friend's mom rinsed with hydrogen peroxide and she had incredibly white teeth. As always, you should consult your dentist before trying anything new and discontinue using hydrogen peroxide if you experience any burning gums or tooth sensitivity.”Dr. Peter Guirguis, DDS, Owner of Definitive Dental.
Does hydrogen peroxide damage teeth?
Hydrogen peroxide of any strength will have a bleaching effect on teeth, in fact, on any human tissues.
Although, it is only effective when teeth are clean, have no calculus or gum disease. If the gel is placed on a tooth with gum disease there is no barrier against the penetration of gel into the gums. And, the gum area is filled with nerves so this can result in pain or aggravation of the inflammation that is already there.
Because of such risks, the regulation and regulatory bodies across Europe have agreed that whitening with Hydrogen Peroxide should only be carried out by clinicians that can assess teeth and gum health and deliver the gel safely and exclusively to the teeth alone. This can be a dentist or hygienist.
Usually, the most effective treatment method uses customised trays. These look like mouthguards but are bespoke trays which avoid seepage and act as a reservoir for delivering the gel to the teeth over a few hours and protecting the surrounding tissues.
Overall, the risks of DIY teeth whitening with Hydrogen Peroxide outweigh the benefits.Dr Azad Eyrumlu, DDS, DMD, MSc, Specialist in Oral Surgery
The consensus between dentists seems to be that the risks of using hydrogen peroxide at home for teeth whitening far outweigh the benefits. And while dentists agree that it does work, some dentists believe that it doesn't in the low concentrations that would be used at home safely.
Each dentist does seem to agree that the best option for using hydrogen peroxide for teeth whitening is to do so in a clinic with a dental professional.
How to whiten teeth with hydrogen peroxide
The TikTok teeth whitening trend
TikTok has people trying this viral teeth whitening hack, so let’s check it out. The following video is by a YouTuber and TikTocker that has decided to try the trend.
Tina uses the following steps to whiten her teeth using the original TikTok video as a guide:
- Using hydrogen peroxide 3%, dip a cotton bud in the solution
- Wipe it on all of your teeth being careful to not miss any spots
- Leaves it on your teeth for between 30 and 60 seconds
- Brush teeth to finish
Tina explains that she spoke with a dentist to confirm if it was safe to use. The dentist told her it was ok to try every once in a while but not every day.
How to use hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth safely
If you aren’t so sure about using a TikTok hack to whiten your teeth there are other ways to use hydrogen peroxide to whiten your teeth safely. There are homemade mouthwash recipes using hydrogen peroxide. Or, if you are sceptical of homemade recipes, there are plenty of store-bought options.
The store-bought options available that use hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth include the following:
- Teeth whitening kits
- Teeth whitening strips
- Whitening toothpaste
- Whitening mouthwash
- Whitening pens
Lastly, there is always the safest option when it comes to hydrogen peroxide. And, that is getting whitening treatment with your dentist. It is much more expensive than your store-bought or homemade options. But, your dentist can use higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide in a safe and controlled environment.
Teeth whitening kits with hydrogen peroxide
Whitening kits are a good alternative to going to the dentist for teeth whitening. They are less expensive than getting your teeth done at the dentists, but are still very effective in whitening teeth.
Snow Teeth Whitening kits use a hydrogen peroxide teeth whitening gel alongside the new activation LED technology to whiten teeth. And, as it is made in the US so the level of hydrogen peroxide is slightly higher than that allowed in the UK. They also sell refills of their teeth whitening gel if you run out, and want to maintain your pearly whites.
If you want to know more about Snow Teeth Whitening kits you can read our full review here.
Teeth whitening strips with hydrogen peroxide
There are a lot of different brands of whitening strips sold in the UK to choose from, some that use hydrogen peroxide and some that don't.
Our top pick for teeth whitening strips that include hydrogen peroxide is Snows's Magic Strips. These whitening strips dissolve as they whiten leaving you with no gooey mess to clean up after your treatment.
As mentioned above, Snow's whitening products are made in the US, so they have a higher % of hydrogen peroxide than allowed in the UK.
Snow's new P3 Technology means that not only do they take just 15 minutes per treatment, but they also whiten more effectively than other brands of dissolvable whitening strops. And, as an added bonus they have a lavender and mint flavour making them taste a lot better than other strips.
Whitening mouthwash can be used to help whiten teeth, although it is not as effective as whitening kits or strips. This product should be used in conjunction with other whitening products, as it has weak to no effects when used alone.
Spotlight Oral Care has a whitening mouthwash in their range of whitening products worth checking out. You can use this with any of their whitening products, such as the whitening floss and the whitening toothpaste.
