Sippy Cups

Many pediatric dentists believe that prolonged sippy cup use can contribute to toddler tooth decay. While sippy cups are helpful during the transition from bottles to regular cups, their prolonged use can lead to cavities in young children. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry advises parents to schedule a dental visit around six months after the first tooth appears. During this visit, the dentist can provide guidance on sippy cup use, oral care routines, and strategies to eliminate harmful habits.

When should my child use a sippy cup?

A sippy cup should be introduced when the child is first physically able to grasp it.  Its use should be discontinued as soon as the child has enough motor control to use an adult-sized cup – usually around one year of age.  Children are at risk for tooth decay as soon as the first teeth emerge from the gums, making it crucial to implement a good oral care routine as early as possible.

During the sippy cup period, pediatric dentists provide the following guidelines for parents:

  1. Don’t fill sippy cups with sugary liquids (opt for water whenever possible).
  2. Don’t let children sip continuously from a sippy cup (remove the cup when the child has finished drinking).
  3. Don’t let the child take a sippy cup to bed (unless it contains water).
  4. Don’t use sippy cups to comfort a distressed child (especially one containing sugary liquids).
  5. Frequently rinse the sippy cup with water to eliminate germs.

If the child must drink sugary liquids, let them do it at mealtime (when saliva production is at its highest levels).

How do sippy cups cause tooth decay?

Tooth decay is not caused by sippy cups themselves, but rather by the sugary liquids often placed in them. Breast milk, formula, fruit juice, soda, and sweetened water can contribute to decay.

The continuous exposure to sugars in sippy cups can lead to the production of harmful acids by oral bacteria. These acids attack the tooth enamel, making it more susceptible to decay. Cavities can even develop between the teeth, which may not be easily visible. Regular visits to the pediatric dentist every six months help monitor the teeth's condition and prevent the development of cavities. 

Which sippy cup should I choose for my child?

Not all sippy cups are the same, and the American Dental Association (ADA) offers guidelines for selecting a suitable one:

Avoid "no-spill" valves – These cups hinder the child's sipping motion and release only small amounts of liquid, leading to more frequent exposure to sugars.

Choose a spout – Opt for cups with snap-on or screwing lids with a spout instead of other options. These cups encourage proper drinking habits and are not just like "glorified baby bottles."

Prefer two handles – The aim is to help the child become comfortable holding an adult-sized cup. Cups with two handles promote this habit early as larger cups typically require both hands.

If you have questions or concerns about tooth decay or the use of sippy cups, please contact our office.

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