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The FDA warns against teething gels—what mamas need to know

The agency says they're not effective and are associated with serious safety concerns.

The FDA warns against teething gels—what mamas need to know

When your baby is in pain, all you want to do is stop the hurt, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning parents that when it comes to teething, it's best to skip over-the-counter oral gels containing benzocaine.


According to the FDA, such topical products aren't effective for teething pain anyway, and they have "serious safety concerns" about products including Anbesol, Orajel, Baby Orajel and the generic and store brand equivalents, as they contain benzocaine.



"Benzocaine, a local anesthetic, can cause a condition in which the amount of oxygen carried through the blood is greatly reduced. This condition, called methemoglobinemia, can be life-threatening and result in death," the FDA notes in an updated Drug Safety Communication that builds on previous warnings from the agency.

"The FDA is taking steps to stop use of these products in young children and raise awareness of the risks associated with other uses of benzocaine oral health products," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., said in a statement released this week.

The over-the-counter products include those mentioned above, as well as Cepacol, Chloraseptic, Hurricaine, Orabase, and Topex. "In addition to our letters to companies who make these products, we urge parents, caregivers and retailers who sell them to heed our warnings and not use over-the-counter products containing benzocaine for teething pain," says Gottlieb.

If the companies that make these products don't comply, the FDA says it will be forced to take "regulatory action to remove these products from the market".

So what are parents to do about teething pain? The FDA also previously warned against homeopathic teething tablets due to similar safety concerns, so it looks like the drugstore might not be the best place to look for a solution to our babies' teething troubles.

Instead, the FDA echoes the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) recommendations to use a teething ring made of firm rubber (not frozen) and suggests gently rubbing a baby's gums with your finger to relieve pain.

As a parent, it is so hard to see your baby feel any pain, but the FDA hopes this warning will actually save babies and families from worse pain by preventing illness and death.

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