Benzocaine…Not for Teething Pain!

By : Dr. Samson Lee

As your Mississauga dental office, informing our patients and the community about potential dental concerns is our utmost priority. As parents it’s always heartbreaking to hear your children crying especially when they are in discomfort and we feel helpless to relieve that pain. This can be true of pain in the mouth whether it’s coming from an emerging tooth or a canker sore. In the past few years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning parents against using products that contain benzocaine for treating teething discomfort. In fact, they are now taking action to get the products off store shelves because they are linked to a rare but potentially dangerous illness.

According to a May 23, 2018 press release, "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 [the FDA] is asking companies to stop selling these products for such use. If companies do not comply, the FDA will initiate a regulatory action to remove these products from the market."

Benzocaine is a topical anesthetic (pain reliever), and is the active ingredient found in a number products used to treat mouth pain including Anbesol, Cepacol, Hurricaine, Orajel and Topex. It's also available as a generic medication or a store brand, and may come in the form of a gel, spray, ointment or lozenge. Regardless of the name or the form, however, it's unsafe for babies and young children to use.

Benzocaine has been linked with a disease called methemoglobinemia - an uncommon but serious and potentially fatal condition. This illness occurs when the blood contains high levels of methemoglobin, a hemoglobin-like protein. Because methemoglobin carries less oxygen to body tissues than hemoglobin, an excess of this substance can cause shortness of breath, fatigue and dizziness - and in more severe cases, seizures, coma and death.

So what options do parents have to ease discomfort that may be caused by teething? According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, there are a number of simple things that may help.

  • Give young children a clean rubber or silicone teething ring that has been chilled in the refrigerator (not frozen), or a cold, wet washcloth to chew on. A chilled pacifier may also be helpful - but be sure anything you put in baby's mouth is free of potentially harmful substances like lead paint.
  • Try gently massaging the gums with a clean finger - this can counteract the pressure of an emerging tooth and help soothe the irritation.
  • If pain persists, ask your doctor or pharmacist to recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, in a dosage that's appropriate for your child. However, do not give your child alcohol in any form!

If you have any further questions or concerns regarding the discomfort your child may be experiencing while teething don’t hesitate to call your Mississauga Dentist at Credit River Dental Centre!