Lisa holds a bottle of numbing medicine in her hand as she stands in the tooth-care section of her pharmacy.  Leaning on the shopping cart, she is reading the box.  Her tearful baby is making fussy noises from his seat in the front of the cart.  She frowns, but she is tempted.  She remembers the dentist said not to use the numbing medicine.  But she wondered if it could really do any harm.

She puts the box of numbing medicine back on the shelf.  She is convinced it would do more harm than good.  But not every mother makes such a wise decision.

Doctors and pediatric dentists tell us that teething is a “normal part of childhood that can be treated without prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications.”

A Special Alert from Dentistry for Children:  Numbing Medications Myths

Teething Babies are babies in pain. But avoid temptation of numbing medications.

When Baby is Happy, the Family is Happy. But When Baby is Teething…

 In the light of evidence from the Food and Drug Administration, Dentistry for Children is sharing an alert about some of the products that claim to treat your baby’s teething pain.

A. Lidocaine Lies

One of the number one offenders in the line-up of numbing medicines is lidocaine.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning parents not to rub prescription drugs like viscous lidocaine on infants’ or toddler’s gums.  They are simply not safe.

“Viscous lidocaine is a prescription medication, a local anesthetic in a gel-like syrup.  Doctors may prescribe it for chemotherapy patients (children and adults) who are unable to eat because of mouth ulcers that can occur with chemotherapy.”

Yes, Numbing Meds Can Be Useful.

Yes, dentists may this substance for numbing.  Sometimes they use it to reduce the gag reflex in children during dental X-rays and impressions.

Likewise, parents might have access to lidocaine if another family member has endured mouth or throat ulcers.  Let’s make this completely clear.  It should never be used to comfort a teething baby.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP)  —a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing medication errors—has received reports of teething babies suffering overdoses of viscous lidocaine.

B. Benzocaine Berserk

There are quite a few products on the market, packed with benzocaine.  And they are sometimes billed as safe including  Anbesol, Hurricane, Orajel, Baby Orajel, and Orabase.

The FDA has previously recommended that parents avoid using benzocaine products for children younger than 2 years.  (The only exception would be the advice and supervision of a healthcare professional.)

Numbing Can Cost a Terrible Price

Did you know that the use of benzocaine gels and liquids for mouth and gum pain cause a rare but very serious—condition, methemoglobinemia?

This is a disorder which causes the amount of oxygen carried by the bloodstream to be reduced.  Children under 2 years old are in the special risk category of patients who should not take benzocaine.

Parents:  Finding Safer Alternatives

Numbing drugs can have dangerous side effects, such as seizures, shakes, confusion and vision problems.

Dentistry for Children Can Offer Safer Ways to ease baby’s pain

Children get one new tooth every month from 6 months of age to about age 3.  This is a total of 20 “baby teeth.”

“According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), occasional symptoms of teething include mild irritability, a low-level fever, drooling and an urge to chew on something hard.”  We blogged about this previously, and about the emotional difficulty for parents.

If your child’s gums are swollen and tender, here’s a natural way to treat the situation.

  • Using only your own, clean finger, gently rub or massage the gums with your finger.
  • Give your child a cool hard rubber teething ring or a clean, cool cloth to chew on.

Teething and the Cool Factor

Do not freeze either of these items in the freezer.  Just chill the teething ring or washcloth in the refrigerator for a short time.

Make sure it’s just cool, not solid ice-cold.  If the object is too cold or has sharp edges, it can hurt the gums and your child.

Here’s How Cold Breaks the Cycle of Pain For Your Teething Baby.  The coolness soothes the gums by dulling the nerves, which transmit pain.

Says Hari Cheryl Sachs, M.D., a pediatrician at FDA, “The cool object acts like a very mild local anesthetic,”. “This is a great relief for children for a short time.”

One More Pointer:  We remind you that should supervise your children in this situation.  Choking is a serious hazard and it makes sense to supervise them if they have a ring or a cloth.

Scary Symptoms from Lidocaine or other OTC Gels

This is a list of what can happen if you rub the lidocaine gel onto baby’s gums:

A. jitteriness,

B. confusion

C. vision problems,

D. Plus vomiting,

E. Falling asleep too easily,

F. Shaking and seizures.

The drug, lidocaine can also cause swallowing to be difficult.  This increases the “risk of choking or breathing in food.  It can lead to drug toxicity and affect the heart and nervous system,” says Michael R. Cohen, RPh, MS, ISMP president.

Here is How Some Well Intentioned Parents Have Caused Problems:

The FDA warns against using drugs for teething babies.

Finally, after hours of teething pain, the baby is asleep and Mom wisely avoided using numbing drugs.

Parents might repeatedly apply viscous lidocaine if a baby keeps fussing.  However, they cannot measure it.  They give the baby an overdose quite accidentally.

Some caregivers might soak a pacifier or a cloth in it, then put that in their baby’s mouth.  “Teething is a normal phenomenon; all babies teethe,” says Ethan Hausman, M.D., a pediatrician and pathologist at FDA.  “FDA does not recommend any sort of drug, herbal or homeopathic medication or therapy for teething in children.”

Now you know the ugly truth behind the OTC gels and behind the necessary survival of teething time.

Thank you for reading the blog at Dentistry for Children.   Babies are dear to all our hearts and  we were proud to be a part of spreading this information to caring parents and other concerned care-givers.