Helpful Pediatric Dentistry Tips!

How Baby Bottles and Sippy Cups Affect Your Child’s Teeth

by Dr. Steve Whittemore, D.D.S. | Published June 19, 2023

A baby bottle or sippy cup can be a quick fix to your child’s tantrum, or perhaps an easy way to get them the nutrients they need to grow. These are wonderful tools that help with childhood development but can prove to be harmful when not used correctly or are overused beyond the natural progression to a normal cup. Baby bottles and sippy cups are very similar to pacifiers, in that they do have their benefits and help in the short term, but it’s always a good idea to be cautious of the negative outcomes that could come with it such as tooth decay and/or misalignment.

At Pediatric Dentistry of Iowa, we know how important it is to stay on top of your child’s development and it can be difficult to do so at such a sensitive time in their life. So with a few tips from us, we hope that healthy dental development will be a breeze for your child! 

Tooth Decay and Cavities

Some parents will send baby bottles or sippy cups to bed with their children and not think anything of it. In fact, this can prove to be soothing to your little one, especially when they’re teething. While this may seem like a good idea, we would advise against this, especially if a bottle or cup is full of juice, formula, or soda. Prolonged use of a baby bottle or sippy cup can increase the chance of tooth decay. While juice can seem like a healthy option, there is a difference between what’s healthy and unhealthy for your child. Too much juice can be a detriment to the teeth.

It is not uncommon to see cases of “baby bottle tooth decay” in many young children. Every night their teeth are soaking in sugars from the substance inside of their cups that can eat away at their teeth’s enamel and their gum line. This can lead to a rapid decline in oral hygiene and possibly cause major concerns for the future. We suggest not starting this habit from the beginning, and making sure that a nighttime bottle or sippy cup does not become a normal part of their routine. If the child insists on having a sippy cup at bedtime, nothing but water should be in it.

While it may be hard to do, we recommend decreasing the use of the sippy cup or bottle at bedtime slowly by the age of two and associating using it with certain behaviors. Sippy cups should be only used at mealtimes or when there is adult supervision. You can make this process unique to your child’s needs but know that it will take some time for this habit to break.

Not sure if your child is experiencing tooth decay? A way you can check for this is by looking for any symptoms in their mouth such as; bad breath, bleeding or swollen gums, dark spots on the teeth, or fever. Your child may also be experiencing mouth pain, which is normal for teeth development (especially when teeth are first erupting), so it’s good to be able to look at the teeth regularly and differentiate what’s normal oral development pain or tooth decay. We suggest brushing twice daily after the first tooth erupts.

For more information about what regular teeth development looks like, be sure to check out our blog detailing more about important dental milestones.


Much like a pacifier, overuse of a baby bottle or sippy cup can cause misalignment not only in your child’s teeth but in their jaw as well. In the first few years of their life, children go through a highly-vulnerable period of time where everything is developing all at once. It’s important to reduce factors that impede that as much as possible.

One of these factors is ensuring a child is being sufficiently weaned off their baby bottle or sippy cup. Some common misalignment concerns include crooked teeth, overbite, narrowing of the roof of the mouth, and front teeth not meeting in the middle when they bite down. Misaligned baby teeth can lead to further damage down the road if there is no early intervention. It could cause an increased risk of tooth decay in not being able to brush angular teeth, or hidden bacteria in places that cannot be reached. 

How to Prevent Dental Issues from Baby Bottles and Sippy Cups

We recommend weaning your child off these habits once they become “of age”, which can be any time between 12-18 months. Once they are weaned, you can begin to offer liquids other than water only at mealtimes or special occasions, that way this can be the start of a new habit they develop that promotes a healthier well-being. Afterward, begin incorporating other great hygiene habits such as brushing twice a day and going to regular pediatric dental appointments

The hygienists at Pediatric Dentistry of Central Iowa have worked with kids of all ages, all around the Des Moines metro area with various backgrounds and oral health concerns. Let us give you the assistance you need!

Also posted in Blog