For some time now, there’s been an on-again, off-again debate within the dental community and society at large about whether or not drinking with a straw can prevent cavities and staining of the teeth and gums. It is a good debate to have, if only because it is a sign of even greater awareness about the importance of healthy lifestyle choices in the battle to counter tooth decay and other oral hygiene issues. Dental professionals have weighed in on both sides of the issue, so the question remains open: can straws protect your teeth?
The Advocates’ Case
In a report published more than a decade ago in an issue of the peer-reviewed General Dentistry, a study of how patients drink soft drinks and other liquids suggested that straws may help reduce tooth decay. That conclusion was based on monitoring where tooth decay was found in patients’ mouths, and comparing those results to those patients’ drinking habits.
For example, patients who tended to allow liquid to remain in their mouths for any length of time tended to have more decay around their back molars. Patients who sipped liquids slowly, or through a straw just inside their lips, typically had decay on the front of their teeth. Those results led researchers to the conclusion that straws could be useful for controlling the amount of sugary liquid that touches the teeth, provided that patients position them past the teeth and toward the middle or back of the mouth.
The Naysayers’ Argument
Of course, there is another side to this argument as well. Some dentists remain convinced that the focus on straws as tooth-protecting devices might give patients a false sense of security when it comes to soft drinks and other sweetened beverages. After all, they say, if the liquid enters your mouth then it will make contact with your teeth in one way or another. Straws at the front of the mouth expose the front of the teeth to sugar, while straws at the back of the mouth expose the molars. Of course, either method results in some sugar making contact with your tongue, and your tongue regularly comes into contact with your teeth anyway.
Finding Common Ground
While both arguments have some merit, the naysayers may have the stronger case to make. The fact is that even the use of a straw cannot prevent all of the sugars from making contact with your teeth. That’s why dental professionals recommend limiting the consumption of soft drinks, and consuming water after your soda is finished so that you rinse the sugars from your teeth. Of course, you may still be able to prevent some staining on those front teeth by using a straw, but don’t rely on that possibility so much that you neglect your regular oral hygiene regimen.
At Ebenezer Dental, we applaud all of our patients’ efforts to protect and preserve their teeth and gums. That’s why we always recommend that you follow your prescribed brushing and flossing regimen, limit your intake of sugary foods and beverages, and regularly visit the best dentist in midtown Manhattan. Give us a call today to find out more about how we can help you keep your teeth looking and feeling their best.