Is Drinking Through A Straw Good Or Bad For Your Teeth?

Is Drinking Through A Straw Good Or Bad For Your Teeth?

 Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH
Medical Reviewed on Oct 17, 2023
byDr. Matthew Hannan DDS
🔬 Evidence Based
Is Drinking Through A Straw Good Or Bad For Your Teeth?

Have you ever heard that it’s better for your teeth if you’re drinking through a straw? When you drink with a straw, you get a little head-start against acids, sugars, and stain particles from collecting across your front teeth. On the other hand, drinking through a straw after getting your wisdom teeth removed could be a huge no-no (and set you up for a dry socket.) But truth be told, investing in some reusable straws could help you keep your smile healthier and brighter if you use them the correct way! Should you drink with a straw? Let's talk straws!

Benefits Of Drinking Through A Straw

Unless you’re drinking fluoridated tap water, most other liquids have natural sugars, artificial sweeteners, and potential stain particles that basically coat your teeth every time you take a drink of them. That’s why some drinks are super bad for your smile, especially when you compare them to eating candy or processed carbs. 

When you drink through a straw, the liquids zip straight past all of your front teeth. Whereas drinking straight out of a glass or bottle allows those liquids to pour all over them, coating each of your front teeth. Drinking through a straw basically limits the extent of contact with non-water liquids. It gives you an edge up on better dental health, compared to not using a straw to drink. 

Is drinking through a straw a free ticket to drinking soda all day? No, but it can help with the following:

1. Prevents Stains On Front Teeth 

Dark liquid drinks like tea, iced coffee, and soda can easily stain your teeth and make them look several shades darker, especially if you drink them every day or multiple times a day. 

Instead of sipping on coffee all morning or tea all afternoon, switch to drinking with a straw. The straw will help those tiny stain particles zip straight past the front of your smile. Over time, you’ll have less stain buildup than you usually do. You could drink your red wine through a straw too, but it might look a little silly, so I’ll leave that one up to you.

If you recently whitened your teeth or invested in cosmetic bonding or veneers, the last thing you want is new stains on your front teeth. Drinking through a straw is one of the best things you can do to help preserve your aesthetic results and prevent tooth discoloration. Avoiding direct contact with your teeth will help when using a straw.

2. Prevents Tooth Decay

Other than water, black coffee, or plain unsweetened tea, most drinks have some type of natural or artificial sweetener with the potential to cause cavities. Liquid sugars are some of the worst, which is why drinks like soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks are so bad for your teeth. If you drink them too often, your cavity risk goes way, way up. 

Those sugary liquids seep deep down between teeth and into the chewing surfaces of your back teeth, increasing your risk of cavities. But if you drink with a straw, they’re at least missing most of your front teeth whenever you do indulge in something sweet now and then. A straw minimizes tooth decay and allows the sugar to bypass your teeth.

3. Improves Dental Hygiene

It might not be possible to prevent food and plaque from sticking to your teeth when you’re eating candy, crackers, or cheese, but drinking through a straw will at least help with the liquids! Since it’s limiting contact with your front teeth, there will consequently be less plaque buildup in that part of your smile. No, it doesn’t mean your entire mouth stays clean, but it does mean it’s “less dirty” or fewer “dirty” surfaces than it would be if you were just drinking straight from a bottle or cup.

4. Lessens Acidic Damage

Like sugar, acidic drinks can be bad for your enamel. Anything that’s acidic—like lemonade or orange juice—can erode your tooth enamel. The more often you drink it, the higher the risk there is of tooth enamel erosion. Using a straw can also help with pre-existing sensitive teeth.

Enamel erosion happens when the acids in your diet basically wear out your enamel, making it weaker and more prone to tooth sensitivity. Your teeth will be thinner, smoother, and more transparent than they were before. If there’s too much erosion, your teeth can start to chip and wear out prematurely.

If you’re in love with your morning glass of orange juice, go ahead and use a straw for drinking it. But if tooth sensitivity becomes an issue, use sensitive toothpaste.

5. Encourages Hydration 

When you’ve got a cute refillable cup in front of you that’s full of water, you’re more likely to stay hydrated throughout the day. A few sips here and there really add up. 

