Table of Contents
- Hydrogen Peroxide Basic Information
- Hydrogen Peroxide Basic Uses
- Hydrogen Peroxide for Teeth Whitening
- Hydrogen Peroxide For A Toothache
- Hydrogen Peroxide For Canker Sores
- Hydrogen Peroxide For Cold Sores
- Hydrogen Peroxide For A Sore Throat
- Hydrogen Peroxide For Bad Breath
- Hydrogen Peroxide For Thrush
- Hydrogen Peroxide Mouthwash Wrap Up
Hydrogen peroxide. Some will tell you it’s the cure-all for any oral health issues, others will tell you it’ll kill you in ten seconds flat. What’s the truth? What can this stuff actually do and how can it help you?
We’ve noticed that there’s a ton of misinformation on this product. Simply googling “hydrogen peroxide” will come up with hundreds of pages that give you poor info on what this chemical can do. Because of that, we decided to create this all-inclusive compendium of oral health information as it relates to hydrogen peroxide.
This guide includes the basic answers to all the major hydrogen peroxide related oral health questions. If you’re interested in hearing how hydrogen peroxide can help you with teeth whitening, toothaches, bad breath, thrush, canker sores, cold sores or a sore throat, you’ve come to the right place. Hydrogen peroxide might not be the best mouthwash on the market, but it can still be effective in a number of ways.
There’s a fair bit of information in this guide but you probably don’t need to read all of it. Simply use the table of contents to skip around to the sections that are most relevant to you.
With all that out of the way, let’s get learnin’!
Hydrogen Peroxide Basic Information
So what is hydrogen peroxide? At its basic form, it’s two hydrogen molecules bonded with two oxygen molecules (otherwise known as H2O2). The chemical structure can be found below.
It’s sometimes referred to as “water but with one more oxygen atom”. That’s a bit of a simple statement though. It’d be the same as referring to a car as “a tricycle but with one more wheel”. There’s a lot more going on than just one more wheel!
Hydrogen Peroxide as a full, 100% concentrated solution is extremely powerful. As such, you’ll pretty much never see that outside of a lab setting. Most food grade hydrogen peroxide is at a 35% concentration and most over-the-counter medical solutions are only at around 3-6% concentration. Often times, products that use H2O2 will have an even smaller concentration that that.
Food grade hydrogen peroxide is far too strong for medical purposes. Every reference in this article refers to a 3% concentration. Using 35% hydrogen peroxide is extremely dangerous for medical purposes.
If you’re not sure exactly what we’re referencing, we’ve got several safe and low concentration options referenced below:
Hydrogen Peroxide Basic Uses
What is hydrogen peroxide used for? It has a long list of practical uses, spanning for industrial application to a variety of medical and cosmetic applications. Since we’re more concerned about oral health than bleaching paper, we’ll focus on the medical and cosmetic uses.
A study published by Nature Medicine in 2014 shows a connection between hydrogen peroxide and the immune system. The basic idea is that it attracts white blood cells to wounded areas. This explains its ability to decrease inflamed and irritated tissue (which really comes in handy by the way – more on this later).
Beyond this, H2O2 is very capable disinfectant. It’s capable of killing a broad spectrum of viruses, bacteria, yeast and bacterial spores. This makes it extremely useful for disinfecting wounds.
In addition to that, it’s very environmentally friendly. According to the FDA, hydrogen peroxide is “generally recognized as safe”. This makes it a prime choice as a disinfectant over less environmentally friends, chlorine based bleaches.
Concerning oral uses, hydrogen peroxide is used very effectively as a bleaching agent. You’ll find that it’s the main ingredient used in just about all teeth whitening products.
Alongside H2O2, you’ll also find carbamide peroxide. While this chemical is technically different, when added to water it turns into hydrogen peroxide. According to the ADA, a solution with about 10% carbamide peroxide will result in around 3.5% of H2O2.
