Carbamide peroxide is a chemical most frequently used as part of teeth whitening conducted in a dentist’s office. However, lower concentrations of the chemical can have other beneficial medical uses, including the loosening of excess ear wax and treating sores in the mouth. Carbamide peroxide can also be dangerous in higher amounts.
What is Carbamide Peroxide?
Carbamide peroxide is a chemical consisting of molecules of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen. At the foundation of the chemical is the same hydrogen peroxide you may have in your medicine cabinet to clean infections. However, the hydrogen peroxide solution is combined with urea, the source of the carbon and nitrogen which changes it to carbamide peroxide. When carbamide peroxide mixes with water, it releases oxygen. In its purest form, carbamide peroxide appears as white crystals that dissolve easily in water.
Uses of Carbamide Peroxide
As mentioned above, most people who have heard of carbamide peroxide encountered the chemical in a dentist’s office. That’s because the chemical is found in teeth whitening products, including some that are sold for in-home use. These products contain a low concentration, usually around 10%, of the chemical. Even lower concentrations of the chemical are used in medications that help treat mouth sores. Carbamide peroxide can reduce the presence of bacteria which can help these sores, such as canker soles or mouth ulcers, heal up faster. The chemical is often applied to the ears so that built-up earwax is loosened for easier removal.
How Carbamide Peroxide Bleaches Teeth
In your mouth, the chemical reacts with your saliva and releases the hydrogen peroxide. This solution is the real bleaching agent. Basically, the oxygen it contains works to break down the stains on the surface of the teeth. With repeated bleaching, the oxygen gets further into the tooth and tackles the intrinsic stains. Because the product works on surface stains first, you are able to see whitening results after the first use.
Dangers of Carbamide Peroxide
The chemical is used in low doses because in higher concentrations it can be dangerous to people. Even at concentrations of 15%, the chemical can be an irritant to the eyes, skin, and respiratory system, especially in people who are particularly sensitive to it. At doses of around 35%, carbamide peroxide can cause chemical burns to your skin and gums. Most people do not have these problems when they encounter lose doses of the chemical.
Although carbamide peroxide has repeatedly been demonstrated as a safe whitening agent, some people do experience minor side effects. The most common with whitening products is some sensitivity around the gums which usually goes away with repeated bleaching treatments. If the chemical comes in contact with the skin, it can cause a mild rash or irritation for some people. Additionally, the repeated use of carbamide peroxide to treat mouth sores can end up leading to the growth of unhealthy organisms because it kills bacteria that would prevent those organisms from growing. For this reason, oral treatments of this type should not be used for longer than seven days.