It has been hypothesized that hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)) bleaching may cause destruction of dentin by a mechanism of protein oxidation. However, to our knowledge, there has been no direct chemical evidence to validate this viewpoint. To investigate the effects of H(2)O(2) on the structure of human dentin, we used Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and attenuated total reflection (ATR) spectroscopy. Human intact dentin specimens were treated either with 30% H(2)O(2) or Hanks' balanced salt solution (HBSS). Significant differences were observed in ATR spectra parameters. Additionally, demineralized dentin specimens were also tested. They were completely dissolved in the H(2)O(2), but remained intact in the 0.1 N HCl and HBSS. The results suggested that H(2)O(2) attacked both the organic and mineral components of dentin. Destruction of the organic components was mainly because of the oxidizing ability of H(2)O(2), while changes in the mineral components were probably due to its acidity.