Do topical treatments ease teething pain?

Some swear by the pain-relieving effects of topical teething treatments such as Orajel, Anbesol, Numz-it and Zilactin. Just apply a dab to the trouble spots in Baby’s mouth and relief begins almost instantly, thanks to a numbing effect caused by the active ingredient Benzcaine. There’s even a new version that contains the treatment within a cotton swab: Break the swab in half, let the cotton tip fill with the liquid and apply. The down side is that the saliva quickly washes away much of the gel, so you’ll likely find yourself reaching for a teething ring well before it’s safe to administer another dose of the topical gel.
You can apply these products four times a day (check packaging) and relief can last as long as an hour.

Here’s the AAP’s words on the matter in Your Baby’s First Year: “Pain relievers and medications that you rub on the gums are not necessary or useful, either, since they wash out of the baby’s mouth within minutes.” And yet, when Baby is miserable in the middle of the night, many a parent is willing to try anything. Lab research indicates that these topical treatments do work—for awhile.

Some in the medical community, especially those with an interest in natural medicine, have expressed concern about teething gels, due to the benzocaine they contain. Some children may have an allergic reaction to it. Additionally, it’s important to note that these gels’ job is to cause Baby’s throat to feel numb, which possibly could throw her off-guard or disrupt the gag reflex and, in extreme cases, raise concerns of choking.

Orajel has entered the homeopathic market with Gentle Naturals Homeopathic Teething Liquid.

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