You have probably heard a variety of facts on whether the use of plastic straws is harmful or helpful to your teeth and oral health. Sometimes people say using and chewing on plastic straws is bad for your teeth while others have said drinking acidic and sugar liquids through a straw can help safeguard your teeth. So which is it? We're here to help you clear up this mystery!
It has often been said, even by dental professionals that drinking through a straw will lessen the exposure of teeth to staining from coffee and tea and the harmful effects of sugar from soda. This is absolutely not true. 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. We can almost guarantee you'll feel the liquid meet 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.
You also have to account for the fact that your tongue is in constant contact with your teeth, so if any of those sugar and acidic liquids like coffee or soda have touched your tongue, it will also get on your teeth.
Straws have other negative effects as well. Drinking through a straw introduces air into your digestive track, which can cause uncomfortable digestive symptoms like gas and bloating. It can also cause early wrinkles around the mouth from the act of puckering your mouth to sip from the straw. This emulates what smokers when taking a drag on a cigarette and can cause similar, unsightly results around the upper lip.
Dentists often recommend eliminating sodas and sugar juices from your diet and instead suggest drinking unsweetened beverages or beverages sweetened with xylitol. If you must indulge in a sugar, sweet drink, it's recommended that you drink a glass of water afterwards. This rinsing can help neutralize the acid from the drink and prevent staining.
Brushing your teeth after sipping on sugary liquids can also have the same effect, but if you choose to brush - be sure to wait at least 30 minutes after drinking, as your teeth are more sensitive after consuming acidic foods and rinks and brushing immediately after could cause more damage to your teeth's enamel.
Lastly, even though it isn't a direct effect to your oral health, it is a direct effect to our planet. Plastic straws are the 11th most found ocean trash and it can take up to 200 years for a plastic straw to decompose and they can't even be recycled in some places. Each year, 1 million sea birds and 100,000 marine animals die from ingesting plastic. We can do our part and phase plastic drinking straws out of regular use! Although our dentist would likely recommend phasing out all straws all together, it's all about the baby steps.