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Whitening Mouthwash CAN Whiten Your Teeth

Yes, whitening mouthwash can whiten your teeth because it contains hydrogen peroxide which is what all whitening products use to bleach your teeth. Although there are pros and cons to whitening teeth with a mouth rinse, which we'll explain.


colgate optic white mouthwash


Table of Contents:


How to use a whitening mouthwash

  1. Brush and floss. Removing residual food in your mouth will allow the mouthwash to work more effectively.

  2. Measure out 15 mL of the mouthwash. The recommended quantity is 15 mL, the cap usually has a marker to tell you how much that is.

  3. Swish it around for 60 seconds. A minute is all you need to rinse with this.

  4. Spit it back out. Instructions say to seek medical help if you swallow it so do not swallow any at all.

  5. Repeat this twice a day, morning and night.


clear translucent color colgate optic white mouth rinse
clear translucent color

The instructions aren't that different from using a regular mouthwash since a mouthwash is still a mouthwash. The only difference is that this type of mouth rinse contains whitening ingredients in it. That means while you're rinsing it should be whitening your teeth.


Examples of whitening mouth rinses:

  • Colgate optic white mouthwash

  • Crest pro-health advanced with extra whitening alcohol free mouthwash


How often can you use it?

Neither Crest or Colgate mentioned anything about how long you can be using this product for. They simply state that you can use it twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. You can stop using it if you feel your gums burning but that is about it.


There is no instruction as to if you should use this for two weeks or for a set amount of time. Due to that, perhaps you're supposed to use your best judgement as to whether or not you want to use it as your primary mouthwash.


How does whitening mouthwash work?

Whitening mouthwash can whiten your teeth because it contains hydrogen peroxide which chemically oxidizes organic stains. This is the same exact ingredient in professional whitening products that your dentist uses.


Mechanism for how hydrogen peroxide removes teeth stains:

  • Hydrogen peroxide will decompose into water and oxygen but it produces free radicals (perhydroxyl) in the intermediary steps.

  • The free radicals can diffuse through the tooth and oxidize organic stains.

  • The oxidation process involves converting the stain molecule's double conjugated bonds to single bonds.

  • The net loss of the double bonds results in the tooth stain becoming "whiter".

  • However a better way to describe it is that the peroxide simply makes the stains become invisible to our naked eye.


Hydrogen peroxide oxidation of double bonds
Credit: Clifton Carey

That is the entire chemistry behind how peroxide bleaches stains from your teeth. Essentially the free radicals are powerful oxidizing agents which attack the double bonds of stain molecules. As the stains lose their double bonds they absorb less color and reflect more of it. In other words they will start appearing whiter.


What research says

Studies have proven that whitening mouthwashes can whiten your teeth. However when compared to a 10% peroxide tray based product, the results paled in comparison. The conclusion was that while it did make your teeth whiter, it is not more effective than other methods.


The entire reason for the less than stellar results were due to the differences of peroxide concentration between the products. We find this to be unsurprising since this product does come in a fairly low concentration of peroxide.


Is it safe to use?

Whitening mouthwash is generally regarded as safe to use because it contains a low concentration of peroxide. The colgate optic white mouthwash has about 2% hydrogen peroxide. That is significantly lower than their most potent whitening toothpaste which comes in a 5% concentration.


5% peroxide whitening toothpaste
5% peroxide whitening toothpaste

It was formulated with a low concentration intentionally because they want you to be able to use it without much side effects. They probably also want you to be able to use it on a daily basis as well.


Since it has a low concentration, it is less likely to cause side effects such as sensitivity and gum irritation. You can also compare it to a professional in-office whitening that can be as high as 40% peroxide.


40% peroxide whitening gel

Last but not least, a whitening mouthwash is not a new invention nor product because people have been rinsing with hydrogen peroxide for decades. That little brown bottle of peroxide that you buy at the pharmacy can be used as a mouth rinse.


Here are the instructions for how to use it as an oral debriding agent by DailyMed:

  1. Mix with an equal amount of water.

  2. Swish around in the mouth over the affected area for at least 1 minute, then spit out.

  3. Use up to 4 times daily after meals and at bedtime


The labels for all of the various brands of peroxide never make a mention of it being a whitening mouthwash. However the primary ingredient in it is the exact same as your whitening mouthwash which means it can elicit the same effects. Yes, what we're implying is that swishing with plain hydrogen peroxide can whiten your teeth.



Pros and Cons


Advantages:

  • Inexpensive. It costs less than $10 so it is easily affordable.

  • Requires no additional time. You simply use it like any other mouthwash and all it takes is just 60 seconds of rinsing.

  • Kills bacteria. The peroxide is an antiseptic and helps to reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth.

  • Non-competitive whitening product. Everyone should have a mouthwash that they use regardless of if they are whitening their teeth. You don't have to choose between the mouthwash and the whitening strips. You can do both which is what we mean by it being non-competing.


Disadvantage:

The main disadvantage of using a mouthwash to whiten your teeth is that it may not be as effective as you may have hoped.

  • Short treatment duration. The time that you spend swishing the mouth rinse around is also the time that you spend whitening your teeth. Unfortunately you're only supposed to rinse for about 60 seconds which is a very short amount of time. If you compare it to the strips which require 30-60 minutes of application or even the overnight whitening pen, the time is very short. That means the rinse doesn't have a lot of time to "work on your teeth".

  • No saliva barrier. Our saliva contains a lot of salivary peroxidase which are enzymes that naturally degrade hydrogen peroxide. Exposure to excessive saliva will decrease the efficacy of the bleaching gel. While rinsing, we produce a lot of saliva and that can make the product less effective.

  • Low concentration. We all know that the higher the concentration of peroxide the faster it will whiten your teeth. That is why the professional whitening products have a very high concentration. Unfortunately the rinse has a very low concentration of peroxide, which means it may whiten your teeth at the pace of a snail.


How does it compare to other whitening products?

Whitening mouthwashes are a non-competing whitening product which means that it does not affect your teeth whitening choices. What we mean by that is that if you use this type of mouth rinse, you can still go ahead and use the whitening strips, pens, and trays. It is essentially its own category of bleaching product and that is an advantage in itself.


whitening toothpaste pen strips
whitening toothpaste, pen, strips

Nonetheless, if you were wondering how effective it is in bleaching your teeth when compared to other products, it is probably at the lower end. It is comparable to the toothpastes in terms of efficacy. That also means it is less effective and less potent than the strips, trays, pens, and all professional options.


Is it worth a try?

Yes, we do believe it is worth a try because you need to use a mouthwash anyway. If you wanted whiter teeth, why not replace your existing rinse with one that can make your teeth whiter. This is especially true since colored rinses like Listerine can cause teeth staining.


This is a no-brainer decision since you have to rinse your mouth anyway. It is also not expensive and doesn't require additional time out of your day. We say go for it and give it a try!


The Verdict

Whitening mouthwash can whiten your teeth since it contains legitimate whitening ingredients in it. Although the concentration is lower, the hydrogen peroxide is the same exact ingredient in professional products.


There is absolutely no reason why your teeth wouldn't get whiter if you rinse with it because the chemistry for the bleaching mechanism is the same.


However you may want to temper your expectations for how white they can make your teeth because the product comes with limitations. The no saliva barrier, low concentration, and short rinsing time hampers the whitening effect of this product.


Therefore if having the whitest teeth possible is your goal you may want to augment this with additional whitening products or even professional teeth whitening. That will give you even better results than using this mouthwash all on its own. That is also another advantage to using this product in that it does not preclude you from using whitening strips or other OTC products.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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