When it comes to my profession and family I usually try not make myself look like a “know it all”. I like to wait for my friends and family to come to me for advice rather than telling them what they should and shouldn’t be doing regarding their teeth. But this isn’t always the case. For instance, the other day I was at my best friend Amy’s house. She has the cutest little boy named Jace, who currently had two teeth make their debut. He is fussy and drooly, and breaks my heart to know he is uncomfortable. I thought this was the perfect opportunity to tell her about a common misunderstanding regarding teething. I told I read on a reputable source that Baby Orajel and other similar products contain a certain ingredient can be dangerous.

Baby Orajel, Orajel, Anbesol, Huuricaine, and Orabase are known to contain benzocaine, which is a local anesthetic. It is used to soothe sore gums, especially during teething. However, there have been two warnings announced against use of benzocaine in 2006 and 2011. They cautioned the use of benzocaine for children under 24mo. Benzocaine can cause a rare but serious condition called methemoglobinemia. Methemoglobinemia is a disorder in which the amount of oxygen carried through the blood stream is greatly reduced. In extreme cases, it has been known to lead to death. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not require the warning to be put on the labels of products containing this ingredient. The ADA (American Dental Association) also recognizes these risks and discourages the use on children under the age of 24 months.

I then let Amy know that she can try using cold teething rings and/or massaging his gums. The risks of benzocaine are very serious; therefore it is important to know what danger signs to look for.  Remember, these can occur minutes to hours or even after several uses of the products containing benzocaine. Call 911 if your child has the following symptoms. Consult with your child’s pediatrician for further information or concerns.

Symptoms of methemoglobinemia include:

  • pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips and nail beds
  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue
  • confusion
  • headache
  • light-headedness
  • rapid heart rate

– Jasmine Suarez, R.D.H.