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Misuse of bottles, pacifiers can lead to dangerous dental injuries

Published On: Jun 05 2013 10:58:23 AM CDT
baby drinking bottle


(COLUMBUS, Ohio) - A new study shows that a young child is rushed to a hospital every four hours in the U.S. due to an injury from a bottle, sippy cup or pacifier.¹

It is the first national study to analyze accidents involving these common products, which can lead to everything from minor cuts and bruises to more serious dental injuries involving lost or broken teeth.¹

“There are over four million children born in the United States every year, and almost all of them will use all of these products at some point during their early childhood,” said Sarah Keim, Ph.D., of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the lead author of the study.  “Yet, no research has examined the issue of injuries related to these products on a national level.”

For her study, Keim and her team analyzed data from emergency departments across the United States between 1991 and 2010, and found more than 45,000 cases of children who were treated for these injuries, the majority of whom were around one year of age.¹  

“We think that’s because they’re just starting to learn how to walk and they tend to trip and fall quite a bit,” said Keim.  “If they’re walking with one of these products in their mouth, they may injure their mouth or their face.”

That’s just what happened to one year old Morgan Sherrill.  “She was walking from her grandma to me, and the ottoman was right in front of us,” said Morgan’s mother Jackie.  “In an instant she tripped and did a nose dive onto the ottoman with her bottle in her mouth.”

“Our son always walked around with a bottle in his mouth or a pacifier,” Sherrill said, “and we never thought it could chip their tooth.”

That’s a misconception many parent may have, said Keim, who is also an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in The Ohio State University College of Medicine and of Epidemiology in the College of Public Health.

“Over half of the injuries we saw with two year olds in this study, were related to the use of baby bottles,” said Keim, “even though age two is way beyond the time we would expect children to be using a baby bottle.”

Experts suggest transitioning children to a cup without a lid at 12 months of age, to teach them good habits when it comes to drinking, and to cut down on the risk of falling and injuring themselves.

Most of the injuries noted in this study may have been prevented had parents been aware of the potential dangers of toddlers walking or playing while using these products.

Yet, for the tens of thousands of injuries that were charted by researchers, Keim says they may only be a small part of the accidents that take place every year.

“Our study only looked at injuries that required a visit to the emergency department,” she said.  “However, if they are less severe, many of these injuries could have been treated at home, or families might have taken their child to a dentist, rather than the emergency department.  So, the numbers are likely much higher.”


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