There is a great divide in this nation, and it may not be what you think. It has nothing to do with politics or a generation gap. One of the most controversial and emotional topics in many households has to do with (wait for it) straws, as in the narrow plastic tubes we use to sip our favorite drinks. New York City, California, and Hawaii, already have straw ban legislation in place, many universities are in line to do the same, and there is talk that even Queen Elizabeth II has banned straws from all royal properties (the rest of Britain will soon follow suite).
The primary reason for this war on straws has to do with what we do with them when we are done sipping our sodas and frappes; with an estimated 150 million tons of plastic polluting our oceans alone, it may be fair to say that straws, well, suck.
But with these pending straw bans in place, what about the impact that not using straws will have on our teeth? After all, aren’t straws considered a necessity by dentists and whitening enthusiasts alike who seek to avoid the damage done by stain-inducing drinks such as coffee, tea, juice, and red wine? Do straws really help protect your teeth? The answer may surprise you.
Don’t believe the hype.
Despite seeing supermodels and appearance-conscious professionals sipping their drinks from straws, the truth is straws don’t really keep darkly hued liquids from coming into contact you’re your teeth. In fact, straw sipping actually concentrates the liquids to one area of the mouth, which can be problematic. That means that, in your quest to keep your teeth white, you may actually be increasing your likelihood of producing cavity-inducing plaque, especially with drinks that are high in sugar and/or acid. That’s because sending a concentrated stream of fluid (especially when it’s a sugar-laden drink) to one area of the mouth can erode enamel and ultimately lead to tooth decay and dark splotches.
Technique is Key
For those who can’t seem to part with straws, the technique is key if you’re trying to prevent contact with the front teeth – the ones that people are most concerned with keeping bright. Holding the straw well behind the front teeth is your best bet. But drinking through a straw won’t be effective in preventing discoloration, as it isn’t just beverages that lead to a darkening of teeth, but also acidic foods, as well as medications – to include chemotherapy – aging, and a variety of other factors.
Sip, Rinse, Repeat
Sipping through straws can be practical if you have braces or have had surgery and are unable to open your mouth. No matter the reason why you use a straw, at a minimum, being diligent about rinsing your mouth thoroughly after consuming foods and beverages that can stain or erode your teeth. It’s a proactive approach that actually works. Using proper brushing techniques – to include brushing long enough with a soft bristle brush and fluoridated, whitening toothpaste – is also a wise bet for keeping your teeth healthy and bright.
Good oral hygiene supplemented by regular visits to your dentist will ensure a beautiful smile that can last a lifetime. Dr. Ari Binder is a venerated dental professional known for his engaging personality, warm chairside manner, and impressive dental expertise. Dr. Binder and his staff at 360 Dental offer a variety of services in their comfortable office and will work with you to develop a plan of action to create and maintain the smile of your dreams. For more information, call (541) 689-1645.