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On Call: Sippy Cups and Cavities

Q. I've heard that bottles and pacifiers can be bad for kids' teeth. But what about sippy cups? My toddler totes his around constantly.

A. Bottles and pacifiers get the worst press, but sippy cups can damage little teeth, too  -- and it's the constant toting that causes problems.

They're great for children making the transition from bottle to cup, and for avoiding messes. They're also less likely than bottles or pacifiers to cause orthodontic issues like overbites. But drinking sugary liquids like juice and milk from sippy cups all the time can cause the same kind of tooth decay bottles can.

To avoid this, try not to let your child carry around a sippy cup all the time (though, as a parent, I know what an easy habit this is to fall into!). Instead, offer it to him only with meals or when he's truly thirsty  -- and fill it with water when you're out and about.

And as the American Dental Association advises, once your child has learned to drink from a regular cup (hopefully by late toddlerhood), ditch the sippy cup altogether. Making a huge deal out of moving to a "big kid" cup can help, as can using a fun straw, which I did with my kids.