An Advisory from Your Family Dentist: Don’t Give Benzocaine to Babies

The teething process is but one of the initial rigors that a baby encounters in the first few months of life, as every family dentist knows.

Parents will do anything to ease the pain of their teething babies, but the family dentist warns that benzocaine and babies don’t mix.

Unfortunately, it’s an unpleasant experience for the baby, one that is accompanied by pain and sore gums. And all parents worth their salt would do anything possible to alleviate the suffering. But one thing you should not do is treat your baby with pain remedies that contain benzocaine.

Benzocaine is a local anesthetic that is used in many over-the-counter gels and liquids that are manufactured specifically to treat mouth and gum pain.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), using benzocaine products can lead to a condition called methemoglobinemia. This is a rare but sometimes fatal disorder that significantly reduces the amount of oxygen going through the blood stream. Children under 2 years old are especially at risk, which is why the FDA recommends that benzocaine products not be used on children this young.

Symptoms of methemoglobinemia include blue, pale or gray lips and fingernails; shortness of breath; confusion; rapid heartbeat; fatigue; and light-headedness. If you have used a benzocaine product on your child and recognize these symptoms, seek medical help immediately.

So if you can’t use benzocaine products to help your baby during his teething ordeal, what can you do? There are definitely some old-fashioned alternatives to help ease the pain. Offering the child a teething ring that has been chilled is one. Or you can use your fingers to gently massage or rub the baby’s gums. If these options are not effective, consult with the baby’s health care provider about other treatments.

Once the teething process is over and your child has all his baby teeth, it won’t be too long before he’ll be ready to visit the family dentist for his first check-ups. We generally start seeing children for cleaning and check-ups when they are between the ages of 2 and 3. To schedule an appointment for your child (or yourself) take advantage of our convenient online scheduling. We look forward to seeing you!

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