Early Childhood Caries: The Truth About Sippy Cups
Although most parents know about Early Childhood Caries (or cavities), also known as ECC, and the dreaded resulting cavities, covered cups for small children – notably sippy cups – can be detrimental to young teeth, too. Early Childhood Caries also goes by another name: Baby Bottle Tooth Decay.
ECC occurs when sugary foods and liquids create the thin film of bacteria known as plaque. Plaque produces acids that attack tooth enamel – for 20 minutes or longer after a meal – and create cavities. Protecting baby teeth from cavities is important because healthy teeth aid young children in learning to chew and speak.
Sippy cups and baby bottles concentrate pools of sugary liquids at the teeth, increasing the likelihood of the development of cavities in small children. And though sippy cups are a nice transition from bottle feeding – and less likely to cause orthodontic issues than bottles or pacifiers – they’re just as bad as bottles with regard to forming cavities. Why? They’re portable for a toddler, who’s likely to keep that sippy cup mouthpiece in his or her mouth just as frequently as a bottle – whether on the go or falling asleep.
The solution for avoiding these kinds of cavities is fortunately fairly simple:
- No bedtime food, cups or bottles. In addition to limiting the exposure of your child’s teeth to sugars, this limits choking hazards.
- As soon as possible, get your child used to drinking from a non-sippy cup.
- Try not to use a sippy cup as a pacifier.
- If you feel you must use a sippy cup, fill it only with water - never with sugary juices or liquids – and offer it only at mealtime or when he’s thirsty. This will help limit the habit of carrying the cup around all the time.
Finally, practice good oral hygiene methods to keep your toddler’s teeth clean and free of cavities. Brushing twice a day with an appropriately sized toothbrush and small amount of fluoride toothpaste (approximately pea-sized) is a great start. Limit sugary snacks and beverages. And, of course, be sure to schedule regular visits to your child’s dentist for check-ups and cleanings.
Avoiding cavities is essential for all of us, but for our toddlers it’s particularly important. By keeping an eye on not only what they eat and drink, but how they do it, we can do our part to keep their mouths free of cavities for a lifetime.