Often times hydrogen peroxide will be combined with baking soda to help increase the whitening power of products. In general, higher concentrations result in higher whitening power. The gels and pastes that your dentist uses can have a concentration of H2O2 upwards of 20%. These uses are very specialized and carefully orchestrated.
Hydrogen Peroxide for Teeth Whitening
So can you use hydrogen peroxide alone as a teeth whitening agent? Technically, yes you can.
As we stated above, H2O2 is the main bleaching ingredient used in many whitening products. Often times these products only use a concentration of one or two percent. It’s important to note, however, that products such as whitening mouthwashes and whitening toothpastes use a variety of other chemicals to help clean your teeth. The true whitening power comes from this combination, not just the hydrogen peroxide.
The biggest issue with using hydrogen peroxide mouthwash as a way to whiten your teeth is making sure it’s diluted properly. The best rule is to use one part H2O2 and two parts water. You can also mix in one part conventional mouthwash (Crest, Listerine, etc.) as well. This will make sure that the concentration isn’t too strong.
When using a hydrogen peroxide mouthwash, there are three main health concerns you should watch out for. Any of these concerns can be a result of improper diluting along with simply using it in the first place.
One of the biggest health issues that comes from using hydrogen peroxide as mouthwash is teeth sensitivity. This will most likely be the worst right after you start using it. A bit of an increase in sensitivity is reasonable, but if you notice your teeth getting too sensitive, stop using hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash immediately.
After a week or two you’ll notice your sensitivity returning to normal and you can start using the hydrogen peroxide mouthwash again. Just make sure to use it less aggressively and dilute it more than you were before.
Another major health issue that can result from using hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash is gum blanching. This will also be the strongest right after you’ve started using your hydrogen peroxide mouthwash.
Blanched gums will appear a whiter color and can also include moderate to significant gum irritation. Again, if you experience this, stop using the hydrogen peroxide mouthwash immediately. Wait a few weeks and consult with your dentist before starting use again.
This is a health concern that a lot of people have, but it’s not based in any fact. If you swallow hydrogen peroxide that’s below 3% concentration you’ll be completely fine. According to the Poison Control website, swallowing small amounts of H2O2 is completely fine and isn’t a cause for concern. The worst you’ll get is a bit of a stomach ache, which isn’t bad at all.
Everyone seems to think if you accidentally swallow a small amount you’ll tear a hole in your stomach. No, you won’t. That being said, it’s not a good habit to get into. Just don’t be worried about immediate death or anything.
Oral Health Routine
Another thing to keep in mind when using hydrogen peroxide as mouthwash is to continue using other oral healthcare products alongside it. Effectively whitening your teeth not only includes bleaching but also protection. Chemicals such as sodium fluoride will help to rebuild and strengthen your enamel. This will make your teeth appear whiter and also make them more resistant to staining. Replacing your toothpaste and/or mouthwash with hydrogen peroxide will keep you from using some of these important chemicals and reduce your oral health significantly.
Our suggestions would be to use hydrogen peroxide as a supplement to the other products that you use. Combining a hydrogen peroxide rinse with a whitening toothpaste and an oral/gum health mouthwash can result in a powerful combo that helps to whiten your teeth along with keeping everything healthy.
Further Reading: Our full guide on the best mouthwash available on the market today.
A final note for using hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash for teeth whitening. You won’t notice whitening over the course of several days, or even a few weeks. This is a long game. Using H2O2 mouthwash as a supplement to your oral care routine can certainly result in whiter teeth, but it’s something that you will see over the course of months.
By including it as part of your oral routine you’re essentially making a slight lifestyle change that can help your teeth become whiter for the rest of your life. Just don’t expect immediate results.
Hydrogen Peroxide For A Toothache
Another major claim for H2O2 is its use for curing a toothache. Some of this is based in fact. Other parts though… not so much.
Don’t get me wrong, using a hydrogen peroxide mouthwash to help treat a toothache isn’t a bad idea at all. The key is to keep your expectations in check though. It won’t cure anything. You won’t fix your toothache in any way by rinsing with H2O2.
