Sippy cups and alternatives - what parents need to know - Sparkle Dental
Sippy cups and alternatives - what parents need to know
Sippy cups and alternatives - what parents need to know
Sparkle Dental | 12/12/2015

Sippy cups are designed as a no-mess option to be used in the transition between breastfeeding and using open cups.  

However, compared to open cup sipping, sippy cups promote unnatural tongue placement and swallowing patterns.  This can lead to improper jaw and airway development and future orthodontic problems with extended use.

Understanding normal palate development.

During the first few years of life, the palate is extremely mouldable.  If the tongue is sitting on the roof of the mouth the pressure of the tongue will mould the shape of the palate so that the tongue sits perfectly within it.
This is the same way that the pressure of the growing brain expands the skull, or the growing eyeball moulds and expands the eye socket.
This video illustrates the problems that occur with jaw development when the tongue drops from the roof of the mouth through prolonged use of of bottles, sippy cups, pacifiers and thumb or finger sucking.


Sippy cups promote improper tongue placement.  This leads to improper jaw and airway development.

Sippy cups force the tongue underneath the spout.  This prevents it from it’s normal resting place on the roof of the mouth, behind the front teeth.

Like habits such as thumb or finger sucking, pacifiers or bottles, this habit of lowered tongue posture does not allow the tongue to counteract the inward pressure of the lips and tongue. 
The upper jaw narrows with time and sometimes the spaces that first appear between a child’s baby teeth start to close up together.   This is an indication that there will be crowding when the adult teeth erupt at a later age.
The upper jaw forms the floor of the nose and sinuses and research has shown that small increases in the width of the jaw exponentially increase airflow through the nasal passages.   Over-reliance on sippy cups therefore has the potential to limit airway development through the constrictive influence on palate development.

Sippy cups promote improper swallowing

In a correct mature swallow, the entire tongue should elevate and pull backwards without touching the teeth to propel liquid or food backwards into the digestive tract.  In the case of the sippy cup, a child’s tongue can not do that in their small mouths because there is a big spout in the way.

When the spout keeps the tongue low, the tongue tends to protrude forward onto the teeth and the muscles of the lips and cheeks become active to compensate during swallowing.   This is called a tongue thrust or reverse swallow, and it is a factor in causing crooked teeth and poor facial development.
The video below illustrates how the facial muscles are over-active in this type of swallow and the consequent long-term impact of improper swallowing patterns.



Alternatives to sippy cups

It is better to manage the habits of lowered tongue posture and tongue thrust swallows by preventing them in the first place.
Open cup sipping rather than sucking promotes better oral function and swallowing.  Since form follows function, it promotes better jaw, airway and dental development.   It also promotes better fine motor skills.
Some people choose to use little shooter glass sized plastic cups like Baby Cup http://babycup.co.uk


Another no-mess option that is suitable is the WOW cup.  http://www.wowcup.com  It is a spill free cup with handles that is best managed by babies from around the age of 9 months. 

Sparkle Dental Joondalup WOW Baby Cup 

A child's swallowing pattern is conditioned by around the age of 1, and 60% of a child’s facial growth will be complete before the age of 4.  This means that during this period of rapid growth, establishing good habits and oral function like open cup sipping are important to ensure development moves in the right direction.

Contact us if you have any queries or would like to book for a preventive orthodontic consultation for advice on mouth breathing, breast or bottle feeding, baby-led weaning and/or dummy, thumb or finger sucking.

Related blog categories: airway, and, cups, development, jaw, myofunctional, orthodontics, preventive, sippy, therapy

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