The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns parents and caregivers not to use the prescription drug “viscous lidocaine” on a child’s gums to numb teething pain. “Viscous lidocaine” is a prescription drug often prescribed for chemotherapy patients to treat ulcers in the mouth. Dentists also may use it to stop the gag reflex during dental tests and procedures. Parents may have the drug around after it was prescribed to treat someone else in the family but it is not safe for infants and young children. It can cause a child to have difficulty swallowing, to choke, or to breathe in food. Overdoses of this medicine have been reported in children and have caused symptoms like falling asleep easily, confusion, vomiting, jitteriness, vision problems, shaking, and seizures.
The FDA also warns against using “benzocaine” in children under 2 years old unless it is with the advice and supervision of a doctor or other health care professional. Benzocaine is an ingredient found in liquid and gel over-the-counter medicines such as Oragel, Baby Orajel, Orabase, Anbesol, and Hurricaine. It has been linked to “methemoglobinemia,” a rare, serious, and sometimes fatal drop in the amount of oxygen carried through the blood stream. Children under 2 years old seem to be more at risk.
Eventually children will have a total of 20 baby teeth, starting with a new tooth arriving monthly from 6 months to 3 years old. The FDA does not recommend any drug, homeopathic, or herbal treatments for teething pain and says to use safer, non-toxic methods instead. To relieve teething pain, the FDA suggests following the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics by:
- gently rubbing or massaging baby’s gums with your finger;
- giving your child a clean, wet, washcloth to chew (chilled in the fridge but not frozen); or
- giving your child a cool teething ring to chew (chilled in the fridge but not frozen).
–Janell Mayo Duncan
Source: “Do Teething Babies Need Medicine on Their Gums? No” FDA Consumer Health Information, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 5/23/2018 (viewed 2/14/2022)
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