baby using a teething toy

Why Teething Tablets Should Be Avoided

If your little one is around six months old, it's likely that primary teeth are starting to come in, which means he or she might be a bit fussy. Although teething doesn't make all babies irritable, it's common for them to show it in their behavior. Other common signs of teething include more drooling than usual, tender gums and a desire to chew on hard objects.

When you see your baby is uncomfortable due to teething, it's only natural to want to help him. Some options for a teething baby are safer than others. Teething tablets, for example, are one option you may want to think twice about.

What Are Teeth Tablets?

Teething tablets are small pills designed to dissolve under a baby's tongue or in a small amount of water. Considered a homeopathic treatment, these tablets typically contain ingredients such as Chamomilla, which is meant to help with irritability, and Coffea Cruda, meant to help curb sleeplessness. Many parents swear by them, but pediatricians such as Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE – author of Seattle Children's Hospital's Seattle Mama Doc blog – doesn't recommend them. In fact, she notes there is no proof that the tablets provide any real relief to teething babies.

Why Avoid Them?

There's a concern that teething tablets can potentially contain toxic or dangerous ingredients. The supplement industry isn't regulated, meaning there's no way to verify exactly what's in a tablet without having it professionally analyzed. In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about a particular brand of tablets, recommending that people discontinue their use of the product and dispose of any they may still have. The company that produced them conducted a voluntary recall as a result.

The reason for the alarm was that the tablets contained belladonna, a plant that is also known by a number of unfriendly nicknames. Although it is sometimes sold as a supplement, the National Library of Medicine lists the substance as "likely unsafe" when taken by mouth. Any product containing belladonna is carefully regulated, though, sadly, teething tablets are not. There is also the risk of babies taking more tablets than recommended, leading to symptoms such as lethargy, seizures and excessive sleepiness.

Are There Alternatives?

Fortunately, there are several ways to help relieve the discomfort your child experiences during the teething process without the use of tablets. Mayo Clinic recommends giving your baby a cold washcloth or lightly chilled teething ring to chew on, which helps sooth tender gums. Gently massaging the baby's gums with your clean fingers can also help relieve any discomfort he feels. To keep the area around the mouth and lips from becoming irritated or sore, use another soft cloth to wipe away extra drool the baby produces – this excess can hurt their delicate skin over time.

Nonetheless, you can give your child safe versions of pain relievers such as ibuprofen, particularly if his discomfort doesn't diminish with a gum massage or teething ring.

While finding ways to ease your baby's discomfort, you may also want to start thinking about introducing him to a good oral care routine. As the teeth start to emerge, little mouths need products such as Colgate® My First® Fluoride-Free Toothpaste so they can get used to the idea of using toothpaste on a soft bristle brush every day. Taking good care of your child's teeth should start early, from the minute they start to appear.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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