The 21st Century HerbalistHow to Whiten Your Teeth With Hydrogen Peroxide…But is it safe?Katie Glenn

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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  1. [...] How To Save Money On Hydrogen Peroxide Teeth Whitening [...]

  2. If you start gently brushing your gums every day then eventually your gums do toughen up and it’s good for the underlying bone structure (according to my oral surgeon)

    Between my oral surgeon’s staff and I we came up with the current way I brush my teeth. (after 2 abscesses in 2 years I wanted a method to deter this if possible).

    I use salt and baking soda to brush with a 1% hydrogen peroxide rinse (2 parts water to one part 3% hydrogen peroxide) You can even user a lesser % by cutting that 1% in half.

    First I brush the gums making sure not to touch the teeth. This starts breaking apart the biofilm, or plaque, that clings to ever surface in the mouth. I do the outsides, rinsing the brush often, then the inside including the palate.

    Next I brush the tongue and rinse my mouth thoroughly.

    Then I start brushing the teeth STARTING at the gum ABOVE the gum line and dragging DOWN, rinsing the brush after every two or three strokes. Outside of teeth first, then inside and yes, you have to hold your brush differently to get the inside. Normally I go over the teeth twice this way.

    Again rinse mouth and brush thoroughly and then holding the brush absolutely flat against the teeth I sweep it back and forth. Again, two rounds.

    Note here at the end, my last abscess did not result in an emergency trip to the dental office and the staff couldn’t find any sign of it when I went in later. This is a “your result may vary” type of thing, but … it was Friday night when a tooth blew up with an abscess and my dental office is NOT open on the weekend. Not wanting to pay for emergency service I desperately was looking over the net for handling that would last until Monday.

    Came across a note about grapefruit seed extract which we have in the cupboard for animal care. It’s a nasty tasting concoction, so I put about ten drops in a cup of applesauce and slowly ate it. At first I thought I was imagining things because the pain lessened considerably, but I thought maybe the dampness from the applesauce was just coating the nerves or something. As I ate it the pain lessened even more and to my surprise the swelling went down by half by the time I was done. Now if it would have stayed at that state I would have been quite happy and gone into the dental office on Monday, but, the next morning the swelling was nearly gone and the pain was nonexistent.

    Hmmm… So, I repeated this both Saturday and Sunday morning and evening and by Monday there was no sign of it. At my next scheduled visit I told them about this, so I was x-rayed and examined and there wasn’t a trace of it. Of course the dental staff cautioned against it, but I view this as simply their wanting to protect themselves – they HAVE to say it for insurance reasons. The extract I use comes from Nutribiotic ( you can Google them).

  3. hydrogen peroxide is the best cure for acne, even the deep ones!

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  6. I found really good product in the market for whitening your teeth.
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  7. I’d caution people to definitely talk to their dentist about this before trying. Mine was absolutely adamant that this is *not* safe and that even a diluted solution of hydrogen peroxide promotes abnormal tissue growth and will cause gums to recede; there is a reason teeth whitening kits warn in big bold letters not to put in contact with the gums, teeth only.

    • I’ve been using hydrogen peroxide for a dental rinse for some years and have not had any warnings from my dental surgeon to not use it. Nor have I been told I have receding gums. I’m 52 years old.

  8. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is awesome! My mom grew up on a tobacco farm and the way to get tan was to mix tobacco leaves and baby oil and rub it on your skin as your picking tobacco, which worked but is not so smart. But the way to keep your teeth white was to gargle with H2O2, which is super smart. It’s great for keeping your teeth white and also killing bad breath germs (H2O2 is a strong antimicrobial). H2O2 also works as a lightening agent for hair. My eyebrows are way too dark for my complexion, so I use a Q-tip and dab on some H2O2, and let it sit for a few minutes then wash it off. The thing you have to watch out for, though, is if it gets old (or is exposed to lots of oxygen and/or light) it loses its activity. It goes from H2O2 to H2O, so you’ll just be gargling water!

  9. Is it essential to use a fluoride toothpaste? I use Tom’s of Maine fluoride-free toothpaste…is this okay?

  10. I love hydrogen peroxide, and it’s also great as a rinse because (in my experience, anyway) it helps keep away canker sores. However, make sure you DO NOT RINSE WITH IT if you burned your tongue on a hot beverage or something that day. Seriously. I rinsed without thinking about it, and oh god. The pain was unbearable.

  11. Whoa I am def trying this. Thanks Herbalist Katie!
    Hydrogen peroxide is so fun. I love how it foams!
    More about HP: I just learned at the ER that you should not pour un-diluted hydrogen peroxide on wounds. It will cause them to scar badly because it eats away the good tissue as well as the bad. Instead, dilute the peroxide with water and then you can use it to clean your cuts and scrapes.

    • I hadn’t read that it “eats away” good tissue, but I have read that it can cause the capillaries and smaller blood vessels to become blocked or swollen preventing normal blood function in the healing of wounds. This Wikipedia article seems to bear that out.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_peroxide

      Which is why using a dilution of the 3% may be very wise.

      However, if I was doing something like cleaning sewers, or some other dirty job, and cut or injured myself, I would trust a 3% solution to clear away the nasties that might be more horrible than a scar. Any.day.