Hydrogen peroxide: a review of its use in dentistry

J Periodontol. 1995 Sep;66(9):786-96. doi: 10.1902/jop.1995.66.9.786.


Several dentifrices that contain hydrogen peroxide are currently being marketed. The increased use of bleaching agents containing (or generating) H2O2 prompted this review of the safety of H2O2 when used in oral hygiene. Daily exposure to the low levels of H2O2 present in dentifrices is much lower than that of bleaching agents that contain or produce high levels of H2O2 for an extended period of time. Hydrogen peroxide has been used in dentistry alone or in combination with salts for over 70 years. Studies in which 3% H2O2 or less were used daily for up to 6 years showed occasional transitory irritant effects only in a small number of subjects with preexisting ulceration, or when high levels of salt solutions were concurrently administered. In contrast, bleaching agents that employ or generate high levels of H2O2 or organic peroxides can produce localized oral toxicity following sustained exposure if mishandled. Potential health concerns related to prolonged hydrogen peroxide use have been raised, based on animal studies. From a single study using the hamster cheek pouch model, 30% H2O2 was referred to as a cocarcinogen in the oral mucosa. This (and later) studies have shown that at 3% or less, no cocarcinogenic activity or adverse effects were observed in the hamster cheek pouch following lengthy exposure to H2O2. In patients, prolonged use of hydrogen peroxide decreased plaque and gingivitis indices. However, therapeutic delivery of H2O2 to prevent periodontal disease required mechanical access to subgingival pockets. Furthermore, wound healing following gingival surgery was enhanced due to the antimicrobial effects of topically administered hydrogen peroxide. For most subjects, beneficial effects were seen with H2O2 levels above 1%.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogens / adverse effects
  • Cricetinae
  • Dental Plaque Index
  • Dentifrices*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / administration & dosage
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / adverse effects
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / therapeutic use*
  • Irritants / adverse effects
  • Mammals
  • Mouth Mucosa / drug effects
  • Oral Hygiene
  • Periodontal Diseases / prevention & control
  • Periodontal Index
  • Safety
  • Tooth Bleaching*


  • Carcinogens
  • Dentifrices
  • Irritants
  • Hydrogen Peroxide