Dental Health Info Article

Find Out How Teething Gels May Harm Your Baby on

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning to parents and dental care providers against using teething gels containing benzocaine on children under the age of two. According to their findings, the local anesthetic can cause methemoglobinemia, a rare blood disease.

Benzocaine is an effective local anesthetic that is sold over the counter. Some brand name products featuring the compound include Anbesol, Hurricaine, Orajel, Baby Orajel, Orabase and generic store products that aim to mimic the original. While the gels (and liquid sprays) can numb tooth pain are considered to be safe toothache remedies for adults and children over the age of two, the products should not be used on infants and toddlers despite the teething symptoms created by the eruption of a first tooth.

What is Methemoglobinemia?

Methemoglobinemia is a serious blood condition marked by higher than average levels of oxygen-carrying protein hemoglobin in the blood stream of sufferers. When methemoglobin levels exceed the 1 percent mark, individuals will have a reduced ability of to release oxygen to tissues. As a result, they may experience symptoms including headaches, shortness of breath, skin discoloration, fatigue and inability to exercise. For individuals who have a level of 50 percent methemoglobin, the disease can prove to be fatal.

There are two types of Methemoglobinemia; congenital (present at birth) vs. acquired. The FDA warning surrounds the acquired condition and warns that one dosage of benzocaine is enough to trigger off the condition.

What is Teething

Although it may appear that children are born as little toothless bundles of joy, the reality is that primary teeth (AKA baby teeth) are nearly formed at birth and situated under the gum line. A kid's first chomper will appear prior to their first birthday, generally between four to seven months of life.

While the eruption of juniors first tooth is an important rite of passage, it can open the floodgate to plenty of tears and sleepless nights, courtesy of the teething process. As a kid grows, so will the primary teeth and typically, they will emerge in pairs growing from front to back and the back molars will complete the set (1-800-DENTIST). By the time children reach age three, all 20 teeth should have grown in.

As each one does, they will slowly break through gums making them sore and tender. As a result parents may notice a change in the toddlers normal disposition. According to 1-800-DENTIST some common behaviors and symptoms include:

  • Fussiness
  • Diarrhea
  • Low-grade fever
  • Increased drooling
  • Biting
  • Rejecting food
  • Trouble sleeping

How to Help Teething Babies

Parents who remember the pain associated with their wisdom teeth growing will be sympathetic to the discomfort caused by baby teeth. Since local anesthetics are no longer considered safe option, caregivers will need to find other alternatives to minimizing their babies' tooth discomfort. Some other options include:

  • Rubber teething ring
  • Providing baby with a cool washcloth to suck
  • Giving a baby a bottle filled with clean, fresh and cool water
  • Feeding baby cool and nutritious foods such as low fat, sugar free yogurt, sugar free applesauce or frozen bananas
  • Gentle massaging affected gums with clean fingers

Once that first tooth erupts, parents need to tend to their child's oral health needs in order to reduce the odds of a child developing cavities or tooth decay. After feeding, parents need to gently wiping down their child's gums with sanitary gauze or a soft cloth in order to reduce the levels of cavity causing sugar left behind.

Additionally, a professional dental visit is in order as tooth decay is a risk and if left unchecked, can inhibit the proper development of a child. Seeking professional dental care can also provide additional tips on how to sooth baby's toothaches and pains.

If you are looking for Juniors’ first dentist, 1-800-DENTIST is happy to help. Our database is filled with thousands of pediatric dentists, kid dentists and family dentists. All 1-800-DENTIST members have been screened to ensure you and your loved ones receive quality dental care they deserve.