As mentioned above, hydrogen peroxide mouthwash is fantastic for killing germs and generally disinfecting. It will do just that to the tissue around your aching tooth. Rinsing with it will help to disinfect the oral tissue that’s near the problem spot along with helping to reduce inflammation.
This all results in a tooth that doesn’t hurt as much. And, with H2O2 being a natural chemical, you can use it as much as you’d like. After about four to five rinses you’ll start to notice your tooth hurting a bit less than before. While it won’t cure anything, using hydrogen peroxide for a toothache can significantly reduce the pain you experience.
Recipe: As before, there’s nothing crazy going on here. Just mix 3% hydrogen peroxide half and half with water. Ideally you’d like to keep this solution sitting in your mouth for up to ten minutes.
If you can’t wait that long, it’s not a huge deal. Simply spit it out and either apply a bit more or wait a little while for another rinse. Make sure to focus the liquid on the area of your toothache for the best results.
Hydrogen Peroxide For Canker Sores
First off, what is a canker sore? To get all fancy and technical, a canker sore is an aphthous ulcer. What’s that mean? Basically, it’s a hole in the outer oral tissue in your mouth. Something such as a sharp tooth, an accidental bite or a super strong lemon can cause such a thing. The outer lining of your mouth is breached and the sensitive skin underneath gets inflamed and irritated.
The good news is that our friend hydrogen peroxide is a fantastic disinfectant. This makes it pretty useful for treating a canker sore.
The main use of H2O2 in this situation is to clean the wound and mitigate the inflammation. The last thing you want to have happen is for your canker sore to get infected, but that can happen.
With all of the food you eat there’s ample opportunity for bacteria to get into the wound and make things get a lot worse. Using hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash will help to prevent that from happening.
By keeping the wound clean and the inflammation down you’ll see healing speeds quicken, but not drastically. At the end of the day, new tissue needs to form to cover up the hole. There’s only so much that can speed that up. But you’ll make sure that things are as pleasant as possible until then.
Times For Use
If you’ve got a canker sore, there are two optimal times when you should be using hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash. First is right before bed. This will ensure that there aren’t any extra bacteria hanging around in the wound. The less bacteria in the wound, the better the healing.
The second time to use it is right after a meal. The same principle applies here. You’re looking to kill all of the bacteria from food that embeds itself in the wound. This will not only speed up the healing process but help with the pain as well.
As before, simply mix a 3% concentration of hydrogen peroxide half-and-half with water. Rinse for several minutes if you can and position the liquid on the area of your mouth where the canker sore is.
If all goes well, the worst part of the canker sore should be over in about two days – four at max. If things last longer than that, call or email your dentist.
Hydrogen Peroxide For Cold Sores
Cold sores have a similar name, but are actually way different than canker sores. Where a canker sore is simply some torn skin, a cold sore is a viral infection. You may have heard before that a cold sore is a simple version of the herpes virus – this is true. The Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV1) is to blame for all of your cold sore issues. This is different from the STD herpes though – that’s called HSV2. Both will result in an outbreak of cold sores though.
The big downer about cold sores is that nothing can really be done to speed up the healing process. It’s simply a viral infection that needs to be fought off by the body’s immune system.
Using hydrogen peroxide mouthwash can certainly help mitigate issues though. Similar to above, applying it can help to disinfect the wound and less inflammation. The biggest problem you’ll have is actually applying the hydrogen peroxide though. Most cold sores appear on the your skin – not inside your mouth. If this is the case, use a q-tip or a cotton ball to dab some H2O2 on the wound. Do this several times a day. A regular canker sore will take up to two weeks to heal completely. If it lasts longer than this, call or email your dentist.
Hydrogen Peroxide For A Sore Throat
The causes for throat pain can be both viral and bacterial. This makes figuring out what the exact issue is a bit of a task. Regardless, you’ll find that hydrogen peroxide can be helpful in mitigating the symptoms.
