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  • Writer's pictureDr. Peter - Pediatric Dentist in Arlington, Virginia

Can Sippy Cups Increase Cavity Risk? Pediatric Dentist Pearls

Cavities are the most common chronic condition in children, surpassing even asthma. Most parents are aware of the importance of brushing their children's teeth (and flossing too) but sippy cups can be one of the biggest contributors to a child's cavity risk. Dr. Peter Markov, pediatric dentist at VK Pediatric Dentistry, discusses the negative impact of long term use of sippy cups and how they may be causing pediatric cavities (also known as baby bottle decay) in your children's teeth.

Misunderstood and Misused:

The most important reason to use a sippy cup is to transition your child from a baby bottle to a cup. Sippy cups are often used because they can prevent messes until a child has the dexterity to use a regular cup without spilling (or breaking)! They're comfortable, easy to clean, convenient. We get it. The problem is they are so convenient, parents are using them far longer than they should.

If sippy cups are filled with drinks containing sugar (fruit juice,, lemonade, and even milk), we start to see problems with cavities. Since sugar frequency is just as important as the amount of total sugar when it comes to cavities - if children are constantly coating their teeth with small sips of juice through a sippy cup, they aren't allowing their teeth a chance to recharge and remineralize which can lead to cavities quickly. Since most sippy cups actually restrict the amount of liquid that comes out, a child is constantly swishing sugar around their teeth when drinking. Bacteria which is naturally occurring in the mouth consumes the sugar and releases acid byproducts which destroy the teeth. Often times, cavities form in-between the teeth which are hard to see without regular check ups and x-rays from a pediatric dentist.

Tips and Tricks from our VK Pediatric Dentistry Team:

  1. Dont give a sippy cup as a comfort mechanism if your child is distressed. We've found doing this can increase their attachment and make it much harder to break the habit.

  2. Don't let children sip from the cup constantly. Try to remove the cup once they are done drinking.

  3. Don't fill sippy cups with sugar. Use water whenever possible instead of the sugar alternatives.

  4. If a child is going to have sugar in their sippy cup, try to limit it only to meal times so the saliva has a chance to get the sugar off the teeth (saliva production is highest during meals).

ADA Recommendations for Sippy Cups:

Not all sippy cups are the same. The American Dental Association (ADA) has provided a few guidelines on choosing a good sippy cup for your child!

  • No Spill Valves Can Be Detrimental: Although these may sound good at first glance, a no spill valve actually releases a small amount of liquid at a time so children are swishing those sugars around more often than normal.

  • Use a Spout: Screwing lids or snap on lids are more preferable to the other options because they help transition a child to better drinking habits rather than just a bigger baby bottle.

  • Two Handles: The main goal of using a sippy cup is to allow a child to naturally transition to a normal sized cup. Since most children's hands are too small to grasp a cup with one hand, using a two handled sippy cup will allow a child to develop enough dexterity to transition to a normal cup with ease.

Schedule An Appointment Today in Arlington, Virginia at VK Pediatric Dentistry

If you haven't taken your child to a pediatric dentist yet or would like to schedule an appointment, Dr. Peter and the highly skilled team at VK Pediatric Dentistry are just a phone call away. Schedule an appointment online or call us today at 703-962-7814. We look forward to providing your children a lifetime of healthy and happy pediatric dental smiles.

VK Pediatric Dentistry

5001 Langston Blvd, Arlington VA 22207


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