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Tooth or False: Is Hydrogen Peroxide Safe for Teeth?
by connie gregson, friendly head of r+d at hello products Published: November 18, 2019
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about the author
Connie is our Director of R+D, which not only means she created the formulations for our products, but that she has more degrees than a thermometer. One of her degrees is an MS in food biochemistry, and she was a research scientist in Pepsi’s Product Innovation Group before deciding to focus cavity prevention and optimized oral health. When she’s not climbing, hiking, ultra-marathoning, playing guitar or making awesome brownies with chickpea flour, she’s whipping up the most naturally friendly oral care products around. If you let us know you’re coming for a visit, Connie might be able to craft a custom paste for you….or maybe just rock some of her awesome brownies for you.
Photo: woman brushing her teeth
Here at hello, we’re big advocates for being educated on the ingredients that you’re putting into your mouth: where they come from, how they’re made, and what they do. If you’re thinking about using hydrogen peroxide on your teeth, here’s how it works and what you should keep in mind.
Is it Safe to Use for Whitening?
Generally speaking, tooth whitening products that use hydrogen peroxide as an active ingredient are safe to use – and higher concentration formulas will provide a whitening effect. However, it’s worth mentioning that some people may experience tooth sensitivity from using hydrogen peroxide whiteners and that repeated use and frequency of use can impact the likelihood of sensitivity. So for example: if you’re regularly using whitening strips, toothpaste, and mouthwash that all contain hydrogen peroxide, you may be more likely to deal with sensitivity. To help you determine whether it’s the right choice for you, here’s a look at how hydrogen peroxide works in comparison to other whitening options.
Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Tooth Stains
Tooth stains fall into two basic categories. The first is “extrinsic” stains – these are stains that are present on the outer, external surface of your teeth and can be caused by smoking, foods and beverages and other environmental factors. The second is “intrinsic” stains which — you guessed it — are stains located inside the teeth themselves and can be chalked up to factors like genetics and age (lucky you).
How Does Hydrogen Peroxide Whiten Teeth?
Hydrogen peroxide works by addressing intrinsic stains. When used in toothpaste, strip or mouthwash form and applied to teeth, it generates a bleaching effect that changes the chemical composition of a compound within the tooth, causing it to become lighter in color. Level of whitening results depend on the method of application, duration of usage, and strength of the hydrogen peroxide concentration.
What are Whitening Alternatives to Hydrogen Peroxide?
While hydrogen peroxide relies on a chemical reaction to lighten the internal structure of teeth, alternative whitening options address extrinsic stains instead. Using abrasive ingredients, extrinsic whiteners gently polish away stains on the surfaces of teeth. When we say abrasive, we’re not talking *sandpaper* abrasive though – extrinsic whiteners possess the requisite roughness to remove surface stains, but when used properly are safe for your teeth and won’t harm their enamel. For a stimulating deep-dive into how abrasiveness works in toothpastes, check out this article we’ve penned on Relative Dental Abrasivity (RDA), Pellicle Cleaning Ratio (PCR), and other toothy acronyms.
Our Tooth Cents
If you have any further questions about hydrogen peroxide, we recommend reaching out to your dentist or healthcare provider. While you may ultimately decide that hydrogen peroxide is the right choice for you (we believe in a brusher’s right to choose), we’ve made the decision to not use chemical whiteners in hello products. Instead, our whitening toothpastes and mouthwashes use natural ingredients like hydrated silica and activated charcoal to effectively address surface stains. We source these ingredients thoughtfully and are meticulous in making sure that they provide an effective-but-not-too-aggressive level of abrasiveness. Which means whitening results that make you say “wow!” without also saying “ouch!”. And did we mention that in addition to being gentle whiteners we also think our products taste great and are pretty fun to use? Well we sure think so, and we think you will, too! Try hello and start smiling wider (and brighter) today.