A teeth whitening pen is a pen-shaped device with a brush on one end that you can paint the whitening solution onto your teeth. This is a really good way to ensure you don’t miss any spots on your teeth that sometimes happens when using the Spotlight Whitening Strips.
This is a similar method to the TikTok trend as it works the same way. However, you can be assured with Spotlight's Whitening Pen, that the concentration in the whitening pen tube is safe for use.
Clinically proven to whiten teeth, hydrogen peroxide is a great cleaning agent for your mouth. When used daily in a whitening toothpaste it can help remove stains from your teeth and improve the brightness of your smile.
Crest Brilliance Hydrogen Peroxide Toothpaste is a popular whitening toothpaste and an easy way to get whiter, healthier-looking teeth. It’s formulated with 4% hydrogen peroxide and other ingredients that help remove surface stains, prevent decay and protect enamel.
It also has a pleasant mint flavour to help you keep your mouth clean and fresh.
Crest is one of the most popular whitening brands in the US, but in the UK it can be hard to find due to its high content of hydrogen peroxide unless you know where to look!
Summary of hydrogen peroxide teeth whitening options
The table below summarises the product options you have regarding whitening teeth with hydrogen peroxide.
Hydrogen Peroxide Whitening Treatment
Hydrogen peroxide home whitening
Convenient and affordable
Weak results, can cause damage to teeth and gums
Convenient and affordable
Weak results; patchy coverage at times, can cause sensitivity
Convenient and affordable; may use LED technology
Results not as strong as professional solutions, depending on ingredients
Excellent results, safe and effective, proffesional
Convenient and affordable, easy to use
Convenient and affordable
Weak to no results, to be used alongside other products
Convenient and affordable
Weak results, to be used alongside other products
How long does it take for hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth?
The amount of time it takes to whiten teeth with hydrogen peroxide really depends on the product you are using. Professional teeth whitening can take around 4 weeks for noticeable results. However, at-home products use a lower concentration so it could take longer depending on how white your teeth were to start with.
The important thing is not to be impatient and use a higher concentration. It may work faster, but it could leave you with lasting and permanent damage to your teeth.
Where to buy hydrogen peroxide for teeth
You can buy food-grade, 3% hydrogen peroxide on amazon. Be careful to check the solution percentage as if it is too high you could cause damage to your teeth and gums. If you buy a solution of 3% or 6% make sure you dilute it before using it to be on the safe side.
Alternatives to hydrogen peroxide
If you are looking for hydrogen peroxide-free teeth whitening, both Hismile and Smile Avenue are whitening kits that use phthalimidoperoxycaproic acid (PAP).
Smile Avenue's whitening kit is made in the US and has gained popularity throughout the UK. Although it doesn't use hydrogen peroxide for teeth whitening, it has great reviews and seems to be an effective whitening product.
Hismile is an Australian company whose whitening kit has gained popularity worldwide due to their research and development-based approach. Their new PAP+ formula includes the ingredients Nano-Hydroxyapatite and Potassium Citrate that helps to remineralise teeth and reduce tooth sensitivity while whitening teeth.
While it is similar to Smile Avenue, it is more effective at restoring minerals to damage enamel. And, treatment wise you get more for your money.
Hydrogen peroxide for teeth whitening is a tricky subject, and generally, TikTok hacks aren’t the most reliable when it comes to safety. Hydrogen peroxide can be safe and effective to use if used right, but even dentists don’t always agree on this.
If you do want to use hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth, it’s best to check out your over-the-counter options first. Products such as Spotlight Oral Cares whitening strips, or Snow’s teeth whitening kit are safe to use if you follow instructions carefully. Or, speak to your dentist about what options they have available.
Homemade recipes for teeth whitening are safe to use if you make sure to use below a 3% concentration. However, do not use it for long periods of time and make sure you don’t leave it on your teeth for too long.
If you do accidentally ingest any hydrogen peroxide when using it, seek medical help immediately.
Does hydrogen peroxide damage teeth?
Using hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth can cause significant damage if it is used incorrectly, or at too high concentrations. If you are going to use it, don't use it often, for too long, or undiluted.
Can hydrogen peroxide whiten teeth?
Yes, the short answer is that hydrogen peroxide can whiten teeth. However, it can be very damaging to your enamel and gums, so dentists do not always recommend it.
Science Direct. The effect of hydrogen peroxide concentration on the outcome of tooth whitening: an in vitro study. Consulted 28th July 2021.
Science Direct. In vitro FT-IR study of the effects of hydrogen peroxide on superficial tooth enamel. Consulted 28th July 2021.