What is Hydrogen Peroxide Teeth Whitening & How Does It Work?

Published:February 23rd, 2012

Hydrogen peroxide is a clear liquid which is commonly used as a bleaching agent due to its oxidizing properties. It is routinely used to bleach teeth in the dental office and is a common component of many home whitening kits. When it is used for teeth whitening it is diluted into a weak acid; whitening solutions generally very in strength and can be anything between 1% and 10%. It can be found in mouth rinses, toothpastes and whitening gels and trays.

Using Hydrogen Peroxide Whitening Solutions at Home
The first thing to do is to choose the method of whitening, and this may depend on how much you want to whiten your teeth. If you are only after a mild bleaching effect, then you could try using whitening toothpaste combined with a whitening mouth rinse.  If you are after something a little more noticeable then it may be worth trying whitening strips or trays. These generally contain a higher percentage of bleaching agents, and when used over a couple of week should give a far more noticeable result.

Bleaching trays generally use a carbamide peroxide gel which has only around a third of the strength of hydrogen peroxide. When the carbamide peroxide comes into contact with water it forms hydrogen peroxide, gently bleaching your teeth. Home whitening kits come with very specific instructions, and it is important to follow these to the letter, and not to give into the temptation to leave the trays in for longer. Choosing a better quality kit should provide you with better fitting trays, and this is an important factor to consider as they will help keep the bleaching solution in the trays, preventing it from coming into contact with the sensitive gum tissue. Using teeth whitening treatments at home is generally very safe, and you can control the degree of whitening achieved

Having Your Teeth Whitened in Your Dental Office
Your dentist also uses hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth, and will generally use a stronger solution in conjunction with light therapy as this helps to accelerate the effect. This is because the light energy excites the peroxide molecules making their effect more pronounced. Before the treatment can begin the dentist will protect your gums with a special barrier agent that prevents them from coming into contact with the bleaching gel. The bleaching gel can then be carefully painted onto the teeth and activated with the light. The length of the treatment depends on the degree of bleaching required but the whole treatment should be completed within an hour or so.

Things to Consider When Using Hydrogen Peroxide Products
Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful bleaching agent and should always be treated with respect. You should only ever use these types of products on healthy teeth and gums and should always have full checkup with your dentist before carrying out any type of teeth whitening treatments. Don’t over use the products as overexposure could damage your tooth enamel or could irritate sensitive gum tissue. If you have never used bleaching products before it’s always best to start out with a product that has a lower percentage, just in case it causes any sensitivity.

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