Teething pain can be almost as frustrating for caregivers as it is painful for little ones. A popular numbing cream treatment for teething has recently been removed from the market by manufacturers after the Food and Drug Administration warned parents about the dangers of the numbing agent benzocaine and requested that companies stop selling the product for children.
Products and problems with benzocaine
Some of the more common products marketed in the past for teething pain relief that contain benzocaine include brands such as Anbesol, Baby Orajel, Cepacol, Chloraseptic, Hurricaine, Orabase and Topex.
According to Dr. Ashley Lazar, a graduate of Findlay High school and currently an intern in an oral and maxillofacial surgery program in Wisconsin, benzocaine may cause a rare but particularly dangerous side effect called Methemoglobinemia. The condition reduces the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood and in extreme cases can be life-threatening.
Symptoms of Methemoglobinemia occur within minutes to 1-2 hours after using benzocaine and include pale, gray/blue skin, lips and nail beds, shortness of breath, headache, fatigue and rapid heart rate. The FDA warns to seek immediate medical attention if any of these symptoms occur after using benzocaine.
Alternatives to numbing cream and teething gel
Pediatric dentists and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend several alternatives for relief from teething pain including:
Gently rubbing or massaging the gums with a finger to provide relief.
Teething rings are helpful, too, but should be made of firm rubber and never frozen. Teethers that freeze can be too hard and cause more harm than good.
A damp washcloth can be comforting. Be sure to squeeze all the water from the cloth first. You could also put the clean, damp washcloth in a sandwich bag and put the cloth in the refrigerator to chill a bit, but do not put the cloth in the freezer.
Sometimes just cuddling and extra TLC can help a teething infant get past the worst episodes, too.
Always check with your doctor or dentist if you have any concerns or questions about teething pain or treatments.