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A new study shows that children are more prone to injury if they are walking or running with a sippy cup, bottle or pacifier in their mouth. (DTI/Photo courtesy of Nationwide Children's, USA)
May 18, 2012 | News USA

Every four hours an infant is treated for mouth injury

by Dental Tribune International

COLUMBUS, Ohio, USA: Researchers have found that children who are learning to walk are at the highest risk of injury from baby bottles, sippy cups and pacifiers. For the first time, they analyzed nationwide statistical data from the last 20 years and found that, on average, 2,270 injuries related to these products are treated in U.S. emergency rooms every year.

The study conducted by researchers at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio suggests that between January 1991 and December 2010 an estimated 45,398 children under three required treatment in an emergency room owing to baby bottles, pacifiers and sippy cups.

According to the study, approximately two-thirds of injuries occurred among children aged one, a period of development associated with unsteady walking. The researchers found that 86 percent of the injuries were the result of falls while using the product. More than 70 percent of the injuries caused by falls affected the mouth and teeth of the toddlers, followed by lacerations of the head, face or neck (20 percent).

Baby bottles were involved in about 66 percent of the injuries. Pacifiers accounted for 20 percent of the injuries and sippy cups for 14 percent. Pacifiers were associated with soft-tissue and dental injuries, in particular.

"The permanent front teeth begin to develop in an infant's jaws soon after birth and the crown of the permanent tooth does not complete development until a child is three or four years old. If the toddler falls and injures a baby tooth, that tooth can get pushed up into the jaw and disrupt the development of the permanent tooth to follow. The risk is greatest when a baby tooth is injured before the child is three years of age and if the baby tooth is pushed up into the gums or completely knocked out," said Dr. Dennis McTigue, pediatric dentist at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

The researchers said that, currently, there are few formal recommendations regarding the ages at which children should discontinue using these products. Although the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend using lidless cups by 12 months of age to prevent dental caries, and limiting pacifier use after six months to prevent infections, the products tend to be used at least until the age of two, the researchers said.

"Educating parents and caregivers about the importance of transitioning their children away from these products at the ages recommended by the AAP and AAPD could prevent up to 80 percent of the injuries related to baby bottles, pacifiers and sippy cups," study co-author Dr. Laura McKenzie suggested.

There is a need for further research into the nature of these injuries and prevention strategies, the researchers concluded.

Statistics were obtained from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System operated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The study was published online on May 14 in the Pediatrics journal ahead of print.

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