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Even though a sippy cup, also referred to as a training cup, is a popular option for toddlers and young children, many parents unknowingly let their young ones misuse these cups, thus putting them at increased risk for tooth decay. Take a look at the following tips to learn how training cups should—and shouldn’t—be used.

Make Them Stepping Stones to Regular Cups

Because training cups are great for preventing messes and spills, parents often let their children drink from them for months or even years. While it may be tempting to allow your toddler to hold on to his training cup for an extended period, the purpose of these cups is to help kids with the transition between baby bottles and regular cups. Make sure you limit the amount of time your child is dependent on a training cup by encouraging him to learn how to drink from a regular cup.

Only Fill Them with Water

Parents may sometimes let their children carry around training cups filled with sugary drinks like soda or juice. While kids may enjoy having constant access to these sweet drinks, frequent sipping can increase their chances of developing tooth decay, even if the beverage is diluted. If you’re in the habit of giving your child a sippy cup between mealtimes, make sure you only fill it with water.

Avoid Them at Bedtime

Your child’s mouth tends to dry out when he’s sleeping, so any liquids he drinks right before bedtime are more likely to stick to the surfaces of his teeth, potentially leading to tooth decay.

Try to avoid getting into the habit of giving your child a training cup full of juice or soda to calm him down before bedtime or nap time. If your child is already accustomed to taking a drink to bed with him, make sure you only put water in the cup.

Training cups can be helpful tools for teaching your children the basic skills they need in order to drink from regular cups. Keep these tips in mind to give your child the best chance at graduating from their training cup phase with healthy teeth and gums.