Can You Gargle With Peroxide? Is It Safe and Effective?

A quick stroll down your local store’s dental care aisle will reveal many different products containing peroxide. From teeth whitening products to oral health mouthwash, peroxide is a commonly used addition with various benefits. But can that…

A quick stroll down your local store’s dental care aisle will reveal many different products containing peroxide. From teeth whitening products to oral health mouthwash, peroxide is a commonly used addition with various benefits. But can that simple brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide on your first aid shelf offer the same benefits? Can you safely use hydrogen peroxide as a gargle or mouthwash?

Is it safe to gargle with peroxide?

Many dental products already contain peroxide, so chances are you may have already used products with peroxide included, so you would assume it is safe. But can you use straight peroxide and receive oral health benefits safely? This all depends on the concentration of peroxide and how you use it. Because hydrogen peroxide is a highly reactive substance, high concentrations or prolonged exposure can damage oral tissue and your teeth.

In order to achieve oral benefits from peroxide, you want to look for 3% peroxide and dilute with water before use. A journal review from 2000 showed that the use of hydrogen peroxide in low concentrations does not damage hard or soft tissue in the mouth but can provide many different oral health benefits.

Uses of hydrogen peroxide

Chances are when you have cut yourself, you have applied hydrogen peroxide to your wound. When applied, this peroxide works to kill bacteria and disinfect the wound. When used for oral care, the idea is similar. Hydrogen peroxide works to kill bacteria in the mouth and break up complex molecules, helping to improve oral health.

Teeth whitening

When it comes to improving your smile, you may consider teeth whitening treatments or home whitening products. Stains or discoloration on your teeth occur due to complex molecules’ presence within the enamel and dentin of your teeth. Hydrogen peroxide easily passes into the tooth and breaks up these molecules, reducing the appearance of discoloration. In offices, whitening treatments use higher peroxide concentrations for shorter periods and under supervision. However, studies have shown that the use of peroxide mouthwashes can achieve effective whitening over time, though it will not achieve as significant color change as a whitening treatment with carbamide peroxide gel.

Treat minor mouth sores

If you suffer from minor mouth irritations, such as canker sores, the antiseptic properties of hydrogen peroxide can provide some relief. The hydrogen peroxide will kill the bacteria responsible for the canker sore or irritation, helping the irritation heal. Just like peroxide bubbles up to kill the infection in a wound on your skin, you may experience bubbling on the mouth sore. Because you only gargle for a short time, one treatment may not kill all the bacteria, but it will reduce the number of bacteria and help your canker sore or irritation heal.

Soothe sore throat

If you are experiencing a sore throat, you may have a bacterial infection. Gargling with a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water can help kill the bacteria and reduce the infection. This can help to ease your symptoms and bring relief.

Improve oral health

If you suffer from gum disease, gargling with hydrogen peroxide offers many benefits. When plaque forms on your teeth, it contains a film of bacteria that contributes to gum disease, often resulting in gum inflammation and sensitivity. Gargling with hydrogen peroxide targets bacteria, helping to minimize the damage to the gums. A 2017 trial looked at patients with gum disease that received root debridement. One group of patients also received treatment with hydrogen peroxide after debridement. They discovered that the group receiving the peroxide saw a significant decrease in bacteria responsible for gum disease.

How to use hydrogen peroxide solution properly

To create an at-home hydrogen peroxide gargling solution, you must begin with a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution. This is the same brown bottle found in your pharmacy that you may already have in your medicine cabinet. To create a gargling solution, mix two parts of water to one part peroxide. This gives you a 1% concentration. Gargle this solution all-around your mouth, including the back of your throat for about 30 seconds before spitting the solution out. Do not be surprised if you experience foaming when gargling peroxide, as this is normal. When spitting out the solution, be careful not to get it into your eyes as it can cause irritation.

Risks associated with gargling hydrogen peroxide

Low concentration hydrogen peroxide solution is safe for most people. However, there are some possible risks associated with regular use and can include:

  • Teeth sensitivity – Prolonged use of hydrogen peroxide or treatment with higher concentrations of peroxide, such as whitening treatments, can lead to tooth sensitivity. In most cases, this sensitivity diminishes with time.
  • Gastrointestinal upset – When gargling with hydrogen peroxide, use caution not to swallow the solution. While a small amount of 1% solution usually causes no harm, it can lead to throat irritation and stomach upset. Ingestion of higher concentrations can increase gastrointestinal irritation and, in severe cases, can lead to chemical gastritis and colitis.
  • Black hairy tongue (BHT) – Regular use of hydrogen peroxide can contribute to a benign oral condition known as black hairy tongue. This condition comes from a buildup of dead cells on the tongue, resulting in a dark, furry appearance. This can include a black, brown, green, yellow, or blue appearance on the back portion of the tongue.

While hydrogen peroxide offers a wide variety of oral health benefits, it is a good idea to consult with your dentist before starting any new oral treatment. At Image Dental, we are here to answer any of your questions regarding hydrogen peroxide use and the benefits it may provide you. For more information, contact our office today online or at (209) 955-1500.

Stephen Nozaki, DDS, MPH, DIDIA

Dr. Stephen Nozaki is the owner and lead dentist at Image Dental in Stockton. He is a dedicated professional born and raised in California's Central Valley. With a commitment to his community, he brings advanced dental techniques learned from extensive education and continuous training from around the world. A third-generation Japanese American, Dr. Nozaki has a rich background that includes international living and a deep passion for both dentistry and outdoor activities. His focus in dentistry aligns with his passion for cosmetics and dental implants.