The FDA has issued a warning against the use of jewelry used for teething pain alleviation or sensory stimulation following incidents of choking and strangulation of young children, one of whom died. The 18-month-old child who died was strangled by an amber teething necklace during a nap, but there have also been reports of children choking or sustaining injuries from teething jewelry even while under adult supervision. One seven-month-old infant, for example, choked on a bead and had to be taken to the hospital for treatment.
Teething jewelry has become more widely popular—and, therefore, more widely produced and distributed—in recent years. The jewelry is often worn as a necklace but also comes in bracelet or anklet forms, and it can be worn by either the child or the parent. Teething jewelry beads are most often made of amber, wood, marble or silicone.
Some parents believe in the power of amber or other stones to calm teething pain, while others are simply providing something for their children to chew on to relieve teething pain in a more manual way. Still others use teething jewelry as a source of sensory stimulation for young children with autism, ADHD, or other sensory-related issues.
Despite these potentially important uses, however, the FDA believes the dangers of teething jewelry outweigh its usefulness. Potential problems this jewelry could cause include choking, strangulation, injury to the mouth, and infection. Some teething jewelry also contains succinic acid, a substance thought to act as an anti-inflammatory, but that claim has not been evaluated by the FDA. There is some concern that releasing succinic acid into the bloodstream in unknown quantities may be dangerous.
“We know that teething necklaces and jewelry products have become increasingly popular among parents and caregivers who want to provide relief for children’s teething pain and sensory stimulation for children with special needs,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. We’re concerned about the risks we’ve observed with these products and want parents to be aware that teething jewelry puts children, including those with special needs, at risk of serious injury and death.”
“Consumers should consider following the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations of alternative ways for treating teething pain, such as rubbing inflamed gums with a clean finger or using a teething ring made of firm rubber,” continued Dr. Gottlieb. “Given the breadth of the market for these teething necklaces and jewelry, we’re sharing this important safety information directly to consumers in order to help prevent injuries in infants and kids.”
Other forms of teething pain remedies that the FDA says should be avoided include teething creams, benzocaine gels, sprays, ointments, solutions and lozenges for mouth and gum pain, as the safety of these items is questionable as well. Benzocaine and other anesthetics can cause methemoglobinemia, a serious condition in which oxygen levels in the bloodstream are reduced. It is recommended that safer avenues be used to alleviate teething pain, such as rubbing the affected area with a clean finger or using a firm rubber teething ring.
Consumers and health care professionals who wish to report teething jewelry injuries can call 1-800-FDA-1088 or file a report online at MedWatch, the FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting program.
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Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?