Sipping Soda Through a Straw May Cut Cavities

But Don't Put the Straw Against the Teeth, Says Dentist

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on June 17, 2005
From the WebMD Archives

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.