Many people associate hydroxide peroxide with the brown bottle our mothers used to chase after us with after we scraped our knees when we were kids. We were always told it would kill germs and “make it all better”. Through the stinging and discomfort, we knew our mothers were right.
Hydrogen peroxide is usually an ingredient found in bleaching products such as tooth whiteners, hair bleaches, and hair perming products. In lower concentrations, though, hydrogen peroxide has also been added to some toothpastes and rinses to disinfect and prevent plaque and gingivitis.
In these forms it is recommended that the toothpaste or rinse is not swallowed. Swallowing the lower concentrations will not be harmful, but in larger concentrations, hydrogen peroxide can irritate the mouth, stomach, etc. (Remember how it used to sting on our scraped knees?) Studies have shown that the peroxide breaks down quite quickly when exposed to saliva, but still small amounts are likely swallowed. Again, in small amounts, this generally isn’t something to worry about.
How it works
Peroxide attacks the stains or discoloration in the enamel and dentin (the fleshy part of the tooth under the enamel). The greater the amount of peroxide, the stronger the whitening power. The amount of peroxide in the formula determines whether it’s available over the counter or in a dentist’s office.
Concentrations of hydrogen peroxide are regulated. Most over-the-counter products only contain .1%, but are safe up to 6%. Usually anything higher than .1% requires application or monitoring by a dental professional.
Extrinsic stains (stains caused by food) usually respond quite well to whitening toothpastes, rinses, and over-the-counter whitening kits. Intrinsic stains (those caused by medications or medical treatments) may require the dental-office-strength whitening treatment.
Hydrogen peroxide does not work on porcelain dental restorations, although it has been shown to work well on composite fillings and restorations, and amalgams.
Side effects and Warnings
There are two common side effects.