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Are you on a quest for a bright, white smile? If so, you’ve probably heard of hydrogen peroxide for teeth whitening. This is a common ingredient in tooth whitening toothpaste, take-home whitening treatments, and even professional in-office whitening procedures.

But, does it work? Is it safe to use hydrogen peroxide on your teeth?

What is hydrogen peroxide and how does it work to whiten teeth?

Hydrogen peroxide, or H2O2, differs in just one molecule from water. But, it acts nothing like water — other than the fact that it is a liquid. It has disinfecting properties and is commonly used in many household products as a bleaching or cleaning agent. 

Hydrogen peroxide is very unstable and, if not kept under the right conditions, will break down into plain water. That’s why it’s usually sold in opaque bottles, because exposure to light is one of the conditions that will cause it to break down. 

You might know hydrogen peroxide as the disinfectant from the dark brown bottle that your mom poured on your skinned knees as a kid. Though it may have stung a little, hydrogen peroxide is important in keeping a wound clean.

The bleaching properties are what make hydrogen peroxide useful as a tooth whitening agent.  It works by oxidizing stains on your teeth from polymers into monomers. However, oxidation is a corrosive process, and pure hydrogen peroxide can burn your skin and be corrosive to your eyes and respiratory system. Therefore, it’s important to use hydrogen peroxide correctly to avoid injury and other health complications 

Note: The drugstore version is typically a solution containing only 3% hydrogen peroxide, which is considered safe for wound cleaning and other applications. 

The hydrogen peroxide TikTok trend for whiter teeth

So, if hydrogen peroxide is the bleaching agent featured in many toothpastes and whitening strips, why not skip straight to using drugstore hydrogen peroxide directly on your teeth?

This is precisely what someone on TikTok is doing, and very unadvisedly. A TikToker by the name of @clauds244 advocates using the 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide you can buy at the drugstore directly on your teeth. She just wets a cotton swab with the solution and starts wiping it on her teeth, while warning any dentist that might be watching to stay quiet and not tell her this is wrong.

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Hopefully viewers understand that it’s a better idea, and much safer, to find a dentist and ask their opinion rather than going with a TikTok recommendation.

Unfortunately, this practice of applying hydrogen peroxide from the drugstore to teeth can have serious consequences without proper oversight. Though tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the body, it can be damaged easily by acids–even one as mild as hydrogen peroxide. And once you lose tooth enamel, it doesn’t grow back. 

Many people have permanently damaged their teeth by over-using or improperly using hydrogen peroxide teeth whitening products in addition to the solution available at the drugstore. 

That’s why it is critical to follow the instructions of any tooth whitening kit to the letter (and avoid any teeth whitening advice from TikTok).  The best strategy is to consult your dentist to prevent damage to your teeth. 

Teeth whitening products that contain hydrogen peroxide

So, is hydrogen peroxide safe to use on teeth? Should you try to whiten your teeth with products that contain hydrogen peroxide? 

As long as you strictly follow the directions that come with your teeth whitening product, it is safe to use. These products are designed to be utilized in a certain way and the hydrogen peroxide that they contain has proven to be very effective at bringing out the brilliance in your teeth. 

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When used as directed, the oxidizing properties of hydrogen peroxide in these products work to break down the stains on your teeth. Your tooth enamel is strong enough to withstand the proper amount and your body will repair any minor damage. 

But if you apply too much of the product, or too often, your body can’t keep up. It only takes a few days of overuse with hydrogen peroxide and you’ve done irreversible damage to your teeth. 

Always consult a dentist before adding products to your oral health routine that might break down your enamel.

The safest way to use hydrogen peroxide to whiten your teeth

Using over-the-counter teeth whitening kits is fine — as long as you follow the directions. However, if you’re concerned about overdoing it or applying it improperly, the safest way to whiten your teeth is under your dentist’s supervision. 

You have a couple of options for doing this. You can choose an in-office treatment that typically uses higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide under strict professional oversight. This visibly whitens teeth quickly — usually in just one dentist appointment

The other option is to get a prescription for a take-home treatment from your dentist. Follow your dentist’s directions to the letter, and be sure to call the office if you have questions. 

Other ways to whiten your teeth safely: Other home remedies

Perhaps you’re feeling a little nervous about hydrogen peroxide at this point. Are there any other home remedies for teeth whitening that you can try? 

The internet offers a few teeth whitening home remedies that you can try. However, the effectiveness of most of them is not widely studied or proven. Also, remember that anything acidic (such as lemons) should not be overused because it poses the same risk as hydrogen peroxide damaging your tooth enamel. 

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You might try oil pulling, which is basically just swishing oil around in your mouth for a few minutes. You can use almost any type of oil, such as sunflower or sesame oil, though coconut oil tends to be more popular for its taste. The idea is to remove bacteria buildup which can contribute to tooth stains.

Another idea is to eat plenty of raw fruits and vegetables. The theory is that crunchy produce can scrub your beautiful chompers to help remove stains. Furthermore, strawberries and pineapple are both touted to contain ingredients that help break up stains. 

At the very least — you’ll be doing your whole body a favor by eating a healthier diet!

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You could also try brushing your teeth with baking soda or using a toothpaste with baking soda. The alkaline properties will help to cut down on the bad bacteria in your mouth, plus the abrasiveness of the powder is supposed to help scrub away stains over time. 

Talk to a dentist before using any at-home remedies

It’s important to remember to always consult your dentist before using any hydrogen peroxide teeth whitening products or at-home remedies. The internet features some great advice that can help us improve our lives. However, there is no substitute for professional guidance and oversight when it comes to the health and appearance of your teeth. 

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Ask a dentist about teeth whitening options. Book your check up now! 

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