FDA issues benzocaine warning

The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning in May recommending parents not to use teething products that contain benzocaine in infants and children younger than 2 years.

Benzocaine is a local anesthetic that is used to relieve pain. It can be found in most drugstores, usually under the product names Anbesol, Hurricaine, Orajel, Baby Orajel and Orabase. Benzocaine has been associated with a rare but serious — and sometimes fatal — condition called methemoglobinemia, a disorder in which the amount of oxygen carried through the blood stream is greatly reduced.

Because of that association, the Food and Drug Administration advises parents and caregivers not use benzocaine products for children younger than 2, except under the advice and supervision of a health care professional.

Symptoms of methemoglobinemia can occur minutes to hours after ingestion and include:

• pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips and nail beds

• shortness of breath

• fatigue

• confusion

• headache

• light-headedness

• rapid heart rate

If you or anyone in your care has any of these symptoms after using benzocaine, the FDA advices you to stop using the product immediately and to seek medical help by calling 911. 

The American Dental Association’s consumer website MouthHealthy.org offers advice for parents who have babies that are teething. The site also features a Symptom Checker that can help patients identify possible oral health conditions.

© 2018 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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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