Healthy Living in the North

“Sip Cup” – Friend or Foe?

Running water from a tap filling a glass

Ditch the sip cup! Beginning at age one, start to introduce your child to a regular lidless cup.

These days, families with young children are on the go! With this comes the challenge of keeping children healthy and happy. One of the more common conveniences that we see for young children between the ages of 1-3 is the “sip cup”.

Sip cups have been around for several years. With a spouted lid, they are often preferred as a drink container by parents for several reasons. Parents can choose what beverage they put in the sip cups, lids are spill-resistant and the cups are break-resistant and reusable.

But, depending on how they are used, did you know that they could be putting your child at a higher risk of tooth decay?

If your child has teeth, they are at risk for tooth decay. Tooth decay can happen as the tooth is erupting too! To minimize the risk of tooth decay, have your child drink water for thirst. Other beverages contain sugars which coat the teeth over and over again, every time your child takes a sip. Even fruit juice contains natural sugars. Water is the safest drink between meals and for thirst. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends introducing your child to a regular lidless cup around the age of one. So you can skip the sip cup! Remember to wash cups in hot soapy water between uses.

To help protect your child’s teeth from tooth decay, use a “pea sized amount or less” of children’s fluoride toothpaste, morning and night. Help your child brush until at least 8 years of age and continue to check how they did with brushing after that. Avoid soft sticky foods such as dried fruit, raisins or candy that will stick on your child’s teeth for long periods of time. Choose fresh fruit instead of juice or dried fruit. Drink water for thirst and visit your dental team regularly.

The Canadian Dental Association encourages the assessment of infants, by a dentist, within 6 months of the eruption of the first tooth or by one year of age.

For more information and some great dental games for kids, please visit:

Brenda Matsen

About Brenda Matsen

Born and raised in B.C., Brenda completed her diploma in dental hygiene in 1987, moved back to northern B.C. to work, raised her four sons in Prince George and, in 2009, obtained her BHSc. Brenda is the manager of the Northern Health Dental Program and has been with Northern Health since 2002. She is passionate about making a difference and appreciates the "can do" attitude of fellow northerners. When not at work, Brenda can be found enjoying the great outdoors in a variety of activities with her husband and Vizslas, throughout all our beautiful seasons.

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Protect your smile

Canadian Dental Association guidelines for toothpaste amount.

Brush in the morning and at night with a small amount of fluoride toothpaste. For children under 3, a rice-sized amount of toothpaste is sufficient. For children 3 and older, aim for a pea-sized amount.

According to the Canadian Dental Association, good dental health “contributes positively to your physical, mental and social well-being and to the enjoyment of life’s possibilities, by allowing you to speak, eat and socialize unhindered by pain, discomfort or embarrassment.”

Unfortunately, poor dental health can be found at all ages and socioeconomic levels. In children, tooth decay is the most common infectious disease and is five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever. Tooth decay is preventable and National Oral Health Month is a great time to learn more about this condition.

What are cavities?

Cavities, or tooth decay, happen when the hard outside layer of a tooth (enamel) has been eaten away or demineralized by acids, forming a hole in the tooth.

Where do the acids that attack teeth come from?

Specific cavity-causing bacteria in our mouths make acids by using the sugars in foods that we eat. Some acids also come straight from foods like juice and pop. Every time we eat something that has sugars or acids, our teeth are attacked or broken down by these acids for about 20 minutes, but this acid attack can be even longer if we choose sticky foods that are able to stay on our teeth. Fluoride in toothpaste, water, or rinses works to protect our teeth against acid attacks no matter what age we are.

How can I protect my teeth from acid attacks?

  • Avoid acidic foods and drinks like pop, juice, iced tea, lemonade, and energy drinks. Drink water for thirst instead.
  • Avoid constant snacking or “grazing.”
  • Choose a variety of healthy foods and snacks every day.
  • Limit how often you choose foods with added sugar.
  • Brush your teeth in the morning and at night with small amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • When you can’t brush right after a meal or snack, help dilute acids and sugars by rinsing with water or chewing sugarless gum.
  • See your dental office regularly, approximately every six months. Tooth decay and more serious oral cancers often do not show signs or symptoms until they’re big problems. Early detection is critical so aim to catch small problems early, before they become big problems!
Brenda Matsen

About Brenda Matsen

Born and raised in B.C., Brenda completed her diploma in dental hygiene in 1987, moved back to northern B.C. to work, raised her four sons in Prince George and, in 2009, obtained her BHSc. Brenda is the manager of the Northern Health Dental Program and has been with Northern Health since 2002. She is passionate about making a difference and appreciates the "can do" attitude of fellow northerners. When not at work, Brenda can be found enjoying the great outdoors in a variety of activities with her husband and Vizslas, throughout all our beautiful seasons.

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