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Sipping Soda Through a Straw May Cut Cavities

But Don't Put the Straw Against the Teeth, Says Dentist
By
WebMD Health News

June 17, 2005 -- Using a straw when you drink soda may help avoid cavities and tooth decay, but the straw needs to be in the right place, say Temple University professors.

The straw shouldn't rest against your teeth, say Mohammed Bassiouny, DMD, PhD, MSc, and colleagues.

"Your best option is to sip soft drinks and other beverages through a straw positioned towards the back of the mouth," says Bassiouny in a news release. "Doing so will limit the amount of time the beverage is in contact with the teeth."

Bassiouny isn't bashing sodas. He says moderate consumption shouldn't cause significant damage. But overdoing it may be a problem, especially if dental habits aren't up to par.

2 Extreme Cases

Soft drinks are popular, but few people drink as much as the 18-year-old man and 16-year-old girl described by Bassiouny and colleagues in General Dentistry.

The 18-year-old routinely drank two liters soda every day, plus 20 more ounces before bed. The other teen, a 16-year-old girl, also drank a lot of soda -- a liter during the day, plus 12 ounces before bed.

Both had extreme tooth decay, to the point where bits of their teeth were falling out.

They aren't meant to represent all soda drinkers. The teens also didn't have the greatest health habits. Both were inactive, and the man was a smoker. No information is given on their brushing, flossing, or other dental care habits. But one thing is certain -- they had different drinking styles.

Straw Placement May Matter

The 18-year-old drank straight out of a can, often holding the beverage in the right side of his mouth for a while. The 16-year-old used a straw held against her teeth, says the report.

Their tooth decay reflected those drinking styles. Constant, prolonged exposure to sweet, acidic drinks may have played a role, says the report.

For that reason, it may be best to enjoy the occasional soft drink through a straw placed past the teeth, cleaning the mouth soon afterward, says Bassiouny, a professor in Temple's restorative dentistry department.

Industry's Statement

"It is inappropriate to single out soft drinks, other sweetened beverages, or any other factor as THE cause of dental cavities," says the web site of the American Beverage Association (ABA).

The ABA says cavities among U.S. children have fallen for the past 20 years. Reasons for the drop include fluoridated water and toothpaste, better oral hygiene, and greater access to professional dental care, says the ABA.

"The most important things children and adults can do to achieve and maintain good oral health are to eat a variety of foods in moderation, practice appropriate oral hygiene, and visit their dentist regularly," says the ABA.

More Tooth Tips

Moderation is also recommended in an Academy of General Dentistry news release. The academy also offers these tips:

  • Don't leave fluids in your mouth when sipping.
  • Don't drink soda before going to bed.
  • Don't brush immediately after drinking soda. The brush may harm weakened enamel.
  • When brushing, use a circular motion. Horizontal brushing can wear away weak enamel.
  • If you have a dry mouth, try to avoid carbonated beverages.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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