Does Drinking Through a Straw Prevent Cavities?

I’ve heard a lot of myths – a.k.a. excuses – in my years as a dentist. It’s worth it for me to highlight some of them every so often. Today’s myth is that drinking through a straw prevents cavities.

Modern Dental Man with Waterjug

The Untruth:

It was a pretty popular myth years ago when there were some studies coming out about the topic. It typically goes something like this:

Using a straw puts the sugary drink toward the back of the mouth where it’s swallowed directly so the sugar won’t stick to your teeth and you won’t have tooth decay.

The Truth:

Yeeeeaaaahhhh, I think it could help a little bit. But it’s not enough to be significant because you’ll still have sugar in your mouth.

 Cavities are caused by bacteria eating sugar and producing acid, so the bacteria will still get some of the sugar if you are drinking through a straw. It might help to keep it from sticking to your teeth specifically, but the overall environment in your mouth will still be highly conducive to tooth decay.

The thing that would really help is to limit your mouth’s exposure to all sugar, not just limiting where the sugar makes contact with your teeth.

Natural Cleansing Process

The worse thing you can do is get a can of Coke and sip on it all day. Drinking a 54 oz Coke for lunch would be worse for your body but it would be better for your teeth than sipping.

 Why?

The answer is in your saliva.

Even if you didn’t brush and floss right after, drinking it all at once is still better because saliva can help clean your mouth out. It takes your mouth 30-60 minutes to get rid of the acid and sugar. So if you sip every hour then you are replacing the acid that your mouth just removed.

Take it from me and give up as much of those sugary drinks that you can. And when you do have one, drink it during a meal and rinse your mouth out after. You and your smile (and possibly even your waistline) will thank me for it later!

~Dr. Wagner

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