Is Drinking Coffee with a Straw Better for Your Teeth?

ice coffee with a straw

QUESTION: – Is drinking coffee with a straw better for your teeth? I don’t want my teeth to get yellow. – Aliesha B. 

ANSWER: – The answer to this question is a bit tricky. You can make a case for both a yes or a no answer to whether drinking coffee and other dark, teeth-staining liquids through a straw can help prevent teeth staining. Using a straw while drinking coffee and other dark liquids can help you avoid submerging your front teeth, which can help lessen staining on the most cosmetic areas of your mouth. However, using a straw doesn’t guarantee that the liquids you are drinking through it don’t touch your teeth. Depending on how you use the straw, the drink can still touch your teeth unless you are shooting it down your throat, which is not how most people use a straw. 

Drinks like coffee, soda, black tea, wine, and fruit juice can be bad for your teeth in multiple ways. Not only can these drinks stain your teeth, but the acidity levels in many of these beverages can actually strip the enamel from your teeth with prolonged exposure. Using a straw while drinking these beverages can limit the liquid that touches your front teeth, but the back of your teeth, and the teeth in the back of your mouth are still going to be compromised. 

Compared to drinking straight from a glass, drinking through a straw allows much less liquid to come in contact with your teeth, which can lessen the exposure of your teeth to damage from sugar, and high acidity. When sweet and acidic drinks are consumed straight from the glass, the sugary, acidic liquid comes in contact with your whole mouth. 

One great way to offset this problem is to follow coffee, fruit juice, tea, and other sugary, acidic, or darkly colored beverages with water. Drinking a glass of water after any drink that can damage your teeth will rinse the sugar and acidity from your mouth so that it doesn’t just sit there and damage your teeth. Brushing your teeth after consuming drinks like these is another option, but as you probably already brush first thing in the morning and just before bed, it’s not likely that you will also brush your teeth after drinking beverages throughout your day. Instead, a glass of water can remove a lot of the damaging compounds, especially if you swish it around a bit and allow it to really clean your teeth in the process of consuming it. 

Using real milk, or half and half in your coffee can actually lessen the staining as well. Not only does adding animal milk products lighten the color of your coffee, which lightens the potential staining capability of the liquid too, but also, the proteins in animal milk attach themselves to the polyphenols in coffee that would otherwise stain the teeth, flushing them into your digestive system. Without the protein, these compounds would be more likely to bind with your teeth and continue to cause damage long after you have finished your cup. 

Still, even coffee that has been diluted with milk can stain your teeth. If you look at your tooth enamel up close under a microscope, you will see that your teeth are covered in tiny imperfections, like ridges, divots, or indentations. When you drink coffee, and other dark liquids, the pigments of these drinks settle in these cracks in the surface, and if they are not cleaned regularly, will begin to stain the enamel over time. 

Dentists recommend that you brush your teeth well and floss after drinking your coffee. If you don’t have time to do a full brush and floss after every cup of coffee, drinking a glass of water to rinse out the coffee from your mouth is highly recommended. Dentists also recommend getting your teeth cleaned professionally twice per year. Drinking your coffee through a straw will not keep you from needing to get your teeth cleaned occasionally, nor does it make brushing or rinsing after drinking coffee unnecessary. However, drinking through a straw can help keep your smile a bit brighter by taking some heat off of your front teeth, which is a plus. 

Using straws these days is a very controversial decision, as plastic straws are overused and absolutely horrible for the environment, as they are not reusable, nor are they accepted by most recycling programs. The amount of waste that is caused by plastic drinking straws is obscene, and it is up to us to decide not to use wasteful products like straws so that we leave a cleaner planet for the people who come after us. If you’re going to start using a straw regularly to keep dark liquids off your teeth, we highly recommend investing in a reusable straw. Reusable straws are available in metal, glass, and bamboo varieties. You can also get recyclable paper straws to lower your ecological footprint while still enjoying the convenience of using a straw that you can throw away without a heavy conscience. 

Learn More About Coffee, Straws and Teeth

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