FDA: Stay away from teething gels, tablets

by Dr. (Capt.) Kaitlin Lee 86th Dental Squadron

Photo by Oksana Kuzmina/Shutterstock.com
Some best practices to help your child cope during the theething phase include letting them chew on a cold damp washcloth or cold teething rings, or gently rubbing their gums with a clean finger.

It’s 2 a.m., and your teething infant has been crying, seemingly forever. You feel tired, frustrated and helpless; you wish you could give your baby something to quickly soothe the pain.

Teething is a difficult time for babies and parents alike, and there are many over-the-counter remedies that may seem appealing. Unfortunately, even natural, or homeopathic, teething medications may have negative side effects.

The Food and Drug Administration warns against the use of teething tablets and gels for babies, including those available for purchase at the commissary and Army and Air Force Exchange stores such as Orajel Instant Relief for Teething Pain and homeopathic options Baby Orajel Naturals and Hyland’s Teething Tablets.

On Sept. 30, the FDA issued a statement recommending “consumers stop using (homeopathic teething) products and dispose of any in their possession.” The FDA also reported that “consumers should seek medical care immediately if their child experiences seizures, difficulty breathing, lethargy, excessive sleepiness, muscle weakness, skin flushing, constipation, difficulty urinating or agitation after using homeopathic teething tablets or gels.”

The FDA is currently investigating these issues and testing product samples. The teething tablets, in particular, have not previously been evaluated or approved by the FDA, who added that “the agency is also not aware of any proven health benefit of the products, which are labeled to relieve teething symptoms in children.”

In 2012, the FDA similarly warned against the use of any medicated teething gels for babies, recommending that “parents and caregivers not use benzocaine products for children younger than two years, except under the advice and supervision of a health care professional.”

As mentioned in the statement, the issue with nonhomeopathic options is that they contain benzocaine, an anesthetic. Benzocaine can lead to a rare, but serious and potentially fatal, condition where the amount of oxygen carried through the blood stream is reduced. Warning signs of adverse reactions can occur within minutes or hours of use, including pale-, gray- or blue-colored skin, lips and nail beds, shortness of breath, fatigue, confusion, headache, lightheadedness or rapid heart rate. If your child experiences any of these signs after using a product with benzocaine, seek medical care immediately.

The Ramstein Pediatric Dental team has partnered with AAFES leadership to ensure consumers are aware of recent FDA warnings. Soon, AAFES stores worldwide, including the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center, plan to display FDA warning statements near these homeopathic teething options.

Despite all the cautions, there are a few legitimately natural things you can do to soothe your child during the teething phase. Some best practices to help your child cope include letting them chew on a cold damp washcloth or cold teething rings, or gently rubbing their gums with a clean finger.

The first baby teeth usually start to push through the gums between six and 12 months. A child will usually have all 20 baby teeth by the age of 3 years old.

Two years of periodic teething episodes is a long time, but your pediatric dental team is here to help. If you have any questions about any of this information, contact the dental clinic at 06371-46-2210.