The latest mini-trend among people who are conscious about their health and sparkle of their teeth is to take highly sugary, coloured or acidic drinks with a straw. There are even wine straws available for those who would like to protect their teeth from staining and cavities while still enjoying their favourite soda or red wine. But does the straw really protect your teeth?
To answer this question, you have to try and re-simulate the process of taking a highly sugary or acidic drink. Do you taste or feel the drink in your mouth when you drink via a straw? The “sweetness” of these drinks is best felt when we taste or feel them in our mouth where the taste buds are. So if you are using a straw and still enjoy the taste of your sugary drink, then the use of the straw is simply perfunctory. It is trendy and gives you a feel-good factor but it is not doing much in preventing the drink from coming into your contact with your teeth. You would only be protecting your teeth when using a straw if you are able to figure out a way of totally keeping the drink off your teeth.
The best compromise is to sip the drink with the straw in a way that will minimise the length of duration of contact that the drink will have with your teeth. The preferred mode and most comfortable mode of straw use is also the most harmful. Generally, people sip the drink with the tip of the straw. They place the straw right in front of their teeth and sip in the drink which ends up “bathing” the entire mouth with the flavour and maximising the time and surface area of exposure between the teeth, gums and the drink.
The best way to minimise the exposure is by positioning the straw behind the teeth and making quick sips of the drink. You should also swallow the drink as soon as you sip it. This allows you to enjoy the taste of the drink while significantly reducing the length of time that drink takes in the mouth. You should only let the drink linger in the mouth for a few seconds. While your teeth will still be exposed to the drink, the short duration of time that the drink takes in the mouth will minimise the damage on the enamel.
There are other ways in which you can minimise the impact of sugary and acidic drinks. For example, after a drink, you can brush your teeth or rinse your mouth with clean water. Do not brush your teeth immediately after taking a sugary or acidic drink. Give it a few minutes for the saliva to re-mineralise and harden the enamel otherwise you are likely to corrode your enamel as acidic drinks generally weaken the surface and thin films of the teeth which can peel off when you brush it hard enough.