The 21st Century Herbalist

How to Whiten Your Teeth With Hydrogen Peroxide…But is it safe?

It’s week 2 of “One Ingredient…One Great Fix” Month and this week I’m chatting about hydrogen peroxide. You may know it best by its use as a cleanser for minor cuts and scrapes, and of course by its classic packaging. Found in the first aid section of your local drug store, it’s the one in the dark brown plastic bottle topped with a white cap and a basic label displaying its contents. This brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide is so much more than just a first aid solution, its also the active ingredient for, what I’ve heard is, a billion dollar industry — teeth whitening.

Next time you’re in the drug store, grab a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and walk it over to the oral hygiene aisle.  Check the active ingredient for most of the whitening toothpastes, mouth washes and whitening cream, gel and strip kits, it probably says hydrogen peroxide. If it’s not the active ingredient, I’m willing to bet that it’s still listed somewhere in the ingredients.  That’s the same stuff that you’re holding in the brown bottle and it only costs about $3.  So now you’re asking, why doesn’t everyone know this? Why wouldn’t we all use this? Basically, you want to know…what’s the catch? The catch is that a lot of the teeth whitening kits are highly marketed – look at the gorgeous packaging, then look at your sad brown plastic bottle.  The teeth whitening kits also have additional ingredients, as do the toothpastes and mouthwashes.  Some of these ingredients are there to protect your teeth (but not always), because whitening is a harsh process. But the basic ingredients are the same. Hydrogen peroxide in a brown bottle or in a whitening strip is still hydrogen peroxide.

How to Whiten Your Teeth Using Hydrogen Peroxide
If you read the label on the hydrogen peroxide bottle, it will mention that it can be used as a mouth wash.  It’s great for maintaining a healthy mouth and healing minor cuts or sores in your mouth*.  Before you begin, double check that your bottle of hydrogen peroxide is a 3% solution. Anything higher and you’ve accidentally stumbled into purchasing industrial strength and it is NOT safe for use in your mouth. As with most things teeth related, check with your dentist (because I’m not one) before letting children under the age of 12 use this solution and discontinue if you experience any discomfort or redness in your gums.  These are all the same warnings you’ll find on any teeth whitening product.

  1. Brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste.
  2. Rinse with a diluted solution of hydrogen peroxide for 30-60 seconds . There are dilution directions on the bottle, but it is usually half water and half hydrogen peroxide. When the hydrogen peroxide comes in contact with your mouth, a chemical reaction will take place and it will begin to foam.  Start by swishing with a small amount so you don’t end up foaming at the mouth and scare your roommates into thinking you have a plague.
  3. Spit out the rinse, do not swallow hydrogen peroxide.
  4. Don’t eat or drink for 30 minutes.
  5. Again, I’m not a dentist, but according to my dentist (who is, in fact, a dentist), if you follow the previous directions this can be done every day.

*On an unrelated side note, notice I wrote “minor” cuts or sores, in other words you probably shouldn’t use it on tongue or lip piercings because it can be too harsh.  Definitely consult your piercer before you use it to heal piercings or as a whitening rinse after a recent piercing.

Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide Whitening Paste
Since we’re talking hydrogen peroxide, I do want to mention the baking soda and hydrogen peroxide whitening method. It’s a bit too harsh for me, but I do know people who use it.  I do NOT recommend brushing with this paste, as it can be very hard on your gums.

  1. Mix together baking soda and hydrogen peroxide until it forms paste.
  2. Apply it to the surface of your teeth using your toothbrush or finger, avoiding the gum line.
  3. Let it sit on your teeth for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Rinse with water and brush with a fluoride toothpaste.
I know that hydrogen peroxide has many more uses than this, so feel free to share in the comments!

Next Week: One Ingredient…One Great Fix  – Powdered Milk

Image via: istockphoto

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