Plus, drinking a lot of water during the day is a natural way to lower acid and bacterial levels inside your mouth between meals. It can also help with preventing stain buildup, especially if you’re drinking water right after a meal where you had a glass of tea, for example. 

If you’ve got a cup and straw you’re drinking from between meals, you’re more likely to stay hydrated as opposed to occasionally stopping by the water cooler whenever you feel thirsty. And the more hydrated you are, the less likely you’ll be to experience dry mouth or a swollen tongue. 

6. Protects Teeth From Sugar 

If you’re going to indulge in a soda, Slurpee, sweet tea, or something else, the smartest thing to do is drink with a straw. Even though it doesn’t prevent the sugar from contacting all of your teeth, it definitely cuts down on sugar exposure on the teeth in the front of your mouth. It might not be a completely guilt-free solution, but it’s the lesser of the two evils when you do feel like ingesting some liquid sugar (I’m not denying it; I enjoy some from time to time, too!)

Down Sides Of Drinking Through A Straw

With all of the perks that come with using a straw to drink, are there any downsides? Now that you ask, yes, there are. Some are related to teeth, and others are not. 

1. Still Stain Back Teeth

Drinking through a straw might limit how much stain is visible on your front teeth, but it won’t prevent the stain from forming on your back teeth. If you’ve got a wide smile, there could be some discoloration that’s still visible. It will also add time to your dental checkup appointment because of how hard it sometime is to clean the stain off of teeth. 

2. Environment and Harbor Bacteria 

One of the things about reusable straws is that they’re a little challenging to clean and get completely dry between uses. That means there’s the potential for harmful bacteria to build up inside your straw, even if you’re only using it for drinking water. Make sure you’ve got the right straw cleaning tools on hand and use hot soapy water to clean it regularly, then let it completely drip dry. 

3. Smoker's Lips

People who have smoked for years get something called “smokers’ lips” or “pucker lines.”  That’s where tiny little wrinkles form on and around their lips. The same thing can happen if you’re always drinking with a straw or out of a water bottle. Like a lot of other creases and fine lines that form across your face, it has to do with contracting the muscles in your lips day after day.

4. Can Cause Cavities In Certain Areas Of The Mouth 

While drinking through a straw does help skip your front teeth, it means the majority of whatever you’re drinking is hitting the same spot in your mouth over and over. Frequent sugary drinks or juice intake feeds the bacteria that cause cavities. If that liquid is coming into contact with the same few teeth and you’re drinking these types of beverages regularly, those areas may be more likely to get cavities.

5. Dry Socket After an Extraction

One of the most common instructions you get after an oral surgery like wisdom tooth removal is “do not drink through a straw.” Why? Because there’s a potential for the suction to pull the blood clot out of your surgical site. If that happens, you get an extremely painful dry socket. Wait at least 10-14 days before you use a straw after a dental extraction. 

Should I Use A Straw?

When given a chance to drink with a straw as opposed to without one, I would use the straw, especially if you’re splurging on an occasional soda, tea, or sugary beverage, which might stain your teeth. Prevent staining by avoiding a concentrated stream of sugary or acid liquid to the front of our teeth. As long as you’re not worried about smokers’ lips and you didn’t just have a tooth pulled, drinking through a straw carries a lot more benefits than it does disadvantages.

TIP: Reduce plastic waste by investing in a reusable straw that are easy to clean and dishwasher safe. Also, opt for paper straws over plastic straws when you can!

Should You Drink With Straws?

Drinking through a straw can improve your oral health and cut down on your risk of getting stains or cavities on your front teeth whenever you’re drinking something sweet. It can also encourage you to drink more water throughout the day if you keep a large refillable cup with you. Sipping on water during the day lowers bacterial and acid levels and fights against dry mouth. But don’t drink through a plastic straw if you recently had a tooth extracted or are worried about wrinkles and fine lines around your lips.

 Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH
Written by Whitney DiFoggio MA, RDH"Teeth Talk Girl," is a registered dental hygienist. She started her dental health journey on YouTube, educating the public through videos.
Dr. Matthew  Hannan DDS
Medical Reviewed byDr. Matthew Hannan DDSDr. Matthew Hannan is a board-certified dentist and graduate of UT Health San Antonio School of Dentistry.
Last updated onOctober 18, 2023Here is our process

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