Hydrogen Peroxide is a highly reactive chemical made of hydrogen and oxygen. This chemical is widely used to bleach paper and textile, and is used as a disinfectant in the medical field and in the household and is also the main ingredient used to whiten your teeth. Normal concentrations are around 3% and can go as high as 10%. In general, the more peroxide, the greater the whitening power.
The Side Effects
Because Hydrogen peroxide is such a highly reactive chemical the two most common side effects are mouth and gum irritation plus increased tooth sensitivity to temperature changes, however both effects are temporary. Hydrogen peroxide works so well because it can easily pass through your teeth enamel and begin interacting with the dentine and pulp part of your tooth. Studies have shown that this does not harm or effect the enamel part of your tooth and is considered safe by the ADA.
Hydrogen peroxide and Carbamide peroxide should not be confused as they are very different from each other. Hydrogen is a much faster reacting chemical and has a very short shelf life. When mixed with oxygen and saliva, hydrogen peroxide breaks down very quickly leading to shorted teeth whitening sessions. Carbamide Peroxide was invented to slow down the process of decomposition so that the peroxide would last longer and provide teeth whitening greater effects, as well as have a longer shelf life.
What It Doesn’t Effect
Hydrogen Peroxide cannot change the color of fillings, porcelain teeth, ceramic teeth, gold teeth or other restorative materials because the hydrogen cannot penetrate the surface layers of these materials. However it can effect more porous dental work such as cements, and dental amalgams, but the effect can be negative by making them softer or more soluble.