If you want to keep your teeth sparkling white sans expensive chemicals, rumor has it all you have to do is mix strawberries with baking soda and BAM: You’ve got your very own all natural (and thrifty) teeth-whitening formula. But does it really work? New research suggests not so much.An October 2014 study published in the journal Operative Dentistry compared a homemade strawberry-baking soda recipe with three other teeth-whitening solutions. Dr. So Ran Kwon, University of Iowa associate professor and lead author of the study, rubbed a mix of California-grown organic strawberries and baking soda on 20 recently extracted teeth for five minutes, then gently brushed them. She repeated this process three more times over 10 days, much like the all natural teeth whitening advocates recommend.Also in play were three more groups of 20 teeth: one group mimicked teeth whitening you’d score at a dentist’s office, another a prescribed tooth-whitening regimen, and the last over-the-counter whitening strips.

The result? Other than removing superficial debris, the strawberry-baking soda mix produced no whitening results, while the other three methods provided the deep, long-lasting effects you’d look for in a whitening cocktail. “The only benefit of the DIY method is while it seems to make your teeth look whiter, they look that way because you’re removing the plaque accumulation on your teeth,” said Kwon. “What you really want is something that penetrates into your teeth and breaks down the stain molecules. If you don’t have that, the results are merely superficial.

”You may want to avoid the fruit aisle entirely (at least where your teeth are concerned). According to the American Dental Association, the key ingredient in tooth-whitening products is carbamide peroxide, which morphs into hydrogen peroxide and becomes the active bleaching agent – an ingredient you won’t find in strawberries. What’s worse: In a June 2014 study published in the journal Odontology, Kwon also discovered the strawberry-baking soda blend reduced the surface hardness of teeth by up to 10 percent, thanks to the erosive effect of the fruit’s citric acid. Ouch.

But you and your pearly whites need not despair. “If your pocketbook doesn’t permit a professional treatment, there are plenty of over-the-counter bleaching kits that are a fraction of the cost and only take a week or two to complete,” wrote Dr. Nicolas Toscano, DDS, Manhattan-based Periodontist in an email. The peroxide is necessary to get past the surface stains and lighten the pigments that have stained your teeth. From there, you can use natural methods – such as baking soda or an all-natural brightening toothpaste – to maintain the surface of your smile. (Just don’t use the baking soda scrub any more than once a week so as to not damage your enamel.)