On Whitening Your Teeth With Hydrogen Peroxide

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The barriers of entry are stacked against whitening strips and my mouth—the main one being that I don't spend over $25 on a single product at Walgreens.

Sometimes white strips come into my possession, and I do find them useful if you're trying to lose weight and most of your closest relationships are built around affirmations that it's OK to have two dinners. Just smush one on when the delivery man arrives and you don't even need willpower. Still, this only provides me with one or two opportunities tops in the span of a week to use them. Maybe five.

I've found that just as effective as a complete go-round with white strips is swishing hydrogen peroxide in your mouth before brushing.

The concept has been around awhile, and you may have noticed that toothpastes are always crediting hydrogen peroxide as the most impressive ingredient on the front of the tube. While drugstore whitening systems have evolved into a confusing array of strips, pens, and trays, good ol’ H2O2 has been right in front of your face, an aisle over, the entire time. A 16 oz. bottle is $1.39—get the 3 percent solution that says “to use as rinse or gargle' on the label.

Your first go at this will feel strange. Your body will tell you no, but just toss some back into your mouth and swish *. At first hydrogen peroxide tastes like distilled water, but the flavor evolves into something reminiscent of chewing on a damp poly-blend sweater. It will foam and thicken into rabies, at which point I like to take a very soft, wet toothbrush and lightly polish the bubbles into my teeth. Then I jump right into the rest of my routine by brushing with regular toothpaste.

A graphic account might not be the strongest sell, but after five days of brushing with hydrogen peroxide once a day is when I usually start noticing a real difference in the overall whiteness of my mouth, at which point I'll stop. Now that I don’t have to worry about teeth stains I can finally be the person I’ve always wanted to be: that cool, mysterious girl who only orders black coffee.

—Annie Kreighbaum

*For regular hydrogen peroxide rinses, dilute with equal parts water.

Photographed by Annie Kreighbaum.