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Is Hydrogen Peroxide In Clinic Teeth Whitening Treatments Safe on Enamel or Will it Damage Enamel?

Hydrogen Peroxide is one of the most common methods for in clinic teeth whitening treatments. Its popularity stems from its effectiveness, speed and ease of use. You should always visit a professional clinic for treatments which involve strong chemicals, as they can easily go wrong, which may cause sensitivity or gum damage. Generally, however, a professional dentist provides a safe and effective treatment, which won’t strip or damage your enamel. Just because there is a chemical reaction involved, doesn’t mean it is damaging.

What is Hydrogen peroxide and how does it work on enamel

Hydrogen peroxide is a mix of hydrogen peroxide and urea, it is very common in a range of medical applications, and can be used to bleach, disinfect and oxidise. When used in a whitening environment, it oxidises, which lightens the enamel. It also helps remove long term stains on the outer layer of the teeth. As hydrogen peroxide can pass through the enamel, it can reach inner layers of the tooth – generally this won’t damage the enamel, however extreme concentrations may make the enamel more porous, and hence more susceptible to other damage from acids. This is not likely to happen within a clinical setting however, where the levels of concentration are weaker.

Some people may fear that any sensitivity they feel during the procedure is damage to the enamel, however what is actually happening is the Dentin layer of the teeth (the softer layer beneath the enamel), is reacting to the chemical. Discomfort won’t be present for long.

Concentration matters

One of the main determinants of whether hydrogen peroxide will damage enamel is the concentration level of the Hydrogen Peroxide. Generally, a concentration of up to 30% will be used, with most dental practitioners operating in the 10 – 20% range. Clinical studies have shown that, up to this level, there is generally not a huge difference in performance of different concentrations when applied by a professional and used correctly. However, going above this safe range can be very bad for your enamel, so finding a practitioner operating towards the lower end of the range is advisable.

Light-accelerated bleaching

So, if the concentration, when in a safe level, doesn’t have a big impact on your enamel, can other factors? Light-accelerated bleaching is one of the quickest ways to improve whitening performance. Halogen, LED or UV lighting systems are the most common, and can cut treatment time down to 30 minutes in some cases. These are very safe and won’t damage or strip your enamel if used correctly.

It is not as effective with high levels of hydrogen peroxide (>20%), however if your clinic is using a 15 – 16% concentration it can have good effects without needing to expose yourself to more chemicals. It works by causing a quicker reaction in the whitening solution applied to your teeth (using LED alone would not have any impact), meaning you are exposing your teeth to acid for less time. This combination is a very effective way to boost treatment, but if you have very sensitive teeth you will need to discuss with your dentist whether a rapid treatment is the best option for you.

Previous tooth condition

If you never look after your teeth, skip appointments and don’t bother to floss, there is a risk that teeth whitening treatments will have a more negative impact on your teeth. Just because your teeth look white doesn’t mean they are healthy, so make sure you are always making your oral health a number one priority before engaging in whitening. The more worn down your enamel already is, the more hydrogen peroxide will be able to leak through into your bottom layers causing sensitivity.

Regularity of treatment

It is common sense that the more you apply chemicals to your teeth the higher the risk of something going wrong. So to avoid any damage, make sure you only get treatments when your practitioner recommends and don’t be tempted to use over the counter touch up treatments. Consistent but well-timed treatments are the key to making sure you don’t damage your teeth with hydrogen peroxide.


Hydrogen peroxide is a great choice for whitening treatments, but as with any chemical, if things are not done correctly it could damage your enamel. It is, therefore, imperative to take the necessary measures as a way of getting the most out of this procedure. This is unlikely with a professional and if you take care of your teeth.

*The information provided in this article is not meant to be dental advice of any kind and was composed from research of information provided on the world wide web. Always consult your dentist for dental advice.

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