When hydrogen peroxide is applied to teeth, it removes both deep and surface stains by bleaching the teeth, having the effect of making teeth whiter and cleaner.
Over the Counter Bleaching Products
Hydrogen peroxide bleaching products are available over-the-counter and are intended for use at home over several weeks depending on the brand purchased. The hydrogen peroxide concentrations of these products usually range from seven to ten percent, but sometimes reach fifteen percent.
Professional Bleaching Products
Dentists and teeth whitening centers also offer hydrogen peroxide based whitening procedures, where the hydrogen peroxide concentrations of the products they use are much higher, usually between fifteen to thirty-five percent and only require one to two sessions for the whitening process to take effect.
It is wise to look for the American Dental Association or ADA Seal of Approval on any hydrogen peroxide based bleaching product that you use. However, the American Dental Association still cautions that despite their Seal of Approval, you may still experience tooth sensitivity from the bleaching agent that you are using. Meanwhile, the tissue irritation is usually due to the tray that is worn with these whitening systems and not the hydrogen peroxide itself.
Professional bleaching products with hydrogen peroxide are stronger in concentration and thus, doctors use precautionary measures such as isolating the gum tissues with a rubber dam or a protective gel so as not to cause undue irritation. Apart from the tooth sensitivity and irritation of tissues, tooth damage may also occur. However, this is very rare.
Peroxide May Cause Erosion
According to one study, another side effect of hydrogen peroxide, particularly that of the thirty-five percent concentration, is that the occurrence of slight erosions on enamel surface of the teeth. More slots in between the teeth were also observed after hydrogen peroxide bleaching, the same study reports.
“ADA: American Dental Association – Statement on the Safety and Effectiveness of Tooth Whitening Products.” ADA: American Dental Association – Home. Web. 06 Feb. 2011. http://www.ada.org/1902.aspx.
Mishima, Fernanda D., Raquel Gomes, Monica S. Araujo, Antonio O. Ruellas, and Eduardo F. Sant Anna. “The Effect of Tooth Bleaching on the Enamel Surface and the Tensile Force to Debond Orthodontic Brackets.” Journal of Orthodontics 36.4 (2009): 236-42. Print.