In an age where straight, white smiles are becoming ever easier to achieve — and therefore ever more expected — people are constantly seeking an at-home miracle cure for yellowing teeth.
One suggested whitening system that has circulated recently is a concoction of strawberries and baking soda. The method has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, as well as on numerous online platforms. But does it actually work?
According to an article published Oct. 27 on Live Science, the answer (perhaps both disappointingly and predictably) is no.
So Ran Kwon, a researcher at the University of Iowa, was prompted to test the strawberry method when the topic came up at a 2012 American Association for Dental Research conference in Tampa, Florida, and none of the assembled professionals had a definite answer as to whether it would be effective.
“This prompted me to look more into those DIY natural whitening approaches,” Kwon explained to Live Science.
In order to test the strawberry whitening recipe, Kwon spent five minutes rubbing a mixture of organic strawberries and baking soda on 20 newly extracted human molars and then lightly brushed the teeth. This process was repeated three times a day for 10 days (following procedures commonly outlined online).
Based on two color tests, the mixture had no discernable whitening effect, although it did remove some superficial debris from the teeth.
Kwon’s research group, which published its findings this month in the journal Operative Dentistry, also tested the efficacy of over-the-counter whitening methods that mimic professional tooth whitening. These methods all produced some whitening.
“Natural” methods often draw users in because laypeople assume these ingredients are healthier for the teeth than “chemical” treatments used by dentists.
But naturally occurring chemicals such as those in fruits can actually cause further tooth damage.
Kwon’s study showed that the surface hardness of teeth treated with the strawberry mixture was decreased by up to 10%. This is because of the corrosive properties of citric acid, which is found in strawberries.
Lemons also used to be touted as a natural whitening agent, until it was discovered that their citric acid caused tooth erosion.