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 February is National Children's Dental Health Month!


Information from NATIVE HEALTH's Dental Director, Anh Thu Becker, D.M.D.

Sippy Cups and Your Child's Teeth

As soon as teeth appear in the mouth, decay can occur. One of the risk factors for early childhood caries (sometimes called baby bottle tooth decay or nursing mouth syndrome) is frequent and prolonged exposure of a baby's teeth to liquids, such as fruit juice, milk, or formula, which all contain sugar. Tooth decay can occur when a baby is put to bed with a bottle. Infants should finish their nap times or bedtime bottle before going to bed. Because decay can destroy the teeth of an infant or young child, you should encourage your children to drink from a cup by their first birthday.

Many training cups, also called sippy or tippy cups, are available in stores. Many are no spill cups, which are essentially baby bottles in disguise. No spill cups include  a valve beneath the spout to stop spills. However, cups with valves do not allow your child to sip. Instead the child gets liquid by sucking on the cup, much like a baby bottle. This practice defeats the purpose of using a training cup, as it prevents the child from learning to sip. Don't let your child carry the training cup around. Toddlers are often unsteady on their feet. They take an unnecessary risk if they try to walk and drink at the same time. Falling while drinking from a cup has the potential to injure the mouth. A training cup should be used temporarily. Once your child has learned how to sip, the training cup has achieved its purpose. It can and should be set aside when no longer needed.

For sipping success, carefully choose and use a training cup. As their first birthday approaches, encourage your child to drink from a cup. As this changeover from baby bottle to training cup takes place, be very careful:

  • what kind of training cup you choose
  • what goes into the cup
  • how frequently your child sips from it
  • that your child does not carry the cup around
  • parents should brush their child's teeth twice a day (even if they only have a few teeth). If you are breastfeeding, your child's teeth still need to be brushed daily after feeding.

The American Heart Association recommends that children under age two should not consume foods with added sugar and that children ages 2 to 18, should consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day. The National Center for Early Childhood Health and Wellness recommends that milk and water are healthy drink choices.  During a baby's first year of life, breast milk is best. If an infant is not fed breast milk, the infant should be fed iron-fortified formula. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be fed whole milk until age two, unless the child's primary care provider recommends switching to reduced fat (1%) or non-fat (skim) milk sooner because of health reasons. Low-fat or non-fat milk and plain water, ideally fluoridated tap water, are healthy drink choices for children over age two. 

Many drinks have added sugar. Parents often do not know that many drinks, like the ones listed below, have added sugar. They include: *flavored milk, such as chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla milk; *non-diet pop or soda; *fruit drinks, such as fruit punch and juice cocktails; *vitamin water; *sweetened teas; *energy and sports drinks.

If a child is put to bed with a  bottle or sippy cup, it should contain only water.

We remind parents to give children ages 12 months and older no more than 4-6 ounces of 100% fruit juice per day and instead encourage parents to give children frozen or fresh fruit that has been mashed or cut into bite size pieces instead of juice. If parents offer juice, serve it in a cup without a lid.

Sugar free drinks like diet pop or soda can harm teeth. The carbonation that makes these drinks bubbly can wear away the outer covering of teeth. This makes a tooth's outer surface thinner and more likely to develop decay. 

Talk to your dentist or call NATIVE HEALTH Dental Departments for more information. If your child has not had a dental examination, schedule a well-baby check-up for his or her teeth. The American Dental Association says that it is beneficial for the first dental visit to occur within six months of the appearance of the first tooth, and no later than the child's first birthday.  

Again, February is National Children's Dental Health Month. We invite you and your family to participate in Tea with the Tooth Fairy and Hoops with Dr. BorkFor more information please contact NATIVE HEALTH's Dental Department or call (602) 279-5262 x 3102.





For more information, follow the link to the CDC website.