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Q: What is benzocaine, and why is the FDA concerned about its use in OTC products for children?
In April 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned the public about the use of over-the-counter (OTC) products containing benzocaine. Benzocaine is a local anesthetic and is the active ingredient in many OTC products used to relieve pain in the mouth and gums from a variety of conditions such as teething, canker sores, and irritation of the mouth and gums. OTC benzocaine products come in the form of gels, sprays, liquids and lozenges. Benzocaine use may cause a rare, but serious, condition where the amount of oxygen that can be carried through the blood stream is greatly reduced. This condition is called methemoglobinemia According to the FDA, parents and caregivers should not use OTC benzocaine products on children under two years of age, except under the advice and supervision of a healthcare professional.
Q: What are the signs I should look for to know if my baby is teething or not? I hear most babies experience an increase in drooling and crankiness.
Teething babies often want to chomp on things so the pressure of an emerging tooth beneath the gums may be relieved by counter pressure. The chewing instinct may also be a response to the odd sensation that something’s going on in there. Before a new tooth erupts, it can cause a red, swollen, bruised-looking area on a baby’s gums. Sometimes the gum bulges with the emerging tooth, which you can see faintly beneath the skin (if you can convince your baby to open his mouth for long enough). Increased spittle can mean a new tooth but it’s also a normal developmental stage of infancy, so don’t assume that drooling means teething. Tooth eruption, when the tooth moves through the bone and gum, tends to come in stages, with more activity at night than during the day, so your baby may be more irritable in the evening. While it can also be a sign of an ear infection, ear tugging can be a symptom of teething: The pain from the jaw gets transferred to the ear canal. Since some signs of teething may actually be signs of illness, please call your baby’s doctor if the above symptoms don’t ease after a few days or if they worsen.
Q: Does a change in my baby’s eating habits mean he is teething?
Babies who are eating solids may want to nurse more because a spoon irritates their inflamed gums. Others may do the opposite, eating more than usual because the counter pressure feels good. And babies who are still on the breast or bottle may begin feeding eagerly but pull back because the activity of sucking puts uncomfortable pressure on the gums and ear canals.
Q. When should I expect my baby’s first tooth to appear?
While most babies begin teething around six months, that first tooth can appear anytime between three and 14 months. Teeth usually come in pairs, starting with the bottom front two, and followed by the top front two. Your baby’s primary pearly whites should be complete by age three. Permanent teeth will start to come in between four and six years old.
Q. How do I care for my baby’s new teeth?
You should run a clean, damp washcloth over your baby’s gums every day, even before he gets his first tooth. So if you’re not doing it already, now’s a great time to start. The washcloth can keep bacteria from building up in your baby’s mouth. When your baby’s first teeth appear, switch to a small, soft-bristled toothbrush. There’s no need to use toothpaste. Water is all you need until your child learns to spit at about age two. It’s also time to think about regular dental checkups. The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend scheduling a child’s first dental visit after the first tooth erupts and no later than his or her first birthday. Your baby’s teeth and gums will also be examined at well-baby checkups. Remember, regular childhood dental care helps set the stage for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.
Q. What are some natural ways I can use to ease my baby’s teething pain?
You can try using a clean finger, moistened gauze pad or damp washcloth to massage your baby’s gums. The pressure can ease your baby’s discomfort. You could also offer your baby a teething ring of firm rubber. The liquid-filled variety may break under the pressure of your baby’s chewing. A cold washcloth or chilled teething ring can also be soothing. Don’t give your baby a frozen teething ring, however. Contact with extreme cold may hurt, doing your baby more harm than good. If your baby’s eating solid foods, offer cold items such as applesauce or yogurt. Excessive drooling is also part of the teething process. To prevent skin irritation, keep a clean cloth handy to dry your baby’s chin. You might also make sure your baby sleeps on an absorbent sheet. An over-the-counter homeopathic medicine like Camilia teething drops can provide natural relief of symptoms of teething, including painful gums and irritability. Camilia can also help in relieving minor digestive disorders sometimes associated with teething.
Pam Middleton is a medical doctor specializing in integrative pediatrics. Her pediatric patients refer to her as “Dr. Pam”. She has been practicing medicine since 1995. Dr. Pam was introduced to alternative medicine several years ago by a brilliant naturopathic physician who became her mentor. This began paradigm shifts that lead her to integrate her traditional medical training with alternative therapies so that she could provide patients with “the best of both worlds”. Dr. Pam also has expertise working with adults in nutritional medicine, weight management and body reshaping.
Visit Boiron at CamiliaTeething.com to learn more about homeopathic solutions for teething pain.