Gargling a half-and-half mixture of H2O2 can be beneficial in several ways. First, it’ll help to reduce inflammation, as with many other issues. This can make it easier for your white blood cells to travel to the site and fight off the infection.
The second major benefit is to help clear the area of bacteria. Often times a sore throat is complicated further by the fact that it’s a well-travelled area of the body. Anything you eat, breath or swallow will pass through your esophagus. This makes it far easier for an infection to get worse. Regularly gargling with a hydrogen peroxide mouthwash can help to keep the infected area of your throat clean.
If you’ve got some hydrogen peroxide sitting around, you can use the following recipe to make a safe hydrogen peroxide mouthwash
Hydrogen Peroxide Recipe
- Pour 2 oz. of 3% hydrogen peroxide into a glass
- Add either 2 oz. or 4 oz. of warm water (depending on how strong you want it)
- Mix vigorously for 30 seconds
- Gargle for 60 seconds or until you no longer can
If you don’t have any hydrogen peroxide sitting at home, a similar rinse can be done with just salt and water. Follow the instructions below.
Salt Water Recipe
- Pour an 8 oz. glass of warm water (make sure it’s not too hot or you’ll burn yourself)
- Add 1/4 to 1/2 of a teaspoon (not a tablespoon!) of salt into the glass
- Mix vigorously for 30 seconds
- Gargle for 60 seconds or until you no longer can
Often times both bacterial and viral infections can embed themselves deep in the tissues of your esophagus. While using hydrogen peroxide may help protect your throat while it’s vulnerable and minimize pain, make sure you get proper medication to actually cure the illness. Using a hydrogen peroxide rinse won’t do that.
When you’re mixing your hydrogen peroxide mouthwash (or throatwash in this case), try to use warm water. This will help to sooth the sore area and minimize the pain for a bit. Make sure it isn’t too hot though! Burning your throat while it’s infected will make your problems far worse!
Hydrogen Peroxide For Bad Breath
As helpful as hydrogen peroxide can be for a variety of oral health problems, treating bad breath isn’t at the top of the list. It’s helpful, sure, but in this day and age we’ve got solutions that are far more advanced than simply gargling H2O2.
The only thing that hydrogen peroxide will do to help bad breath is to kill off some of the bacteria that will cause those odors. In truth, that’s often times only part of the problem. Other issues, such as embedded plaque/tartar, oral acidity and tissue moisture will frequently contribute to bad breath. There are products on the market that will do a far better job treating these issues than hydrogen peroxide.
The most effective way to use is to help your bad breath is to do a 30-60 second rinse after your done eating. This will quickly kill a lot of the bacteria that will cause bad breath before it even starts. Otherwise, you’ll not notice major benefits from H2O2 despite what you’ve heard elsewhere.
Hydrogen Peroxide For Thrush
Thrush (otherwise known as a Candida Infection) is a yeast infection that occurs in the oral tissue of your mouth. The candida bacteria will regularly live in various areas of your mouth and cause no problems. When conditions are right, however, it can grow pretty explosively. Hydrogen peroxide can help kill some of these bacteria off, but your most effective solution will be to find an antifungal medication to help you get rid of the solution. Again, we’ve invented medicine that’s far more effective at treating this particular illness than H2O2.
If you’re waiting on your antifungal medicine and still want to do something, hydrogen peroxide certainly won’t hurt. Again, just put together a half-and-half mixture with water and rinse four times a day for 30-60 seconds each. That’ll help to kill off some of the exterior yeast and make it easier for your antifungal medicine to do its job.
Hydrogen Peroxide Mouthwash Wrap Up
Hopefully we were able to answer all the questions you’ve got about hydrogen peroxide and using it as a mouthwash. If you have a question that wasn’t answered, please let us know. Simply drop a comment below or contact us on our contact page. We’ll work through the research and find the best answer we can!