I have raised three children and have used over the counter oral medications that numb their gums when they are teething for all of them.  The hope is two-fold: not only to bring my poor baby relief but also reduce the stress of those caring for them.  But now, the FDA is cracking down on these products with a particular ingredient due to a steady number of deaths to babies.

Honestly, I didn't know this was an issue.  I've been sure to keep baby on his back, use outlet covers even before she crawls and BPA-free bottles.  There is bound to be at least one unsafe thing that I wouldn't even think twice about.

In September of 2016, the FDA released an announcement warning of the dangers of homeopathic teething gels and tablets.  And, now,  The FDA is also telling companies, that these products need to have a warning label added.

The product under warning is benzocaine which helps numb baby's gums while they are teething, which is commonly seen in gels or tablet form.  Here's the start of the press release in the FDA's own words:

The [FDA] today announced that OTC oral health products containing the pain reliever benzocaine for the temporary relief of sore gums due to teething in infants or children should no longer be marketed and is asking companies to stop selling these products for such use.

The FDA's concern is due to a couple of factors, one being that the claims of relief cannot be duplicated by the FDA.  Secondly, the FDA states seizures and deaths have been associated with the use of the medication due to decreased oxygen in baby's blood, which can lead to death.

The straight forward message from the press release to the public is as follows:

"...we urge parents, caregivers and retailers who sell [the medications] to heed our warnings and not use over-the-counter products containing benzocaine for teething pain."

The products are sold as gels, sprays, ointments, solutions and lozenges under the OTC brand names Anbesol, Baby Orajel, Cepacol, Chloraseptic, Hurricaine, Orabase, Orajel and Topex, as well as store brands and generics.

So what do you do now?  The FDA cited the American Academy of Pediatrics' as the source to go to for your teething needs.  Recommendations include:

  • Use a teething ring made of firm rubber (not frozen) for baby to chew on
  • Gently rub or massage the child’s gums with your finger

These alternative are very old school, but they continue to withstand the test of time.  I have one on the cusp of teething right now and I'm glad that I can provide some sort of relief that will not compromise his health.  Time to invest in some teething rings!  Any suggestions?