Remember the small brown bottle that your mother used to chase you around with every time you scraped your knee?

Well, that bottle contained hydrogen peroxide solution.

Hydrogen peroxide is a familiar product that can be found in every household. It is a mild antiseptic used on minor skin cuts and scrapes to prevent infection.

But did you know that hydrogen peroxide has several uses in dentistry as well?

Hydrogen peroxide is a common ingredient in tooth whitening pastes and mouth rinses to disinfect plaque and gingivitis.

Hydrogen peroxide attacks the discolorations on the enamel and dentin and repairs them to provide a beautiful white smile.

Moreover, hydrogen peroxide contributes in maintain good oral hygiene by decreasing the amount of plaque formation around the teeth and strengthening the gums in the mouth. (1)

Let’s quickly get on to the article and read about the wonderful effects of hydrogen peroxide on our gums and teeth.

What is hydrogen peroxide?

Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical compound which is used as an antiseptic, a bleaching agent and an oxidizer. It is a pale blue, clear liquid that slowly decomposes in the presence of light; hence, it is sold in dark-colored glass bottles.

Hydrogen peroxide is widely used as an antiseptic solution to prevent infections on skin cuts and wounds.

The bleaching action of hydrogen peroxide is highly used in the field of dentistry for tooth whitening. The oxidizing property of hydrogen peroxide has also proved its efficiency in reducing plaque and gingivitis.

How can hydrogen peroxide treat gums?

Hydrogen peroxide has been a long-lasting product in treating gum problems. It was first used in 1913 to treat gum diseases and reduce plaque around the teeth.

There are two ways in which hydrogen peroxide maintains the health of the gums –

  • It releases oxygen. The bubbling effect of peroxide happens due to release of oxygen. The oxygen released helps to eliminate the pathogens in the most aggressive forms of gum diseases. Anaerobic bacteria usually cause gum problems. The oxidizing property of hydrogen peroxide makes it difficult for the anaerobic bacteria to survive. (2)
  • The other way by which hydrogen peroxide treats gum diseases is by breaking the slime layer. Slime layer is a protective biofilm around the bacterial cell wall. Ten minutes of hydrogen gel application in the gums and periodontal pockets helps to destroy almost all the bacterial cells by breaking their cell wall.

How does hydrogen peroxide help in tooth whitening?

One of the most popular uses of hydrogen peroxide in the field of dentistry is its bleaching action in tooth whitening.

The amount of hydrogen peroxide used in a tooth whitening solution depends on its type and requirement. For example, professional whitening toothpaste contains 25-40% of hydrogen peroxide. While at home whitening products include 10-12% of hydrogen peroxide.

A higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide provides quicker results with minimal application cycle. But such high concentrations should be used by a dental professional only.

So how does the bleaching action work?

When a tooth whitening formulation is applied on the tooth surface, hydrogen peroxide reacts with the pigmented areas of the tooth and produces free radicles.

These free radicals oxidize the pigmented areas making them light and bright in the shade. (3)

Tooth whitening procedure highly technique sensitive. The concentration of hydrogen peroxide and the time of exposure determine the results.

It is therefore advised to get professional tooth whitening in a dental office instead of home treatment.

What are the effects of hydrogen peroxide on oral health?

The use of hydrogen peroxide is not limited to advanced periodontal diseases. Low concentrations of hydrogen peroxide are used to maintain good oral hygiene.

Practically, only 3% of hydrogen peroxide can help to reduce the amount of plaque from the surface of the teeth and also reverse the earliest signs of gum diseases. (4)

You can include the use of hydrogen peroxide in your oral routine in two ways-

  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to apply the 3% hydrogen peroxide on the teeth. Rinse your mouth with water and floss your teeth.
  • Another way of using hydrogen peroxide is by preparing a mouth rinse. The solution for mouth rinse is made by half water and half solution of 3% hydrogen peroxide. Rinse your mouth every day with this mouth rinse to maintain a plaque-free oral environment.

What are the side effects of using hydrogen peroxide?

Hydrogen peroxide is generally safe when used as directed. The risk of damage arises when –

  • You accidentally swallow a high concentration of hydrogen peroxide
  • Leave the concentrated solution of hydrogen peroxide in contact with the teeth for a long time
  • Apply hydrogen peroxide solution on the surface of the teeth too many times in a day

Use the product as directed. Keep a check on the time of exposure every time you use a hydrogen peroxide solution.

Tooth sensitivity is a very common side-effect of prolonged use of hydrogen peroxide. Always take advice from a dental professional before using any product that contains hydrogen peroxide.

Some of the severe complications include –

  • Damage to the layer of enamel
  • Inflammation of the gums
  • Infections

Take away message

Tooth whitening is a popular dental procedure. Hydrogen peroxide is the key ingredient that helps in teeth whitening.  (5)

However, many people are unaware of the uses of hydrogen peroxide to maintain healthy gums and a plaque-free oral environment.

Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical compound which is available in various concentrations as per the requirement of the patient.

Hydrogen peroxide acts as an antiseptic, oxidizer and a bleaching agent. All these properties work together to provide healthy gums, white teeth, and a plaque-free mouth.

Although hydrogen peroxide is useful to the oral cavity in several ways, it also has some side-effects that may damage the oral tissues.

Therefore, a consultation from a dentist is essential before using any product that contains hydrogen peroxide.

Hydrogen peroxide has proven to be the best chemical compound in maintaining a beautiful, healthy smile. The correct way of using it is by following the guidelines accurately.

Hydrogen peroxide acts as an antiseptic, oxidizer & a bleaching agent. It helps in providing healthy gums, white teeth, plaque-free mouth.