Reusable Straws: Protect Your Teeth and the Environment

Two kids sharing a drink

Reusable straws are not only great for the environment, they can also help keep your smile healthy and bright. Drinks like soda, coffee and other dark-colored beverages can leave stains on your smile over time. In addition, sugary, acidic drinks wear down enamel and pave the way for cavities. Drinking through a straw can help prevent discoloration and decay. So you're ready to step up and made the switch to straws. Now what? How do you choose what kind of reusable straw is right for you? Here are some options:

1. Stainless steel straws

The most prevalent reusable straw option is probably stainless steel. It's fairly inexpensive, portable, durable and easy to clean. However, there are some downsides to this option, especially for your teeth. If you were to clink too hard or bite this straw, you could end up with quite a toothache, or even a chipped or cracked tooth. This straw can also take on the temperature of your drink, potentially being very cold or hot against your sensitive lips. Lastly, there have been serious concerns about the safety of stainless steel straws for children, so use caution.

2. Silicone straws

This is a great straw alternative for kids because you don't have to worry about anyone chipping a tooth or injuring the inside of their mouth on a hard straw. Also, silicone straws are bendy, come in all kinds of colors and are dishwasher safe. Just make sure you get ones that are BPA-free, and always clean them thoroughly.

3. Bamboo straws

This is another great option for kids — the naturally softer material means there's little risk of tooth or mouth injury. Bamboo is non-toxic and biodegradable and is made from a sustainable resource. However, these straws do require a little extra care. It's important to clean and dry your straw completely in order to avoid bacteria growth.

TIP: Bamboo straws are excellent to keep around for drinking water. Having only water in the straw will eliminate any tricky clean-up, and using a straw in your water cup might just encourage you to drink more water. Win-win!

4. Titanium straws

If you want a straw that will last forever, this is the one. The ultra-lightweight material makes this straw less likely to clink against your teeth. Unlike stainless steel, titanium has lower thermal conductivity so it's less likely to get hot or cold as fast. They're extremely sturdy, resist corrosion and are dishwasher safe.

5. Glass straws

This elegant option is great for at home but maybe not the best for traveling. Most glass straws are made of heat-resistant, borosilicate glass, and are resistant to erosion from acidic drinks. As a natural insulator, glass is a good option for those with sensitive teeth. You might not want to let kids use these, just to be extra safe, and even adults should be cautious. Glass straws are hypoallergenic, don't have a taste and are nice to clean because they're clear!

Whichever kind of straw you choose, it's important to make sure you use it correctly to get the most benefit for your oral health. Position it toward the very back of your mouth in a way that limits the number of teeth, and the amount of time, that your drink touches your teeth. Otherwise you run the risk that the straw will concentrate the flow of that drink onto just a couple of teeth, actually increasing the damage to them.

Other than that, have fun with it! Try out different kinds of straws and see what works best for you and your family, and smile knowing that you're doing something good for the environment, as well as your teeth.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Tobacco's greatest threat to your health may be its association with oral cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that:

  • About 90 percent of people with mouth cancer and some types of throat cancer have used tobacco. The risk of developing these cancers increases as people smoke or chew more often or for a longer time.

  • Smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop these cancers.

  • About 37 percent of patients who continue to smoke after cancer treatment will develop second cancers of the mouth, throat or larynx. While only 6 percent of people who quit smoking will develop these secondary cancers.

  • Smokeless tobacco has been linked to cancers of the cheek, gums and inner surface of the lips. Smokeless tobacco increases the risk of these cancers by nearly 50 times.7