Myth Debunked: Drinking With a Straw Does Not Protect Your Teeth

Q:
Hi Dr. B! I’ve been told that chewing on straws can be bad for my teeth, but I’ve also been told that drinking acidic and sugary drinks through straws (e.g. coffee and juice) is actually safer for my teeth. Can you clear this up?

– Vicki M.

A:
Vicki, It is often said, even by dentists, that drinking through a straw will lesson the exposure of teeth to staining from coffee and tea and the harmful effects of sugar from soda. This is absolutely not true and I disagree with most of my colleagues on this one. Here’s why:

Next time you drink from a straw, try to notice if you can feel the drink from the straw touching your teeth or not. I guarantee you will feel the drink on your teeth. When you drink from a straw, you put the tip of it between your lips and in front of the teeth, so the damaging effects of sugary sodas will still harm your teeth. For those people who hold the straw between their teeth, the back of the teeth are still exposed. Keep in mind that the tongue is in constant contact with the teeth, so if any soda or coffee touches your tongue, it will also get on your teeth. If you’ve tasted the drink, the teeth have been exposed.

Therefore, the only way to protect your teeth using the straw method would be to place the tip of the straw at the back of the mouth behind the teeth and tongue so the liquid goes straight from cup to back of the throat without touching the teeth. Of course, at this point, it’s more like taking a shot than enjoying a juice or coffee, and defeats the whole purpose of drinking it!

The best thing to do after enjoying a sugary or staining drink (if you must) is to chase it with a glass of water, or even better, brush your teeth! Either one neutralizes the acids and minimizes the staining and damage to the teeth.

There are also other concerns with drinking from straws. Drinking through a straw causes gas. It also causes wrinkles around the mouth; the puckering you do to sip from a straw emulates what smokers do when they take a drag on a cigarette, which gives them unsightly wrinkles around the upper lip.

I urge you to eliminate soda and juice from your diet (drink unsweetened green tea instead!), but if you must, enjoy them with a glass of water afterwards.

Hope this helps!

Mark Burhenne DDS

Comments

Comments

  1. Cathy says

    Dr. B, thanks for this tip. I now keep a glass of water next to my cup of coffee at my desk at work and I find that I am not only well hydrated, but have to pop in my whitening trays way less. Thank you!

  2. Haimy says

    I’m strange, but the way I drink out of a straw is different from others. The straw goes behinds my teeth between my tongue and the roof of my mouth, I flex my tongue in a way that pushes the liquid to my throat, i can taste it and it generally only touches the roof of my mouth and my tongue. Kinda like a voluntary peristalsis with my tongue as the muscle.

    But I see where you’re coming from!

  3. Panamai says

    Me too, Haimy. I don’t pucker either, I hold my mouth pretty much the same way as I would to take a drink without the straw. I can definitely tell a difference in the sensitivity of my teeth when I use the straw. For this reason alone, I will continue to use one. I do need to try the water thing though. That’s a great idea!

  4. kees says

    Really? Do you recommend brushing your teeth after an acidic drink? Rubbing all of the enamel away… This is really dangerous. I find it very ridiculous that you’re posting that, as an authority, on the internet.

    You should only brush twice a day, morning and evening. Always wait 2 hours after your last acidic meal with brushing. When brushing only do so with soft circular motion under an angle of 45 degrees mainly rubbing your gums.

    You can brush your tongue alot of times, alot of bacteria accumulate on the tongue, so this is very benificial for your dental health and I don’t understand why dentists don’t recommend this more often.

    Also inspect your teeth for excessive plaque with your tongue.

    Always drink things like soda or orange juice with a straw so that only the last 2 back tooth are touched by the juice. It’s almost impossible to prevent the beverages to touch none of the teeth and what’s the point if you don’t taste it? So if you get cavities it’s in the back of your mouth and no one will see it. It goes without telling that limiting your soda intake is a smart thing to do.

  5. Amber says

    Just because you taste the drink doesn’t correlate directly with exposure to teeth as my college psychology class clearly pointed out .Not only do we have taste receptors on our tongue ,but they are also found on surrounding mouth tissues.Can someone with out a tongue taste yes they can.Just food for thought.I still found this interesting.Thank you for the tip.

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