Can eating strawberries really whiten your teeth?

I’ve spent plenty on whitening strips and toothpastes over the years in hopes of erasing coffee stains and the like from my teeth.

But I’ve heard that strawberries can be a natural remedy for teeth whitening. I don’t remember where exactly I heard the claim, but it’s been taking up space in my brain for years.

Bloggers and vloggers tout the theory with tests and other content. YouTuber “Ellko,” made a video testing the “Pinterest beauty hack” in 2016 that has garnered upwards of 229,000 views.

Sounds too good to be true, right?

I thought so, but that didn’t stop me from upping my strawberry intake (any excuse to eat more berries, honestly). From what I’d heard, I assumed eating strawberries was the trick. But some sites actually recommended using strawberries to make a whitening paste with baking soda, claiming the berry’s malic acid was a natural remedy.

Even after reading I was still left wondering: Is it really healthy to whiten your teeth with strawberries?

When I asked experts, their verdict was clear: Strawberries aren’t the best way to whiten your teeth.

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Can strawberries really whiten your teeth?

Unfortunately for my fruit-loving self, strawberries don’t serve as a good teeth whitener.

Gena Hamshaw, a registered dietitian in New York City and the author of The Full Helping blog, debunked the myth. She says the acids in strawberries may erode tooth enamel “especially if the strawberries come into contact with teeth for a prolonged period of time.”

Dr. Ada S. Cooper, spokesperson for the American Dental Association, agrees. “The truth is the use of strawberries to whiten your teeth may actually do more harm than good,” Cooper says, adding the practice is “not advisable and is ineffective.”

A study published in 2015 in Operative Dentistry showed the idea that strawberries can serve as a healthy, effective remedy to whiten your teeth was misinformation. Researchers looked at 120 extracted molars split into six different groups for varying methods of teeth whitening and found that “DIY whitening was the least effective” method.

What happens when you apply strawberries to your teeth?

Cooper breaks down what happens when you apply strawberries to your teeth to try to whiten them.

“Strawberries contain citric acid which may give teeth a very temporary whiter appearance after you apply it,” she says.

But that doesn’t mean the stains on your teeth have been removed.

The acid from the berries breaks down your tooth enamel and causes dehydration. So, the teeth may temporarily appear whiter.

“Shortly after the tooth color returns, making any benefit that it might provide to tooth whitening first of all negligible and secondarily very, very transient,” she says.

It’s an illusion. Your teeth may look whiter for an hour or so but that doesn’t mean they are actually whiter.

“Strawberries don’t contain any ingredients that can actually lift stains off of the tooth structure,” Cooper says. “And that’s what’s necessary in order to whiten your teeth.”

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If you want to whiten your teeth, see your dentist first

Cooper advises seeing your dentist before deciding on any whitening option whether you’re investigating tooth whitening paste, in-office treatments or take home treatments. Sometimes, whitening treatments won’t actually work to fix discoloration of concern.

“Oftentimes, discoloration in the tooth structure can be caused by things that are not going to be corrected by tooth whitening like cavities and other other problems,” she explains, noting a dentist would be able to help determine the proper course of treatment.

You can still eat strawberries

While strawberries are not a great option for teeth whitening, they aren’t going to hurt your teeth if you continue to eat them.

There’s a big difference between eating strawberries and placing them to sit on the tooth structure to whiten your teeth.

“When you eat strawberries, strawberries are exposed to your tooth structure for a very limited period of time,” Cooper says. “So, the citric acid doesn’t have an opportunity to erode the tooth structure.”

On top of limited exposure, your saliva contains properties that can neutralize acids, according to Cooper. Those factors minimize the damage that citric and other acids found within strawberries can cause.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Do strawberries make your teeth whiter?

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