So what's the problem with a sippy-cup? When little ones asks for a drink, with our busy lifestyles, the easiest solution is to put their drink in a sippy-cup. What could be better, less spills around the house and the child has easy access to a drink whenever he wants it.
It's not the suppy-cup that's the problem, it's the amount of time and the frequency that sugar is in contact with teeth. A sippy-cup makes it possible for children to "graze" with sugar all through the day. Here's the process: Whenever we eat or drink something that contains any kind of sugar, the bacteria that live on our teeth absorb the sugar and uses it for energy. When our bodies have too much lactic acid, we get a sore or cramped muscle. In our mouths, the bacteria simply secrete the lactic acid onto our teeth. If the acid is there long enough, our enamel begins to decalcify...the first step towards cavity formation.
About a half hour after the sugar passes through our mouths, the acid will be secreted and will continue for 30-40 minutes. If your child sits down and drinks a glass of juice, it is one sugar exposure, i.e., about 30-40 minutes of acid production. If this same amount of juice is in a sippy-cup and your child is taking a sip every 15 minutes, each sip is a sugar exposure, thus making multiple periods of acid secretion onto the teeth. The most damage occurs when the 30-40 minute periods of acid secretion begin to overlap each other and it becomes a constant acid attack.
How can we avoid this scenario? Pay attention to dietary habits and be cognizant of the number of sugar exposures your children are getting each day. If a sippy-cup is involved, remember, it's not the sippy-cup, but what's inside that matters! Be sure that sippy-cups contain water only. The same principle applies if your baby is put to bed with a bottle. While it would be best to avoid this scenario all together, if it must happen,, only water should be in the bottle. Even slightly flavoring the water will supply plenty of sugar molecules to bacteria to start the acid process. Encourage children to drink from a cup as they approach their first birthday.
The same time tested guidelines still apply:
1. Plaque removal; make a habit of swabbing the gums (with a soft washcloth) after feedings of the infant who doesn't have teeth yet. As the teeth come in, make a habit of brushing at least twice daily, after breakfast and before bedtime is recommended. If your child is swallowing the toothpaste (encouraging good spitting), do not use toothpaste that contains fluoride. If they are old enough to spit out and not swallow toothpaste, use toothpaste with fluoride. Remember, all that's needed on a toothbrush is a pea-size amount of toothpaste.
2. Avoid sugary foods, especially sticky, chewy snack foods, like raisins, Fun Fruits and Fruit Roll-ups. Also, watch the number of sugar exposures in a day.
3. Start your children going to the dentist when they have 8 teeth or around 12-14 months of age. This is a very good time to start them with a positive experience and to make sure development is on course.
We are now able to avoid most of the problems we see from prolonged use of the nursing bottle and sippy-cup. Having this knowledge and making the necessary changes to your child's diet will keep them with a lifetime of happy, healthy smiles!