Royal Oak and Birmingham, MI
Take a journey back in time to an era when young children’s drinks ended up spilling on the floor quicker than being consumed. One day, some industrious person grew tired of cleaning up spilled water, juice, and milk multiple times per day and after some tinkering… behold! The sippy cup was created. These leak-proof cups are convenient for parents, but frequent use can do more harm than good when it comes to your child’s oral health development. Read on to discover why our Detroit myofunctional therapists think you should forgo the sippy cup for your toddler.
How do sippy cups impede development?
Your child grows quickly, especially during that first year. This stage is quite crucial to oral development. The tongue develops a movement pattern that propels liquids and soft foods to the back of the mouth. As your child’s diet becomes more diverse and solid foods are incorporated, tongue movement becomes more complex to swallow foods with a more challenging texture.
Using a sippy cup—especially one with a hard tip—can hinder this critical development of the tongue and tongue motions. The tongue may not be able to complete these movements. Other potential negative consequences for the tongue may include not being able to elevate properly or reach its proper resting position, which is to lay gently against the roof of the mouth. At the same time, the lips and teeth are closed. These issues can lead to delays in speech development or problems eating and swallowing solid foods.
There’s more. When the tongue cannot achieve the ideal resting position, it tends to lay too forward and low in the mouth, leading to a condition called “pace-mouth,” where the child frequently keeps an open mouth. Although “pack-mouth” is most prevalent with children who use pacifiers for prolonged periods, it also can stem from thumb-sucking or overuse of a sippy cup—especially one with a hard tip.
We’re not saying to avoid sippy cups altogether
Occasional use is acceptable, especially when you need a convenient way for your child to enjoy drinks without having to worry about spills. Sippy cups are handy during your child’s transition to a regular drinking cup. However, prolonged use of a sippy cup could have an effect—whether that be open mouth posture, poor development of the lower jaw muscles, or mouth breathing, which has a host of potential negative consequences on your child’s oral health and development.
What alternatives are there to a sippy cup?
- Pop-up straw cups – These cups are leak-proof, like sippy cups, but do not carry the risk of being a hindrance to oral development. Once your child learns how to drink from a straw, we recommend cutting back the length of the straw so that it only reaches the tip of the tongue, this encouraging the tongue to elevate correctly.
- Aluminum cups – These cups are more durable and available with built-in straws. Once again, consider trimming the straw length once your child adjusts to using a straw.
Myofunctional Therapy in Royal Oak and Birmingham
Every person is unique but, generally speaking, your child should be comfortable drinking from an open cup by 18 months old or so—even if this means a few spills from time to time, transitioning from the sippy cup at this time is the best choice for their oral and overall health. Dr. Nancy Harrick has significant experience working with young children and can identify issues with orofacial development. If a problem is detected, begin treatment as early as possible for best results. Successful treatment is myofunctional therapy—a series of simple exercises that re-educate the mouth and tongue muscles to achieve optimum function and rest posture.