Family fun - we love Babycup open drinking cups for babiesFor info on healthcare concerns re. spouts and no-spill valves, see below:
(***Warning: grim rotten teeth photos alert on this page***)

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Malocclusions and Dental Caries (Crooked Teeth and Tooth Decay)

Regular interference, such as pressure from an intruder like a thumb or spout, is thought to contribute to malformation of the hard palate, leading to malocclusions (incorrect teeth and jaw positions) and the need for expensive orthodontic work, as the child grows older.

The Myofunctional Research Co. states on its website, that research reveals muscles are a significant factor in causing malocclusion[1]. MRCo. goes on to explain that incorrect arch form is responsible for the high prevalence of malocclusion, but the arch is primarily a product of the position of the tongue and function of the lips.  They write that the forces exerted on teeth by the lips, and tongue determine tooth position - giving the example that only 1.7 grams of pressure is needed to move teeth. Put this figure alongside their information showing the tongue can exert a force of 500 grams and it is easy to consider that altering the position of the tongue can alter the upper arch and the position of teeth.  MRCo. says that children develop most rapidly between the ages of 2 and 5 and that during this period 70% of the growth of a child’s face and jaw occurs. They cite dummies, thumb sucking and baby cups, (not meaning open cups), as all contributing to poor facial and dental development.

Another alarming problem is the potential for tooth decay, or ‘early childhood caries’ (also known as ‘baby bottle caries’, ‘nursing bottle caries’, or ‘sucking cup caries’[2]). Tooth decay develops when a baby’s mouth is infected by acid-producing bacteria. It also develops when the child’s teeth, and gums, are exposed to any liquids or foods (other than water) for extended periods. 

Bottle caries infant tooth decay

baby bottle caries photo


‘Bottle caries’ –
early childhood tooth decay

Cups with lids and spouts, such as sippy cups and especially those incorporating spill-proof valves, are more likely to be given to children for them to carry around over extended periods, sometimes even being taken to bed.  Sugared liquids (that includes milk; but not breastmilk[3] [4] [5] [6] [7]), from these 'sippy cup' receptacles, have been shown to increase tooth decay due to this likelihood to drink from them beyond just mealtimes.  According to the American Academy of Pediactrics ‘tooth decay is the most common chronic infectious disease of childhood.’

The American Dental Association advises that to help prevent tooth decay children should be encouraged to drink from a cup by their first birthday.

An infant and toddler forum factsheet, reviewed and supported by the British Dental Health Foundation, says all drinks should be taken from a cup or glass, not a bottle. It also reports ‘by the time they are five years old, over 30% of children in the UK have dental decay’.

A change as simple as giving a child an open cup rather than a sippy cup could help improve this worrying statistic. As the same factsheet says: “it is easier to prevent decay than to treat it”.

[1] Graber, TM. “The three M’s: muscle, malformation, and malocclusion.” Am J Ortho Dentofacial Orthop. 1963; June:418-450.

[2] Reagan L (2002). Big bad cavities: breastfeeding is not the cause. Mothering 113:38-47.

[3] Arnold RR et al (1977). A bactericidal effect on human lactoferrin. Science 197(4300):263-5.

[4] Erickson PR, Mazhare E (1999). Investigation of the role of human breast milk in caries development. Pediatric Dentistry 21:86-90.

[5] McDougall W (1977). Effect of milk on enamel demineralisation and remineralisation in vitro. Caries Research 40:1025-8.

[6] Tinanoff N, O’Sullivan DM (1997). Early childhood caries: overview and recent findings. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

[7] Trotter S (2006). Cup feeding revisited. MIDIRS Midwifery Digest, vol 16, no 3, September 2006, p397-402.

Bacterial Contamination

Some studies demonstrate a hygiene, and illness concern, as children who drink from bottles and sippy cups are more likely to be drinking liquids that have not been freshly poured and spouts are more difficult to sanitise than an open cup. The World Health Organisation’s website advises that cups are less likely, than bottles, to be carried around for a long time, thereby giving bacteria less time to breed.

Spout Injuries

There are also some astounding statistics showing high levels of childhood injuries are due to toddlers drinking from spouted cups whilst walking.[1]

[1] Injuries associated with bottles, pacifiers and sippy cups in the United States, 1991-2010 SA. Keim and MRW TePoel. Pediatrics Vol.129 No.6 June 1, 2012

Good Oral Health

Specialist orthodontist Dr Derek Mahony says, “Babycup is a healthy drinking choice for your child.  Spouts, and no-spill valves, mean a child has to suck, rather than sip.  This contributes to poor facial and dental development. Developing healthy oral habits from an early age has a great influence on how your child’s teeth will develop. A young child’s teeth, jaws, and muscles are still growing so it’s a crucial time for parents to steer their infants away from needing extensive orthodontic treatment later in life.”

In an article on toddler diets, and oral health, the British Dental Health Foundation website says that drinks should be offered six to eight times a day, and from as early an age, as possible, should be sipped from a cup or glass, not sucked from a bottle.  The same Foundation suggests starting by the time babies are about 6 months old, or when they are able to sit up and can hold things, on their own.

Using a lid, or spout, with a no-spill valve does not teach the child how to drink properly.  Many of these lidded cups, or non-spill beakers, are marketed as training aids. In reality they are tools of convenience. Parents understandably might think they’ve helped their children as they reach for a no-spill cup and say “My baby is off the bottle.” But, as the American Dental Association says, they are baby bottles in disguise. Cups, with valves, do not allow a child to sip. Children have no choice except to suck – as from a baby bottle. The ADA says avoid no-spill valves.  (It is important to note that the action of suckling on a breast is an entirely different oral process from sucking on a drinking cup spout).

No-spill cups are often thrown on the floor, chewed by soft baby teeth and drunk from whilst laying flat on the ground.  This allows the contents to flow directly into the Eustachian tubes.

Speech Difficulties

When a child sucks a thumb, the tongue is misplaced in order to accommodate the intrusion in the palate, and the teeth are pushed forward, say orofacial myologists (a field of study that looks at how certain structural or functional factors, in the mouth, can cause speech and swallowing issues). Studies have been carried out on thumb sucking, or finger sucking, and bottle use – but not on spouted cups. However, logic, and the belief of a growing number of health professionals, suggests the physiological effects are the same when a hard spout is placed in the mouth.  An internet search brings up numerous discussions showing speech therapists and orofacial myologists, discussing this point, with the added concerns that regular, and prolonged, use of hard-spouted cups are causing difficulty with articulation, clarity of speech, swallowing and excessive drooling.

Small Changes, Big Differences

With so many gadgets and gizmos on offer, it’s easy to see how we become spoiled. But with lids and valves we become unaccustomed to the mess of a cup spilling, and this is a mistake. Our carpets become more treasured than our children.  There is an easy change to be made, in order to help reverse the trend for crooked smiles; poorly developed faces, jaws and teeth; dental decay; speech impediments and a host of other early childhood health problems. Fill cups less and, like the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests, switch to an open cup as soon as your child can manage it.




Babycup Infant Weaning Cups
Open drinking cups for babies and toddlers
The Babycup range of baby and toddler open drinking cups
is BPA free and phthalates free

Suitable for weaning from 6 months
Also suitable for cup feeding newborn or premature babies -
please see our FAQs page for further details

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