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National Children’s Dental Health Month: Sippy cups and your child’s teeth

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Kimberly Allbritton, Madison County Health Department

As soon as teeth appear in the mouth, decay can occur. One of the risk factors for early childhood cavities (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 time 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 birthdays.

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 the 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 with:

  • 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

Talk to your dentist for more information. If your child has not had a dental examination, schedule a well-baby checkup for his or her teeth. It is beneficial for the first dental visit to occur before the child's first birthday.

The health department in Madison County has a dental team that provides comprehensive dental care for children and emergency dental care for adults. We take Medicaid and related dental insurances including Staywell/Wellcare/Liberty (Adults and Children); Prestige (Adults and Children); United Health Care (Children); MCNA Health Kids (Children); and CMS (Children). We also have federal grant programs that cover treatment fees based on financial eligibility for children, adults and pregnant women who are cleared for dental treatment by their physician.

Please call the Madison County Health Department at (850) 973-5000 for an appointment. The Madison County Health Department is located at 218 SW Third Ave., in Madison.

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