Straws have become a frequently debated topic in the 21st century. The issue of whether or not to use straws requires you to consider the health, dental, and environmental impact straws have on our daily lives.
By searching online you will find advocates both for and against straws. Ultimately, the decision is up to you, but remember there are other options that can be the best of both worlds. Consider re-usable straws (often metal) as a way to balance some of the pros and cons we will discuss below.
Pros for using straws
Straws are often more hygienic than drinking directly out of a cup – helping protect you from exposure to bacteria.
Canned beverages may have bacteria on the lid from manufacturing/handling and restaurant glassware may have been poorly cleaned around the top edge. Using a straw can help prevent direct contact with the exterior or lip edge of these drinks.
Your dentist may also recommend you use a straw to decrease potential staining or discoloration on your front teeth. So long as you are putting the straw in your mouth past your front teeth you are effectively limiting the beverage’s exposure to your front teeth. This can particularly be the case for the pesky staining and plaque on the back side of your front teeth that you can not see on your own.
Talk to your dentist about this though, they may advise you that drinking from a straw will instead increase staining on your back teeth if you are not using the straw efficiently.
The elderly or individuals with disabilities may find it easier to drink with a straw because it can result in a decreased risk of spilling. After all, you do not need to tip the beverage.
Cons for using straws
Though paper straws were used as early as the 19th century, by the 1970s plastic straws were the standard. Now many Americans use straws without even thinking twice about it. So much so that nearly 500 million plastics straws are used in the United States each day. That’s nearly 1 straw for each American adult or child – each day.
Besides the environmental concerns, frequent use of straws can cause you to develop wrinkles in your lip, similar to a smoker. The repeated movement of your top lip to insert the straw is similar to the action of placing a cigarette in your mouth.
Lastly, straws tend to draw in excess air which then is sucked into your digestive tract leading to gas and bloating briefly after drinking a beverage with a straw.
What’s the verdict?
It comes down to what makes the most sense to you. Obviously, the US use of 500 million straws per day is a substantial problem. But using a straw can benefit your health and safety.
The solution for most people is probably somewhere in the middle. Can you make a habit of using a reusable straw? Can you go without a straw for one beverage and not another? Can you drink said beverage at home where you are less likely to use a disposable straw?
Remember the benefits the next time you reach for a straw, but also remember it is contributing to the 500 million straws we use in a single day. It’s a staggering number, and one we can only reduce by all making small changes.