New parents today like to try the latest gadgets guaranteed to make their babies smarter, happier and healthier. Truth is, most of these items do nothing of the kind. That includes trendy teething jewelry.
In a Q&A session, IU Health practitioners recently took on the colorful bling being marketed for babies to chew on to alleviate teething pain. Types of teething jewelry include necklaces, bracelets and anklets, all with beads made from materials such as amber, wood, marble or silicone.
Etsy lists dozens of teething jewelry items on its website priced from about $6 to more than $20.
Dr. LaQuia Vinson, pediatric dentist with Riley Children’s Health, said there is no such thing as a safe piece of teething jewelry.
In fact, the Food and Drug Administration felt so strongly about the trend that it issued a statement in December warning of the dangers.
“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,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in an agency news release.
“We’re concerned about the risks we’ve observed with these products and want parents to be aware that teething jewelry puts children … at risk of serious injury and death,” he said.
The FDA said it has received reports of infants and children injured due to teething jewelry, including one death. In that case, an 18-month-old boy was strangled by his teething necklace during a nap. Strangulation can occur if a necklace is wrapped tightly around the child's neck or if the jewelry catches on something, such as a crib.
What makes teething jewelry so unsafe?
“The individual beads themselves can be choking hazards if they become dislodged from the strand,” Dr. Vinson said. “Children can easily become entangled in many items – a teething necklace is no different. If the child is wearing the necklace, it could pose a risk for self-strangulation. This could be life-altering or fatal.”
What should parents use instead of teething jewelry?
“Parents should opt for items like chilled water-filled (not gel-filled) teething rings or hard plastic teethers. Clean, moist washcloths are helpful as well. Massaging the child’s gums can be helpful. If necessary, for moderate to severe discomfort, using Motrin or Tylenol may be warranted.”
Dr. Becky Dixon, Riley pediatrician and hospitalist, suggests a washcloth that has been dunked in water, rung out and frozen. “The children get the benefit of the pressure to the gums and the cool and anti-inflammatory properties of the frozen water.”
Other options are chewable toys, she said. Just make sure the toy is large enough to guard against choking and doesn’t have small parts that can break off.
“A good rule of thumb is, if it can fit inside a toilet-paper roll, it’s too small.”
– By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist