Can Hydrogen Peroxide Help Whiten Your Teeth?

When it looks like most of the faces smiling at us on social media are flashing bright, it's no wonder that teeth-whitening products continue to grow in popularity. On TikTok, #teethwhitening videos have been watched over a billion times. COVID-19 has people spending more time in virtual meetings, and it's given us a better chance to see — for better or worse — how our teeth actually look on video. "Patients spending time on virtual meetings have noticed things that they would like to correct about their smiles, including the shade of their teeth," Dentist Courtney Hain told HuffPost. "In addition, many patients missed a cleaning or two during the pandemic, leading to an increased accrual of stain."

However, teeth-whitening treatments can get pricey. In-house treatments at the dentist's office can cost upwards of $1,000, while cheaper, over-the-counter treatment options, like teeth-whitening strips, run between approximately $20-$50.

That's where hydrogen peroxide's appeal comes in — it's very affordable (a bottle at Walmart runs around $1), and has been used for decades as an easy and effective at-home teeth-whitening treatment. If you're interested in trying it yourself, here's what you need to know.

Hydrogen peroxide can help brighten your smile

Hydrogen peroxide is an effective bleaching agent. "Hydrogen peroxide brightens and whitens the teeth via a chemical process, by breaking down the stains from polymers into monomers via an oxidation process," Dentist Dr. Lisa Creaven, co-founder of Spotlight Oral Care, told Health. "In teeth whitening products, it works to dissolve stains so teeth are gradually and safely whitened without damaging tooth health." Dental health experts generally agree that hydrogen peroxide can be used safely and effectively at home to whiten teeth — under certain conditions. 

First, the concentration of hydrogen peroxide shouldn't be too strong. Hydrogen peroxide sold for home use is usually diluted to a concentration of 3%, while the version used in a dentist's office will be much stronger. When used as a rinse, dental experts recommend mixing equal parts of hydrogen peroxide and water, and then rinsing the mouth for no more than 30 seconds to 1 minute, trying not to swallow any of the solution (via Healthline).

Problems can arise when the concentration of hydrogen peroxide is too strong, or when its exposure to the teeth is prolonged or too frequent. In those cases, tooth enamel can be weakened, leading to sensitivity. "If used sparingly and according to the instructions of a given product and your provider, hydrogen peroxide is safe and effective to use for the whitening of our teeth," orthodontist Heather Kunen told MSN. Just don't overdo it.