These days, drinking straws are very widely used. When you get a drink out and about, a straw can give you an easy, sanitary way to drink your beverage. At most restaurants, drinks automatically come with a straw, and many people are also choosing to purchase reusable straws to use at home and on the go. Silicon, glass, and metal drinking straws can be found in most people’s homes now. But how does drinking through a straw affect your teeth? Are drinking straws good or bad for your dental health? We’ve created a list of the pros and cons of drinking through a straw to answer those questions.

What Are the Benefits of Drinking Through a Straw?

Drinking beverages with a straw tends to be better for your oral health for a number of reasons, and it can also be beneficial for other aspects of your overall health. Some of the main benefits of drinking through a straw include:

  1. Prevents staining of front teeth – When you drink through a straw, there is decreased contact between the drink and your front teeth, especially if you place the straw past your front teeth. Dark beverages such as soda, tea, and coffee are all known to cause discoloration of the teeth, and when you sip from a glass, they fully coat your teeth. So, by drinking through a straw to send beverages past your front teeth, you reduce their ability to discolor them.
  2. Protects teeth from acid damage – Soft drinks, fruit juice, alcohol, and lemon water all have a high pH. Over time, this acidity can dissolve tooth enamel, which leads to tooth sensitivity and other dental health problems. By drinking these beverages from a straw, you can reduce their contact with your teeth by directing them to the back of the mouth, decreasing enamel exposure to these acids.
  3. Shields teeth from sugar – When you sip a sweet beverage from a glass, the drink comes in direct contact with your entire mouth, coating your teeth in sugar. Decay-causing bacteria feed on this sugar, putting you at a higher risk of developing tooth decay and requiring fillings or other dental work. Drinking through a straw minimizes your teeth’s exposure to sugar when the straw is positioned toward the back of your mouth.
  4. Encourages hydration – Many people find that they drink more water throughout the day when they drink through a straw. This is because it’s more convenient to sip through a straw than to tilt a glass to your face. Staying hydrated is very important to both your oral health and overall wellbeing.
  5. Improves hygiene – Drinking through a straw is more sanitary than putting your mouth directly on a glass or can. If a glass in a restaurant wasn’t properly washed or handled, it could harbor bacteria. Harmful bacteria can also accumulate on the lids of aluminum cans during storage, transport, or handling at the store. A drinking straw keeps you from having to put your lips on a surface that may be covered in bacteria you don’t want in your mouth.

What Are the Drawbacks of Drinking Straws?

While there are many benefits that drinking through straws can have for your dental health, there are also a few drawbacks to keep in mind. These include the following:

  1. Can cause stains on back teeth – While drinking straws help reduce discoloration of your front teeth, their use will not eliminate staining altogether. The beverage may touch your back teeth instead, which can lead to staining in these other areas. If you place the straw in front of your front teeth, they will still be susceptible to staining as well.
  2. Can lead to smoker’s lips – Sucking on a straw requires you to pucker your lips. This can lead to wrinkles around the lips, called smoker’s lips. This term relates to the wrinkles that form around the mouth from smoking cigarettes for years. These same wrinkles can form from repeated use of drinking straws because the lip movement is similar.
  3. Can concentrate beverage stream to cause cavities – Depending on the way the straw is positioned, it can cause a more concentrated stream of liquid to hit one or a couple teeth repeatedly. This can cause uneven tooth decay and form cavities at the back of the mouth and/or between teeth. It’s very important to position your drinking straw so that your beverage is not hitting your teeth.

Best Types of Drinking Straws for Your Teeth

If you choose to use a drinking straw, it’s best to use a paper or reusable straw to cut down on plastic waste. There are a lot of reusable straw options out there, so here’s a quick guide to help you decide on the best reusable straw for you.

  • Stainless steel – One of the most common reusable drinking straw options is stainless steel. These straws are inexpensive, durable, portable, and easy to clean. However, a stainless-steel straw can give you a toothache or even chip or crack a tooth if you clink it on your tooth or bite it. Stainless steel can also become very cold or hot depending on the temperature of your drink, which can be uncomfortable on your lips or teeth.
  • Silicone – Silicone straws are an especially great option for children because there’s no risk of chipping a tooth or injuring the inside of the mouth on this soft straw. These straws tend to be dishwasher safe and come in a variety of colors. Make sure you get silicone straws that are BPA free, and be sure to clean them thoroughly.
  • Bamboo – Bamboo is a softer material, which means it also poses little risk of injuring teeth or the mouth. Bamboo is non-toxic and biodegradable, and it comes from a sustainable source. These drinking straws will require more care than others, though. You must thoroughly clean and dry the straw to avoid bacteria growth.
  • Titanium – A titanium straw is very durable and will last a very long time. Titanium is a lightweight material, which means the straw is less likely to clink painfully against your teeth. It is also less thermally conductive, meaning it won’t get very hot or cold while sitting in your beverage. This type of straw is sturdy, dishwasher safe, and corrosion resistant.
  • Glass – Glass straws don’t travel well, but they’re a great option for at home. These straws are made from heat-resistant, borosilicate glass that will resist erosion from acidic drinks. Glass will protect lips and sensitive teeth from hot and cold temperatures. These drinking straws are also hypoallergenic, don’t have a taste, and are easy to clean.

Take Care of Your Teeth with the Help of University General Dentists

While drinking through a straw can provide some great benefits to your oral health, it can’t replace other dental health practices. You still need to make sure you rinse your mouth after drinking sugary or acidic beverages, and don’t neglect brushing and flossing! Another important aspect of your oral health routine is seeing your general dentist every 6 months for a cleaning and checkup.

Here at University General Dentists, we want to help you maintain the best oral health possible. We provide routine cleanings and preventative treatments so you can avoid running into problems with your teeth. If you do experience a problem and need a filling, crown, root canal, extraction, or other dental procedure, we can get your teeth feeling better and back to good health in no time. If your love for sugary beverages has already stained your teeth, we also offer cosmetic dentistry treatments such as whitening and veneers to get your smile back to pearly white perfection. Whatever your dental needs may be, University General Dentists can help. Reach out to us today to schedule an appointment with a Knoxville dentist. Call our UT Medical Center Office at 865-305-9440 or our West Knoxville Office at 865-500-5700.