Moms and dads have been known to do whatever necessary to quiet fussy toddlers. Sippy cups with sugary drinks can be a part of that equation.
But there’s a price to be paid for today’s sugary beverages: cavities.
Children are at risk for tooth decay as soon as the first teeth emerge from the gums. And it’s becoming increasingly common for pediatric dentists to see little teeth with big problems.
Sugar on teeth attracts oral bacteria that produce harmful oral acids that weaken tooth enamel, making teeth more susceptible to decay.
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Are Sippy Cups to Blame for Cavities?
The transition from bottle feeding or breastfeeding to a “big kid cup” generally involves a sippy cup.
Sippy cups make it easy for toddlers to consume beverages without the worry of spills. Unfortunately, sippy cup design usually lends itself to a child’s upper teeth being immersed in liquid whenever the child has access to the cup.
“Sippy cups were created to help children transition from a bottle to drinking from a regular cup, but they’re too often used for convenience,” says Philip H. Hunke, DDS, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). “When kids sip for extended periods on sugared beverages, they’re exposed to a higher risk of decay. Sippy cups should only contain water unless it’s mealtime.”
Drinks that are high in sugar should rarely if ever be used in sippy cups, including:
- Sweetened water
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When Should Children Stop Using Sippy Cups?
A sippy cup can be introduced as soon as a child is physically able to grasp it. It should be discontinued as soon as the child’s motor skills allow them to use an adult cup – usually around his or her first birthday. It can be tricky and a little bit messy, but the sooner a child is in the habit of using a cup, the better it is for oral health.
It’s important for parents and caregivers to know that sippy cups are a temporary solution to help toddlers transition to adult cups. They shouldn’t be used as a means of pacifying children.
Other sippy cup dos and don’ts include:
- Do fill sippy cups with water
- Do reserve sippy cups for mealtimes and snack times
- Do transition to adult cups when motor skill development allows
- Don’t fill sippy cups with sugary beverages
- Don’t let children drink from sippy cups continuously throughout the day
- Don’t let children take sippy cups to bed
When Should I See a Pediatric Dentist?
Little ones might be ready for their first dental visit earlier than you think. The AAPD advises parents to schedule a check up with a pediatric dentist about six months after a first tooth emerges.
The visit is a good opportunity to discuss questions or concerns about oral care routines. Your child should continue to see a dentist every six months to a year thereafter.
For more information, visit UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s Division of Pediatric Dentistry.
From nutrition to illnesses, from athletics to school, children will face many challenges growing up. Parents often will make important health care decisions for them. We hope to help guide both of you in that journey. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh ranks consistently on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll. UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital is a longtime national leader for women and their newborns. We aim to provide the best care for your children, from birth to adulthood and beyond.