Training (Sippy) Cups and Infant Dental Health

Training or sippy cups make life much easier for parents but most aren’t aware of the risks that training cups can have on their infant’s dental health.

Dentists and pediatricians have warned that the prolonged use of sippy cups can put an infant at high risk for cavities. In addition, what your child drinks and how frequently they drink throughout the day has an impact on their oral health.

Risk factors of using sippy cups:

It’s important to keep an eye on the liquid that goes into a training cup. Drinking sugary liquids like fruit juice, formula and milk can increase an infant’s risk of early childhood carries (cavities). To prevent this, limit juice and milk to mealtimes and give your toddler water between meals to increase salivary activity which will help clean their teeth. Unless you are using the Sippy cup at meal time, you should only fill it with water. Also avoid using sippy cups at bedtime or nap time unless they have only water in them.

More often than not, parents allow their children full access to their training cups throughout the day. This can be risky for infants learning to walk since falling while drinking may injure the baby’s teeth and mouth. Some experts also believe that extended use of training cups may retard proper speech development. If used for too long, the sippy cup can alter the position of the teeth and tongue leading to articulation and lisp problems.

Transitioning to a regular cup:

Sippy cups are designed for toddlers who don’t have the physical skill to drink from a regular cup. They are not meant to be a long-term solution, but due to their convenience most parents continue using training cups even when their child is able to drink from a regular cup.

Although there is no ‘best time’ for a child to quit using a sippy cup, it’s important to encourage your child to drink from a regular cup early enough, usually between 12 -15 months. The first part of the transition from a training cup to a big-kid cup is the most difficult. This is due to the fact that the suck mechanism of sippy cups is extremely different from that of regular cups.

When starting an infant on a regular cup, set two small cups for your child at meal times. Place one empty cup in front of your child and fill the other with water. Place it at the adults place and make a big deal out of drinking from a regular cup. Young children want to emulate their parents so if you place the cup at the adults place, chances are your toddler will want to know what you’re drinking and then follow suit.

Also, make it a habit to serve your child’s favorite drink in a regular cup. Whenever he really wants that drink, he will most likely start using the regular cup. Toddlers usually enjoy cleaning up, so try not to stress about the spills. Being aware of your child’s changing physical skills is important to ensure a smooth transition from sippy cups to regular cups.

As a parent, you make decisions on a daily basis that keep our child safe and healthy. In order to promote good dental health for your child, be sure to choose sippy cups carefully and be sure their use is time limited.

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. Each February, the American Dental Association (ADA) sponsors National Children’s Dental Health Month to raise awareness about the importance of oral health.

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