November 3rd, 2016
Hydrogen peroxide is a medicine cabinet staple. Used for cleaning up scrapes and cuts, it also offers directions for oral use right on the label. But can it be harmful to your teeth?
What is Hydrogen Peroxide?
Hydrogen Peroxide is an oxidizing agent in clear liquid form. Chemically, all it is is water with an extra oxygen molecule. It acts as a mild antiseptic to prevent skin infections due to cuts and scrapes and can also be used to relieve minor mouth irritations and mucus. When applied to the affected area, the hydrogen peroxide releases oxygen and bubbles up, and the bubbles help clean and disinfect the area by lifting away dead skin cells.
How Do Dentists Use It?
Dentists first used hydrogen peroxide as a treatment for gum disease back in 1913, according to Registered Dental Hygienist Magazine (RDH). It is still used to fight gingivitis and periodontal disease.
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums that can be a precursor to periodontitis. It occurs when the bacteria from plaque builds up, causing inflammation, and potentially leading to bleeds when brushing teeth. Rinsing with hydrogen peroxide under these circumstances kills the harmful bacteria and can prevent the inflammation from getting worse, so dentists may recommend it for certain patients.
Periodontitis occurs when gingivitis is left untreated, and the gums and bone pull away from the tooth, creating pockets that can become infected. Dentists use custom-fit prescription trays to deliver the hydrogen peroxide deep into the periodontal pockets and hold it there for more effective treatment of periodontal disease.
Hydrogen peroxide is also a whitening agent and is sometimes used by dentists to help with tooth whitening. The bottled hydrogen peroxide available in stores is generally 3% concentration, but products designed for dentists to use for tooth bleaching can contain up to 10% hydrogen peroxide.
Some over-the-counter whitening products like toothpaste, rinses, and whitening strips contain hydrogen peroxide as their bleaching agent. At home, it can also be combined with baking soda to make natural whitening toothpaste.
Can Hydrogen Peroxide Be Bad for Your Teeth?
Many dentists do not recommend regular use of hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash or rinse. Regular use can cause irritation of the gums and can be too harsh for those with crowns, fillings, and dental implants.
Some dentists believe hydrogen peroxide can safely be used as an oral rinse if it is diluted with a mixture of water and Listerine. But because it can be so harsh on the gums and enamel, it should only be used if recommended by a dentist. There are other oral rinses available over the counter that contain hydrogen peroxide and may be less abrasive and therefore more suitable for regular use.
Is it Safe to Use at Home?
Hydrogen peroxide on its own should not be used for dental purposes at home unless directed by a dentist. If diluted in a solution of one-part hydrogen peroxide, one-part water, and one part Listerine, it is safe to use as a rinse and could be helpful for the treatment of gingivitis.
Consult a dentist to determine if such a solution is beneficial or if there are other treatments or rinses that would be safer. Hydrogen peroxide combined with baking soda can be used as a natural, at-home whitening toothpaste, but using correct proportions is key to ensuring it’s more helpful than harmful. At Water Tower Dental Care, we offer take-home teeth whitening trays that contain a safe yet effective amount of hydrogen peroxide-bleaching agent.
As always, when considering any at-home remedies, particularly for treating diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis, it’s important to consult a dentist to determine the safest, most effective form of treatment. It’s always safer to purchase ADA-approved products with hydrogen peroxide or receive professional treatments from your dentist. Making your own concoction could be more harmful than beneficial.
If you think you have gum disease or want to whiten your teeth, contact Water Tower Dental Care today! We can examine your pearly whites and put you on a path to effective treatment.