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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Hidden Dangers of Sippy Cups

Early childhood dental decay is on the increase in Kentuckiana.  A study completed by the The Center for Disease Control (CDC) comparing the dental health of Americans found that dental decay in children aged two to five increased 15.2 percent between the years of 1988-1994 and 1999-2003. 

According to a study published in the Journal of Dentistry for Children, nearly one-third of toddlers with tooth decay used sippy cups.
Sippy cups are designed to help toddlers transition between baby bottles and regular drinking glasses.  The sippy cup, by itself, does not promote dental decay.  The problem occurs when the cup is filled with liquids that contain hidden sugar such as milk, fruit juice, soda or even the increasingly popular flavored water.  The sippy cup, by design, only emits a small amount of fluid at a time. The result is that young children are literally soaking their teeth for long periods of time in sugary liquids. 

The normal oral bacteria feed on these sugars and produce harmful oral acids.  These acids attack the tooth enamel and cause dental decay.  We know this destructive process is directly related to the length of time that the acid is in contact with the teeth.

The “take home message” that I tell my patients’ parents is that it is not the quantity of liquid that is consumed, but how long the sugary liquid is in contact with the teeth that determines how much dental decay will occur. 

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry has prepared the following guidelines to reduce the risk of tooth decay among toddlers who use sippy cups:
  • The sippy cup is a training tool to help children transition from a bottle to a cup.  It shouldn’t be used for a long period of time-it’s not a bottle and it’s not a pacifier.
  • Unless being used at mealtime, the sippy cup should only be filled with water.  Frequent drinking of any other liquid, even if diluted, from a bottle or non-spill cup should be avoided.
  • Sippy cups should be used at naptime or bedtime unless they only have water in them.

Paul Bender, DDS, MSEd, is a pediatric dentist in New Albany, Indiana, and can be reached at 812-948-1519. 


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