When finding relief for baby’s sore gums, avoid turning to gels, creams, and tablets that you can rub on his gums, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It has recently issued a warning that these topical medication may contain harmful ingredients that can lead to a serious blood disorder in children.
“The FDA warns against using any sort of topical medication to treat teething pain in children, including [over-the-counter] creams and gels, as well as using homeopathic teething tablets. They offer little to no benefit and are associated with serious risk,” read the release.
Teething gels may contain the local anesthetic benzocaine to soothe pain. However, these products are ineffective and dangerous for infants. FDA explains, “The use of benzocaine gels, sprays, ointments, solutions, and lozenges for mouth and gum pain can lead to a serious — and sometimes fatal — condition called methemoglobinemia, in which the oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells is greatly reduced.”
In January 2017, the FDA also found that teething tablets contained inconsistent amounts of the toxic substance belladonna. “The body’s response to belladonna in children under 2 years of age is unpredictable, and puts them at unnecessary risk,” says Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
Teething pain should not be treated with medication being rubbed on the baby’s gums, said the FDA. Relief can be provided by parents to their babies with simple solutions such as rubbing and massaging the gums with a finger or giving a teether to chew on.
Dr. Carina Mabanta-De los Reyes, former president of the Philippine Pediatric Dental Society Inc., further advises against teething gels because most most are sweet-flavored. It only encourages early consumption of sugary foods, a cause of early dental decay.
“What I recommend is to rub the gums in the area of the unerupted tooth with a washcloth soaked in cold water,” Dr. Mabanta-De los Reyes told SmartParenting.com.ph. “Putting mild pressure on the area encourages eruption, and cold temperature relieves pain and itchiness.”
Here are other things you can do to make your child feel better while he’s teething:
Give your child something to chew on, like a rubber teething ring. You could chill it in the fridge (not the freezer — you don’t want it to be rock hard) before giving to your child to provide more relief. Avoid liquid-filled ones as they could leak.
If your baby is already eating solid foods, cold food can bring a lot of relief, too. Try chilled bananas, cold fruit puree or plain yogurt. Make sure to watch your baby while she’s munching on a banana to avoid any big pieces breaking off, posing as potential choking hazards.
If teething is causing your child a lot of discomfort, consult with his pediatrician for advice. He may be prescribed infant paracetamol. When in doubt, see your baby's doctor.
Dental hygiene starts as soon as your child's first tooth erupts. Learn how to care for your child's teeth with advice and tips from pediatric dentists found here.