You’ve probably come across the terms ‘Hydrogen Peroxide’, ‘Carbamide Peroxide’, ‘Peroxide Free’, ‘PAP’ and a myriad of other terminology. We constantly get asked what is the difference? what do they mean? and which one should I choose?
So, we have broken down the chemistry and confusing terms to provide a simple explanation as to different whitening ingredients currently available on the market.
What are Whitening Ingredients?Simply put – these terms relate specifically to the active ingredient(s) found within the whitening gel or product itself. Peroxide products cause a chemical reaction called oxidation and this in turn ‘whitens’ your teeth. In other words, as the whitening gel contacts your teeth, it begins breaks down, releasing oxygen which penetrates the tooth’s enamel, thereby, lifting surface stains and resulting in your teeth becoming “whiter”. Interestingly, this is the bubbling sound or sensation noticed when using peroxide-based teeth whitening gel at home or in the chair at the dentist.
Breaking it down… Carbamide vs Hydrogen?
There are countless tooth whitening products which all contain differing active ingredients, however, the most common are Hydrogen and Carbamide Peroxide. Most manufacturers have variations of these basic products. Easily put:
Hydrogen Peroxide whitens quickly and requires shorter wear time e.g. 6% Hydrogen Peroxide = 30mins wear time. Hydrogen peroxide gels may involve a higher degree of temporary tooth sensitivity
Carbamide Peroxide whitens slower and requires a longer wear time. e.g. 18% Carbamide Peroxide = 90mins wear time. Carbamide Peroxide gels are often recommended for those concerned about sensitivity.
A 6% hydrogen peroxide gel is equivalent to a 18% carbamide peroxide gel i.e. 1:3 ratio – many assume the 18% is stronger, however, they are equivalent!
So, what about Peroxide Free and others?
There are literally 1000’s of different whitening products with unique ingredient combinations or formulations. Recently Peroxide Free and natural alternatives have become increasingly popular. Some of these products have their place but it is important to understand that teeth whitening is not a one size fits all – everyone’s mouth is unique and needs to be managed accordingly. It is always worth taking time to understand the product and how it works prior to placing it in your mouth.
Piecing it together, which gel should I use?
As teeth whitening is extremely individualised it depends entirely on your situation, whitening goals, and personal preferences. Generally, users looking for the quickest wear time and who have no sensitivity issues prefer Hydrogen Peroxide base gels. Those who prefer a longer wear time or have sensitivity issues consider Carbamide Peroxide or Peroxide Free gels to be more appropriate. Regardless, it is always important to seek professional advice prior to any whitening procedure.
Take Home Message
There are many whitening brands and gels each with differing whitening ingredients and claims. Usually, the active whitening ingredient determines how long the whitening gel is worn for. It is always important to understand the product best suited to your needs (as this varies between individuals) and this should always be completed by a dental professional.