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Oral Health Buzz

Teething Gel: Cautions and Alternatives

Katelynne Shepard

Because it causes pain, teething can be a challenging time for both parent and child. In the past, the application of teething gel has been a popular way of coping with it. While a gel that you rub directly onto your child's inflamed gums may sound like the perfect solution to his pain, these products are usually not as useful as they seem, because the saliva in your child's mouth will wash the gel out quickly.

In addition, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now cautions against using teething gels, many of which are still sold over the counter.

Benzocaine No Longer Recommended

Many over-the-counter gels contain benzocaine. The pain reliever is commonly found in teething gels such as Anbesol, Hurricane, Orajel, Baby Orajel and Orabase. Because there have been reports that a rare blood disorder called methemoglobinemia could develop as a side effect of the pain reliever, the FDA now advises parents to abstain from using benzocaine teething treatments.

Cases of methemoglobinemia were reported with both liquids and gels, even with benzocaine concentrations as low as 7.5 percent. Signs of this blood disorder include a pale, grayish coloring of the lips and skin, headaches, fatigue, confusion, lightheadness, shortness of breath, and increased heart rate. These symptoms may appear after the first benzocaine application or after several uses.

Alternatives to Teething Gel

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends giving your child a chilled, but not frozen, teething ring to help with the discomfort and pain of teething, or using your finger to rub the gums.

If you want to give your child something extra to help with the pain and inflammation, you may be able to use child doses of acetaminophen or ibuprofen, but check with your pediatrician first to rule out any other possible causes of discomfort.

Learn more about what to expect during teething in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

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