DICKSON CITY, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Teething is one of the major milestones for babies as they get a little older. It can also be one of the most irritable stages your little one experiences. Now, one of the most popular methods to treat teething pain is coming under fire.
For years, many parents have turned to oral numbing gels to help their babies cope with teething discomfort. But now, the FDA says those parents are making a dangerous and potentially deadly mistake.
“Mostly at night it would bother her when we’d go to sleep. So that wasn’t fun for me or her,” said Aubrey Noon of Roaring Brook Township. That pain of first baby teeth pushing through the gums made her 9-month-old daughter Avery a little cranky. “She was irritated you could tell. Drooling, swollen, fussier than normal. Crying.”
Parents often turn to over-the-counter, gum-numbing medicine like Baby Orajel, Anbesol and Cepacol for instant teething relief. “They’re still sold so I mean you would think that they’re still able to use them,” said Ms. Noon.
But the FDA is now warning new moms and dads to avoid those products. “I think it’s long overdue,” said Commonwealth Health Pediatrician Kathleen Walsh, MD. The danger the FDA cites is the pain reliever benzocaine which many of teething products contain and can trigger what’s called methemoglobinemia. “That’s when the blood stream is no longer able to carry enough oxygen in the blood stream,” said Dr. Walsh. When asked if that could cause the baby to stop breathing she said, “Absolutely.”
Dr. Walsh says that’s not the only danger teething products with benzocaine can cause. “Not only do you numb the gumline, you numb any area in the mouth and if the child tries to eat or drink afterwards there’s a risk of aspiration.”
That means babies could choke sending food, liquid and even saliva from their mouth into their airway. Dr. Walsh recommends using tried and true teething pain relief methods. “Teething rings. Something soft. Using a wash cloth that’s cool and cold and numbing to the gumline and rubbing the gumline just with a clean hand.”
Dr. Walsh says you shouldn’t use frozen teething rings which could cause bruising or even frostbite.
On occasion, she says she’ll suggest baby anti-inflammatory medication if the teething pain is causing too much sleep disruption.